18 December, 2008

Berlin During Christmas Time

Paula and I spent the first weekend of December in the historic and up and coming city of Berlin and what a great time we had. Take a look at a few pictures for now. More words and pix to come either during holiday break or after the break!

30 November, 2008

Our Favorite Bar Dog

A few times over the last several months we would visit a corner bar in Strassen. Although it is a bit smokey inside and it is locals bar, the main reason we go is because there is a dog that hangs out at the bar that comes over to talk to us and let us pet her. Her name is Tricksy and she is very friendly and seems to greet everyone that comes into the bar. During the warmer months they leave the front door open and the comes in and out from time to time to check out what is going on outside the bar. We realized that Tricksy does not speak English so she really doesn't understand what we say when we talk to her but she is friendly all the same!

23 November, 2008

A Daytrip to Brussels for the Cantillon Quintessence

I got an email a few weeks ago from the Cantillon brewery in Brussels noting that they were having a cool open house tasting event on Saturday, 22 November that included about a dozen of their fine lambic beers, paired with local and regional foods and the kicker of it all was that it was only €15 per person! With todays exchange rates that is only about $20 to taste a full lineup of some of the best beers in the world and beers that are fairly expensive if, or should I say when, you can find them in the U.S. I emailed the brewery a few days later and made a reservation.

We debated about going up Friday night to stay 1 or 2 nights in Brussels but this would be our fifth trip to Brussels in less than 1 year so we opted to take a 8:24 am train from Luxembourg to Brussels which is so convenient and reasonably priced at €58 roundtrip for 2 people at a special weekend rate. We arrived in Brussels about 11:30 am and had only a 5 minute walk to the brewery. When we got there we were greeted by a bit of a line at the door but we were able to pay and have a tasting glass in hand in 5 minutes. The tasting was one from 10 am to 4 pm and for your money you got 10 tickets that were good at each of 10 different stations throughout the entire brewery. At each you got a nice sample of a Cantillon beer and a finger food items, mostly on bread. At a few stations you got to sample 2 beers. In these instances we were able to try to standard fruit lambic like their Kriek and then the premium version with more fruit added like the Lou Pepe Kriek. In most cases we got a little story about the beer we were sampling.

During the tasting we ran into our friend Chris that owns a great bottle shop in Arlon, Belgium, Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon. He was at the Cantillon tasting with about 20 members of his tasting group which meets each month at his shop for different beer tastings. We also got recognized by the Cantillon brewer which was pouring their gueuze so that was cool. We last saw him at Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon a month or so ago doing a tasting at the shop and then we were at Cantillon in September with Ed and Kelli. I guess from seeing a few times in the last 2 months he remembered us which was cool. At the 9th of 10 stands we started talking with the guy pouring Cantillon Iris which was matched with a fantastic peacan tart! When we started to speak English he asked where we were from, we said Philly and he got all happy when we said that. He talked very highly about Tom Peters, one of the owners of Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia. This fellow, named Lorenzo, also mentioned that he is good friends with Sam Calagione, the owner of Dogfish Head in Delaware. It was a nice end to a great day of tasting.

We left the Cantillon brewery a little after 2pm and walked into town and stopped at the Mannekin Pis frite stand for some lunch. After that we did a little shopping and then stopped at the Delirium Cafe for a drink or 2. Even at this early part of the afternoon the bar was packed but we were lucky to find a table in the back. We sat in the section clearly marked "NO SMOKING" but there were a good 15 people or so smoking in that section so it was pretty much a joke. We left and did more shopping and got caught up in some snow but nothing big. We then hit 1 or 2 more bars before stopping in the evening for a pita in the Greek area of town and then we were on a 8:37 pm train back to Luxembourg and in our apartment by 10 minutes after midnight. It is nice that Brussels is so close and we can do a day trip from there. It was nice to sleep in our own bed and wake up in our own apartment the next morning.

Check out the pictures we took of this cool tasting day!

The Luxembourg Festival of Lights and Trees

A week ago Saturday, the 15th of November, Paula and I met up with a group of Americans to take a walking tour of the Luxembourg Festival of Lights and Trees. I could try to describe it all to you but it would probably be better if I just lifted some words I found on the internet that describe things....

The tress & lights festival concept was started in Geneva in 2001, with 18 international artists involved, but the concept of having open-air art festivals in Luxembourg started in 1995 when Luxembourg was the European Capital City of Culture. And credit also goes to Prince Felix who recommended that the festival be brought to the Grand Duchy.

This festival will see 10 artists' creations across the city, including four Luxembourg creations and three created specifically for this festival.

ArcelorMittal and LEO (Luxembourg Energy Office) are credited as main sponsors, the latter contributing to a 100% sustainable energy source for the festival exhibits.

The festival opens on Friday evening (24 October) at 19:00 on the Place Guillaume with a "Nuit du Festival", until 30 November. Jugglers, musicians and open fires will amuse visitors to the exhibits, and roasted chestnuts, tea and gluwein will also be available. And a tourist train will start from the Place de la Constitution at 20:00, taking visitors to all the exhibits. Additionally, three guided tours will depart from the Hotel de Ville on the Place Guillaume at 19:00, 19:30 and 20:00. The LCTO will also be organising free guided tours throughout the festival on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 18:30, starting in front of the Hotel de Ville.

The artists and their creations are listed below:
- "Brothers and Sisters" by Ron Haselden (England) at the Place des Martyrsds
- "Light Trees" by ACT Design (Belgium) at the Place de Metz
- "Focusing Life" by Marco Godinho (Luxembourg) at the Place de la Constitution
- "Hana-mi" by Simona Braga (Italy) at Bld Roosevelt
- "Le Trésor" by Cédric Le Borgne (France) at the Pont du Grund
- "Cohabitation" by Géraud Périole (France) at Square Robert Brasseur, sponsored by KPMG
- "TransGleditsias" by Elvire Bastendorff (Luxembourg) at the Grand Rue
- "Cellule originelle" by Studio CS (Switzerland) at the Bld Royal
- "Ouni Titel (7m héich)" by Mertens & Quetsch (Luxembourg) at the Place d'Armes
- "L'envoi" by Jean-Francois Arnaud (France) at the Place Guillaume II

Check out some pictures from our 2 hour journey around Luxembourg City at night to take in the lights!

05 November, 2008

A Second Visit to Amsterdam

For Halloween weekend Paula and I took a train up to Amsterdam to enjoy the sights and sounds once again. We had visited for a day in May when visiting Utrecht but this time we spend the entire weekend in Amsterdam and Amsterdam only. We got up there early on Friday afternoon and checked into our hotel near the Van Gogh Museum. We wandered around for awhile and then found a pancake house for lunch and some traditional Dutch lunch pancakes which were yummy. We eventually ended up at the Anne Frank house for a tour of this sad but historic museum and then we headed off for a drink and then on to the Van Goghn Museum for a visit of his paintings. On Friday nights they open the Van Gogn until 10pm and have a dj and light food and drinks. We stuck around for a glass of wine while hanging out in the lobby of this cool museum. After the Museum we walked over to our destination for a late dinner, The Pantry, which had traditional Dutch food that was very good. My dish consisted of 3 different types of mashed potatoes and a meatball the size of a softball which was great! Paula had a nice dish of grilled prawns and we shared a really good bottle of Dutch wine. I didn't know there was good Dutch wine but apparently this was one of the best. After dinner we headed back to the hotel for a few drinks at our hotel bar.

On Saturday we were greeted by rain throughout the day but we made the best of it. After a proper English breakfast at a nice little cafe, we roamed the city doing some fine shopping and dipping our heads into a cafe here and there for a drink or 2. We had lunch at a nice cafe off the main track but still busy with locals. It was canal side and we happened to be across the street from a bar where a group of about 8 American's and maybe some Dutch were still dressed for Halloween...as several world leaders including Barack Obama, Kin Jon Il, Vladamir Putin, Tony Blair, Nelson Mandela and several others. After smoking a few cigarettes and downing a few beers, they jumped on this huge red bike that all of them could peddle on. Check out a few pictures of this at the link below.

Later on Saturday we had dinner at Boom Chicago and then stayed for their very very funny show about the presidential election called "Bye, Bye Bush". We had heard about this show when we were therer in May and had to come back for it, especially since it was only a few days before this historic election.

