Today on our way back from Brussels, Paula and I stopped at the Cafe In de Vrede which is right across the street from the Abbaye at Westvleteren. We had tried to visit here right after Christmas but were saddened to find out that they were closed. When we visited today they were open and they were hopping! We got there a little after noon and quickly found a table at the front. The place is gorgeous, modern and doesn't look like it could be associated with a monastery at all. We sat down and I immediately turned to the list of drinks but I didn't really need to see it as I knew I wanted a Westvleteren 12 and Paula wanted an 8. In addition to just 3 beers on the list (all Westvleteren of course), they had a nice selection of food that included, salads, cheeses, meats and sandwiches. Paula and I each went for a sandwich with a salad. While I was waiting for the food, I took a wander over to the little store at the front of the cafe that had various things for sale, food, candy, cheese and of course beer! On this day they had the 8 and Blonde for sale. Paula and I each got a 6 pack of the 8 as we already had Blonde in the basement at home. The price of a case directly at the Abbaye is extremely reasonable and although the 6 pack price is a bit more at this little shop, they are still very reasonable.
Everyone in this placed seemed to have a big smile on their faces while they were eating and drinking, even the little white dog that was sitting on a woman's lap while she had her beer and sandwich. You have to love the attitude towards dogs in most public places we have been to in Europe so far.
We also came across the coolest beer drinking sight ever I believe. The first was a group of about 4 ladies, probably in their eighties standing in line at the gift shop and one of them coming back with a 6 pack of Westvleteren 8!! This fine beer is not just for the youngsters anymore! We also saw a table of 3 other senior ladies each drinking a beer and no food on their table. I wish I could have taken a picture of this but Paula reminded me that sometimes strangers don't like you taking pictures of them. All in all this was a great lunch stop and one I hope to make back on several occasions with family and friends that come to visit.
About 5 minutes from the Cafe is Deca Brewery which is a contract brewer and beer warehouse but also the brewery where the guys from Struise (makers of Pannepot, Struiselensis, Black Albert and others) make some of their beers and sell them. I had traded emails with one of the brewers a few weeks back knowing that we would be passing through around this time and hoped to grab some Struise beers. I was told that the Pannepot Grand Reserva would be available by the case when we got there but it most have sold out as it was not available. The cool thing about this place is that you can grab an empty crate or box and make a case of whatever you want from full cases as most of them are in open crates of 24. I made a case of several different things including Struise Witte, Rosse and some others. I was told that the Grand Reserva and the Black Albert would be available in April so it looks like I will be making a 3 hour trek or so up to Westvleteren and Deca!