Beer Trip UK Belgium [ Be G H I ]

Arrived Sunday, November 14, 2010 in Manchester UK.
[#] = beer number sampled, [B#] = brewery #.

On the drive up to Cramlinton UK, visited the Hawkshead Brewery, Staverly, Cumbria UK. [B1] They open at noon on Sundays. Great selection of beers, and they served half-pints. Tried: Bitter [1], Windermere Pale Ale [2], Red [3], Brodie's Prime [4], and Lakeland Gold [5]. Note for all the time that driving was involved, half-pints or "piffle"-sized glasses were used where possible. We also used the iPhone App "BloodAlc" to calculate our BAC; at no point when driving was it ever over 0.026%, with driving while intoxicated in the UK being 0.1% and Belgium being 0.05%.

Also visited the "Lakes District" briefly - I never knew the UK had a section of the country that looked like this.
We were told that about 1 mile away from Hawkshead was the Watermill Brewery, Ings, Cumbria UK. [B2] This is a brewpub serving the following dog-themed brews: Collie Wobbles [6], W'Ruff Night [7], Dogth Vader [8], Isle of Dogs [9], A Winters Tail [10]; we also tried Salamander Brewing's Stout Underbelly [11].

 We then stopped at the Tan Hill Inn, Reeth, Richmond, Swaledale, North Yorkshire Dales, UK. This is the highest pub in the UK, in a pretty desolate area. We had the house ale - Ewe Juice [12], and from the Black Sheep Brewery tried Black Sheep Bitter [13]; also had a glass of Abbaye de Abdij van - Leffe Blonde [14] as a foretaste of what was to come.

This place is truly remote; weak cell signal, well for water, and the electricity comes from a diesel generator; and that "snow cat" is not just for show!

Monday November 15 late afternoon was a quick stop at the Mordue Brewery, North Shields, Tyneside UK, [B3] to pick up some beer - motto "what Mordue want." None were sampled as they had no setup active.

We then decided to stop in Dent Brewery, Hollins, Cowgill, Dent, Cumbria UK, [B4] the most remote brewery in the UK. When we asked a couple driving by "are you local?" I felt like I was in an episode of "League of Gentlemen" and even thought we might disappear or be taken captive by someone like Tubbs and Edward Tattsyrup.

On the way to find the brewery we found Pendragon castle...
and saw some spectacular railroad viaducts.

I was texting my son in college informing him of what could be the location where we disappear; I mean we were joking and it was funny at the time. Some of the texts didn't even make it, which did make it confusing. When we arrived as there was no one at the brewery we joked they must be out back liming the bodies of the previous visitors. No slight on the Dent Brewery mind you, the ales were great and the folks at the George and Dragon (see below) were very hospitable; it's just my bizarre sense of humor. We kept up this "disappearing tourist" theme the whole week, but also figured like Pynchon said, you "never hear the one that gets you."

As mentioned, we did not see anyone at the brewery, but did stop at the George and Dragon in Dent, which is the owned by the brewery. Tried the Aviator [15], Kamikaze [16], Premium Bitter [17] and T'owd Tup [18]. Also purchased a smart Dent Brewery shirt.
The George and Dragon is in a nice picturesque part of the UK. Maybe a good place to stay for vacation and hike the weekend.

Later that Monday night back in Manchester area tried a Wheatwood East Gate [19], Brimstitch Scarecrow [20], Woodward and Falconer Piffle [21], a York Brewery Guzzler Ale [22].

For a real treat my co-traveler opened a Belgian beer he had saved for over a decade - 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze from 1999 [23]! This aged very well, and the harshness one sometimes may experience in some geuzes was completely absent.

Tuesday November 16 at lunch we stopped briefly at Dunham Massey Brewery, Dunham, Cheshire UK. [B5] I have been here before and even tasted a stout right from the clarifier. Picked up several beers; at dinner that night had a Whitbread Bitter [24] and an Adnams Broadside [25]. After dinner enjoyed a Dunham Massey Deer Beer [26] at the hotel.