Sunday was our last day in Amsterdam so we spend the last few hours before our train doing more shopping, picking up some little touristy things here and there, including by big orange clog slippers! All in all another fine trip to Holland which made me wish more and more that we were living back in Holland. Maybe somedays...

Phillies Win....Phillies Win....Finally the Phillies Win!!!!

The Philadelphia Phillies have finally won the World Series after 28 years of pain! My brother Ed and I were at the last Phillies WS win in 1993 and that was a great feeling but watching them win it all is the ultimate. I stayed up late or got up early to watch all the playoff games against the Brewers, Dodgers and Rays.

Although we know the Phillies had a great season and a great team, one fact you don't hear about how they broke their curse of no championships relates to a Chase Utley Smurf that was born in March 2008 in Ghent, Belgium, before Spring Training started in April. You won't read about this on espn.com or philly.com but I think my making of the Chase Utley Smurf doll is what put us over the top!

Our First Visit to Strasbourg, France

It took over a year but Paula and I finally visited Strasbourg, France which is about 3 hours by train or a little over 2 hours by car to the South of Luxembourg. We decided to take the direct train from Luxembourg early on a Saturday morning and spend all day Saturday and most of Sunday roaming the town and taking in the cute little town. Strasbourg is probably most well known for their Christmas markets but there is plenty to see and do before the holidays arrive.

I had a little bit of a dilemma for Saturday night as the Phillies were playing in game 3 of the World Series vs. the Rays and I could not miss it. Luckily the hotel had free wireless internet in the rooms so I brought my laptop along with me to wake up at like 2am to watch the game online. Well it turns out there was a long rain delay before the game started so I went back to bed and woke up to catch the first pitch and the rest of the thrilling 5-4 win. Although I didn't get to bed until about 7am due to the delay and length of the game, it was worth it to get a wine.

Check out pictures from our short but fun weekend in Strasbourg!

03 October, 2008

4th Annual Dogfish Head Intergalactic Bocce Tournament!

Yes that is right, this past week was the 4th annual bocce tournament at Dogfish Head and I traveled all the way from Luxembourg to Delaware to participate with my team of monks. Check out some pictures....

20 September, 2008

Running My First Bar in Luxembourg!

Ok, it was not a bar I own or even a real "bar" but today Paula and I volunteered to help with a stand at the Discover Luxembourg day in Luxembourg City and we were put in charge of running a Bofferding beer tent. We had originally wanted to sign up a team for the Discover Luxembourg event which was basically a scavenger hunt through town but we didn't get registered in time so we opted to volunteer. We thought we would just be assisting those actually running the tent but they basically turned the tent over to us when we showed up but all was good. We were only selling beer, soda, orange juice and water. We were talking with our other volunteer neighbors who were selling pizza and cremant (sparkling wine). I was in charge of the beer all day and poured about 250 beers or so! There was only one option for beer but I was pouring from 2 taps at the bar. It got busy at times and it took awhile to learn the best way to pour without losing too much beer as the beer was coming out with alot of carbonation and very fast. Plus the glasses were only 30cl so they filled quickly. After many pours and samples, I found my groove and the night went well. After about 5 hours or so we were done and ready to head home! It felt like I was back in the days of working a stand at the Moscow Country Fair with my family although for the fair we did not sell any alcohol so this was more fun! I think this is good practice for the day when we own our bar either here in Luxembourg or back home in the Paoli area.

My Beer Glass Collection

In just around 11 months living in Luxembourg I hav amassed a pretty decent collection of beer glasses. This is on top of the sizable collection I have stored away in boxes in a few places back in Pennsylvania. All the glasses I have in our Luxembourg flat were either purchased on our travels through bars and breweries in Belgium, grocery stores in Luxembourg or different markets here in Luxembourg. There are also a few from a brewery in Switzerland we visited in October for their 10th anniversary party.

Ed and Kelli's European Visit - Part 1

We had our first family visitors to Luxembourg and the surrounding countries when my brother Ed and his fiance Kelli came to visit from 5 September through 15 September. We first met up with Ed and Kelli when they arrived in Brussels. We spent the first 2 days in Brussels, then moved on for 2 days in Brugge. After playing around in Brugge and the surrounding countryside, we moved on to a day in Antwerp and then to Luxembourg for the remaining time.

Brussels - On 5 and 6 of September we cruised around Brussels. On Friday the 5th we started with a beer and lunch at Poechnellekelder right across from the Manniken Pis. We then wandered over to the Cantillon brewery for a tour and some extended tastings. In addition to the 2 samples you get in the tour at Cantillon, we also got to try their draft faro, straight lambik and also Broucsella straight from a bottle coming off the bottling line from the brewer. We also got to talk with the brewer a bit which was cool. We mentioned that we were from the Philadelphia area and they said they had some good friends in Philly including Tom Peters from Monk's Cafe. It just so happened that Tom was at the Cantillon brewery the day before to choose the barrel for their next Monk's Cafe Gueuze. Darn, we missed him by one day!

On the 6th we started our the day with a trip to the Brussels city museum and then off to the lambik countryside and lunch at Drie Fonteinen. Aside from really good food, they had their draft faro, kriek and a few others. After lunch we walked around the corner to the brewery and brewery shop to pick up a few bottles. When ready to leave Ed mentioned that we were from Philly and that he had seen the brewer Armand at a few events in Philly in March with my cousin Keith. Much to our surpise that was enough to get us a great tour of the brewery and their newly opened Lambik Droom tasting cafe. Lydie, partner at the brewery with Armand started by giving us a great tour of the brewery and then the barrel room down below in the cellar. Not only did we get a vip tour but Lydie grabbed a pitcher and cracked open a barrel of lambik and gave us several sample straight from the barrel. There is really no other place on earth to have their beer as pure as this as it would not travel well or and it is not bottled in this state. We moved on from the barrel room, after many pictures, over to the Lambik Vroom for more tasting, this time with Lydie and Armand the brewer! We were treated to gratis samples of their oude gueuze, oude kriek and kriek straight from the barrel. Side by side with the bottled kriek, the kriek straight from the barrel was hard to beat!

After about 2 hours with Lydie and Armand, we said our goodbyes and headed further into the countryside to take in a beerfest at De Heeren Van Liederkercke, a great restaurant outside of Brussels. We wanted to visit anyway as I have heard they have a great beer cellar and excellent beer cuisine but they were also having a beer fest that included a good deal of the beers they had on their menu. We were able to try some stellar beers for only a few euros each including the rare Drie Fonteinen Hommage and their J & J Blauw! We also stayed for dinner and had a great time listening to a band play music and watching kids in spiderman outfits running around while their parents drank great beer. Overall a great day.

We headed back to Brussels in the early evening and hit a few more bars for good measure including Morte Subite and Porte Noire. Brussels is one great beer city.

Brugge - After 2 days in Brussels, we headed off to Brugge about an hour away. We spent Sunday and Monday (7th and 8th of September) in this walled and watered town. I was stoked because our B&B we were staying in was on the outside of town, outside of all the crazy one way cobblestoned streets and all the people. When we arrived I was delighted to find I had my very own garage to park in and at the cheapest rates of the whole trip! The owner of our B&B was very nice, had several cats and knew alot about beer. When we told her that we were visiting Westvleteren on Monday to pick up some beer, she knew all about it and said she had a few crates at home and really liked the 8.

On Sunday and again on Monday evening we visisted a good deal of the Brugge beer bars including 't Brugs Beertje, Cambrinus Restaurant, Staminee de Garre, Brasserie Erasmus and De Zolder Keldercafe. Check out some pictures from these great stops.

On Monday the 8th we headed started the day off with a great sightseeing tour on the canals of Brugge. Check it out.

Later in the morning we all piled into the car and headed west to the Abbey at Westvleteren for lunch at the In De Vrede cafe next to the Abbey and then we had an appointment at 2:45 to pick up 2 crates of Westy 12, one of the best and some sought after beers in the world. We were not sure how we would fit 2 crates of beer in the car after we loaded in all the luggage and other things we purchased along the way but it all worked out.

