"It's not much but it's ours"

Sunday, August 13, 2006



Imagine how you would feel the next morning after a bottle of wine and the best part of a litre of strong beer? That’s how we felt and it might explain why we did not wake up until 9.30am.

We showered and rushed downstairs for our free brekkie before heading out to face the damp morning and our one full day.

HP had planned the day with military precision and our first port of call was THE CANTILLON MUSEUM OF GUEZE which is based in the original brewery of this legendary beer maker in close proximity to the Gare Midi. Not the greatest area of the city but well worth a visit.

I know next to nothing about Belgian beer. Suffice to say, I know a lot more about it now. Cantillon is one of the few remaining brewers of true Lambic, a beer that is created by self fermentation through being left open to the air so the natural airborne yeasts can start the fermentation process. A number of Lambics from different years can be blended to create Geuze or it can be blended with fruits to create the fruit beers that Belgium is famous for.

For €4 you get a self guided tour of the brewery and a small tasting. It is an entirely agreeable way to send an hour or so and it was doubly pleasurable as we got to chat to one of the Cantillon family who is still the head brewer. The small tastes of their lip quiveringly sour gueze and a stunning Kriek ( lambic blended with cherries ) set us up for the day and certainly put us in the mood to try some more of these most excellent of drinks. Mr Cantillon was also kind enough to give us a list of the bars where their beer is available. Many were on our list, but some were new to us and we added them on promising to try as many as possible.

First up was CAFÉ CHEZ MARCEL as traditional a Brussels bar as you are likely to find and far from the madding crowds found on the edge of a local flea market. We tried a rival gueze there from the Timmerman’s brewery. It showed the difference between an artisnal maker and a commercial brew. This was sour, but lacked the real complexity of the beer we had tried after our tour.

Still, we had a bit of a buzz now and, after a bit of a route march we found ourself by another bar recommended by Mr Cantillon, POECHENNELLEKE which is situated a few strides from the entirely missable Mannikin Pis. The bar had a pretty impressive range of beers too. HP stuck with the Cantillon gueze. I wanted to try something new so went for a Kwak. One of those chillingly strong beers served in a ridiculous glass that resembles a test tube holder. All very nice and that, but at 9% I did begin to think that this might just be a long day.

We needed some food by this time so we headed to the old town. A mistake as it was rammed with tourists who never seem to want to leave the safe enclaves of this small area. So, we wandered a little farther to the St Katharine area which is replete with bars and restaurants. There was one there which HP has researched, well of course he had.

L’ACHEPOT is a small, family run restaurant on an attractive little square. The menu is scrawled on blackboards and changes daily. The cooking is as hearty as anything we tried in the city but a little more thoughtful. Croquettes were made with small brown shrimp and a seafood cannelloni was a crisp wrapping around a dense but hugely tasty seafood boudin. HP again went for mussels, but again, the sauce was lighter than the previous night’s offering. My main course was as close to perfect as it gets for me. A round of house made blood pudding which was softer than its UK counterpart, atop sautéed apples. We polished off a bottle of rose with our meal which came to €100 including a charge for service which was handled by one single woman who kept on top of a packed restaurant without missing a beat.

Time for a nap now? Not a chance. We had at least 20% liver function left and were going to use every last iota of it.

DELIRUM CAFÉ is officially the stockist of the widest range of beers in the world. They had a certificate from Guinness to prove it too. The list of beers is in a folder that is about 200 pages thick and needs to be as it carries over 2000 beers. Would that we could have tried more than the two we tried. Another Cantillon brew, this time the Kriek and a Faro, another slightly sweeter beer.

We decided to walk back to the hotel but on the way, unsurprisingly for gentlemen of our age, we needed to siphon the python so we stopped in a little neighbourhood bar for another gueze, this time from the Belle Vue brewery. One in one end, three out the other. We both felt more comfortable.

A nice way to end the first part of the day
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