Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Beer tour in Brussels

I was recently in Brussels for a weekend, where I decided it would be a good idea to embark on a beer-tasting session around St Gilles, being in Belgium and all. I have internally debated about whether I should put this post up, because, well, it might give the wrong impression of me as some kind of drunkard  blogging about a massive drinking session. But y'all know that I'm not, so here is my, erm, beer diary. Word for word. I have added a little post-session commentary in italics.

1. Jambe-de-Bois at Au Libre Air bar €3.40. Brewed in Brussels. 8%

Strong! Bitter, blonde. Sunlight filters through the murky honey-golden liquid and catches the light of tiny bubbles. A good start to a Brussels beer drinking session. Why does beer not taste like this in England (sorry devout English bitter drinkers....)

I remember that this was served to us, in a dingy punkish bar, by what looked like someone's dad in an effortlessly trendy well-worn grandpa jersey. How come Europeans are so cool?

2. Moinette Blonde at Brasserie Verschueren €7.20. Brewed in Tourpes, Belgium. 8.5%. 750ml

Sour, off, wheat-beer - in a good way. First taste is of sour cabbage, then the bitter flavour hits as an afterthought. Tastes all the more better served on oak school desks, surrounded by deco lights, artistic beer tiles and original stained glass windows. I am on a downhill slope.....

Accidentally ordered another Moinette. We shall see where this goes from here.

3. Leffe Blonde at La Vieux Mila (Cameroonian restaurant). 
(neglected to note any relevant information about where brewed or alcohol percentage. But look, I got a photo!)

Sweet, so very sweet. I fear this is going to hurt my head in the morning.

Incidentally, we had a lovely meal at the Cameroonian restaurant. Huge plates of curry with slightly tough meat, served with fried plantain (love this stuff) and deathly chilli sauce, which I piled all over my food and had to carefully scrape back off. 

4. I don't know where I am..... but I have a Grimbergen in front of me. The bar is full, as it should be on a Saturday night. Grimbergen: tastes sweet like melon. Too sweet. Yuck. "Rank melon". I am drunk.

Look, there I am in the background of that picture, diligently scribbling some beer notes...


So, my two mistakes were drinking beer that was so strong (8.5% is practically wine!), and that second bottle of Moinette I ordered - its meant to be a beer-tasting session, not a beer-drinking session. But, I would conclude that Belgian beer is most excellent.

The following day, kicked out of our accommodation and forced to wander the streets, in the rain, I was deeply regretting those last 3 or so beers. The only thing that saved me from a public breakdown was another of Belgium's specialties; chocolate. Now my experiences thus far of Belgian chocolate had been disappointing. You go into these shops - which all look virtually the same - and they have lovely glass displays of pretty chocolates and truffles, adorned in ribbons. But yet there is something wrong, and I can't put my finger on what it is, but there is something there that tells me when I am standing in this overly-decorative chocolatier shop, that the chocolate is going to be shit. And it is.

While walking around getting drenched, umbrella-less, I decided to give Belgian chocolate one last chance to redeem itself. And so I entered a shop called Laurent Gerbaud. It was warm, sleek, modern inside. No frilly glass cabinets. There was a bar on which sat a mesmerising thing full of hot chocolate going around and around. We sat on bar stools, took off our wet coats, and ordered some of the rotating hot chocolate. It came with two little complimentary chocolates on the side (because of course you need chocolates to go with your hot chocolate). The hot chocolate was rick, dark, bitter, and not too thick. But the chocolates it came with, well, I had finally found good Belgian chocolate. You bit into the dark chocolate on the outside, and it was filled with runny, ground hazlenuts (like hazlenut butter). Amazing.

The hazlenut truffle was so good, that I decided to spend my last two euros on an extra couple for the train back to London, so I asked the nice man, in perfect French with lots of pointing, for two to take away. He was in such a jolly mood, that he didn't even charge me for them. Good chocolate + free chocolate = good taste in my mouth about Brussels.

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