Wetherspoons, third pints and the beer festival

Twice a year, JD Wetherpoon hold a beer festival. At that festival, third pints are available, and generally people have them in threes, although you can order different quantities.

CAMRA members receive a number of vouchers each year to use at Wetherspoon’s and these may be redeemed against a pint of real ale. Unless you want three thirds as the system doesn’t recognise it as a pint.

I emailed head office and they replied saying yes, vouchers were valid with three thirds (subject to a couple of conditions).  This is the letter.

Beer in France

I’m planning a few days in the sun in France and I thought it would be good to have a look at France’s growing beer scene. There’s quite a few small breweries in France, but they tend to be far and few between.

I discovered this map. “Great”, I thought. Until I found it terribly out of date. I looked along the south coast of France and found the following errors…
Mare Nostrum in Castillon is missing
– Though strictly not in France, Brasserie de Monaco is missing
– Au Royaume du Boeuf in Cannes is no longer there – I tried to call in 2008 and the picture on Google Street View looks less than inviting!
– ‘Brasserie of Marseille’ is closed – when I visited in April 2007, there was brewery equipment in situ but no brewing done – evidently the brewer had died and they couldn’t find anyone else to do it. Since then, the building looks to have changed hands.

Not good.

It looks like RateBeer is the place to be – and there’s even a map!.

Now… where to go?

Brugge

I often get asked about Bruges, or to be more correct, Brugge. It’d be hard to say which my favourite bars are in the city or which I think the best, but here are a few that are in close proximity to each other and should give the first time visitor a taster. There’s a bit of a problem in so much as some of the better bars only open in the evening, although there’s still plenty to go to. Many places serve a small (free!) snack of peanuts, small biscuits or even cheese!

To get to the city centre from the station (the P&O shuttle bus drops off here too) catch a bus. Buy your ticket from the kiosk (and the return trip too) as you’ll pay €1,40 per journey as opposed to €2,00 from the driver.

De Garre

De Garre 1, Brugge
(just off Breidelstraat down a very little alleyway – tread very carefully! )
Each day 11:00/12:00 – 00:00/01:00

Once you’ve found this tiny watering hole and managed to get a table, perhaps with a ‘stranger’, a must try is their house beer at a very deceiving 13%!!! A great way to start a mini tour of the town!

 

Brasserie Strijdershuis

Hallestraat 14, Brugge – just the other side of the town hall.
Open from 10:30

‘Only’ about 50 beers but the food’s good. The midweek cheap lunch menu is supposed to be excellent value.


Cambrinus

Philipstockstraat 19, Brugge – opposite corner of square to the road where Strijdershuis is
Open from 11:00

Lots of good beers and what looks to be excellent food too. Quite a decent size bowl of peanutty snack things too!

 

Brugs Beertje

Kemelstraat 5, Brugge
Mon, Tue, Thu 16-01; Fri – Sun 16-02
** Usually closed Tuesdays Jan – April

Tucked into a side street, Daisy and her crew will expertly guide you through the 300 or so beers. The only slight downside is everyone knows this is one of the best beer cafes in Brugge and probably also Belgium and so attracts beer tourists, ranging from the loud mouth typical tourist to the ones who can appreciate the cafe. It can’t be all bad as it attracts a few locals, including Black Beasty – he’ll be at the end of the bar drinking De Koninck!

Want to try a few more? Try these less touristy places…

Rose Red

Cordoeaniersstraat 16
Mon-Thu 10-11; Fri, Sat 10-00, Sun 10-22

It’s rare to find a bar in Brugge with decent beer and a beer garden. This place has both! Well, it’s more of a terrace surrounded by buildings, but it’s still nice on a sunny day!

 

Comptoir des Arts

Vlamingstraat 53, Brugge
Mon, Wed-Sun 18-03

Run by Bram, formerly at ‘t Brugs Beertje, this cellar bar has 90 beers, a selection of whiskies, funky music and art on the walls. Mind your head as you descend the steps (I’ve forgotten several times!)

