Beer Experience in Belgium

And so it comes down to the heavy-weight of beer, Belgium.  What a lovely country, full of farmers fields, plain and simple bricked villages, medieval Brugge, Frites, Chocolates, Food and the best beer in the world.  Is this heaven?  Well, yes.  Do I want to go back, yes.

My first adventure into Belgium was to navigate through some of the WWI monuments, cemeteries, Flanders Fields and Ypres, like any Canadian would do.  Now that that was past us, it was on to the mystical and illusive Abbey of Saint Sixtus in search of the Westvleteren beer.  Now one note on getting there, its not easy.  There isn’t some yellow brick road to follow, but rather two small signs, tips from locals who don’t really know where it is, and some serious guess work.  Once there I managed to walk away with a six bottles of the 8 and two gift packs which each had a 12.  As reviewed earlier, the 8 and 12 are both magical and are by far the best beers I have ever tried.  So enough said.

Off to Brugge.  On its own, this city is worth the trip.  It just makes you feel like your in a dream and you could die there some day..  The first beer I had was at a restaurant off the main plaza, where I had a Brugge local ale and Flemish style beef stew.  The local ale was sweet, fruity, had a nice head of thick tight foam and a nice bubble to it.  It sparkled in the mouth and left a nice quick and fruity finish.  Fantastic beer in a fantastic place.

After a nice walk around the city, eating a lot of chocolate, it was off to another bistro for a beer.  The waiter gave me a menu and I nearly lost if when I saw a section called “Trappisten”.  Every Trappist ale on the menu, except for Westvleteren of course (however, St. Bernardus is on the menu and, so they say, is basically Westvleteren clones because a few of the monks left the order and started up a new brewery with the same recipes).  And so, since I have never had one, I ordered an Achel Bruin.  It poured into the glass just as it should.  The thick and creamy foam reached right to the brim, but did not rise above.  Honestly, how do they do that?  I mean create such a perfect glass for their brew..  Anyways, it was noticeably sharper and had a little bit of a bite to it.  Although this was probably because the beer was fresh and not aged very long, the flavours were not altogether intense.  It reminded me of the Konigshoven tripel actually.  A nice ale for a nice night in Brugge.

The next day I payed a visit to De Biertempel te Brugge.  I’m kind of glad that we don’t have one of these back here in Ontario because I would never have any money.  They have everything!  Glasses, random stuff, gift packs and a beer shelf that would make you cry.  So I bought a crazy amount of stuff with complete disregard of how I would get it back home to Canada.  And because I bought so much loot, the man behind the counter gave me two free beer tickets to the Bierbrasserie Cambrinus.  We dropped off the lot at the hotel and went for lunch.

Into the Bierbrasserie Cambrinus and sat down at a nice booth near the front window.  Talked to a nice UK couple who informed us that there was going to be a beer festival tomorrow with 245 breweries coming to town.  I wish I didn’t know that because we were leaving that day.  So, again, another menu that looked like a bible with a million beers to choose from.  However, the free beer tickets only allowed me to choose the house brew.  But this was fine by me as their house brews were a dubbel and a tripel.  In twisted stem chalices they came and they were both superb.  Since Ashley doesn’t drink beer, I got the honor of enjoying both of these fine ales.  The dark ale was musty, sweet, low bubble, intense prune/raisin flavour with a powerful wine like finish.  The golden ale was sweeter, low bubble, sharper alcohol with a candy aroma.  I may be a little bias rating these beers so high, but that was because I had the Trappist cheeses egg and meat sandwich which came with Belgian frites and creamy dipping sauce.  Yes, this is Beer for Breakfast.  I never want to leave Brugge.

So after some time spent in Germany, Champagne country and Brittany France, I decided that I needed to keep my rental car one day longer to take a visit to Chimay in Belgium.  A 2-hour drive from Paris and I was in the nice little town of Chimay.  Really, not much going on here.  You drive through the town and get lost in the country side for a little while.  Then, out of nowhere, and well hidden (seems to be the Trappist style, impossible to find),  was the Abbey of Notre Dame and the Auberge de Poteaupre Chimay.  I spent quite a while in the giftshop, buying one and two of almost everything, and then relaxed in the bar area to a nice meal.

In all I ordered the “Chimay Experience” which gives you the Red, Blue and White caps as well as the secret Black label that only the monks drink, the “Chimay 4 Cheeses”, the “Regional Dinner” which was a lapin with prunes and magic sauce, vegetables and of course Belgian frites and homemade bread with Rochefort butter, and the “Regional dessert” which was a soft sponge type cake with another creamy magic sauce, chocolate and fruits.  That experience was pure bliss.  And I know your wondering, the black label was very much different than the other ones that we know so well.  It was definitely lighter in complexion and intensity, though the flavour was simply a meadow of wild spices, herbs, and candies.  It was semi-sweet with a sharper bubble/sparkle to it.  And as we had discovered later on, the Chimay cheese, and regional Chimay food make these beers have super powers.  They transform into these works of art and taste that cannot be matched by any other beer out there.  Definitely worth the trip.

Brugge Local Ale

Achel Bruin

Bierbrasserie Cambrinus Dubbel

Bierbrasserie Cambrinus Tripel

Chimay Red

Chimay White

Chimay Blue

Chimay Black

Chimay Grand Reserve 2008

Westvleteren 8

Westvleteren 12

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