After the great stop at Westvleteren we headed over to the Struise Farm for a visit and some sampling of the great beers they produce. Although the brewer, Urbain, was hard at work doing some bottling, he was gracious enough to spend time with us sampling about 5 beers including Fedeltà, a slightly sour blonde beer that Urbain said he had recently brewed at Allagash in the U.S. Next up was the Tsjeeses Reserva from a 750ml, a beer that is not even released to the public but that Urbain keeps on hand for samplings. After that we moved on to Dirty Horse, a fantastic beer that I had been waiting to try for some time. The beer was 5 years old and served from a really cool wine decantor. This the Struise take on a lambik style beer and it also has some flemish sour characters. The next beer was Pannepot Grand Reserva from a 750 ml bottle which I have never seen before. Another great beer. With some of the PGR left in Paula's glass, Urbain talked about a new beer he had recently brewed for a group in Sweden. This new beer, Black Jack is billed as an imperial porter with a special coffee used in fermentation. I think the coffee is Columbian. Urbain pulled some of the beer from the barrel and mixed it into Paula's PGR and it was a fantastic beer. The coffee aroma from the Black Jack was noticable once you got your nose just close to the glass and it was wonderful in the taste as well. Even after letting the last 1/2 ounce of the beer sit in the glass for 10 minutes or more, the coffee quality was still strong. I will surely be searching out this beer in Sweden if need be! After another great visit to Struise we were off to Brugge for the evening and a great dinner and some drinks at 't Brugs Beertje and the Garre, two great bars.

Antwerp - On Tuesday the 9th we headed off to a brewery tour at Rodenbach. Although the tour was only in Dutch, the brewery was good enough to let us join along with about 30 Dutch senior citizens and it was a great time. In addition to wandering around rooms full of huge wood foeders aging wonderful Rodenbach beer, we also got some nice samples at the end of the tour. After the tour we were on to Antwerp and a mission to spend a few hours at the Kulminator, one of the best beer bars in th world and they probably have the best aged beer cellar in the WORLD!

I could go on for days about the Kulminator but I can only type so much before I have to go to bed so I will hit some of the highlights. On two trips to the Kulminator that night, we had several great beers including Struise Earthmonk and Struise Pannepot Grand Reserva and we did a little blending experiment and it was damn fine. In addition to that we cracked into their vintage collection and pulled out a 750 ml bottle of Felix Oudenaards Kriekbier from 1975, a beer as old as me! Despite being as old as dirt, it tasted damn fine also. The cherry taste was very present and there was also some carbonation. One fine beer and served in a cool basket so it was all good. We also had a 1995 De Neve Gueuze that also had a fresh character to it and was another excellent aged beer. After sharing those 2 beers from breweries no longer in business, I moved on to a 1979 Oud Hoegaards Bier Blanche which is basically an early version of Hoegaarden and aside from no carbonation, this beer also held up very well. Between all of this Paula had a bottle of Kwelchouffe from 2000 which is no longer made. At the end of the night Ed and I shared a bottle of 1982 Thomas Hardy's and it was a great way to end the night.

31 August, 2008

A Cruise on the Moselle River in Luxembourg

Since it was such a great day outside today, Paula and I made our first visit to the Moselle wine region in Luxembourg. This wine region runs along the Moselle River on the East side of Luxembourg which boarders Germany. We headed to the town of Remich which is less than 30 minutes from our flat and very easy to get to. When we arrived the town was completely full with people everywhere. There were many motorcylces running around town and many people lining the Moselle River, sun bathing and unfortunately some of the were wearing speedos!

We hopped on a cruise boat that takes you up and down the Moselle River for about 1 hour. For only €7 per person this was a deal and a good way to get some sun while taking in the sites. On the Luxembourg side it seemed like there was nothing but wine fields and nice apartments facing the River.

2008 Schueberfouer in Luxembourg

On 25 August the 668th edition of the Schueberfouer opened up on Luxembourg City. The Schueberfouer is a huge fair that takes over the large Glacis parking lot in the Limpertsberg section of Luxembourg City, right in from of one of my company's offices. There are tons of rides to thrill kids and adults including a farriswheel, a bunch of things that left you up and spin you in all sorts of directions and even a little water ride!

In addition to the rides, there are tons of stands to win all sorts of prices from stuffed animals to Playstation 3's, Nintendo Wii's and plasma tvs. If would not be a fair in Luxembourg without tons of food and drinks and there is plenty of that. We have been to visit 4 different days already and have had several meals here and a good sampling of the drinks as well.

The fair runs until 10 September and during the week is open from about 11am to 1am and on the weekends runs until 2 am! We were there this weekend until after midnight and it is still packed with people of all ages enjoying the rides, food and drinks but there tends to be more punky kids at that point.

Check out our pictures so far from the Schueberfouer...we will be back several more times before it ends!

17 August, 2008

Brussels Flower Carpet

Once every 2 years (.... 2004, 2006, 2008) the Grand Place in Brussels is completely filled with a huge flowercarpet made of begonia flowers that is put on public display. The total size is larger than an American football field. The flowercarpet this year was on display from 15 through 17 of August. Paula and I took the train from Luxembourg to Brussels on Saturday morning to check it out for the day and to take in the sites of Brussels again. For €3 you can go into the City Hall building and view the carpet from the 2nd floor to get some pictures. Viewing from the street level is free and you can stand all around if you like, you just have to watch out for crazy picture taking tourists from all over the world!

Follow this link for more details on the history of the flower carpet in Brussels

Check out pictures from our visit, some from today!

While snapping some pictures of the flowercarpet, we also visited some of the best beer bars in Brussels, again. Check out some pictures

14 August, 2008

Our Trip to København (Copenhagen) Denmark

Check back soon for some tales for our trip, including yummy hot dogs, great cultural and beer destinations and a few prostitutes thrown in for good measure....

Our Visit to Stockholm, Sweden

Stay tuned for some well thought out (not really) words about our trip to Stockholm!

12 August, 2008

The Beer Scene in Scandanavia

On our trip to Stockholm and Copenhagen we visited some of the best beer destinations in the world and some would never know they were there. The beer landscape in Scandanavia is dominated by Carlsberg and Tuborg but there are many great craft brewers in Sweden and Denmark and some in Norway and Finland as well. One problem with beer in Sweden and Denmark is the sales tax applied. I think in Sweden taxes were about 23% on top of the price and in Copenhagen it was even higher at 25%. Despite that, we had to take advantage of being in this great beer area!

We first landed in Stockholm on 8 August and after checking into the hotel and roaming around a little, we took the T-metro to Akkurat, a bar that has been described as one of the best on earth with many rare beers made exclusively for them by Cantillon and other Belgian brewers. When we arrived at maybe 7pm, all of the outside seating was taken and most of the seats in the bar area as well but we were able to snag one bar stool and then an hour later a second stool.

The bottle list at Akkurat is simply amazing. They have a very extensive selection of Belgian beers, many from old vintages and many hard to find or rather I should say impossible to find beers. There were about 5 main beers that I was hoping to get while here, most of them from Cantillon. After having a nice Cantillon Gueuze on tap, I grabbed the huge bottle menu and asked for a rare Cantillon Soleil de Munuit but was sad to find out it was no longer available. I then "settled" on a rare Cantillon Reed Gueuze Pinot Noir and after several minutes of the bartender searching in the beer cellar (which is behind lock and key) for this beer I was relieved to see him come back to the bar with a beautiful bottle and a nice wicker basket to serve my beer from. He also brought 2 nice glasses for Paula and I to share. The beer was in a champagne bottle, like nothing I have seen from Cantillon and this was one damn fine beer!! The beer was several years old but the fruit character from the Pinot Noir matched very well with the tartness of the gueuze. Although this was a pretty expensive beer (about 400 Swedish Kronas which is approximately 40 Euros) but it was definitely worth it and due to the fact that it is not legal to take bottles away from bars in Sweden, I didn't feel bad spending the cash.

We went back to Akkurat the following day shortly after they opened and found it to already be half full but we had no problem getting 2 seats at a table in the bar area. I had one purpose in mind at this point, getting a bottle of Westveleteren 6. The production of this beer was stopped long ago and there are really only 2 or 3 places on earth that I know of that still have this beer and one of them won't sell it. Akkurat had it listed on their menu and although it was about 30 euros for a 33cl bottle, I felt it was worth it for this 1996 gem. The wait was worth it as the taste was still very present, malty and it was served in a proper Westvleteren glass! Overall Akkurat was a great experience and the 2 bartenders that we talked to on both occasions were very nice and helpful. They even remembered us the 2nd time we went, probably because we dropped a nice pile of kronas on both trips.