Tuesday evening we called on Spitting Feathers Brewery, Waverton, Chester UK. [B6] The owner Matthew has a nice farm and very nice brewery. We had a good discussion on pelletized VS plain hops, and he showed the advantages of the former. He feeds the mash waste to pigs, and makes cider from apples in the orchard.

The farm also has their own bees for honey. We were so surprised to be given a case of beer - gratis - for being beer fans! Even one brand he makes only for private consumption! Tried the Devastation [27] and Northgate Ale [28] at the hotel Tuesday night. Also a Dunham Massey 2010 Vintage White Barleywine [29].

Wednesday November 17 at night at the White Hart Inn, Charter Alley, Tadley, Hampshire UK we had a great dinner at the inn's restaurant. I tried pheasant and wood pigeon, replete with real birdshot shot in the pigeon! (that's birdshot on the plate)

For beers we had Teignworthy Neap Tide [30], Butts Blackguard Porter [31], Harveys Elizabethan Ale (Heritage ale produced to honor coronation of Queen Elizabeth 2) [32], Moor Beer Company's JJJ IPA [33] and Palmers of Dorset Best Bitter [34]. As always, none of these beers were put on an expense account, just the food and cup of decaf. Later in the hotel we had Mordue Brewery IPA Proper Maha Raj Bitter [35] and a Dent Porter [36].

Thursday November 18 evening  we stopped at the Hogs Back Brewery in Tongham, Surrey UK [B7] which had quite a beer store. That evening we had a Moore Beer Company Peat Porter [37] and Castle Brewery Hung Drawn and Slaughtered [38]. A glass of Hawkshead Organic Stout finished the night [39].
Friday afternoon November 19 on the way to the ferry stopped in briefly at the Hopdaemon Brewery Newnham, Kent UK [B8] which was unusual in that there was no sign. Picked up some of their beer for maybe later; certainly bottles are shippable; FedEx be damned!

(NOTE FedEx and UPS will ship wine all over the world, but not beer. So you call it "wine" and they ship it. If there's at least one bottle of Barleywine Ale, it's not technically a lie). Any beers not tried will be sent to me for a beer tasting party sometime in December.

Friday evening we met at the Brouwerij Van Eecke, Watou, West-Vlaanderen Belgium [B9] for a tour with retired brewery employee Michel R.

We had a nice tour and history of the site - which started in 1862 - and a couple of glasses of beer at the café (not pub) next to the brewery. Tried a van Eecke Blonde [40] and a van Eecke Kapittel ABT [41].

We had a great chat about beer and work and the history of the area. Michael said we should be sure to see the cemeteries from the "great war.

He also realized he had picked up my co-worker a few years ago when he was on a tour of Belgian breweries with his friends. Some of them had set out to walk to the brewer from the hotel, and a brewery employee went out to get them so they would not have to walk so far - it was Mr. R - small world!

Friday night at the Palace Hotel in Poperinge Belgium I had to be on a conference call at 9 PM local time, and the Internet connection at the hotel was dead, and that goodness for my iPhone which allowed me to email files for the meeting and run the meeting!! After this call we tried a van Eecke Poperings Hommel bier [42], Rodenbach Rodenbach [43], Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel [44] Saint-Bernardus Tripel [45], van Eecke Kapittel Pater [46], Verhaeghe Nunnbier [47] and Lefebvre Hopus [48].

We wandered outside in Poperinge, speaking to several highly-intoxicated individuals. NB - Belgians like their cigarettes and beer. We along with numerous other night owls found some sort of falafel/gyro place - ambrosia!

Saturday morning November 20 found us present at a birth. Not a person or animal, but a new brewery. We met Björn at the Brouwkot in Gullegem, Belgium. [B10] However, the Brouwkot (Brew Shed) now had a more elegant name - Gulden Spoor. This refers to the gold spurs used by Belgian cavalry to repel the French.

