Saturday, 7 September 2013

#171: Brussels

I'm finally working through some of the notes from my trip in August, and after landing in Amsterdam and spending a couple days there, the next stop was Brussels. 

As I'd expected, things started with some pretty classy hotel drinking. Ideally, I would have chilled the Achel Blond in the fridge we found in the wardrobe just before we left, but it was cool enough, so on I went. It's sweet and a bit spicy on the nose, while on the palate it's candied citrus fruit, biscuity grain and pepper all the way. Brigand is surprisingly more yeasty in the aroma, with banana and spice dotted here and there, while the palate is a more refreshing blend lightly bitter lemon with some herbs and grain husks chucked in for good measure.

The serious drinking started in the Poechenellekelder, which we found by accident while taking the mandatory look at Manneken Pis. We weren't here for long though, staying only to indulge in a Saison Dupont, finally. For a day that involves a lot of walking, this is the perfect refreshment. The aroma is earthy with lemongrass and menthol notes, while the body is nice and wheaty with plenty of the grainy sweetness involved, as well as a light tickling bitterness and just a tang of sourness at the finish.

From there, it was the Cantillon Brewery. It's a fair walk from the Grand-Place area with plenty of chances to get lost, so bear that in mind if you're a Metrophobe like myself. When you get there, you're treated to a self-guided tour of the brewery for a measly €6, along with a taste of their unblended lambic and another drink of your choice. The pure lambic is woody, tangy and delicious, while the Gueuze is more of the same, albeit a tad more balanced with grain and of course, carbonation. The Kriek was my pick of the bunch, but only by a shade, as the sherbety goodness and light sweetness of the cherry matching up perfectly with spritely, sour lambic. The shop also gives plenty of options for take-away goods. A trip to Cantilllon is highly advised.

Finally, on the way back to the centre, a stop in Moeder Lambic Fontainas was in order. The weather was good so everybody was sitting outside, while the long bar inside was virtually empty. Perfect.

Sticking to the specials (and the Belgians) first up was Manneken Penn, a collaboration between Brasserie de la Senne and two folks from Weyerbacher and Monk's Cafe respectively, from Pennsylvania. It's got fistfuls of syrupy toffee malt on the nose, as well as a fair hop profile that puts me in mind of toned-down Bigfoot. The taste is delicious, with thick malts and punchy fruit in harmony with even a bit of spice and toffee apple thrown in for good measure. It's listed as a hopped-up Dubbel, I learned after, and while I'm not sure it really tastes like that, it's bloody good.
Next was another from Dupont, this time their unseasonal seasonal Avec les Bons Voeux, which is their winter saison. It's spicier than the original, with more candied fruits cropping up here and there too, as well as a light caramel sweetness throughout. Not bad as such, but nowhere near good value for it's 9% ABV.

The last beer of the night was a Cantillon, seeing as it's so hard to pass up the chance of cask lambic. I opted for the Faro, and was rewarded with sherberty tangy goodness. The initial farmy sour kick at the fore turns to grass, wheat and even corn notes that linger for ages, before turning cidery and vinous at the back. Hard to describe, but so easy to drink.

And that was pretty much it for Brussels, but for the Rocheforts and Chimays in the hotel. There's so much for the beer explorer to do in this city; I barely scratched the tip of the surface in my three days there. I strongly recommend the city for anyone, beer lust or not.

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