 

Poatersgat

Vlamingstraat 82, Brugge (over the road from Comptoir des Arts)
Open from 17
Not sure why I like this bar – I just do! It can get quite busy later on at weekends, but there’s usually a table somewhere.

Kortrijk

Kortrijk doesn’t really have that many beery places. When you walk from the station towards the centre, there are quite a few bars that just serve rubbishy beers.

On the main square, Klokke used to have an excellent selection of beer, but they changed owner who decided less was best.

There’s probably half a dozen reasonable bars, although only two of them are near the centre

Eirekedeire

Sint Janstraat 31, Kortrijk
Hours: from 17; Thu – closed

They used to have 80+ beers. On this visit, they had 54 with anything remarkably exciting omitted. The barman said they didn’t sell. Still, it’s not bad to visit – it’s a nice little bar that’s cosy and welcoming.

 

Gainsbar

 
Vlasmarkt1, Kortrijk.
Hours: Mon – closed; Tue-Fri – 12-01; Fri 12-03; Sat 14-03; Sun + Bank Holidays – 14-01

Wow. My kind of bar. Very good selection of beers including some rarer ones (the beer list’s on their website) , including a few from the nearby Alvinne brewery and also De Molen. The night I was in it was quite lively but not in an overpowering kind of way.

Prague

Prague’s good for beer. The Czech Republic has a long history of beer and even though much of it is bog standard lager, scratch beneath the surface and there are some really really good beers to found. Tourism has had a big part to play in all of this, and it’s helped develop some really good breweries and beery places, but it’s also chucked out a load of rubbish.

A colleague once asked me about Prague and it’s beer and I told him “Stay away from the main square. Go even one street away and if you see Czechs, you’re not going to be far wrong”. When he came back, he grumbled at how much he’d paid for bottles of Corona from ‘English bars’ on the main square.

So – where was visited on this trip?

Pivovarská Restaurace Berounský Medvěd

Tyršova 135, 266 01 Beroun, Czech Republic
Mon 09-20; Tue-Thu 09-22; Fri, Sat 09-23; Sun 10-20.

Ever been to a pub in a scrap yard? How about a brewery? No? Well visit Prague and get yourself off to Beroun (40 mins from Prague by train). Leave the station, turn left and after two minutes you’ll be in a scrap yard. Pass the Tatra and Škoda lorries, keep going past the tank and you’ll find this small restaurant, bar and brewery. They even have a hotel on site too!

Step from the train and into the station still ensconced in the Communist era and head left, walking by the railway lines into the scrap yard.

Many a beer afternoon has been spent here sampling the two beers – Světlý ležák 11° and Tmavý speciál 13°. Also available were some new ones – Cyklopivo světlý 8° and Polotmavý speciál Grizzly 18°. They also had a couple of beers from other breweries – Podkovan 10 Kvasnikove and Klepacek Polotmave 14. The rather excellent and very cheap lunchtime food (CZK69!) was also sampled

It’s one of the standards for Prague beer – well worth a visit.

 

Zlý Časy

Čestmírova 390/5 140 00 Prague 4-Nusle, Czech Republic
Mon-Thu 11-23:30; Fri 11-01; Sat 17-01; Sun 17-23
Tram: Line 11, 18; stop Náměstí Bratří Synků (on the way to or from První Pivní Tramway)

Well – Zlý Časy. They stopped selling Big Brand beers something like four years ago, and now have 24 beers on tap along with more bottles (Czech, German, English, Scottish, Belgian…_ that you could shake a stick at. The range of beers is displayed on information cards across the top of the bar as well as a menu (tick list) presented to your table. Of course, it’s table service which at times can be a tad slow, but that’s usually because the bar’s full. Oh yeah – if you want to be guaranteed somewhere to sit, arrive early!

As far as beer selection goes, Zlý Časy is easy the best bar in Prague. Prices are very reasonable (much better than other establishments with a ‘decent range’ in the area) and is just generally a decent place to spend a few hours in an evening.