The young guy was a very enthusiastic brewer, and in my opinion an engineering genius. He had "compressed" a bottling line to be much smaller than as it was made from the manufacturer. His brewery was not at the exact location you think it is; that address was the café selling his beer. We tried a Gulden Spoor Luxuria Seven Sins [49]. We also found there was an unlisted (on Google Maps anyway) "picobrewery" - Alvinne.

Picobrewery Alvinne is also in Gullegem, Belgium [B11] and you would never find it unless you had the address. They had a huge beer shop, as well as their own beers.

Tried the Balthezaar [50] and Freaky [51] and chatted with some people on tour learning how to brew. They were impressed with my beer rating iPhone database App I wrote, as well as the number of beers tried over the years.

I also learned a great snack to "cleanse your palate" when drinking beers. Dark bread, spread with strong cheese, garnished with sliced radishes and chives. *update* Learned from Glenn C. at Alvinne via ratebeer.com that the cheese is Pottekeis.

We then drove to Drie Fonteinen (3 Fountains) in Beersel, Belgium. [B12] We tried their Faro [52], Lambic [53], Kriek [54] and Beersel Blonde [55] beers. Also at the brewery store we were able to try a new beer - Zwet.be [56] - which is sort of a lambic blended with a Stout (in my humble opinion). What was great was this was beer number 1,500 in my list of beers rated.

Earlier my co-worker wanted to have us save the 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze from 1999 to drink as #1,500; I had said it would not be right to "force it" and Karma would take care of us, and lead us to the appropriate beer for number #1,500. And she did. We were so weirded out we forgot to take a photo!

As an FYI from Wikipedia:
Faro - a low-alcohol, sweetened beer made from a blend of lambic and a much lighter, freshly brewed beer to which brown sugar (or sometimes caramel or molasses) was added;
Lambic - unlike conventional ales and lagers fermented by carefully cultivated strains of brewer's yeasts, lambic beer is produced by fermentation from wild yeasts and bacteria native to the Senne. It gives the beer its distinctive flavour: dry, vinous, and cidery, with a slightly sour aftertaste.
Kriek - Lambic refermented in the presence of sour cherries and with secondary fermentation in the bottle.

We then left for the deBlock Brewery in Merchtem, Belgium (you gotta love a brewery with "satanbeer.com" as their URL!) [B13] There was a birthday party going on, and as we wandered on the sidewalk looking forlorn, one of the people asked if I was the guy who had emailed them.

They invited us in during a private party for an employee's 1-year-old. We shared a great free Demdermonde beer [57] during the birthday party.

I also was shown a tool they use in the brewery - a combination hammer and beer bottle opener - perfect for construction sites and where power tools and ladders are in use!

Some other breweries we stopped at but they were not open.
The includes the Bosteels Brewery in Buggenhout, [B14]

De Landtsheer Emmanuel Brouwerij Malheur also in Buggenhout, [B15] and

Huisrouwerij Boelens in Kerkstraat [B16]. These places were not open; it was late Saturday and who can blame them.

On the way to Antwerp we passed Beer, Belgium. That's right, a town named "Beer."

Once we got to the hotel in Antwerp Belgium we set out to find some good beer cafes. We stopped in at Paters Vaetje at Blauwmoezelstraat 1 and had a Trubadour Obscura [58] and a Boesteel Karmeleit [59].

We did find that "holy grail" for beer drinkers, the Kulminator at Vleminckveld 32, this place is classed as a "world famous" beer cafe with a "staggering range" of beers. We started with a Chimay Speciale 1983 [60] (yes from 1983, the year I finished Graduate school) and a Dupont Saison [61].

We also had a Gouden Carolus Hops Seignor [63], Westvleteren blonde (green label) [64]. Their beer selection was staggering.
They also had Westmalle Trappist [62] (the white neck beer not available outside the monastery), served reverently in it's own basket.

We walked around and had dinner and had some basic ales: a Leffe Brown [65] and a Dekonic [66]. We chatted with a couple of Russian guys who were  programmers for PWC and ate at a fantastic "rib shack" - Amadeus, the place for ribs. The only downside, and you get a hint from the website, is continuous 1920's "swing music" playing in the background.

