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.

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