 

Hotel V Pivovaře Davle

Davle, K Pivovaru 1, 252 06 Praha západ
Mon-Thu 10:30-22; Fri 10:30-11; Sat 10:30-11; Sun 10:30-22
Railway station: Davle

I’ve been through Davle a few times, and even spent about half an hour there last year. I’d noticed the building but there was no sign of a brewery. A few months ago however, the building was transformed into a hotel, brewery and restaurant. Excellent! [Update: the beer is brewed elsewhere]

Leaving the station and crossing the Davelský Bridge, which was used as the bridge in the film ‘The Bridge at Remagen’ and turn left and the imposing building is just in front. Everywhere seemed pretty dead in the town when we arrived, but fortunately there was a chap serving beer. They seem to do a range of seven beers, but only the only one available on draught was the sedmnáctke – a 17° golden beer. It was rather good. The other beers were all available, but only in 1.5l bottles – perhaps a bit much when we only had 40 minutes between trains.

The beer has a small terrace overlooking the river which in summer months, I would imagine is most pleasant. The area is popular with walkers and in summer, there is a steam train service.

 

Pivovarský klub

Křižíkova 17°, Praha 8, Karlín
Mon-Sun 11:30-23:30
Metro: Line B, C; stop Florenc

Pivovarský dům is the oldest of the new wave of brew pubs and is incredibly popular with tourists. Pivovarský klub is it’s younger brother, concentrates more on beer than food (even though the former actually brews the beer) and is definitely less touristy.

With up to six draught beers to choose from and over 200 bottles, it’s probably the best stocked bar in the centre. They usually have one or two beers brewed at Pivovarský dům, but the rest are from small breweries across the country. As can be expected, the food is rather good too.

 

Havelská Koruna

Havelská 501/23, 110 00 Praha 1-Staré Město
Mon-Sun 11-18
Tram: Národní třída

Havelská Koruna is not strictly a beery place, (they only sell Gambrinus and Pilsner Urquell). It is however a classic old fashioned Czech restaurant – my favourite since the one on Na poříčí was sold and turned into a Starbucks.

As you enter, you’re given a slip of paper that is imprinted with a stern warning of the threat of a 500CZK fine if you lose it!

Once you’ve overcome the shock of the threat of losing the piece of paper, you approach the array of serveries. At the hot food one, you have the choice of reading the menu on the wall in Czech or pointing to what you want, except that you can’t point to what you want as everything is covered with metal lids. Even though the style of restaurant is a bit of a throwback to the ‘olden days’, the staff now do have a smattering of English, although I was able to order the old favourite of ‘vepřo-knedlo-zelo’ (roast port, dumplings and sauerkraut), a beer and retire to the table. Everything you order is marked by number on the piece of paper which is then presented to the cashier on the way out.

If you’re in the centre of Prague and want good, homestyle cooking at a most agreeable price, go here.

První Pivní Tramway

Na Chodovci 1a, 140 00 Prague 4 – Záběhlice
Mon – Sun 14-00?
Tram 11; stop Spořilov (on the way to or from Zlý Časy)

Get off the tram at the terminus and immediately in front of you is a building. This is První Pivní Tramway. Walking time – about 2 steps.

This place is crowded. Even with only a few people in it’s crowded, but this gives you a good chance to sit with the locals and have a chat, for this place is definitely off the tourist trail (hurrah!). It’s got six beers with two or three exciting ones, again with good food at exceedingly good prices. Only downside – a touch on the smoky side.

 

Prague Beer Museum

Dlouhá 720/46 110 00 Prague 5-Old Town, Czech Republic
Opening hours: not mention on the web anywhere, but seem to remember them open much later than anywhere else
Tram: Dlouhá třída

Well, I was looking forward to this place. They had quite good reviews when they opened, but that seems to be long gone. Yes, they do have 30 beers on tap, but takeaway the national blands and they have less than Zlý Časy. Prices are very expensive – probably 10-20CZK more per 30cl beer than most other places.

