Staminee De Gone…?

We visited the delightful city of Bruges last week for a two night, pre Borefts warm up (Borefts report to come soon). As you’d expect we took time out to visit some of our old favourite bars and a couple of new ones too.

One of those bars was the wonderful Staminee De Garre.

We’d tried a few months back in July but found locked doors due to holiday. No such horror this time, we slipped down that dark cobbled alley, stepped into a packed house and found a scarce empty table upstairs. Before too long the barman appeared and we ordered two house triples, the creamy thick-headed speciality which draws in the crowds and one which gave us so much pleasure the last time we’d visited.

After a short time the same chap danced up those old stairs which must have graced a million footsteps once again, balancing a tray with two beers and the usual bowl of cheese. He sheepishly placed the two glasses, Gulden Draak glasses, on the table and explained that they had almost none of the De Garre items left and hoped we understood. Only then, as I looked around the room did I notice that almost every other table too had the same Gulden Draak glassware, a sad sight in this lovely Bruges gem.

The less glass pedantic of you reading this may say “so what”, but in here of all places, with this beer it’s a really important part of the experience. The house triple itself is pleasant enough, no award winner, but watching that goldfish bowl of foam recede and the golden liquid rise makes it what it is, for me at least.

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As we left the barman (without any prompting or complaint from us) again apologised, so I took my chance to ask him why, as apart from the disappointment I was on a mission to buy one for a friend. He said “at the start of the season we had four hundred glasses, today we have thirteen, mainly due to theft, some sales and breakages”.

Thirteen from four hundred glasses…

So why am I writing this seemingly small negative point up out of a great few days of beer in Bruges?

Well, because glassware is important to me and it should be to you. When you get a beer served in the correct, or at least a glass specially designed to match the contents, cherish it. Embrace the added enjoyment that the fine, caring detail a bar manager has taken to enhance your drinking experience, remember that place and go back, hopeful it will still be there…

Cheers

Belgium revisited

belgian_flagAs anyone following me on twitter or here on Beersay will know, I visit Belgium pretty regularly and as such I often get asked for suggestions and advice on where to visit and stay etc.

Not that I am the font of all knowledge on the subject of course, as most of the information I have is gleaned from experience myself, after taking suggestions from friends, books etc.

I made such a visit a few weeks ago, making two-day stops at Gent and Antwerp both of which were new to me, plus Bruges which is a place I’ve revisited three times to date. Before my trip I set about gathering suggestions as usual for the virgin territory and for anything new on the old ground and thought it may be a good idea to start a bit of a reference section with a links page and hopefully a map for each city I’ve visited and created reviews for.

P1020647This then is basically a bit of a precursor for the above. Over the next few days/weeks/months, I’ll be posting a series of mini/full reviews of places to drink and places to stay, followed by the final reference page for each city or area which can then be added to by me, or as guest review slots. (If you have any you’d like me to include drop me a note in comments or via twitter etc)

Hopefully something useful and more importantly useable will be the end result.

Watch this space

Cheers

 

De Garre – Bruges

Although it’s a couple of years old now, for some reason this post seems to be getting lots of hits at the moment, probably as folk plan Belgian beer expeditions. I like it as it brings back lots of fond memories, so I thought I’d post it again. Sorry for the self-indulgence if you’ve read it before…

P1010907To find this place you either stumble across it, or have to purposely search for it, for us thanks to the “Around Bruges in 80 Beers” guide-book and the map reading skills of “pathfinder Rachie” (the wife), it was the latter.

Although centrally located on the main tourist trail and only 100 yards from the main Bruges Markt square, De Garre remains discretely hidden from the less discerning beer tourist, tucked away down a tiny cobbled alley (De Garre) off Breidelstraat. Clientele ranged from the obviously regular local folk each having what seemed to be their own favourite chair, to beer enthusiasts and folk that were very probably lost…

The main room itself is quite small in cafe/bar terms, probably 18 feet by 18, with a small apertured high bar facing you as you venture up the ancient worn stone steps, a tiny winding staircase aside the bar leading to the upper drinking gallery.
Once inside the feeling is like stepping back in time. Being a fan of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, it reminded me of the scene in The Prancing Pony where the hobbits first met Strider, huge gnarled oak beams, stone floor, simple wooden tables clustered together all baring glasses of foaming ales.

Dating back to the 1700’s, De Garre is one of those places where the gentle atmosphere and ambience has your mind wondering how many people have sat here before you. What joys, tragedies, laughter, crimes or drunken buffoonery have these tine four walls witnessed in their lifetime?

Garre Tripel – 11%


Although they have a reasonable beer menu at De Garre, I was only after one in particular at the recommendation of Mark, co author of “real ale reviews” blog. This was the leg weakening De Garre house “Garre Tripel”, I was not alone as almost every table had at least one.