We then found another great beer café, t'Antwaerps Bierhuyske at Hoogstraat 14. Here we found Struise Breweries Black Albert [67] and a Waterloo Brewery Triple 7 Tipel [68]. The barmaid served the Belgian beers the proper way.

For those that do not know, each Belgian brewery produces their own distinctive glasses. These are used for only the beer from that brewery. As the beer is poured, a special spatula is used to "sweep" off the head of foam, leaving it flat on the top of the glass. The glass is held by the sides and carefully dipped into warm water up to about 1/2 inch below the rim - this washes the beer off the outside of the glass. The glass is then set reverently in front of you; care is taken to have the label face you.

The next morning Sunday, November 21, we set out very early for sightseeing and shopping, especially Belgian lace and chocolate. Extra care was taken to ensure proper presents for wives and friends.
I tried one piece of Belgian chocolate with cognac inside and almost had a fit of apoplexy. I also learned not to joke on FaceBook that one has no time to stop for chocolates for spouses. One would have thought harpies from Hades had been unleashed!

We later found a nice café we somehow missed the night before. At the Het Kathedraalcafe we tried a Feuillien Saison [69], and a Koningshoeven Quadrupel Trappist Ale [70] with lunch.

The place was amazing in that it had hundreds of religious icons scattered throughout.

We then drove to Herentaals Belgium.

After we checked in to the hotel we went for a walk.

Near the hotel was a nice café, the Brigand on Bovenru 59, with a very friendly staff and great beer selection. We tried Tangerlo Abbey Blonde [71], Palm Dubbel [72], a Boon Oude Kriek [73], Witkap Withal-Pater Stimulo [74],

Schlede Brewery Molse Tripel [75] (with a cute mole on the bottle), DuPont Moinette Brown [76], de Prof Gageleer [77], and a Guy Pirlot Kempish Vuur [78].

Back at the hotel Zalmn, we had dinner and after dinner had some more beer.

In order, we tried the spectacular Boon Geuze Mariage Parfait [79], Achel Trappist [80], Grobbendonk Grobbendonk Tripel [81], Slaghmuylder brewery Poorter [82], Boon Kriek [83], Chimay Tripel [84], de Koningshoeven La Trappe [85], Bersalis Tripel [86], Brugge Brugge Tripel [87], and a Cantillion Kriek [88].

The owner Frank was a genteel host and has a nice hotel; he is building a more modern adjunct down the street. He offered us a Girardin Kriek [89] gratis from his private cellar.

Monday late afternoon on the way to the ferry we stopped in at Westvleteren Abbey in Westvleteren. [B17] This is allegedly home of the best beer in the world. It is helped in no small part by the mystique. You have to call ahead for beer (good luck getting through), the monks give you the pickup time, and only 2 cases per month; they record your license plate and phone number. We watched the cars wait in line.

We had a snack of bread and cheese made by the monks, along with a Westvleteren 8 [90] and a 12 [91]. These were even better than I remembered, and frankly the Westvleteren 12 rated a score of 11 out of 10 in my book.

On the way towards the ferry we also stopped at Brouwerij St. Bernard; [B18] no beer tasting but got some beers and shirts.

We also saw a couple of cemeteries from WWI, such as Canada Farm. I'm thankful that some people still remember: "The land on which this cemetery stands is the free gift of the Belgian people for the perpetual resting place of those of the Allied armies who fell in the war of 1914-1918 and are honored here."

Of course we also saw 'sprouts! Some may refer to them as hell-infused stillborn cabbages, but I really love them.

Monday night at the hotel was time for one last beer, an Alvinne Morpheus Extra [92]. What was interesting was the beer had a definite lambic flavor, which may be part of the "Morpheus yeast" used by Alvinne. I will patiently await my shipments of beer from the UK.

So there it is, a little over a week of hard work, with evenings and weekend to enjoy beer with 18 breweries seen and 92 beers sampled. Also staying the weekend and taking a ferry to Belgium - not to mention staying in small local hotels instead of say the Cowne Plaza - saved my employer at least $900!!

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