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?

Cheers

Address: Vleminckveld 32, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Phone:+32 3 232 45 38
Hours:
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.

Who’s up for a GLOBAL Saisonathon?

On Saturday 16th of September 2012, we’re planning a bit of a shindig in appreciation of all things Saison, why, because we can..

Full details below, please read, circulate and re-circulate and with luck we’ll have one hell of a party!

If you are planning an event, be that at home in your local pub, bar, beer store, drinking establishment, where ever, please get in touch or send me your blog links, I’ll try to help publicise and summarise what’s going on in your neck of the woods on the day.

Get Your Sias-on!
What do you know about Saisons?

Saison: Also known as ‘farmhouse ale’, is a Belgian style that was originally brewed during the cold months in order to last through summer. The flavor tends to focus on the earthy yeast and heavy spices, although fruit and tartness are common. Saisons are highly carbonated and tend to be dry. Typical alcohol content varies widely from 5-9%. The Beer Tutor

Bier de Garde and Saison: Pale Ales brewed in the Flanders area of Northern France and in Belgium during the Autumn and Winter and stored for Summer drinking (de Garde) or for drinking fresh (Saison/Season). Traditionally served to farm labourers in the field as “liquid bread”. Alex Barlow – All Beer Guide

That’s all very well but there’s no better way to learn than by experience and tasting their wonderfulness. Light, hoppy, MASSIVELY refreshing and bursting with fruit and biscuit flavours, they are absolutely

perfect for the Summer months.

After discussing this on Twitter (where else) it seems pace was gathering in getting our Sais-On collectively in another tasting day. We’ve opted for Saturday 15th of September to try and avoid the Leeds International Beer Festival and Borefts later that month.

So whats the idea?

No suggested beer lists although I’ll list a few suggestions later for anyone that is totally new to the style, just grab some of your favourites and drink them, preferably with a few friends as beer always tastes better when shared with your buddies. Hopefully a few of your countries top bars will join in as usual and put a few specials on for your enjoyment, if yours isn’t one of them, ask why and tell them to get their fingers out.

Then on the day Saturday 15th September 2012 in case you’ve missed it, share your experiences on Twitter using #SupSaison or via Facebook, blogs etc etc, the world is your oyster. Using the hash-tag will allow everyone to find everyone else and you may get a few followers out of it too. (Incidentally for folks outside of the UK, to “Sup” means to drink (beer generally) so Sup-Saison means Drink-Saison.

As promised here’s a few suggestions to look out for, it’s by no means comprehensive and there are a few listed that may not even still be available, but ideas at least to get you started on your very own Saisonathon.

Saison Cazeau
Saison Dupont
Nøgne ø Saison & India Saison
Saison Dottignies
Dupont Moinette Biologique
Flying Dog Wildeman IPA, fermented with Saison yeast
Marble/DarkStar Saison
St-Feuillien Saison
Ilkley Siberia Rhubarb Saison
Red Willow “Faithless XIV
Summer Wine Brewery Lime and Coriander Saison
Urthel Saisonaire
Saison Silly
Belgoo Saisonneke
Grassroots/Tired Hands “Wachu Saison
Jandrain IV Saison
The Bruery Saison Rue
8 Wired Saison Sauvin
Dark Star Saison
Bristol Beer Factory Saison
Fantome Saison

Saison d’Erpe-Mere

Please feel free to retweet, re-blog, share or better still write your own post, let’s get this party of the Summer Saison!

Cheers

Get your Sais-On #SupSaison

What do you know about Saisons?

Saison: Also known as ‘farmhouse ale’, is a Belgian style that was originally brewed during the cold months in order to last through summer. The flavor tends to focus on the earthy yeast and heavy spices, although fruit and tartness are common. Saisons are highly carbonated and tend to be dry. Typical alcohol content varies widely from 5-9%. The Beer Tutor

Bier de Garde and Saison: Pale Ales brewed in the Flanders area of Northern France and in Belgium during the Autumn and Winter and stored for Summer drinking (de Garde) or for drinking fresh (Saison/Season). Traditionally served to farm labourers in the field as “liquid bread”. Alex Barlow – All Beer Guide

That’s all very well but there’s no better way to learn than by experience and tasting their wonderfulness. Light, hoppy, MASSIVELY refreshing and bursting with fruit and biscuit flavours, they are absolutely

perfect for the Summer months.