Later that same evening we ventured out in the rain to Monk's Cafe. No, not the Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia but the unrelated bar in Stockholm. This is a relatively new bar but has gained a great name for carrying a large array of Swedish, Belgian, German, American and other beers. Although the prices for some beers were quite high (like about $500 for a bottle of Sam Adam's Utopias) there were several reasonable beers and several on tap brewed by Monk's Cafe at their little brewpub or for them by local brewers.

We only had about an hour or so to spend here at Monk’s but we enjoyed it while we were able. Upon walking in I was greeted with a BeerAdvocate magazine sitting on a wine barrel at the entrance so I grabbed it to get a good English read in! We were quickly greeted by the bartender who spoke perfect English and was helpful in providing beer suggestions. As Monk’s brewed a few of their own beers or had them made my local breweries, I decided to start with their British IPA and then later moved on to an orange ale which sounded interesting and turned out to be pretty good. The bar was pretty empty and we found out was closing at 9pm as they had a late night the previous night due to the Stockholm 08.08.08 festival.

Check out pictures from beery travels through Stockholm

On the afternoon of 10 August we made the short flight to Copenhagen to take in the culture and the beer. In Copenhagen is what many believe to be one of the best beer shops in the world, Olbutikken. Olbutikken is a small bottle shop but has a crazy selection of Danish, Belgian and even American craft beers. The shop is owned by Jeppe, the brother of the brewer at Mikkeller, a great Danish craft brewer. Olbuitikken has several beers made especially for the shop so I was geeking thinking about getting the chance to try some of these. Before we left for our trip I had traded emails with Jeppe to setup a time to visit his shop on Monday as they are only open 3 days a week for a total of 12 hours. Jeppe was kind enough to open up for us at 2pm on Monday and we took advantage of it. The shop was only about a 10 minute walk from our hotel so we headed towards the shop a few minutes before 2pm with a bag full of American beer to trade with Jeppe.

We got to the shop a little after 2pm and were greeted by Jeppe from the back room. I spend the first few minutes just circling around the shop looking at all the Danish, Belgian and American beers that he had to offer. Although the size of the bottle shop is not large, the quality of what he has packed into the space is just amazing, all killer, no filler. It seemed like they had every available bottle from Mikkeller including the newly released Beer Geek Brunch One – for - One which was made in a limited quantity for Olbutikken. The selection of Belgian beers was also great including Black Albert and Pannepot Grand Reserva from Struisse and several Cantillon beers including Blabaer Lamik, a blueberry lambik made exclusively for Olbutikken. I think the Blabaer was actually brewed by Jeppe at Cantillon. There was also a very nice selection of American craft beer including some from Allagash, Southampton and Jolly Pumpkin.

We spent about 40 minutes in the shop talking to Jeppe about beer and Copenhagen. He spoke English very well and was a wealth of information. I brought 6 beers from American craft brewers including some Russian River and Lost Abbey to trade with Jeppe. Thanks to my cousin Keith for sending these bottles over to me to help out with this trade. After I selected about 8 bottles or so to take home, we worked out the trade so that I owed nothing for my acquisitions! I tried to pay Jeppe but it would not allow it.

For the rest of our time in Copenhagen we had some decent Danish beers at a few bars and made a quick trip to the Norrebro Bryghus brewery to sample a few of their beers.

Check out beer related pictures from our Copenhagen travels

03 August, 2008

Is There Bocce in Luxembourg?

We asked that question when we arrived and several months ago Paula found some bocce courts in a park near her office in the Kirchberg section of Luxembourg. About a month ago I finally found some bocce ball sets at our local supermarket, Cactus. We had looked in several places for awhile and found nothing and one night while at Cactus I decided to look in the kids toy section and found a bunch of outside toys including the bocce (or boules) balls. That is right, instead of calling it bocce, it is called boules but seems to be the same. We bought one set of 6 balls and the palino marker ball. Knowing that we needed 8 balls, 4 for each team, we also bought a set of 3 so in total we have 9 balls. Molly plays with the 9th ball at home. All the balls are silver with no other colors on them so we bought some blue tape to mark 4 of the balls from the other 4.

We have now played a few bocce games just by ourselves on a few Sunday afternoons, including today. I won't say who won but I am not happy about it.... Paula was walking by this park during the week and noticed that around lunch time there were 4 games going on in the 4 courts and it was full of office workers in suits (no coats) and dresses. The guys had their ties tucked into their shirts. People were sitting around watching, eating and drinking (some beer and wine). There is a little café not far from the courts so we will have to play some games during lunch to take in this odd display Luxembourg lunch breaks!

Check out our Luxembourg bocce practice!

Tracking Jason Bourne Through Europe

Being a huge fan of the Bourne series of movies, I had to track down some of the scenes from the movies as we traveled through Europe. So far we have been to Paris where scenes from Bourne Idntity were shot and London where scenes from Bourne Ultimatum were filmed.

The first movie in the series was the Bourne Identity so when we visited Paris last weekend, we had to stop on the Pont-Neuf or new bridge because there is where an important scene was shot when Jason Bourne was trying to figure out his past and who was after him. He found a cellphone and called who he later found out was the CIA. He told the CIA guy to meet him on Pont-Neuf at 5:30pm and to come alone. Bourne then watched from the roof of a hotel that looked down onto Pont-Neuf. We took some pictures in the Pont-Neuf metro station, on the bridge and of the hotel Bourne looked down from.

We were also recently in London where some scenes from the Bourne Ultimatum were shot so we headed to the Waterloo train station to take in the sites from the movie. It was in this train station that Bourne confronted a newspaper reporter from the Guardian who had information on Blackbriar, a supersecret CIA program that Bourne was part of but did not remember. Bourne realized that the reporter was being followed by the CIA so he tried to direct him safely out of the station but was shot in the head by a CIA sniper before he could get him out.

There are many other locations throughout Europe that we would love to visit that parts of the Bourne movies were shot in. Some of the other locations include Zurich in Switzerland, Marsailles in France, Madrid in Spain and Tangiers in North Africa. I don't think we will make it to Russian where some scenes were shot but you never know....

Ok, I realize that Jason Bourne is not a real person but is rather Matt Damon. Just like Jack Bauer from 24 is not a real person but they sometimes seem real!

Enjoy my pictures so far...

A Saturday Night Out in Luxembourg City

Paula and I decided to have dinner in Luxembourg City so we took a bus into the city at about 8pm. Although the city was still busy with shoppers and those out eating and drinking, it was not as busy as usually due to the holiday season when many Europeans are somewhere else on vacation. We thought this would give us a chance to get a good table at one of our favorite restaurants. We head over to El Campenero, a Cuban style restaurant for some tapas. We thought we could get a table inside but apparently they were full or at least full of later reservations. We found a table on the front deck which worked out well, despite it being a little cold outside. After a few mojitos and some excellent tapas, we were off to a café a few steps away for an after dinner drink.

I am not sure the name of this café but it is right behind the Grand Palace and they have very reasonable drink prices. By this time it was about 11pm and was getting more and more busy. We are still trying to master the technique of going out for dinner a bit later so that we can stay out later at much of Europe does. After a drink at this café we headed for the bus back home to Strassen.

On the bus ride home we decided to get off a few stops early to get a drink at a Strassen bar we have visited once, Benelux. It is a locals corner bar but we felt welcomed in here. When we entered a noticed that there were a bunch of tables with poker being played at WWE wrestling on a tv! After sitting down with a drink, we noticed that there was a cute dog hanging around one of the poker tables. A few minutes later the dog came over and sat next to us to let us pet him. We found out his name was Tricksy and he just loved to be pet.

A few minutes later a guy came in with a poodle type dog on a leash and he sat down at the bar and his dog sat down at a barstool next to him. A bit later, Tricksy the dog jumped up on a barstool to sit next to some guy that walked into the bar with no shoes on. We figured this guy lived above the bar but still don't know why he would walk around with no shoes.

It was too funny to see 2 dogs sitting at a bar with their owners just enjoying the night. When we open a bar someday, we are going to have to institute a dog at the bar policy because it just makes for a happier bar!

28 July, 2008

Our First Trip to Paris

This past weekend Paula and I made a trip to Paris, France for the first time. With the train ride just over 2 hours from Luxembourg, it could not have been easier to get there. We left at around 10 am on Friday and got into the Paris Gare East train station a little after noon. At first we didn't realize that our seats on the train had numbers so we were sitting in someone elses seats for the first few stops until they got on so we have to move to the end of the car but no big deal.

