A few beers in Bruges

The first time I was in Bruges was January 2011 and I decided then that I’d revisit the place when I was 40. I had a vague plan to head there for the weekend with a few mates but, ended up there with the family instead! There was some work being done on the train line so it took us a while to get there from Antwerp. At one stage I thought we had taken the wrong train and were headed for Brussels instead. I didn’t panic, as I know they sell beer there too. Anyway, De Garre was top of my list to revisit in Bruges. They have a lovely house beer, a Tripel, brewed for them by Brouwerij Van Steenbeerge. It comes with a small bowl of cheese. As it was time for a late lunch I ordered the cheese (is there such thing as too much cheese?) and paté.

It’s a cool spot down a tiny alley between the two main squares in Bruges. Worth a visit.

The second place on my short list was ‘t Brugs Beertje. This place has a serious selection of beer. It’s a little bit like an old sitting room. My first beer was the Special Export Stout from Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers. It was like black treacle with some bitterness for balance. Gorgeous.

After that I went with Boon’s Two Year Unblended Oude Lambiek. Lovely, tart and funky. I definitely enjoyed my second time in Bruges. Sláinte!

And we all lived happily ever after. If you like happy endings stop reading here!

But if you want to read me whinging read on…

Kulminator was on my radar in Antwerp. It came highly recommended by some of my colleagues and also in the Where To Drink Beer book. (I have a few contributions featured in the book too. It would make a nice gift for any of your beer loving friends. No, I’m not on commission, I didn’t even get a free copy!) So, I got a taxi from the train station to Kulminator as we were going home the next day and this was my last chance to visit the place. But the door was closed. I knocked and rang the bell as there were people inside. A man who I assume is the proprietor came out and gestured at me to go away. Now, I know what you’re thinking; ‘I wouldn’t let you into my bar either Simon!’…but there were other, younger, better looking, local people mounting their bikes and shaking their heads. They said to me; ‘It’s not a place for drinking, just degustation!’ I can degust with the best of ’em given half a chance but sadly it wasn’t to be. I went back to the waiting taxi a disappointed man. So, while I’d love to add a recommendation to this place I cannot. Yes, I know there are people with real problems in the world. Sigh.

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An epic sesh in Antwerp!

So we were in Antwerp. And we were going to the zoo. But it was raining. So I said I’d just call in to fellow Midlands man Patrick in Kelly’s Irish Pub for a minute. (The zoo is one side of Central Station, Kelly’s is just the other side…)

I’m not really in the habit of drinking in Irish bars while abroad but exceptions have to be made from time to time. Anyway, I was delighted to be able to order a glass of a local Pale Ale by De Koninck. This one reminded me of some of Black Donkey’s beers, Buck It for instance.

I followed that with a Coronet. Which wasn’t bad at all. Then Patrick finished his shift. He brought me next door to Bier Central and showed me their extensive cellar.

They offer 300 bottles of beer and have 26 on tap.

I chose a Mort Subite from said impressive selection next. A lovely Gueuze.

This tipping in to meet Patrick for a minute was going well.

After an enjoyable time in Bier Central we headed on to Billie’s Bier Kafétaria where I was able to sample the delights of Rodenbach Alexander. On Nitro! It was soft and fruity like a tasty desert.

At this stage my phone had died and so I had to enlist Patrick’s help with the beertography. We also sampled Excuse Me While I Kiss My Stout from Hedonis. Which was only gorgeous. Billie’s is a cool spot.

Next stop was The Corner House on Nationalstraat. This is run by another Irish man, Alan and his partner. It’s very much in the Belgian tradition of a Brown Bar (Beer cafe) though. For something different I tried a Ginger Tipple which seemed to be produced in tiny batches. Patrick plumped for the 11% version, I was far more sensible and had the far more sessionable 8% Tipple! A really nice Ginger Beer, I was informed below that it is fermented with natural honey and some lime.