After discussing this on Twitter (where else) it seems pace was gathering in getting our Sais-On collectively in another tasting day. We’ve opted for Saturday 15th of September to try and avoid the Leeds International Beer Festival and Borefts later that month.

So whats the idea?

No suggested beer lists although I’ll list a few suggestions later for anyone that is totally new to the style, just grab some of your favourites and drink them, preferably with a few friends as beer always tastes better when shared with your buddies. Hopefully a few of the countries top bars will join in as usual and put a few specials on for your enjoyment, if yours isn’t one of them, ask why and tell them to get their fingers out.

As promised here’s a few suggestions to look out for, it’s by no means comprehensive and there are a few listed that may not even still be available, but ideas at least to get you started on your very own Saisonathon.

Saison Cazeau
Saison Dupont
Nøgne ø Saison & India Saison
Saison Dottignies
Dupont Moinette Biologique
Flying Dog Wildeman IPA, fermented with Saison yeast
Marble/DarkStar Saison
St-Feuillien Saison
Ilkley Siberia Rhubarb Saison
Red Willow “Faithless XIV
Summer Wine Brewery Lime and Coriander Saison
Urthel Saisonaire
Saison Silly
Belgoo Saisonneke
Grassroots/Tired Hands “Wachu Saison
Jandrain IV Saison
The Bruery Saison Rue
8 Wired Saison Sauvin
Dark Star Saison
Bristol Beer Factory Saison
Fantome Saison

Saison d’Erpe-Mere

Please feel free to retweet, re-blog, share or better still write your own post, let’s get this party of the Summer Saison!

Cheers

39 Bottles of beer..

As you may know if you’ve read my introduction to this blog, the featured book in the picture was the the catalyst to the whole thing, I’ve always enjoyed trying new beers but not really shared that joyful experience with the world before. Yesterday saw me reach beer 39 in my quest to do as the books title suggests in the form of these three excellent specimens.

St Bernadus Wit 5.5%

As the name suggests this is a wheat or white beer brewed by Sint Bernadus in the little village of Watou, West Flanders. This traditional Belgian white beer was developed and brewed in collaboration with Master Brewer Pierre Celis (Hoegaarden) and is widely regarded as being one of the best examples of the genre around. It pours with a thick creamy white head and settles to a deep yellow haze in the glass. Aromas of yeast and citrus and apples. The taste is typical of a good Belgian white beer, lots of big flavours of orange peel, lemons, apple and yeast. It has a really strong taste which overstates it’s low abv being very rich in the mouth without cloying. Overall an exceptional wheat beer from one of the best breweries in the world in my humble opinion.

Moinette Blond 8.5%

I waxed lyrical about the Moinette Brune not too long ago as it was a real find for me, this blond beer from Dupont continues in the same vein and in away has similar characteristics. It is quoted by Dupont as being their “flagship beer” and you can see why after the first mouthful. When poured into a nice bowl or goblet style glass it has a look of a darker beer rather than blond, copperish to dark yellow is a fair description with a big white fluffy head which sinks quickly to a fine lace round the edge of the glass. Citrus and yeasty aromas give way to a really smack in the face of fruit and spice as you taste it. Lemon, corriander, pepper and hops all together in perfect harmony to reward your choice with a well balanced but strong Belgian pale beer. Be careful with this one it is very easy to drink and strong with it. Highly recommended though.

XX Bitter 6.2%

There’s something about a beer that comes pre gift wrapped that makes already a little special before you open it. I’ve no idea why it’s done, maybe a protection from sunlight (perhaps someone can enlighten me), but it just shows a care and attention to detail which entices you in.. XX Bitter or Extra Extra Bitter by Brouwerij De Ranke is all about the hops, they feature on the wrapper, the label, the nose and in the big HOP FINALE as you taste. This is the beer that you see featured poured in the picture above (ignore the Oerbier glass) As you can see it’s a golden blond coloured beer with a thick old creamy white head. Again there’s a good old fight going on in there between the delicious hops, spices of pepper and coriander seeds, citrus and maybe a hint of caramel. I’d love to see this in my local (HINT) as it would be a perfect summer (or winter) drink for me, not overly strong abv wise so quite easy to drink a few without the need to lie or fall down.

So that’s 39 found out a 100 since 25th December 2010, not bad as it has been tricky and taken a bit of searching, I have found some other cracking beers along the way too. But what will the 40th be I wonder, it needs to be memorable I think as another milestone is reached..

All the beers featured here were sourced from Beers Of Europe