Our hotel was just one metro stop from Gare East so we were above ground and searching for our hotel within 15 - 20 minutes of arriving in Paris. It took me another 10 minutes or so to locate the tiny street our hotel was on but we eventually got there and just in time as we were hungry for lunch so after leaving our bags at the hotel, we went on the prowl for lunch! We packed our handy and helpful Rick Steves guide to Paris so we used a suggestion and headed off to the Rue Cler area which was a bussling shopping district with tons of cafès, wine shops, cheese shops and all kinds of other little shops right next to each other. We figured we had to start our holiday in Paris out the Parisian way by having lunch outside at a cafè so we found a cool little place that had some open seats. By this time 99% of the outside seats at all cafès on Rue Cler were taken by eaters, drinkers, people watchers and smokers. We found a nice table on the edge of the outside seating and the inside part of the restaurant so we had the best of fresh air, a front row for people watching but also a bit of shade. We had a nice little lunch accompanied but what else but some French wine.

After lunch we took the short 5 minute walk from Rue Cler to the Eiffel Tower which is amazing to see in person. You see it first from so far away but then to actually get right under it, it takes about 10 minutes or so to walk to. We talked through the Parc de Champ de Mars which is a huge park that leads the way to the Eiffel Tower and makes for some great photo opportunities which we did not pass up on. We did not actually go up into the Tower, we will save that for another Paris trip, but we did walk around and when we got right up to the Tower, the police were holding everyone back as if someone special was coming. We figured it was maybe Barack Obama as he was in Paris that day and we heard others saying the same thing but we didn't actually see anyone and after 15 minutes or so they little people back to the lines to climb the Tower and back to their normal lives. Before that happened there was a small explosion under the Tower but it looked like maybe it was something the police set off to scare away pigeons, at least that is what we want to believe.

After a walk around the Eiffel Tower, we decided to walk along the River Seine and then headed for the famed Avenue des Champs-Elysees and the shopping, window shopping that is. After a walk of maybe 30 minutes or so we arrived in the middle of the Champs-Elysees and started up towards the Arc de Triomphe which is another of the great historical sites to visit in Paris. It is also home to one of the craziest roads it the world it seems. We passed by tons of high end shops on our way to the Arc but nothing really peaked our interest too much. The think that was most exciting was seeing an old blue or green Mini Cooper wizz by us on the Champs-Elysees. Over the course of our weekend in Paris we counted 12 different old Mini's, Paulas favorite car.

After tooling around the Champs-Elysees for a bit, we retraced our steps off this grand avenue and found a little café with some outside seating so we could enjoy a bit more of wine. We found 2 more seats in prime people watching position on got to our business of watching.
Check out our various different sets of pictures from Paris

19 July, 2008

A Visit to Brasserie Achouffe

Today, Saturday 19 July, Paula and I took a day trip about 100kms or 1 hour North to the Brasserie Achouffe for a tour and some drinks and bits to eat. I can't believe that after nearly 10 months in Luxembourg this was our first visit to Achouffe but it certainly won't be our last.

We arrived for a tour that was in French but we figured we could understand most of it. The tour turned out to be in Dutch and French but the tour guide, Carine, did some of it in English for Paula and I. The tour starts right outside the giftshop and works into the brewhouse and then you get to peer into the fermentation room but were not allowed in as they were cleaning or it was too hot or something like that...

From there we took a few minute drive to the bottling facility for Achouffe. Upon entering this facility, you are greeted by 2 huge tanker trucks. They take the fermented beer from the brewery and fill the tanker trucks and drive the few minutes up to the road to the filling lines. The inside of this building is massive with many many rows of kegs and bottles and all the bottling and kegging equipment.

After hanging out in the bottling facility for awhile, we were directed to the end of our tour which was to a bar where we were able to use 2 tokens each for Achouffe beers and we took advantage of these tokens by each ordering up some wonderful Achouffe brews. All this for €7.50 each which is not bad.

A Visit to Brasserie Fantome

Today, Saturday 19 July, Paula and I took a little day trip to visit Brasserie Achouffe and Brasserie Fantome. Fantome was the second stop on our trip and about 30 minutes further North than Achouffe. Although not very far, we did have to travel on some tiny farm roads. So tiny that if a car was coming in the other direction, we would have had a very hard time to move forward or to pull over. Luckily we didn't come across any other vehicles on such roads.

We didn't make it for a brewery tour although we probably could have gone on one. We decided to stop into the bar for a few drinks. We were lucky to get there when we did at 5 minutes after we entered is started to rain cats and dogs and cows even! When we got into the bar, there were only 3 or 4 others including the brewer and I think his mother. At one point the brewer left to get some food from home for his mom which was very nice. From time to time they looked at us as we were out of place but we still were welcomed there. We had a few of the wonderful and odd Fantome beers. Before leaving I purchased a few bottles to go. I asked if there were any other bottles for sale and the brewer led me to the bottling room which was just behind the bar. The bottling room and the brewery is very old looking which just adds to the mystique of Fantome. A few of the beers I purchased were hand labeled by the brewer right in front of me. Too funny.

We will definitely come back in the future for a tour eventhough the brewer speaks little English. That should not be a problem at beer is a universal language.

08 July, 2008

Fuller's Brewery Tour in London

On our Friday in London, we decided to take a trip out to the Fuller's brewery for a tour and a few brews. The tour started in the pub attached to the brewery and after putting on some bright construction type jackets, we were off on the tour which passed through the working brewery and then off to the tasting room in the cellar which was nice as they gave us samples of everything and even a few more for good measure!

06 July, 2008

The 4th of July in London

What a better way to spend the 4th of July than in London, England! At least that was our best option since we were not planning on returning back to the U.S. for the holiday. During the few days we planned to spend in London to see a Jack Johnson concert and to view the historic sites, we also found out that there was an American craft beer festival at a bar/restaurant called the White Horse. The fest started on July 4th and was set to run until the 6th.

We were only able to go on the 4th but that was the best day to be there! After a few Underground transfers, we had just a few minute walk to the bar and when we got there about 7:30 the place was packed beyond belief. The outside patio area at the front of the bar was crammed with people so we made our way into the bar and took a look at the special beer list they had for the fest. At any one time there were about 27 beer on tap and a good deal of them were cask! They had a nice selection of beers from Sierra Nevada (Bigfoot, Southern Hemisphere Harvest, Extra Special Pale, Porter, etc), Flying Dog, Brooklyn, Terrapin, Anchor and a good number of English cask beers using American hops which was nice to see. One beer that really caught me by suprise to see on the list was Struise Black Albert in cask! It was a suprise as this was an American Beer Fest and Struise is Belgian but it was more of a suprise that the beer was in England and in cask none the less! Due to the rarity of this beer I had to try a glass, despite it not being American.

We met up with a group of very nice folks from http://www.babblebelt.com/ , mostly from England and one woman from the U.S. We ran into a few of these fellow beer lovers in Antwerp in December and had another great time.

Overall I tried several very tasty American beers, a few English, a Black Albert, and met up with some great people. Overall a great night!

A 4th of July Celebration in Luxembourg

Our Holiday in London!

Paula and I took a little holiday to London to see Jack Johnson in concert and to take in the sites that this great city has to offer. As I took a few hundred pictures, it will take us awhile to describe them all but for now, take a look at the pictures so far.

Jack Johnson Concert in London

Paula and I planned a 4 day/3 night trip to London, partially to see the sites in this great city for the first time and also to take in a Jack Johnson concert in Hyde Park in central London. Hyde Park is 350 acres of green smack down in the middle of London and a 5 minute walk from our hotel. Jack Johnson was the headliner and was supported by Macio Jennings, G. Love & Special Sauce and then Ben Harper.

We arrived in London around 9am and too the few minute walk from the train station to our hotel to drop off our bags. As we were several hours early to actually check into the hotel, we decided to walk to the park to figure out what the setup was like and then take in the circus that is the Harrod's department store.

We made our way to Hyde Park after a couple wrong turns and about 10 minutes. The concert venue was about 200 yards into the park and already had a crowd of maybe 50 people camping out waiting to be let in at 2pm to get to the front of the stage. As the event was general admission and just in a big field, getting to the front would be a good idea but also would not allow you to sit down and hang out in the lawn as we had planned.