The Tripel arrived in two large goldfish bowl like glasses, with the thick white creamy head massively outweighing the liquid content by about three parts to one, there being only about three-quarters of an inch of beer sitting at the base. Either by sensing our unconscious looks of disappointment or by the daily experiences of newcomers to his bar, the barman softly whispered “wait, it will come”.

Each tray of beer is served with a small portion of chopped cheese, which I’m led to believe is a compatible match for most Belgian beer, it was soft, creamy and when finally, patience rewarded we got to taste the Garre Tripel went perfectly with the beer

The beer itself has aromas of yeast and biscuits with slightly grassy hoppy notes. Once through that thick long lingering head, the first thing that hits you is the smooth malty flavour that disguises the alcoholic strength better than some half the same ABV. Garre is quite sweet for a Tripel which I suspect is due to the heavy alcohol, it has a smooth full-bodied creaminess in the mouth which perfectly compliments the peach and light citrus flavours. The finish is easy-going with evidence of hop bitterness but lightly so.

Garre Tripel is only available on the premises so you really need to make an effort and find it if ever you visit Bruges, all in all a fantastic experience and one we repeated whilst in the city. The beer can be purchased in 1.5 litre bottles to take away but we refrained from buying one preferring to keep the memory of the visit alive.

A final word of warning, at De Garre I’m told they will only ever serve you three house Tripel beers in one sitting, I didn’t test the theory but probably suggest that it’s a wise move..

Caf√© Rose Red – Bruges

Imagine you are out late at night after a heavy fall of soft fluffy white snow, all around you is glistening white bathed in bright moonlight. You close your eyes and listen…

Nothing, the world around you is silent, the sense of tranquility is so tangibly strong you can almost taste it, that silence…..

Trappist Beer – Taste The Silence” the strap line of Caf√© Rose Red, I like that, it sort of sums up what you should feel when drinking an authentic monastic beer, all quiet and reflective. Not that Rose Red is like that, there’s no vow of silence to make when you enter please be assured, although there is a certain ambience about the place that could induce long bouts of silent pondering over chalices full to the brim with dark frothy headed beer.

See what I mean? St Bernardus Abt12 on tap, definitely worth a few hours pondering…

Café Rose Red is a beautiful little bar situated just off the main tourist trail, but still only a stones throw from the market square. There is a warm welcoming feel to the place as you enter the main bar area which is brimming with character, a happy place, somewhere that cares about your overall experience, a safe haven from the bustling tourist hot spots.

The beer list is plentiful, not enormously humongous compared to some, but at around 120 it is more than adequate, with something to suit all tastes on the menu. As you can imagine there is a strong emphasis on Trappist beer and I got my second chance at drinking St Bernardus Abt12 on tap, a much more enjoyable experience than my earlier encounter with it at the Monasterium.

Sadly we only found Rose Red on our second night which is a real shame as it’s gone straight into my top three places to visit in wonderful Bruges, sitting the esteemed company of Brugs Beertje and Staminee De Garre.

To get more detail visit the website here, or you can visit the Rose Red blog here.

I’ve also found out whilst searching for links that there is also a small hotel that is attached to Rose Red called Hotel Cordoeanier. I’m not sure if the two are owned by the same people but they do offer packages which include drinks and food at the caf√© bar amongst other things, it looks a cool place to stay too.

Address details below, cheers..

Back to back Belgians

I come to thinking the other day that I’d become distracted from my Belgian Beer Challenge.¬†Not that I’ve gone short or been abstaining from a drop of the beery stuff, far from it in fact with some fabulous American and Danish beers in London, also a fine array from Kernel and Bristol Beer Factory amongst various others.

All have been great beers but I need to keep on top of the task and decided it was time to start exploring some of the goodies I sourced on the recent trip to Bruges.

The first beer of the night and beer challenge number 55 was Taras Boulba at 4.5%. Which is described as being an “Extra Hoppy Ale” brewed by Brasserie De La Senne. The brewery website also list this as being a blonde but the appearance in my glass at least made it look more like a wheat beer.

Mine poured a murky cloudy yellow with visible sediment freely floating around the glass. As I’d not had one before I can’t be sure whether that was just poor delivery by myself (I thought I’d poured it carefully) or whether that’s just the way it is, either way the appearance did not seem to affect it’s taste.

There’s not a great deal going on aroma wise here, maybe a little yeast and perhaps biscuit. Taste too at first was a little disappointing with it’s “Extra Hoppy” billing certainly sounding a little over optimistic in the current climate of uber hopped beer. Nevertheless it was still a very tasty refreshing brew, with more digestive biscuit and lemony citrus coming across nicely. The finish is very dry and bitter, maybe those extra hops are creeping in after all. It’s a good beer, I can imagine me drinking this on warmer days especially, just watch how you pour it..

