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.

Adbij der Trappisten van Westmalle

On our way home from a weekend in Antwerp, we stopped off for some sight seeing and lunch at Westmalle. As it is only about 20km East of Antwerp, it was well worth the time to get there. Plus, we were able to knock off another Trappist abbey (Orval, Westvleteren and now Westmalle).

The cafe is open 7 days a week from 9am to midnight which is good to know. The abbey itself was not really open for tours but the grounds of the abbey were huge and they let you walk all over the place.

Antwerp, Belgium Part 2

We had originally planned to join our friends David and Sarah in Antwerp on Friday night but ended up not leaving until Saturday morning. What a wonderful day to be there, the weather was amazing. While Paula and Sarah did some shopping, David and I did some shopping of our own, for beer at the Oud Arsenaal.
We also visited a number of other bars and restaurants in Antwerp that we had not visited in our last trip.
Since we didn't take alot of pictures of the town on this trip...check out pictures from our first time to Antwerp...

Orval, Trip No. 4

21 April, 2008

The Village of Vianden in Luxembourg

On Sunday, 20 April we visited the Village of Vianden in the North of Luxembourg. Besides being a cool little riverside town, there is a historic old castle literally hanging off the side of a huge cliff. We took the trip to Vianden with our friends David and Sarah that came to visit from the U.S. The trip was less than 1 hour and ran us through several little villages along the way including Diekirch, home to the wonderful Luxembourgish beer by the same name and also home to the Bee Musuem. Yes I said bee, not beer.
Some of the roads leading into Vianden were very narrow, winding and steep but since the weather was great, the trip was easy. The town could not be more well planned out. As you head down a huge hill winding into the valley, you come upon the castle to your right and hanging off the mountain. You know you are in the town when the road changes from asphalt to cobblestones. Not so good for the car but it really makes the scene.
We drove down the main road of the town and passed by a number of little cafes with people just sitting out, enjoying life and having a drink. We would join them a little later.

04 April, 2008

The Smurfs

On our recent visit to Gent, Belgium, we picked up cool little Smurf figurines that were part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Smurfs. You may not know it but the Smurfs were born in Belgium 50 years ago and are pretty popular in the country.

For €10 we each purchased a little white Smurf to color. The proceeds go to benefit Unicef which is good. I decided to color mine in like a Philadelphia Phillie, Chase Utley to be exact.

Gent, Belgium

We made a quick overnight trip to Gent, Belgium. It was an easy ride of a little over 2 hours to get there on a Saturday afternoon. Although it is not as popular as Bruges or Antwerp in the tourist circle, but it is the 3rd largest city in Belgium and has some great sites to visit, including some great beer cafes and cool canals to walk around.

Check out the pictures from our one day and night in Gent.