Kulminator, time stands still…

Stepping inside Kulminator is a little like walking through a secret doorway into a living work of fiction..

You open the door to a room seemingly full of clutter, but also giving the impression that everything has its place. As you walk past the wooden crates stacked as high as a man in the doorway, the words “Trappist Westvleteren’ charred forever into the twisting grain of each, a smile crosses your lips as you think to yourself, “this is the place”.

To your left the bar, a bar unlike any other you’ve seen, strains to hold the array of bottles, boxes and stacks of paper that almost hide it from view completely, rendering the customer side at least pretty much unusable.

At a table a man with flowing white hair sits hunched, shuffling photographs, huffing or smiling to himself intermittently as he scribbles on one after the other, cross-referencing them, then tagging them at an old computer that sits on a table beside him. To his right is another table festooned with ribbons and banners wishing someone a happy 65th birthday, and on that table are massed bottles of all sizes from all over the world, a magnum of this, a jeroboam of that, beers of all ages, in fact, a beer lovers dream. Then you glance again at the photographs scattered on the table, the man is pictured in almost all of them, smiling, drinking, enjoying his birthday as only a man like he should, here, in his bar.

The scene is almost Dickensian brought forward to present day, in fact if Terry Pratchett was to write a character for his Discworld series it could be here, in this place, with this man, The Curator of beer, Dirk Van Dyck…

IMG_6386As I reached for the beer menu which was as thick as my wrist, a lady approached to serve us. This is Leen, the other half of this beery partnership who all this time has been busily serving at the various tables whilst Dirk barely raised an eye from his task….

Not having time to study the vast tome of aged beer before me, I hurriedly chose something refreshing to quench the thirst of a hot afternoons walk to be here, this still though is a couple of years old and tasting fabulous, Avec Les Bon Voeux from Brasserie Dupont. This arrived from the draft tap and was quickly consumed as I set to work trying to choose what to try next from this collection of liquid history, and all the time Dirk sat shuffling, scribbling, typing..

Some time passed and another beer was chosen, my first sample of an aged Orval, not too old, around 12 months but a start I thought. Leen took the order and walked over to the curator and quietly relayed it in his tongue, only then did he rise and shuffle into the cellar to find the beer selected. On returning he handed the beer to Leen who brought it to the table as Dirk returned to his task.

This happened each time we ordered throughout the long night (where me and about €100 parted company), he did speak to a couple of folk that were clearly regulars but not a great deal. But it sort of added to the charm of the place, a sense of seriousness that I think (reading some other reviews) leads to in my view an unfounded reputation for being a bit unwelcoming. We certainly never felt anything of the sort and in fact got talking to three or four Antwerpians for almost the duration.

IMG_6384The beer list is vast and goes back decades, the oldest beer we found was thirty one years old, but more often than not there were plenty of beers that had many differing ages to choose from and perhaps compare the effects time has had on their aromas, flavours and mouthfeel. The prices varied clearly based on age and rarity but were surprisingly accessible on the whole, baring in mind what it must take to keep such a collection going.

IMG_6385I settled on an old favourite of mine to finish our night at Kulminator, something appropriate to bring the experience to completion, a beer by Struise that I know and love, but had not tried in any real aged form. It was their Pannepot Grand Reserva 2005, aged in oak calvados barrels for that added touch of luxurious complexity, syrupy, dark and very boozy with all the chocolate, caramel and dark fruit flavours you’d expect and more, beautiful.

IM000649.JPGYou may have noticed the lack of photographs of the physical features of this wonderful place, even the one of Dirk himself was not taken by me and only shows a glimpse of background.

This was done purposely as I think this is just a place you should experience for yourself, I hope you agree, let me know if you do?


Address: Vleminckveld 32, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Phone:+32 3 232 45 38
Monday 8:00 pm – 12:00 am
Tuesday 4:00 pm – 12:00 am
Wednesday 4:00 pm – 12:00 am
Thursday 4:00 pm – 12:00 am
Friday 4:00 pm – 12:00 am
Saturday 4:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sunday Closed

*Dirk Van Dyck photograph is featured and taken from Gotham Girl Chronicles, why not check her blog out here.

Het Elfde Gebod – The Eleventh Commandment

“Eat, Drink and be Merry” whilst being watched by thousands of pious eyes…

P1020629P1020633Even as you enter they are watching you from every conceivable angle…

If not for being cast in plaster, hewn from wood or stone, the now static eyebrows would be raised in unison as if to say “back again are we”.

You trudge to the back of the room searching for a table, the smell of candles and musty old church halls permeating your nostrils. You decide to take the most ostentatious seats available, high-backed, with elaborate hand carved decorations and finials, chairs fit for a king or queen, not for drunken wretches like you or I, or so the owners of those unblinking faces seem to imply.

But then, THEN, you have the AUDACITY to order a St Bernardus Abt and drink it from a bloody chalice too!!!