For the more inquisitive amongst you who are wondering where the name Taras Boulba comes from or what it means, there is a description from the brewery that features on the Shenton Brothers webpage.

Next up was Bink Blonde from the Kerkom Brewery at 5.5% and beer number 56.

This one is definitely more like a blonde in appearance pouring a slightly hazy but bright yellow, complimented by a thick foamy white head with lovely citrus peel aromas.

Taste is quite full in the mouth, soft mellow malts with lemon, candied dried fruits and peel. The finish is dry and hoppy again but really smooth and without any hint of harshness in the throat.

Another great beer and worth putting on your “to Try” list.

The final beer for tasting tonight took me back to the beers of Brasserie De La Senne with their oddly named¬†(see Shenton link again) Zinnebir, this took the challenge beers to a healthy 57 since Christmas. It’s another blonde ale coming in at 5.5%.

This one pours quite a deep shade of hazy orange topped off again with a thick white foam. It has quite a malty nose with hints of orange peel.

The taste is quite rich for a blonde beer, soft toffee with Seville orange marmalade mingling in the background. It has a real full on juicy mouthfeel that punches generously well above it’s weight.

Zinnebir is a delicious fruity ale and was most definitely the pick of the bunch on the night.

So there we have it, 57 beers done since Christmas is not bad going. I’ve got several more to go at so need to plan ahead, after all its my 60th soon…

P.S You may have noticed that I’ve made a few changes to the blog pages appearance, what do you think, easier on the eye, easy to navigate or better how it was??

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Belgian Beer Trip, a whistle-stop pictorial summary.

Over the past week or two I’ve dropped a few posts in about the highs and lows of our recent trip to Belgium, blogging about the visit’s now done, but we took lot’s of photographs along the way, some of which didn’t feature in posts or were not perhaps relevant. Anyway I’ve listed a few below for you:

Poperinge  

Cafe De La Paix

Poperinge Sqaure

St Sixtus Abbey, Westvleteren

A trio of Westvleteren beauties! ¬† (I’m referring to the beers in case you were wondering‚Ķ.)

De Vrede beer garden

The Grotto at Sint Sixtus

Ypres (Leper)

“The Menin Gate –¬†The Memorial to commemorate the names of over 54,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Forces who died in the Ypres Salient before 16th¬†August 1917 and who have no known grave.¬†Every night at¬†8.00pm (20:00 hours)¬†a moving ceremony takes place under the Menin Gate in Leper, the Last Post Ceremony has become part of the daily life and the local people are proud of this simple but moving tribute to the courage and self-sacrifice of those who fell in defence of their town.”

It’s a cake yes, but what a cake…

Watou

Watou Square

The Brewer in Watou, this statue is traditionally draped with fresh hops in the summer months.

Saint Bernadus Brewery, sadly not open to visit..


Brugge

There are loads more, to check them out please visit my Flickr or Facebook pages. See links in the menus on the right of this panel.

Cheers everyone

De Halve Maan Brewery

An essential activity for any beer loving visitor to Brugge has to be the brewery tour of De Halve Maan, the only remaining family brewery in the city.

It’s a brilliant little tour and well worth the measly six Euros per person, which incidentally includes a free beer from the range at the end in the courtyard or cafe.

Still in it’s original building located in a quiet area of town but no more than five minutes from the main tourist drag, you could quite easily miss the brewery in it’s peaceful setting in a small cobbled square.

From the outside (at least from the street level), the only sign you’ll see is the half moon plaque on the wall next to a stone archway. Through that archway is a small courtyard with tables and chairs for alfresco drinking Belgian style, with a small outside bar too for warmer days.

The site is quite an amazing mix of old and new, on entering the visitor centre and brewery restaurant is bright and modern, with stylish menu’s and smartly dressed staff serving beer and quality Belgian (beer related) dishes.

It’s in the brewery itself though that the magic starts, you are led from the ground floor through a series of rooms where old meets new, the new brewing equipment being made to fit the existing building whilst still accommodating the historical parts for tourists.

Be aware though that this is definitely not for those with walking difficulties or folk scared of heights. The tour takes you up four floors on a series of varying staircases and extremely steep metal industrial type steps eventually emerging on the roof, here you have panoramic views of the city which is a sight to behold. Of course what goes up, also has to come down…

I must mention our guide Madeleine, at first I thought “what a miserable so & so” and “that this was going to a barrel of laughs”!

What a mistake, she was brilliant. I hope she wouldn’t mind me saying but Madeleine reminded me of a female Jack Dee, extremely knowledgeable and happy to answer questions, but delivering line after line of dead pan wit.

Of course the most important thing is, the beers great too…