Basque Region of France & Spain Sept/Oct 08
Happy Holidays!

Ultimate Beer Tour

We had visitors!  Chuck (of Chuck and Hazel - favorite neighbors in Virginia) and his son, Brett, came for the ultimate beer tour of Belgium.  Did you know Belgium has over 450 varieties of beer?  And most of these beers have personalized glasses in which that beer, and only that beer, can be served.  The flavor of the beer is suppose to be enhanced by the shape of the glass.





D was excited about their visit.  He really enjoys beer and as soon as we arrived in Brussels he started his quest to taste as many beers as possible in the four years we are here.  In our first year, he has made it through about 50 beers.  He has purchased many books on Belgium beers and has learned quite a bit......So we thought! 




In comes Brett - beer expert (Beer King to D).  Brett has tasted 757 beers and he logs them into a notebook and then rates them in a website. Suc53509 To qualify for his list, Brett must drink a glass of the beer, enough to be able to analyze it.  So taking a sip of someone's, does not count.  He was very serious about his analysis.Img_8758_2


Brett has worked at Miller Brewery for over 4 years, the majority of the time in marketing.  When Brett arrived, he had his beer book in hand with breweries, abbeys, and bars mapped out. 

Back to day one.  They arrived on Thursday morning and hit the ground running.  No nap for them!  D took a vacation day to play with them.  Dscn0227_2First stop, the Cantillon Brewery right here in Brussels.  From here they moved onto  lunch in our favorite pub.

In a quest to have them experience all of our local cuisine, we all had Croque Mousieurs.   




That afternoon, we visited the Manekin Pis, no outfit today and took the classic pose:




Next, we stopped by D's favorite bar, the Poechenellekelder and then one on Brett's list, the Delirium bar (said to have over 2000 beers from all over the world!):




and had Pomme Frites at our local joint:




Day two:  D ended up having a last-minute meeting that he had to attend so Brett and Chuck were on their own.  They visited Patton's Grave, drove through the Battle of the Bulge region, and enjoyed waffles with ice cream.



That evening they all walked to D's favorite Beer shop & bar - Beer Mania.  Home of an 18 year old dog that was fed beer sediment for two years, hence his age. 

Day three:  Off to Antwerp to visit four bars that were very well known for their selection of beers.  The main one Brett wanted to visit was the Kulminator - known as one of the world's best specialist beer cafe.  They are most known for their cellar aged beers.  Who knew you could age beers?  Guess we shouldn't have thrown out the "2000" Buds in Don's refrigerator!  :  ) 

I decided to join the boys for this day's events.  Antwerp is in the Dutch part of the country and has very traditional Flemish architecture.  It was a perfect day.




This day was more special they we thought - it was Chuck's birthday!  We were going to give him a grand celebration...... 





with fine dining all day long.  We started with sandwiches on the train:




As soon as we arrived, we hit the first bar, Paters' Vaetje (the Monks Casket).  Wow.  How can I, non beer lover, hang with beer experts?  Easy, there are all kinds of beers and I got to try several new ones; coconut (yummy), banana (just like a banana daiquiri), and of course all the fruity flavors of cherry, raspberry, etc.  and I know you are all wondering.....did any of these make Brett's web list?  NO.  My beers were pooh-pooh-ed by the boys.





We had to have pomme frites at what we have declared one of Belgium's best Frite stands.  After careful assessment - they agreed.





Back to the real purpose of the trip - beer:






All of you women who have had to experience "lost" men, trying to find their direction will appreciate this.  Giving them the benefit of the doubt - the beer was impacting their ability {right}.

First they went "old school" and tried using a map:





Next, the GPS on walking mode:





No luck.  Brett, how bad do you want to go to this bar?  Pretty bad, he pulled out the compass.  A compass?  How cute is that!





Okay....Brett REALLY wanted to go to this bar; he gave in and asked for directions.  Who did he ask?  A WOMAN!  Five bucks if you can guess Donald's sign language.





Brett claimed that because she was a meter maid, she "knew the streets".  We eventually found the bar.  And it was definately off the beaten path.  The beer college of Belgium was having a meeting where they were tasting 10-year old beer.

Back to Chuck's birthday celebration and what all good birthdays have - ice cream!  It was suppose to be on waffles, but they ran out.  I cried.






Then more beer.   





We ended the night with Chuck's favorite food - POPCORN!

Day four:  The Mecca for specialty beers - Abbey of St Sixtus - known as the "world's" best beer.  Brewed by Monks, they make only 60,000 cases a year.





Only enough to sustain the needs of the monks.  They make Westvleteren 12 (12% alcohol, a dark beer), an 8% dark and the 6% blonde. To purchase the beer, you must call ahead and reserve a spot.  Then you have to show up in line in your car during certain hours to pick it up.  Supposedly it takes hours to get through on the line.  It is not for resale.  They do not sell to any bars or distributors.  It is not sold in the US, but you can find it illegally.  The Monks warn Americans to not buy it illegally as it arrives there in a very un-Trappist way.





You can, however, drink beer in the brewery's cafe next to the abbey.  You can also purchase a 4 pack as a souvenir, but only one pack per person.  Unfortunately, it was Sunday and the store was closed.  They did get to drink in the cafe.  Okay......the big question I had for the boys when they got home - is it all HYPE or is it really one of the world's best beers?  Hands down, one of the world's best.  So there you have it!






That evening chuck treated us all to a wonderful dinner at one or our favorite restaurants, Le Fils De Jules.

Day 5:  D had to fly to Florida.  Brett and Chuck visited Waterloo, the three of us went out to dinner, and they took one last trip to Beer Mania. 

We had a very nice visit with Chuck and Brett and we think they had fun too! 

Note:  photo credits on this blog go to Chuck and Brett along with me and D.  We combined our photos from four cameras.




Kathy Biesecker

hey guys!

It's your old Potomac Hunt neighbor... just got your Christmas card with the link to your blogs. Love them, especially the commentary that Cathy writes so well.

Unfortunately, Brian threw away the envelope with your return address, so I can't send you a Christmas card... wanted to share pictures with you of Brittany, who turns 18 next week...if you can believe it! (we can't...)

Anyway, shoot me an email when you get time and let us know your snail mail address.

Kathy, Brian & Brit

Dan Gamber

Hi guys,

We enjoy your notes. We (wife Nancy at the embassy, me retired) lived in Brussels from 1997 - 2001.

Your beer tour seems to have missed two of the more interesting things in Brussels. See

For Thanksgiving: Köln has some of the best Christmas markets. We would take the train to Köln on Thanksgiving, return on Sunday. We stayed various places, including the Ibis in the Hauptbahnhof.

In Köln, don't miss the Haxenhaus. Fabulous and unique.

Continue enjoying your time in Europe! And keep the airports safe!

Dan Gamber

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