26 October, 2009

Brassigaume Beer Festival in Belgium

The weekend of 17 and 18 October was the 9th edition of the Brassigaume beer festival, a great gathering of some regional brewers from the Luxembourg province of Belgium but also beyond this area including some UK beers and a good number of craft beers from Italy. Paula and I attended the festival last year and had to go back this year.

The festival is held each year in Marbehan, Belgium which is conveiniently located only 5 minutes walk from a train stop less then 30 minutes from Luxembourg!

We arrived late in the afternoon on Saturday the 17th and quickly had a beer glass in our hands and some wooden tokens to purchase samples. The entrance fee was only €3 per person including your glass and samples (about 15 cl each) were only €1.40 each.

Over the course of the next 4 hours or so we had several nice samples including some from Belgium (La Rulles, Sainte Hélène, Val Dieu, Brasserie de Cazeau), some from the UK (Brasserie Great Heck and Tiger Top) and some from Italy (Birra del Borgo, Brasserie Panil and Birra Orso Verde). I think our favorites of the night were a few from Birra del Borgo as they had an interesting porter with tobacco, an ale blended with Cantillon Lambic (how can you go wrong there?) and another lambic-ish beer with peaches.

We also spend a good deal of time chatting with old friends and new friends. I ran into 3 Belgian friends from work, a few beer friends from the UK, another American living in Luxembourg that I met at Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon just a few weeks earlier, a few American G.I.'s stationed in Italy that just happened to be Phillies fans. We also spent a bit of time talking to our friend Chris that is the owner of the great beer store Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon. Chris is a man of many hats. In addition to running a beer shop, he is also a school teacher, a sometime brewer and he also is heavily involved in the planning for Brassigaume it seems. Chris has a min-store setup at this festival so between selling beer, we talked about beer and tasted beer! He was kind enough to invite Paula and I to try a few very interesting lambic blends made by a Germany guy who attended the festival. All of his blends were very interesting and gave me some thoughts for my own lambic blending project that is in process.

All in all, another successful beer festival in Belgium and we were home before midnight to boot.

04 October, 2009

Travels through Belgium, Luxembourg and Scandanavia With Family

It may have been over 2 and 1/2 years from the original time we had planned it, but my cousin Keith, his fiancé Suzanne, and Paula and I finally made our trip together through Belgium on a beer hunting mission. We started off on Tuesday, September 22, when Keith and Suzanne arrived in Brussels and we quickly wisked them off to Brugge and the surrounding countryside.

Our first destination near Brugge, after a quick stop in the town of Roeselare for lunch, we were off to a personal visit to the new Struise brewery in an old school. Upon arrival at the brewery, we were greeted by Urbain and his great hospitality. He treated us to several of his cutting edge beers and a tour of the current setup of the brewery and what is to come.

After leaving struise we were off to Brugge and a cute little B&B we had stayed at before, just a few blocks from a working old windmill. Once we checked in we headed out into the city for some site seeing and then dinner at Erasmus, one of the best restaurants in Belgium. Erasmus is known for their excellent food and equally excellent beer list. After dinner, Paula and Suzanne headed back to the B&B and Keith and I made our way to two different beer bars..the famous Brugs Beertje and then a cool little cellar bar, Poatersgat.
After a day and night in Brugge, we were planning to spend Wednesday the 23rd in Antwerp, Belgium but we had a few stops along the way. First, we had a 10 am tour appointment at Rodenbach to roam around the massive wood foeders where they age their fantastically tart Rodenbach Red and Grand Cru beers. Although we had joined a tour of Dutch senior citizens, it was alot of fun to just roam around this historic brewery and to get two samples at the end of the tour.
After the tour, we were looking for lunch and had one place in mind, De Zalm in Roeselare, just a few blocks from Rodenbach. Besides having a nice lunch menu, De Zalm is most well known for serving on handpump the very rare Rodenbach foederbier which is Rodenbach straight from the wooden foeders so it is completely flat and very sharp and sour.
Once we had filled our stomachs with some good Belgian lunch food, we were back on the road and how heading in the direction of Picobrouwerij Alvinne Heule, Belgium. Alvinne is run by brewers Glenn and Davy who are both great guys that happen to make some wonderful beers. Paula and I have visited Alvinne on a few occasions in the past year and have enjoyed their beer offering, their great beer store and their hospitality. This day we were heading to Alvinne for a visit with Glenn and Davy and some shopping. Glenn and Davy were gracious enough to let us come in for a tasting that included 4 different versions of their Melchior beer including: regular Melchior, calvados barrel aged, bourgogne barrel aged and bourbon barrel aged. Having all 4 of these wonderful beers side by side make the differences due to the different barrels come out really well.