The staff are a bit useless too – the one serving us just seemed to want to sell us the most expensive one – 69CKZ for a 30cl – that’s dearer than the UK! They also had a beer on called ‘Good Bulldog’ but no one seemed to know who brewed it and I was also advised not to try the house beer. It was also very smoky. If you’re a tourist, fine – you’ll like it. If you want a decent beer, find somewhere else.

Czech beer glossary

Czech beer’s good. The lingo might be a bit special for anyone so here’s a few tips and word n stuff.

The beer is measured in degrees plato, so you instead of having a 5% beer, you might have a 12° beer. Read all about it here if you want, but a good rule of thumb is to subtract two from the plato scale and then divide by two. It’s not accurate, but it sort of works.

Beery words

Tmavý -dark
Svetlý – light
Polotmavý – medium dark
Ležák – premium beer
Pšeničné – wheat beer
Medový – beer with honey
Višňový – beer with cherries

Two bars in Brno

U Richarda 2

Údolní 7, Brno, Czech Republic.
Mon-Sat 11-23, Sun 11-22

U Richarda Brew Pub has been open in Brno for a wee while now, but as it’s out in the sticks and I’ve only been to Brno once before, I’ve never managed to visit. All is not lost now as there’s a second branch on the edge of the city centre (probably only 5 mins from Pegas brewpub.

Although catering to drinkers, U Richarda 2 does seem quite food based – in fact they call themselves a ‘Restaurace’ so it would have seemed rude not to have taken advantage of the current special offer of 500g of spicy pork ribs, bread and a Czech salad / garnish for 149CZK- about a fiver. Oh – with two beers too!

From what I understand, the beers are brewed out in the brew pub in the suburbs and sold there in the bar. I tried all they had to offer , these being
Světlý ležák 12°
Tmavý ležák 12°
Višňový ležák 12° – a cherry beer
Pivni Special 12°
Pšeničné 11° – a wheat beer
Medový speciál 15° – a dark beer laced with honey.

A nice, modern bar, good food and good beer!

 

Pegas

Jakubská 4, Brno, Czech Republic.

There’s not really a lot to say about Pegas – if you’ve been to Brno and like a beer, the chances are you’ve been to Pegas. Pretty much bog standard German / Czech beer hall type place with lots of wood, hops on the ceiling and fag smoke. The beer’s good though!

Whilst there, the Christmas beer was available – ‘Vánoční’ – a 15° beer that the barman said was just a mix of two of the standard beers. Still, if you blend two very good beers, you’re bound to still end up with a good beer!

Trappistenfest, Niel

Having first heard about the Trappistenfest in Niel on Belgian Beer Board last year, a visit to the festival in the small town just outside Antwerp was definitely one to be done!

Fortunately, on the same weekend of the festival, the first Modeste Bierfestival was due to be held, so this would pack in a bit of ‘added value’ to the trip. More about the Modeste Bierfestival here.

Trains to Niel don’t run on a weekend, so last Sunday, we took the bus from Antwerp for the short walk to the ‘Kapel van de Jongenschiro’. Once again, the weather was unseasonably hot so we took a seat outside.

First beer up was Chimay Doree – part of the Chimay ‘family’ of beers but not available anywhere except Auberge de Poteaupré or inside the Scourmont Abbey if you happen to be a monk there! Definitely the hardest to get hold of beer on the list. There’s none currently on eBay and a website in the USA is asking $69!!! I ought to have got a few to take with me…

Next was the Petit Orval, again only available if you’re a monk or at the cafe next to the abbey. There’s none of this on eBay or any other site I could see.