I should be so lucky, no really, “I should be so lucky” from the Aussie bombshell Miss K Minogue, it shattered the ambience and the moment was lost… Ah well, at least the St Bernardus was real.

Setting the visual and audio mismatch aside the menu at Het Elfde Gebod is decent enough and clearly is angled more towards a wider tourist audience rather than being a Mecca for beer aficionados. That said there was six draft beers including Abt12, Tripel Karmeliet and the ever-present De Koninck, and a bottle list featuring a mix of around sixty or more to tempt you, with plenty of Trappists and a small amount of Gueuze.

IMG_6383The food menu is reasonable too, described as “Plain Flemish cuisine with a contemporary twist”, however like most places we visited in Belgium this time around the food seemed very expensive with €18 to €23 seeming the norm for a nothing particularly special main course.

We opted for a plate of extremely quickly devoured bitterballen which I have to learn to make. They are absolutely perfect as a beer side snack and generally pretty cheap to buy.

Bitterballen is essentially a thick roux made with left over beef or other meats, it is left to go cold so it can be rolled into balls or croquette shaped logs and coated with breadcrumbs. They are then deep fried then served piping hot with a  side of what looks like a mixture of mustard and mayonnaise (it may well just be mustard). If sharing, the idea is to take a bitterballen, dip one half into the mustard, then pop the whole thing in the mouth, so no double dipping! You have to try these seriously..

P1020626Back to the decor of this place, as you can see from the photographs there are hundreds maybe thousands of religious statues, images and various artefacts gracing every conceivable space in the bar, this continues up the stairs and into the second seating area on the first floor. It’s an incredible collection and draws the eye this way and that as you spot yet another “something new”. What puzzles me though is that choice of music beating away in the background, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t blaring and intrusive but why is it so?

Why would you go to so much trouble to decorate your building in such a fashion and then shatter the atmosphere it creates. Carefully adding the fact that I don’t sit at home with a Trappistantwerp-het-elfde-gebod beer listening to “Now That’s What I Call Gregorian Chanting 26“, but something like that would just set the place off as background music. As it stands it sort of makes it all feel a little too manufactured, like a “traditional” Irish bar in Magaluf.

Maybe that’s a little harsh, and more likely that I’m just being a picky, grumpy old sod who needs something to complain about, each to their own and all that. It’s a nice bar and we went back for more so it can’t be all that bad can it, worth it alone for the St Bernardus and bittenballen.


Address: Torfbrug 10, 2000 Antwerpen

Opening hours:

  • Monday-Thursday 12 -24
  • Friday 12-1
  • Saturday 11-1
  • Sunday 11-23

‘t Waagstuck – Antwerp

P1020613Hidden away in a quiet corner of a leafy square in a historic area of the old town, ‘t Waagstuck or “The Venture” as I’m pretty sure it’s translated is a tricky place to find but is well worth the effort.

On our first visit, ‘t Waagstuck – (English translated website) provided a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the MAS which is Antwerps iconic museum of sport which is also a short walk away.


A zoomed picture from the top of MAS of Yellow Submarine our B&B. t' Waagstuck is half distance

A zoomed picture from the top of MAS of Yellow Submarine our B&B. t’ Waagstuck is half distance

The MAS itself is well worth a visit if you are in town if only for the wonderful panoramic views of the city and docklands.

The panorama visit is free and takes you on a winding journey round and round the internal structure, past brilliant photographic displays until you reach the roof top glass walled viewing area (it does have escalators up to the 9th floor and stairs to the final level).

Take in the views then wind your way back down to terra firma and set your sights firmly on a beer in the cool courtyard in summer or warm welcoming bar in colder months.

Waagstuck entranceCrossing the tree-lined square and passing the many tables that seem to be shared by all of the bars in the area you enter ‘t Waagstuck through a squared arch (if there is such a thing), which takes you to a cool, open but enclosed courtyard decked out with tables chairs and benches. Here “normal” folk sat reading papers and drinking coffee in the sun, but as we were on a mission to explore Antwerps best bars and this was supposedly one of them we sensibly opted for a pre-noon beer or two.

P1020615Before perusing the menu in-depth which was around 100 beers strong I sensibly set my sights on a bottle of Saison Dupont, a perfect starter beer on a warm summers day methinks and set about soaking up the atmosphere.

This is one of those places that steeped in history, just make you want to sit and ponder all the things that have come and gone over the years and all the folks that have sat here and done the same.

Second beer up was the house special Zeppelin or Zeppelinbier, a rich, dark opulent brew with lashings of chocolate, coffee, dark fruits and molasses, at sprightly 9%abv not exactly summers day drinking but hey, what the hell..

IMG_6392Originally brewed by Proef Brouwerij but now I believe all brewing is done by Brouwerij Van Steenberge who seem to like brewing these exclusive to premises beers, De Garre Triple being another notable example worthy of a mention.