I finished the day, as I had started, with a beer from De Koninck, Tripel D’Anvers. Go hard, then go home as they say. I may have left out a couple of beers along the way for the sake of brevity. Patrick tells me that you’re not really supposed to order pints, to drink like the locals it’s all ‘pintjes’ or 250 ml pours. Pity I didn’t know that at the start of the evening! Be sure to check out these pubs when in Antwerp. I had a great time. Sláinte!

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Wake up and smell the coffee!

The evenings are drawing in and some of the seasonal beers are getting darker. I tried two Coffee Porters last night. The first was Dead Centre’s Moondust which was pouring in The Taphouse, Ranelagh. This one was brewed with Moondust coffee from Mullingar’s Bell Lane. I suppose that name was too good not to use for the beer as well! I’m not going to wax lyrical about moonbeams dancing on my tongue but I’ll simply tell you that this limited edition Porter is rather lovely. It’s light bodied and a pint was easy to put away. The cold press coffee brought some tasty flavours to the party. Recommended.

I wanted to keep the Coffee Porter vibes going and luckily enough I had some Black Gold in the stash at home. This isn’t the first collaboration between Wicklow Wolf and Java Republic. I didn’t really dig the first one A Beer Called Rwanda. I had also heard some mixed reports about Black Gold so my expectations were set pretty low. However, my tastes may have evolved since then, I may have been feeling more receptive or this may simply be a better beer. Because I quite liked it. It’s a bit stronger than Moondust and is slightly more viscous. You could definitely drink more Moondust but Black Gold makes for a decent nightcap. Try both yourself and let me know what you think. Sláinte!

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The Irish Craft Beer Festival is Reborn!

Some of you with long memories may remember last year’s post about The Decline of The Irish Craft Beer Festival. A point about necessary change was made. And behold, the 2018 event popped up in a big top in Rathmines. This wasn’t my first time to attend this festival but it was my first time to man a bar. I was stationed behind the Rye River/McGargles bar for the two days.

Unfortunately I managed to catch a head cold so I couldn’t fully appreciate the aroma of the many beers on offer. But I gave it my best shot!

It was good to catch up with lots of my beery pals. Shenanigans may have ensued as the party continued post festival in 57 The Headline and in Blackbird.

There was a decent array of beers, gins and food to choose from but there were no new breweries. This may be indicative of the rate of growth in the industry starting to level off. I think that the event benefitted from the new venue and am looking forward to seeing what 2019 brings. Sláinte!

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‘Fruity Lagers are the future!’

‘Fruity Lagers are the future!’, this is according to Paul Digan from Carlow’s Brewing. He had tried our Ól Orange Lager at The Big Grill. And he gave me a Sleeping Limes from Wild Beer as further proof.

I opted to open the Rye River Ól first. This one is very sessionable at 4.4%. Orange zest was added in the boil and again in the fermentation vessel. But this isn’t a straightforward Lager as it was hopped with El Dorado and Amarillo, hops more commonly found in IPAs. The juicy flavours make it really easy to drink.

I’ve had, and enjoyed, Wild Beer’s Sleeping Lemons before, but Sleeping Limes was a new one to me. This Lager was brewed Gøse style with the addition of sea salt. This gave the beer a pleasing balance. The beer is very refreshing and interesting. Both beers are widely available nationally so pick up the pair and give them a try!

Roy Quare Swally’s recent post about bloggers and their motivation gave me pause for thought. I really can’t claim to be completely unbiased especially as I work in the industry, for Rye River, but luckily I have plenty of people to keep my feet firmly on the ground! And sure look, if someone (anyone?) wants to pony up for an all expenses paid trip to Portland to drink all de beerz who amongst us would turn it down? All of that said, I admire Roy’s principles. I’m quite sure discerning readers like yourself know the difference between a genuine opinion and sposonsored content. Well, I really hope so anyway! Cheers for reading, let me know if you have any thoughts on the subject…

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