Shortly following this was the new Mont des Cats beer. Mont des Cats is a Trappist abbey just over the border in France, but their beer is brewed at the Scourmont Abbey, along with Chimay. On one hand I’ve heard that they’ll be getting their Trappist accreditation in the next month or so. Another source says that for it to qualify, they must brew it themselves at their abbey. So, it’s brewed by Trappist monks at a Trappist abbey, the labels say ‘bière trappiste’, but it’s not an ‘Authentic Trappist Product’. Once again, it’s rather a good beer, but you won’t find it in shops near you as it’s only currently available in the Abbey shop and cafe. This may change soon though.

Even though I’d tried it before, it seemed a shame not to sample to Westmalle Extra. Again, only generally available at the abbey, this beer seems to be a bit more easily available than the others (at least one bar in Antwerpen seems to have it much of the time). It’s a light, golden beer, very easy drinking and at 4.8%, just right for a late summers’ (ish!) day.

So – the festival? Well run, in a most pleasant location, good table service and not too busy. The only downside is that it’s well out of the way! Looking forward to another visit in the near future…

Mister Bières, Sète

Mister Bières, Sète

Now closed, but a new place has opened on the other side of the square – Bieres et Terroirs

Place Delille, 34200 Sète, France
Tue-Fri 10-14 and 17-22, Sat 10-22, Sun (June – September) 10-14 and 17-22
+33 4 67 78 52 37

In my experience, France isn’t particularly good for beer, everywhere seems to be overrun with run of the mill stuff like Kronenbourg, Heineken or even Pelforth.

If you’re really fortuitous, you might stumble across a small microbrewery. Even though it may be in the same town, local bars tend not to stock them but fortunately, supermarkets often do.

However, things in Sète are different – all is not lost! Sitting in Place Delille is ‘Mister Bières’. It’s only been open a couple of weeks and I found it by accident – “Look Jemma – there’s a shop selling beers… Run! It says it stocks over 300”. A quick look inside at the bulging shelves revealed offerings mainly from Belgium along with probably the best selection of French beers I’ve seen!

Speaking to the owner, Philippe Vasseur, he originates from Lille and has brought some of his local beer culture with him. A resonable proportion of the French beers are from the Flanders area, but there’s also examples from Brasserie Artisnale du Sud, La Grivoise and La Castagne du Cevenol, to name but a few. If you can’t wait to take beers home, there are a few tables outside to sit and enjoy them.

One interesting thing I noticed was a bottle of La Cagole Blanche. La Cagole Blonde has been around for a while with production at Pivovar Nymburk in Czech Republic following the closure of the brewery in Marseille. The Blanche however, displays the words ‘Fabrique en France’. A bit more detective work is needed here!

If you’re ever in the area, a visit is well worthwhile. Mister Bières is something every French town could do with!

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4

Photo 5

Click ‘Read more’ for the beers I sourced at Mister BièresThe beers I either tried there or brought home were

La Castagne du Cevenol – Aujac
Bogue – 6.5%

La Cagole – Marseille
Blanche – 4.5%

L’Agrivoise – Saint-Agreve
La Pasee – 6.5%
La Commun’ale – 5.0%
Sous les Paves Biere Noire – 5.5%

La Brasserie Artisanale Du Sud – Nyons
La Grihette Mange Soif Blanche – 4.7%
La Grihette Mange Soif Blonde – 4.9%
La Grihette Songe Fete Ambree – 4.8%

Anosteke – Blaringhem
Blonde – 8%
Bracine Triple – 9%

Garrigues,
La Belle en Goguette – 6%
Saison des Amours – 5.5%
La Frappiste – 7.5%

Tour de France 2012

Last year’s Tour de France wasn’t that accessible for the visitor from northern England [blog entry].  This year’s is – hurrah!

I’m not sure 100% where I’m going, but the following stages are sure to feature

  • Prologue – Liège to Liège
  • Stage 1 – Liège to Seraing
  • Stage 2 – Visé to Tournai
  • Stage 3 – Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer is another great one to follow for the casual Brit.  I’ve visited Orchies a few times now as it features in the Paris – Roubaix race.