After reaching the concert venue and talking to a worker about what we were allowed to bring in with us, we headed to the other side of the park towards Harrod's. After passing by a park working cutting the grass we ran into a guy who looked very similar to a certain guitar playing superstar. Turns out it was Jack Johnson and he stopped to talk for a minute when I said hello. He seemed like a really cool guy just walking around the park in a t-shirt, jeans, flip flops and a newspaper. I had a Phillies shirt on and I mentioned we were Philly and he got a smile and said we were from G. Love's town which was cool. Although it was just a passing minute, it showed that rock stars can be cool down to earth people. Some even a bit shy like Jack seemed. I didn't think quick enough to ask for a picture but I felt good that I didn't so he didn't think I was a big tool!

After walking around a bit more, having lunch and a pint at a pub, we arrived back at Hyde Park around 3pm to get into the venue. There were already thousands of people roaming around the venue, eating drinking and just having a good time. It rained a bit throughout the first hour or so of the concert but by the time G. Love came on, it was pretty nice out which made it easy to sit on the ground and to take in the sounds.

G. Love played alot of his best songs and a bunch from his new album. At first I thought his show would end without playing Cold Beverages but while I was in line for some beer and wine, he played it and everyone rocked out to it. G. Love put on a great show but I was a little diasspointed to see him be second in line and not third. It also didn't seem like the London crowd was that familiar with his music but he still got a good cheer.

After Ben Harper, who also put on a great show, Jack came on and everyone went nuts and finally stood up for his performance. He seemed a bit shy at the site of over 30,000 fans going crazy for him but he started out with some great songs from his new album and alot of the hits that you are used to hearing on the radio. Later in his show he brought out G. Love to play on Rodeo Clowns which I love and he also brought Ben Harper out later as well. For one of his encore songs he said he had 2 guests to bring out, G. Love and Jimmy Buffet! I could not believe that Jimmy Buffet would be there but sure enough he came out and they all rocked out to A Pirate at 40 or something like that. Cool song and a great show overall! Definitely worth the cost of flying to London for the show!

Check out some pictures we took at the show. Maybe a few videos as well.

Euro 2008 Futbol (Soccer) Championships

I am a little late in posting this but last Sunday, 29 June, was the final of the 2008 Euro Championships in futbol. Although Luxembourg did not qualify for the tournament, it was still a big deal throughout the entire tournament in Luxembourg. Although I am not much of a soccer fan, watching games throughout the tournament was alot of fun and I even got into collecting stickers for the Euro. I am sure the sticker books were geared more toward kids, it was still interesting to collect and brought back memories of collecting baseball stickers from back in the day.

For the final on 29 June, there were a huge screen setup in the center of town and there were a bunch of beer and wine stands and all kinds of food. Since the final was held in Austria, there was some Austrian food as well. Paula and I went a few hours early and walked around and took in the sites of all the crazy German and Spanish fans watching the game. By the time the game started there were about 6,000 fans going crazy. The game was exciting and fun to watch but the crowds got a little too much to handle so we too off in the second half and walked around a bit before heading back home. When the game was over, Spain won 1-0 and they partied late into the night.

The American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg

23 June, 2008

Luxembourg National Day

What does Luxembourg National Day entail you might ask???? Well let me just say it includes alot of people, alot of beer and wine tents, plenty of food, a touch of heavy rain, wonderful fireworks and many other things. Give us some time to relax and sleep after this great night and we will report back! And since tonight (22 June)was my birthday you can understand why I am slow to report.


22 June, 2008

Beer Passion Weekend in Antwerp, Belgium

This past weekend (20 - 22 of June) the Bierpassie or Beer Passion beer festival is being held in Antwerp. I decided that since Paula had to work at the Sacred Heart graduation on Saturday I would take an early train from Luxembourg to Antwerp to take in this festival and also to visit the Kulminator as no trip to Antwerp would be completed without a trip to this fine beer institution.

07 June, 2008

Open House at Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles

Today Paula and I visited the La Rulles brewery in Rulles (province of Luxembourg in Belgium). Yes, there is a Luxembourg area in Belgium, right across the border from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. This area was given to Belgium many, many years ago from the Grand Duke in Luxembourg but back to the beer.

La Rulles was started in June 2000 and each year in June (7th and 8th this year) they have an open house at the brewery where can take a tour of the brewery and sample all of their current beers at very reasonable prices. They had their blonde, brune, estivale, triple and Jean Chris. We sampled all of them. We also got a little serving of Orval cheese and some local meat.

02 June, 2008

What Does a $45 Pound of Cheese Look and Taste like?

Well check back over the next few days and we will let you know. Paula and I went to a Spring fair last weekend in Luxembourg and ran across an Italian specialty stand that had some great cheeses and meats. We tried a few different cheeses and bought a little block of one thas was about €6 or $12. Not so bad. Before leaving I spotted a block of cheese that looked very interesting so I asked for a taste and was greeted with a slice of a very sharp cheese with Italian Brunello wine grapes on top. Not only was the cheese great but it was covered with some of the most expensive wine grapes the world knows. They were dried but still very tasty. I asked for a little block and almost fainted when I saw that it was €60 for a Kilo which is a little over 2 pounds so that is about $90 for a kilo or $45 a pound!

01 June, 2008

The Counting Crows in Luxembourg

Last night, Saturday 31 May, Paula and I went to see the Counting Crows in Esch sur Alzette, a town about 15 minutes from us in Luxembourg. The concert was at a very modern and new looking placed called the Rockhal. It is right next to a huge old steel plan run by Arcelor-Mittal the largest steel company in the world and probably the largest employer in Luxembourg. It is also right near a huge new RED bank building complex for Dexia, one of the larger banks in the country. Although the building looks huge from the outside, the actual concert area was fairly small and maybe held 2,000 people or so. It looked similar on the inside to the main floor of the Electric Factory in Philadelphia but was not as deep.

We didn't know what to expect as we have been to a ton of concerts back in the U.S., mainly Dave Matthews, and we usually get there several hours to tailgate and avoid all the crazy traffic. The doors were to open at 8pm for the show that started at 8:30pm. We showed up at about 7:15pm as the drive was very quick and we hit no traffic. As the concert venue is right next to an old steel plant and a huge bank complex, all of which is still under construction, parking was odd but easy. We were the only car in line when we entered and quickly found a nice spot near the exit. For only €2 (or $3) we were able to park where we wanted with no little annoying kid with an orange wand telling us there to park and how close like you get back in the States usually. As this was our first concert in Luxembourg, we were unsure about potential tailgating ability and we didn't really find anyone doing it but I am sure we could have.

It was about a 300 yard walk to the venue but it was easy so no big deal there. There was already a line of several hundred people waiting at the front door to get in before the doors opened at 8pm. As it was a general admission concert I was worried we would be too far in the back but that ended up not being a problem. Instead of going right to the line we went to the beer truck and got a quick drink. Paula got a cremant (Luxembourgish champagne) and I got a typical Luxembourgish beer, Diekirch, a deal at €2. No ridiculous concert beer markup here. This is basically the price you pay at a bar or festival or anything in Luxembourg so I was happy for that. It is always nice to be able to buy a drink with a coin and the little €2 coins come in handy for things like this. After getting the drink we got in line and waiting for 20 minutes or so until the doors opened. Once they opened it was organized and easy to get in and get a good view. As the venue only held 2,000 or so, we were able to get near the front of the stage, maybe 20 feet away, pretty quickly. For the most part we had enough room to move about without having someone breathing right on your neck.

The show was set to start at 8:30pm and did right on time. There was no mention of an opening bank so when the band came out at 8:30pm we thought for sure it was the Counting Crows. We had not seen them in a long time and had not see pictures in awhile so when the lead singer had straight brown hair, no dreadlocks as the lead singer Adam always had, we were a bit suprised but thought it was just the fact we hadn't seem them in awhile and maybe they changed their appearance. I also thought there were 7 members to the band instead of 5. Anyway, after a few songs that we didn't recognize and words from the lead singer in another language, we realized this was an opening band called Dreamcatcher or something like that. I think they were actually from Russia but sang most of their songs in English and were pretty good. One song was called "f*** you" which was funny.

