Belgian Pubs Forever
|Belgium, I had forgotten just how great this country is for
beer! Even making a choice at a small supermarket is difficult! However, beer nirvana was
reached in Brugge! I had data from a web based 'beer site' pertaining to a bar in Brugge
called, 't Brugs beertje, at Kemelstraat 5, right opposite a restaurant we had selected to
dine at. Once all were seated I entrusted my course selection to the family with
instructions that a runner should be sent when the order was at the table. I then struck
out across the cobble stones to the 'temple' of taste.
The street facade was unassuming and typical of a Belgian bar - door opening directly to the street, two windows and a minimum of advertising. Across the threshold one is greeted by a hive of clinking glasses , the hiss of bottle caps parting company with bottles and the chatter between patrons. I made my way to the bar and waited for the attention of the bar person. She immediately offered me the 'menu' - a plastic leaf book offering in excess of 250 varieties of beer! This is a rather daunting number when considering not only making a choice, but the storage and the custom in Belgium that requires each beer to have its own style of glass imprinted with the name and logo of the said beer! No wonder the roof behind the bar was lined with racks from which hung various shaped glasses!
What to choose, this is the dilemma! I proceeded to enquire after a particular type of beer that resulted from open beer vats having the surrounding windows opened with the resulting fermentation started purely from the natural spoors blown in from the surrounding countryside. The lady behind the bar spoke English but my description was not registering. I tried in broken Dutch, a language I can survive in having worked in Amsterdam. Suddenly, a fellow patron came to the rescue with the Dutch term, 'spontane gisting, which in English is, 'spontaneous fermentation'. I replied, "Thanks to the English", from which his retort was, "Don't call me English". Slightly bemused I apologised and said I need a few more spoken word to lock on to his true nationality. After the next phrase I heard through a very obvious London accent, hints of Welsh! Oh dear! Then, from the left flank, "Don't worry, there are some of us English here". I turned to find two beer enthusiasts sitting at a small table with the remains of a sampling session and yes they did have sandals with socks! The Welsh/Londoner then asked where I came from. Living and 'came from' this is the question - I replied, 'came from New Zealand', whereupon a 'jack-in-the-box' at the far end of the bar popped up from no where, "New Zealand, did I hear New Zealand, did you know we just got a gold". The 'strong KIWI accent confirmed his origins! The man next to me entered the conversation and his 'drawl' confirmed USA origins. The Belgian couple on my other side then entered the conversation with a rather obvious comment about the variety of nationalities present in this bar and the fact that all would probably be beer enthusiasts. Even narrowing the choice down to spontane gisting only reduced the choice list to 8 beers. I wasn't going to be here on a regular basis, so I asked for the best. This choice was soon in front of me, with its own glass of course. A taste quite unlike any beer I had tasted before, a mix of a bitter beer and a dry cider would be the closest I could come to describing it.
I continued to enjoy this beer and looked around noting walls covered with framed icons of beer culture. Several rooms lead off the main entrance bar and all were full with eager patrons. Patrons left and new faces entered, many accents and languages were evident. At this stage my son Daniel arrived to announce that the food had arrived at the table opposite. Another aspect of bar life in this part of the world is the relaxed attitude taken to children joining their parents in such establishments
Upon return I engaged in conversation with the Belgian couple, who suggested that once I had finished my current beer I should try the dark malt honey beer. All honey beers I have had were of a light pilsner style. True to expectation this next beer was a smooth, sweet, rich malty beer offering a taste I had again not experienced with beers.
The American on my other side also decided to sample this brew. He was here for the night. Aside from his plate of 'nibbles' he had a paper back novel and was reading between conversations and sips! I found that he too was a beer enthusiast and had visited 75% of the estimated 210 boutique beer breweries in the U.S.A (future trip!).
My son arrived back and proceeded to move around the bar
adding to his collection of beer coasters. The rest of the family arrived and although
they enjoyed the decor the hour dictated a return to the hotel for bed!