So, another Grand Départ weekend out of France.  I wonder what the race will have in store for the British guys?  Mark Cavendish has said he won’t be quite so focussed on winning staged this year – his priority will be helping fellow Brit Bradley Wiggins into the Yellow jersey and keeping him in it all the way to Paris, as well as concentrating preparations for the London 2012 Games.  Still, I’d like to think he’s going to get a few stage wins under his belt.  How about Stage 1 for starters?

See you in France Belgium!

Tour de France 2011 – possible non starter?

Looks like this year could be a Tour de France free year again this year.  Mustn’t make a habit of it.

The main problem is trying to fit in when I can visit with the Tour’s route with my work schedule and whether the towns are served by train.

This year, I’m scuppered, especially that the Grand Depart is in Britanny and their rail service isn’t the best…

The possible days I can visit are

  • Stage 10 – Tue 12 July. Aurillac – Carmaux.  Rail engineering work means that it’s a 2 hour bus ride from Toulouse.  Not a major problem in itself, but when the rest of the region is trying to get to the event…
  • Stage 11 – Wed 13 July.  Blaye-les-Mines – Lavaur.  Same as above
  • Stage 12 – Thu 14 July.  Cugnaux – Luz Ardiden.  Local town doesn’t know yet what bus services are available so might not be able to get anywhere decent.
  • Stage 16 – Tue 19 July.  Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux – Gap.  No hotels in Gap or in reasonable sized towns within a 90 minute radius
  • Stage 17 – Wed 20 July.  Gap – Pinerolo.  No hotels in Gap.

My last remaining possibility is a visit to Grenoble on 23 July for the Time Trial, but seems a bit far to go just for one stage.


 

As a follow up a post in 2007, I’ve updated my Tour de France diary…

I’ve been to the Tour for the last few years and I’ve think I’ve worked out which stages I’ve been to.  When at a stage finish, I always try and get as close to the finish line as possible and have always been in the last kilometre or so.

2010
A foray to a Grand Depart in another country!

Prologue – Rotterdam.  Wet, miserable, rubbish photos.
Stage 1Rotterdam – Bruxelles.  Near the finish in Bruxelles
Stage 2 – Bruxelles – Spa.  By the start in Bruxelles

2009
Another good vintage

Prologue – Monaco.  Fairly near to the finish and managed to get some decent photos, including a certain Manx Missile!
Stage 1 – Monaco to Brignoles.  Watched the race pass on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.
Stage 2 – Marseille to La Grande Motte.  Saw the Depart by the port in Marseille
Stage 3 – Montpellier – Montpellier time trail.  Just up from the start point

2008
Unable to go.  🙁

2007
Possibly one of the best years…  3 countries, 4 stages in different 5 towns

Prologue – London.  200 m from finish on the Mall.  What a location!
Stage 1 – London to Canterbury.  Marshalled on the stage and then chased the race to watch the events unfold at Stone Street (poor Cav!).  Joined the Caravane on the boat across to France…
Stage 2 – Dunkerque – Gent.  Stood on the finish line in the rain but missed the end of race crashes.
Stage 3 – Waregem – Compiegne.  Saw the Depart from Waregem

2006
Prologue – Strasbourg. Near to finish line
Stage 1 – Strasbourg to Strasbourg. Watched the ‘pre race’ – the riders just trundle by through the town until they are in the open road then the race starts properly.  Then moved to the finish line to wait for the race.

2005
Stage 3 – La Châtaigneraie to Tours. Near the finish line
Stage 4 – Tours – Blois.  Team Time Trial.  About 1km from the start so wasn’t too busy.  Conveniently found a bar where I was able to sit and wait for the teams to finish – along with quite a few other folk!

2004
Stage 3 – Waterloo to Wasquehal. Near to the finish line
Stage 4 – Cambrai to Arras.  Team Time Trial.  About 1km from the start on a good bend.  Remember this stage as it chucked it down all day!