Once the opening band ended and some time passed to clear the stage, the Counting Crows came on and we knew for sure it was them as there were dreadlocks, t-shirts and guys looking high. They sounded just as good as they had in the past and played alot of the songs you are used to hearing from them and some new songs as well. The crowd was a mix of people from Luxembourg, France, Germany, Belgium and some Americans like us. We were chatting with a couple behind us from Germany that were big fans of the Counting Crows and they traveled all the way to Lux since they were not playing in Germany this tour. It was also very interesting to watch people in Europe at a concert. A good of them were obsessed with taking pictures on their mobile phones or cameras. There was no restriction on pictures I guess and I am kicking myself for not bringing our camera as we were really close to stage. It was also interesting to see a few people near us that wanted to clap at every song that played. I don't mean clapping at the end but it seemed like they wanted to start a group clapping during every song and they got it started several times but it died out quickly.

The Counting Crows played for about 2 hours and ended with one song for an encore. There is a curfew in Luxembourg and apparently that is 11am so they had to stop playing by then. After the encore song they played California Dreamin' over the PA system and Adam the lead singer remained on stage to sing along with the crowd to the song which was pretty cool to see. Most people in the crowd seemed to know the words to the song which was also cool to see. Seems like it was the think that the band does after all their shows but not sure.
The exit out of the venue was just as quick as the entrance. After a 5 minute walk we were at our car and in another 15 minutes or so we were heading into our parking garage at home. That is how a concert should be but most are not. Since Luxembourg is so small, I guess the concerts are as well. Despite the small size there have been and will be some really good concerts here besides the Counting Crows including Jame Blunt, Seal, REM, Avril Lavigne, Little John (YEAAAH!), Backstreet Boys, Mika and coming soon....KISS!

After getting the concert bug I went home last night and looked up some other concerts in Europe and was thrilled to see that Jack Johnson and G. Love & Special Sauce are playing throughout Europe in the next month. They will be in Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Germany and France. They will also be in London so it looks like we are going to try to get tickets and turn it into a little holiday to London around the 4th of July. If we can't be home with family and friends for this holiday, at least we could be in a fully English speaking country for it!

09 May, 2008

My Visit to the Struise Farm Brewery

Since it was such a beautiful day today, I decided to take a little 3 plus hour trip to the Belgian coast. Well about 15 minutes from the coast actually to the town of Lo to visit the Struise Farm. The farm is basically the headquarters for one of the best breweries in Belgium. In addition to being an ostrich farm and a bed & breakfast, the Struise Farm also has a small brewery where they brew certain of their beers and other test beers.

It turns out Struise is about 10 minutes from the Abbey at Westvleteren so I decided to make an afternoon of visiting Struise for a few beers and then heading to the Westvleteren cafe for lunch.

I arrived in the town of Lo at about 13:00 and found myself on a bunch of very small farm roads. As I found out quickly, these roads are really only passable by 1 vehicle at a time when I came upon a huge farm tractor and had to pull off the side of the road and partially into a field to let him go by. Thankfully I didn't come head on with any others before I arrived at Struise. I got to Struise about 15 minutes later and was first unsure about heading down the private driveway but after reading on Ratebeer.com that the brewer Urbain was going to have a keg of their new and rare stout, Black Albert, on tap and open to the public for free, I knew it would be ok to visit.

When I got out of my car I was greeted by a very friendly woman, that I found out was Urbain's sister, and a large dog. When I annouced why I was there, I was led up to an office where Urbain was talking on the phone. His sister offered me coffee and water and let me sit down to wait. After taking a few sips of a water, I got to to meet Urbain and as a thank you for letting me visit, I gave him a few American craft beers which he seemed to really enjoy. In return he gave me a bottle of beer from a brewery friend of his. After talking for a few minutes we headed down to the farms bar.

In talking to Urbain, the bar is in an old farmhouse that he and his family has refurbished over the past 10 years or so. Although the bar looks private, it would be a really cool bar to hang out at as it is rustic and full of charm. After taking a few minutes to setup the sinks to wash our glasses properly, Urbain poured us each a glass of Black Albert which they have termed a Belgian Royal Stout. I think it lives up to the name. It rings in at 13% abv and poured a very deep black hole color with a thick bubbly tan head.

While sipping on this fine brew, Urbain showed me the keg system that they are testing with this beer. Instead of using stainless steel, they had this beer in a keg that comprised of a cardboard outer system with a foil type bladder on the inside that holds the beer. It would of course be a much cheaper and lighter way to keg beer and based on what he said and I tasted, there is no impact on the quality of the beer in such a system.

Since there was no one else around at the time, we went outside on the patio to enjoy the days sun and to chat a bit about various thinks including of course, beer and other things like the environment. He mentioned that about an hour before I arrived, a large group of folks stopped by to try the Black Albert and he envisioned that a good number of people would show up later in the day as well so I was lucky to try the beer while it was still available. It won't be bottled and available in Belgium for a few more weeks and will eventually make it to the U.S. but may not be very soon.

After filling our glasses again with Black Albert, we wandered around the farm a bit. First to take a look inside a large military tent that was currently holding all of the brewing equipment while they were renovating the brewing building. We then walked down to the brewing building and got to see where the equipment will be reinstalled and will allow Struise to brew on an 8 barrel system and to play around with different yeast, sugar, and other combinations that can only lead to good beer. Urbain then opened up the cold room and was kind enough to give me to bottles as a gift for visiting the brewery. A 750ml bottle of their Struiselensis and a 750ml bottle of Tsjeeses Reserva which is a beer not really released to the public. I Can't wait to try both beers but will probably sit on them for the right time to try.

Urbain mentioned a few beer projects upcoming that were interesting. They are going to brew another batch of Struiselensis in the coming months and about 1/6 of the batch will be laid down with kriek to form a nice lambic which I can't wait for. He also mentioned that they will be brewing an imperial porter in the near future that will mainly be for a private group but it will also be available at the farm brewery at times. I smell another trip to the farm in my future....

While we were wandering around the farm I saw a handful of farm cats roaming the grounds and protecting the beer! The large doggy was also roaming around but behind a fence which was good because a group staying in the B&B arrived and with a dog that could only be described as a large black bear! This dog jumped out from the back of their van and ran over to the farm dog and they did some looking and sniffing and barking but no fighting.

Not far from the brewery building is where the ostrichs live. We got close enough to look eye to eye with these interesting creatures. They seemed to be interested in people, at least the females did. The males apparently are not very friendly and held back in the pack.

Overall my visit to Struise was a great day. The beer was great, Urbain was a great host and is very generous with his time and his beer. Since there is a B&B on the Struise Farm, I am thinking that this would be a great place to stay on future trips to Belgium as it is a great place to have a beer, it is very close to Westvleteren and the Belgian coast.

After leaving Struise, I drove the few minutes to the cafe at Westvleteren but was dissapointed to find out that they were closed. Maybe for the upcoming holiday in Europe. Needing a lunch after having 2 glasses of Black Albert, an Royal Belgian Stout of 13%, I found a cool looking cafe not far from Westvleteren. I knew it was a good place to stop as a beer truck had just pulled up to unload a bunch of kegs and crates of beer...and water. I stopped at 't Vleterhof for some food and maybe another drink. There were already a few locals sitting outside having drinks. I think they were all in their 70's but they looked like they were having a good time so I thought I would also. I sat outside and ordered a Struise Pannepot, why not, and a coke and a croque monseuir, basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. While I was there two older ladies stopped by for some drinks. Their drink of choice, Pannepot, just like me. Those Belgian ladies can really have a drink as this beer rings in at 10%. There were also a handful of bikers that stopped by for some refreshments. No Harley bikers but the biking that is typical of this part of the country, the peddle powered type bikes.

After a good quick lunch, I was back on the road and made another quick stop, this time at the Deca Brewery where Struise sells their beers. I picked up a few large bottles of Pannepot for home and some 33cl bottles of Pannepeut which is a slightly different version of Pannepot, made for the Danish beer market.

After that last stop, I was back in the car for another 3 and half hours to Luxembourg. Overall it was about 7 hours in the car and 3 or so out of it but it was still worth it. I think the temp hit about 80 so it was the warmest day since we arrived in Europe!

Also, check out this short video I took while driving down some of the tiny farm roads leading up to the Struise Farm. If a car was coming at me I would have been in some trouble but luckily it was just me while I was shooting the video.

