Monday, 15 October 2012

Belgian Beer Weekend 2012, Brussels

The 14th Belgian Beer Weekend was the main reason we had decided on a late summer weekend's visit to Brussels. With the promise of over 350 beers from 51 breweries available to taste we couldn't wait, and spent the Eurostar journey reading through the 14 page beer list and marking the ones we definitely wanted to try.

The Beer Weekend is set against the backdrop of the beautiful Grand Place in the heart of Brussels, and this year had extended into the Stock Exchange too. There were religious (and otherwise) processions, ompah bands and bagpipes too, and there was a very festive and rowdy atmosphere.

'Beer Street' outside the Stock Exchange

Inside the Stock Exchange were beer and food matching selections in conjunction with local bars and restaurants
It runs on a rather complicated token system, whereby you deposit your token with the bar on buying your drink, and then get the token back when you return your glass. The nice thing about this is that you do get a fresh glass with every drink you buy, but it is a bit of a pain if you're quite far away from the appropriate stand. In addition you pay for your drinks with crown caps, which you have to queue for in a separate area. Beers are priced from 2-5 Euros a glass, with most priced at 3 or 4 Euros, so it can be an expensive business if you stay for any length of time (or have a long list of tastings to work your way through).

One of the many processions of brewer confraternities
This wasn't when it was at its busiest!

To say it was busy would be a huge understatement. It was heaving pretty much from start to finish and we both found it quite stressful being there (I think we're getting old...). It got to a point on both Friday and Saturday evenings where we'd had a couple of drinks and then just couldn't stand it any longer so left. Luckily on the final day (Sunday) we arrived early, and although it was busy it wasn't quite as bad as the two days previous. We managed to make up for lost time/beers. Here are some of our favourites of the weekend;

Petrus Aged Pale (Bavik) - an oak aged sour beer. Very sour with woody notes. This was our beer of the festival.

Morte Subite Oud Kriek (Alken Maes) - I tried this on a whim just to see how it compared to some of the Oud Kriek we'd tried in Beersel. It was surprisingly good, with a deep flavour and heavy sourness. I'd been expecting something sweet and artifical tasting, so was a very pleasant surprise.

Saxo (Caracole) - a nice soft tripel style beer, slight caramel aftertaste but still very dry. Dangerously drinkable.

Saison Dupont Dry Hopping 2012 (Dupont) - A great saison, the hops lifting it to another level, with more bitterness than the usual Dupont Saison.

Duvel Triple Hop (Duvel) - This seasonal special tastes even better than it sounds, the standard Duvel quality but lifted with lemony Citra hops to another level.

St Feullien Saison (St Feullien) - Full on with flavour and alcohol, with a nice saison character to it. The Grisette Blanche was also good, with tangy, grassy and herbal notes to it.

A festively dressed Mannekin Pis - sadly we missed the point earlier in the day when the beer kegs were attached to the fountain
Special mention goes to Wittekerke Rose (Bavik), which I tried as we enjoyed the Petrus Aged Pale so much, and I do like a good fruit beer. This is possibly the worst beer I've ever tried. So sweet it was almost undrinkable. The wheat and raspberry characters were nice, but the sweetness made it taste like fizzy pop. A big disappointment.

We also had the pleasure of enjoying a few drinks at Moeder Lambic. This year's Cantillon wasn't to our taste (we tried the Mamouche on tap), with a grassy funk to it neither of us were that keen on. We treated ourselves instead to a bottle of Fou' Foune from an earlier vintage. Sam also tried Nogne O's 100, a heavyweight barley wine.

Moeder Lambic's cheese and charcuterie platter - everything on it was delicious
All in all it was a great weekend away (but then Brussels always is). We're still debating whether we would go back to the Beer Weekend or not given how busy it was. It was pretty hellish to navigate the poorly laid out festival until the first few beers take effect, but then you just don't care any more!

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