2003
Stage 11 – Narbonne to Toulouse. Near to the finish line, but nearly wasn’t.  After standing for a couple of hours, the police decided to move a group of us as we were “in the wrong place”.  After a great deal of persistance, we were able to stop.
Stage 12 – Gaillac to Cap’ Découverte. Individual time trial. Just by the starting ramp.
Stage 13 – Toulouse to Plateau de Bonascre.  Watched the race start at the Cité de l’Espace

2002
Stage 5 – Soissons to Rouen.  Near to the finish line

2001
Did not attend.

2000
Stage 13 – Avignon to Draguignan.  Near to the finish line

1999
Stage 14 – Castres to Saint-Gaudens.  Near to the finish line.  Remember being not too well this year – had been away in Poland the week prior and picked up a bug leaving me with severe trots!  The day previous I was pretty bad but managed to hold out when it was time to watch the race.

1998
Stage 14 – Valreas to Grenoble.  Near to the finish line

1997
Stage 19 – Montbeliard to Dijon.  Near to the finish line

1996
Stage 19 – Hendaye to Bordeaux.  Near to the finish line

Wouter Weylandt

On 9 May, Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt was descending along the Passo del Bocco, a steep mountain pass during stage 3 of the 2011 Giro d’Italia.

He looked over his shoulder to see where the riders pursuing him were and he lost control of his bike, crashing face down.  It’s not been said how fast he was going, but around 60kph may be a good estimate.  Medical staff tried to resuscitate him, although he had died instantly.

The tributes paid to him the following day were quite touching.  The race carried on, but at a reasonably sedate pace – for those riders anyway!  Each team took a stint on the front of the bunch before passing to the next.  Even though there wasn’t any ‘exciting’ cycling to see, the roads were still jam packed with spectators not cheering, but just clapping and many of them holding up the number ‘108’ – the number Wouter carried during the race.

At the finish line, Leopard Trek, the team he rode for, went ahead of the other riders and crossed the line with their arms round each other’s shoulders.  They even called forward Tylar Farrar from the Garmin team to join them.  He lives in Belgium near to where Wouter lived and they were best friends.

That’s one of the things I like about cycling – the camaraderie.  Even in the face of adversity, the guys rally round and help each other.

 

Wouter Weyalndt.   1984 – 2011.  RIP.

Leuven Beer Festival 2011

Jemma and myself were stopping in Brussels as it was ideally placed to get to Lille to see the Paris-Roubaix cycle race and also to be able to pop to Leuven for their beer festival, organised by de Leuvense Biertherapeuten.

It was not the easiest festival to get to – a short train ride from Brussels, an extremely cramped bus ride with a dog licking my foot then a 15 minute walk through the park to the festival venue.

An outside table was soon commandeered overlooking the lake and park, resulting in what must have been one of the best beer festival venues I’ve ever attended.

The range of beers was okish, although a number of them were starting to sell out by mid afternoon. Another problem was that a number of the ones I wanted to try were only available in 750ml bottles!

Antwerp and Sint-Niklaas – day 2

Zythos Beer Festival 2011

Stadsfeestzaal, Sint-Niklaas

Big.

Belgium’s biggest beer festival, held for the last time this year at the Stadsfeestzaal is Belgium’s biggest. Featuring more than 60 brewers and 200 beers, there was plenty to go at! I joined a number of UK beer tickers and sampled a range of beers. I won’t go into all the beers I tried, but a couple were worthy of mentioning –

De Dolle Brouwers Verse Vis (Fresh Fish)
A most strange beer indeed! It was brewed with no hops, had a Belgian lactic sour flavour and was made with cider yeast! There’s a quite a bit more about it on the Belgian Beer Board.

Smisje Smiske R-Ale
A dry hopped version of the Smisje Blonde, except that the beer is pumped through a pile of hops, effectively dry hopping the beer on the fly. Again, more details on the Belgian Beer Board.

Roll on next year’s festival in Leuven!