04 May, 2008

The Craft Beer Scene in Holland

In the time I spent in Holland in 2000 I didn't really get to enjoy any craft beer from Holland and at that time I am not really sure there was much of a craft beer scene in the country. We mostly drank Belgian beers and the main Holland beers like Amstel and Heineken.

Flash forward to 2008 and it looks like the craft beer scene in Holland is alive and well although maybe not known to the world outside of the Benelux (or outside of the "ne" in Benelux). I discovered a few of these Holland beers when we visited my favorite bar in Utrecht, Kafe Belgie. I also found a bunch of them at a great bottleshop we found in Utrecht, Bert's Bierhuis.

We also found a good beer scene in Amsterdam, one that I had not really explored in the past. We searched out and found 2 good beer bars and 2 good bottles shops.

Boom Chicago in Amsterdam

One of the most fun things I had done in Amsterdam when I visited the city on several occasions in 2000 was to visit the Boom Chicago comedy club. The club seems to be modeled after the Second City comedy club in Chicago which is a sketch comedy club with improv. Boom Chicago has the added bonus of basing alot of their shows on Amsterdam and the Dutch culture which is very interesting. It is probably best appreciated if you have visited there but the shows are funny none the less. The actors are mostly American but clearly live in Amsterdam or a nearby city as they are in tune with the wackiness of Amsterdam and Holland.

Paula and I decided to have dinner at the club before the show as they had a package deal that lets you have a 3 course meal before hand and then you get priority seating near the front of the stage. All the food that we had was excellent and the endless drinks were also a bonus.

At about 10pm we were all escorted down to the theatre from the restaurant area. We originally were seated at a 2 person table right at the front of the stage but they later moved us to a side booth along with another couple. This couple would later be picked on for the show, Miles and Tracy from London. The show we saw was called "The Last Person to Leave the Planet, Turn Off the Lights" and as you may imagine, it was about the environment. They had somewhat of a set plan for the show in general but they took tons of suggestions from the crown that they had to use in their skits or songs that sang. It was really, really funny.

The couple we sat next to got picked on for the show. Thank god we didn't get picked for this because they asked the girl what she hated most about her husband Miles and she said he farts! After asking them a few more questions, they used some of what they said in the show and they also brought Miles onto stage and we got a kick out of that.

At some point during the show they asked for some suggestions and some drink idiot from I think England or Scotland yelled something out that was not so funny and he kept egging on one of the actors. The actor made a bit of fun of him and eventually went down into the crowd and threw the guy out and everyone loved it. Eventually about 5 of his friends got up and left.

Overall the show lasted for about 2 hours and during that time we were served drinks as we wanted them. If you end up in Amsterdam for the sites, the culture, the red light district or the "coffee shops", be sure to check out Boom Chicago because it is a great deal of fun.

Check out this video on You Tube which is from Boom Chicago, they played this during the performance.

Amsterdam, Holland

Utrecht, Holland

Paula and I made our first trip to Holland this past weekend when we took a train from Luxembourg to Utrecht. Although the train, including connections in Liege, Belgium and Maastricht, Holland took a little over 5 and 1/2 hours, the ride was smooth and on time. We also booked a hotel right outside the doors of the Utrecht train station.

In 2000 I lived in Utrecht for about 4 months while working on a client project in the country. Although Utrecht is not the largest city in Holland, Amsterdam is the largest, Utrecht has a charm that is not present in Amsterdam. Along so many of the canals in town there are all kinds of shopping and eating / drinking options, with many of them being below street level at the canal level which is pretty cool. Alot of these canal side restaurants used to be old warehouses and were converted to restaurants of varying styles including Italian, Indian, Spanish, African, etc, etc, etc.

As with most cities in Holland, there are bikes everywhere. On the road, locked to every inch of metal that can be found along the canals or buildings and sometimes you can even find them floating in the canals.

Our Visit to the Keukenhof in Holland

As 1 May was holiday in Luxembourg and most of Europe I think, Paula and I made a long weekend and took a trip to Holland to visit the city I lived in back in 2000 for a few months (Utrecht), Amsterdam and Paula's most anticipated destination in Europe, the Keukenhof flower park. To learn a little bit about the Keukenhof click here.

The Keukenhof, which runs for nearly 2 months, is the most photographed event in the world and based on the number of pictures we took and how many other people were taking pictures, I believe it. I have never seem so may serious cameras out taking up close pictures of tulips and the other flowers in the park.

27 April, 2008

Our Second Visit to the Kulminator in Antwerp

It seemed like it had been a year since the first time we visisted the Kulminator in Antwerp. The last time that we visited we spent about 4 hours at the bar. I mostly drooled at the 2 inch thick menu and tried to identify every bottle they had behind the bar.

Paula and I drove to Antwerp on Saturday the 26th of April to meet up with David and Sarah who had been making their way through Belgium and were ending their trip in Antwerp. David and I tried to visit the Kulminator while the girls went shopping but we were disapointed to learn that they didn't open until 5pm on Saturday. No worries, we walked a few more minutes and unded up at Oud Arsenaal for some great lambics.

After a few drinks and a walk back to the hotel, we arrived at the Kulminator at about 4:55pm just in time to see the owner Dirk opening the door and putting out the draft beer signs. We also saw one of the house cats sitting in the front window at about eye level, eating its dinner before the rush of tourists entered to order beers they may never have again. We were about 2nd group of people to enter the bar and were the first to walk to the back patio area. The patio area is covered by a clear room that lets you look up to the sky above and it also serves as a walkway for the cats. More on that later. The patio had about 5 tables and we picked the "large" 4 person table right at the entrance of the patio. The main advantage of this area was the fact that it was not smokey although with not many people in the whole bar yet, it didn't get smokey, even inside. Sitting in the patio you also get to see a huge stockpile of kegs, most likely empty.

Within only a few moments of sitting down, we were greeted by Leen, the other owner of this fine establishment. She handed us the huge menu and as with our first visit, I was lost with where to start. Luckily they have a draft list of about 10 beers that included a few Christmas beer leftovers and a Gouden Carolous tripel that I wanted to try, so I did.

While drinking my Gouden Carolous I had to walk the few steps to the glass windowed beer cellar. I imagine if someone saw me staring into this window it would look like a new parent starting through the glass into the maternity ward. There are just rows and rows of new and old beer. I spyed things from a newly released 2008 Gouden Carolous Cuvee Van de Keizer to bottles of La Trappe from the late 1970's. What almost immediately caught my attention were 33cl bottles of De Stuise Pannepot Grand Reserva! I had been waiting to find a bottle of this rare brew since arriving in Europe so this helped me to decide what to order. It shows that is pays off to roam around bars to see what new bottles they may have to offer as the menu at the Kulminator is not really up to date although they tend to have alot from the menu in stock.

After finishing my first beer, it was with a smile on my face that I ordered a Pannepot GR. Leen was quick to point out that the beer was €8 and wanted to make sure I was ok with that before ordering. I obviously had no problems with that. Within a few minutes I was greeted with the bottle and a De Struise glass to top it off. The beer was fantastic and worth the wait. I really should have tried this next to a regular Pannepot and a Pannepot Reserva. Next time.

While enjoying the beers and studying the menu, it was amusing to see at least 3 cats running from over the "cat crossing" tree at the back of the patio. Somehow the cats would get up on the branch and then walk along the roof of the patio, over our heads and then back into the building. They would somehow end up coming back into the front of the bar and then walked around us to get to the start of their play area again.

Some of the other beers we ordered, some we shared, including a Malheur 12, a Malheur Brut served in a Malheur champagne bucket and 4 Malheur glasses. We also ordered a very interesting bottle from 1987, a Fruitig Fris Framboosjes which Leen said was from Achouffe. She said that it had probably lost most of the raspberry taste but would still have aged well. The bottled arrived in a nice wicker basket used for serving lambics to help in not disturbing the yeast and other interest material at the bottom of the bottle. They must have an amazing beer catologing system at the Kulminator to remember where everything is at. This bottle was bare except for a shard of a label the size of a postage stamp that had the image of a few raspberries. The beer was actually very good and the raspberry taste was very present.

While we were there, from about 5pm to 9:30pm or so, several tables came and went and the patio area cleared out a bit but we kept on going. The service was fairly quick, eventhough the whole bar was just run by Dirk and Leen.