Thursday, July 1, 2010

When in Belgium... drink the beer!

I've been a bit lax about the blog lately, having gotten back from Europe over a week ago. Pictures to share, fun times and good food to recount. For now, I'll stick to the beer. I don't pretend to be an expert, but with the help of a beer guidebook, we made our way to a few breweries and I sampled as much as I could. Most beers there are served in glasses branded with the brewery name. Not sure this really does much except make it obvious what you're drinking.

We stopped in Achouffe at the brewery, which was a fun tavern for people watching while I sipped the truly stunning La Chouffe blonde. Unlike a lot of Belgian beers, this one may actually be better on tap.
Next up was the miniscule Fantome in the village of Soy. Again, a brewery stop led to a taste and a bottle to bring home. This place is tiny - one room, one tap, boxes everywhere. The beer left something to be desired.
At dinner that night in Hamoir, Belgium, I indulged in some trappiste abbey ale - the Rochefort 8. This was a favorite for the trip. Excellent alongside my guinea fowl with tarragon sauce.

The next day we did something the Belgians apparently like to do, hike then drink beer. At the tiny Marckloff brewpub in Durbuy, the brewmaster told us in halting English about his Louisiana peach ale that wasn't for sale but was for export. But he let us buy a bottle to bring back. The blonde was good, not spectacular, but very solid.

We did a bit of bistro hopping in Durbuy through the middle of the day. Next up for me was a Durboyse brown. Not bad. Very local.

Finally, that night we found a small cafe with the World Cup game on and a single owner doing all the beer pouring, cooking, cleaning and serving.

She was awesome. I had the Leffe (yum), Orval (not bad), the Ramee blonde and the Kriek cherry lambic on tap after the Spaniards won their game. The Ramee was the standout favorite of the trip for me.

I brought back 9 different Belgian beers, including some blondes, browns, and some trappistes. The wine store near my house has a bunch of Belgian beer - they carry 6 of the ones I brought back but not my favorite of the bunch (Ramee) - imagine my surprise when I saw they have beers from the tiny Fantome. They are also almost painfully expensive here - $6 a bottle for the Rochefort - at the beer distributor in Belgium, those were about $1.60. Even at a fancy restaurant they were a mere $3.75. Ah, the price of having someone else import it.

No, we haven't had any of them yet. Shea's been sick. Perhaps we should have a beer dinner? Surely anyone who comes could add to the tasting selection simply by stopping down the street at our wine store.

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