Antwerp and Sint-Niklaas – day 1

It’s my plan to visit a few more Belgian beer festivals this year. First on the list – Zythos Bier Festival in Sint-Niklaas. I stopped overnight in Antwerp and visited a few places there.

Kulminator, Antwerpen

Vleminckveld 32, Antwerpen
Mon 20.15-24, Tue-Fri 12-24, Sat 17-24, Sun closed
03 – 232 4538

Kulminator is one of those must visit places. It’s like the Eiffel Tower or Louvre if you are a ‘normal’ tourist in Paris. Or at least, that’s what I thought…

I’ve visited quite a few times now and generally, it’s been ok. The beer choice is excellent and the range of aged beers (some going back 20 and 30 years) is the best you’ll ever see. We even celebrated Jemma’s 30th birthday there a few years ago with a 30 year old beer.

The thing letting Kulminator down though is the service. If there’s only a few people in, service is not a problem. Lena will amble from bar to table to take your order, pass it to Dirk who will go into the cellar, get the beer and pass it back to Lena. Not on ZBF weekend though! The place was rammed and the only place I could find to sit was out in the smoking area. After 10 minutes of not being served, I went back inside and queued at the bar. After something like another 10 minutes, Lena took my order. The best part of 10 minutes later I left.

Ok, bars can be busy, but you have to be on top of things you’re starting to get too busy! Dirk didn’t serve – he just visited the cellar and grumbled. Anyway – things might have been a bit smarter if it wasn’t for the people looking at, sniffing at and writing an essay about their beer! Yes, you might want to have a close inspect of what you’re going to drink, but don’t write a full page of text about it! Evidently, this is very common amongst Scandinavian beer fans…

On the subject of Dirk, on my last visit back in July 2010, the place wasn’t too busy and he seemed to be stumbling around – something that he’s rather good at. All of a sudden he had a go at a customer. This customer had made the mistake of sitting at the table with the piles of magazines, newspapers and general bits of piffle and Dirk thought this customer had taken something, so we were all treated to a tirade of “you have taken something”, “get out of my bar” for about 10 minutes, all the while the customer was protesting his innocence and offering to show the contents of his bag.

After looking on Google for the bar and chatting to other beery types, it appears that these episodes are not uncommon. It’s just a shame that I’ve had lots of good visits.

After giving up, I moved back towards the main square to a street just off it and visited

‘t Antwaerps Bierhuiske, Antwerp

Hoogstraat 14, 2000 Antwerpen
Mon-Sun 12-02

Antwaerps Bierhuiske is a new place, having been open for less than a year. I first visited just after they first opened last summer. It’s a pretty average sort of bar with around 150 beers, including a good selection of slightly rarer microbrewery beers.

It’s out of the way just enough to avoid being too touristy – well worth a visit!

A few doors up, I spotted a bar I’d not heard of before…

Cafe Den Billekletser

Hoogstraat 22, 2000 Antwerpen
+32 32 31 34 48

Sign outside advertising 280 beers, so entered to find a basic tiled floor with plain tables and chairs and around 60 empty bottles in the windows. The menu only contained around 30 beers so when I asked for the rest, the young lass said they didn’t have a printed list and she would bring me what I wanted. When I said that I wanted something that was a tick, she was confused… Further probing found out that they have around 280 beers, but with 100 available at anyone time.

Prices reasonable but once again, very smoky. Might be worth another look at if they actually tell folk what they sell!

And to finish up that evening…

Biercentral

de Keyserlei 25, 2018 Antwerpen

2 minutes from Centraal Station, providing you use the right door.

Large pub, seeming to cater for all sorts during the day and yoof at night. Loud dj wouldn’t be out of place on a UK high street pub at a weekend, but with several hundred beers. They at 20 draught and more than 300 bottles. Lots of bog standard beers, but lots of rarer ones too in the custom printed catalogue.

Good to see that it’s somewhere away from the normal darkened, smoky front rooms and might have a bit of appeal to the younger drinker.