Posts Tagged 'de dolle'

Honeymoon beers, part 4: Brussels, A La Mort Subite, Chez Moeder Lambic

We spent one night in Brussels, so we only had time to check out two beer bars. However, we also made sure to hit what many people call the best beer destination in the city, if not the country: the Cantillon brewery. I’ll get to that visit in the next post.

The first bar we visited was A La Mort Subite, a 1920s beer hall a few blocks from the town square. It has long wooden benches all along the walls and really high ceilings, giving the impression that it could be a raucous good time when there are a lot of people there (that’s what the reviews say, too). We were there in the middle of the workday, however, and it was nearly empty.

Their selection is limited but relatively impressive, and they also brew their own traditional lambic. I originally intended to try that, but a sign advertising their seasonal tap caught my eye:  De Dolle Brouwers Bos Keun Biere de Paques. It’s De Dolle’s spring seasonal (“Paques” means Easter), a bright, fruity pale Belgian ale. I enjoyed it, although I must admit that it was relatively unremarkable, and without taking notes I’m struggling to remember much else about it.

De Dolle Bos Keun

The other Brussels beer bar we visited couldn’t have been much more different: Chez Moeder Lambic, a newish, modern bar on a small square next to one of the main streets in town. What it lacked in historic charm, however, it more than made up for with great beer.

The long list of draft beer, displayed on chalkboards along the walls, was very impressive. After much deliberation, I opted for a Val-Dieu Grand Cru, a big, delicious quad. The waiter also helped us pick a beer for Mrs. Beernerds, as I told him that she liked sweet lambics as opposed to sour ones. That meant we didn’t try any of their extensive list of Cantillon beers, but she was happy with his selection.

Our first round came with a small bowl of tasty malted barley to chew on, which I slowly enjoyed over the course of a couple of hours. A really nice touch, I thought.

Val-Dieu Grand Cru & some malt to snack on

I hadn’t drunk any cask beers on the trip thus far, so I went with a Cuvee de Ranke on cask for my next one. Yep, another sour. I’m not nearly at the point where I can fully appreciate nuances in sours, but I think it’s a good sign that I’m knowingly ordering them and, most importantly, enjoying them more and more.

Cuvee De Ranke

When I ordered, the waiter made sure to ask if I knew what it was like, and I assured him I knew what I was in for. It was a nice touch – the crew at Anvil often does the same thing when you order a sour there – and I think non-nerds would appreciate the warning if they haven’t had a sour before.

I hadn’t even looked at the bottle menu yet, and once I finally did I was very impressed. There was no Westvleteren, but there were dozens and dozens of interesting options, including plenty of aged beers and some really tempting Mikkeller beers (standard and barrel-aged 1000 IBU, plus standard Beer Geek Brunch Weasel and two barrel-aged versions, each featuring a different scotch). There was even a page for, loosely translated, “Beers that the Gods drink”, a handful of aged bottles priced at 150-200 euros.

The Mikkeller offerings

The waiter must have noticed I was having a hard time deciding, so he struck up a conversation. He asked me what I liked and I responded that I was willing to try anything good. So he rephrased the question, asking me what style I would pick if I had to drink just one, and I told him I love dark Belgians, dubbels and quads especially. He suggested De Ranke Noir de Dottignies on draft, and he hit the nail on the head. It wasn’t a huge abbey-style ale, just a really tasty dark Belgian with a lot of fruity malt and a surprising amount of non-bitter coffee flavors.

De Ranke Noir de Dottignies

Before we left, the waiter asked how long we were in Brussels, and we told him just the one day. He said we absolutely had to hit Cantillon, which echoed what we had heard from many sources. That definitely sealed the deal, and we made Cantillon our main target for the next morning.


Honeymoon beers, part 3: Bruges, Erasmus, ‘t Brugs Beertje

A handful of the good beer establishments we visited had impressive lineups of cellared/vintage beers. One such place was Erasmus, a modern, sleek hotel/restaurant that doesn’t necessarily fit with Bruges’ medieval vibe. It looked and felt like it would fit better in a place like Paris, but the beer list was very worthy.

I walked past Erasmus on the way to a generic Irish pub to watch a soccer game, while Mrs. Beernerds took a nap in the hotel. When I saw the cellar menu I just had to stop in, and I luckily had about 40 minutes before kickoff.

My timing – it was the middle of the afternoon – was perfect, and when I walked in I was the only customer in the place. I asked the waiter if it was OK to sit down for a beer, and he gave me the green light and their beer menu. One bottle immediately jumped out at me: De Dolle Stille Nacht 1986. I had read about Stille Nacht (Silent Night) before, and since this was the first time I had ever seen a 25-year-old beer for sale, I quickly ordered it.

The waiter pointed out that the beer was in their cellar, meaning it would not be cold. I appreciated the warning, but was obviously even more excited about this beer, especially as I had never before been to a place with a true cellar.

De Dolle Stille Nacht 1986

Since I was drinking alone, I took full tasting notes. Here they are, mostly unedited:

Reddish caramel, bright and clear. No head on the pour, tiny bubbly ring. Body is fizzier than it looks, but still quite smooth and somewhat full. Smells of sweet port, prune juice, some leather and booze. Candied sugar, hint of spice. Fruity, dry, a touch of sneaky sour in the back, finishes somewhat ashy/dirty. Surprisingly smooth despite the obvious heft (12%). I like the smell slightly better than the taste, if only because I don’t love the sour touch in the back. But I don’t mind it either. Really interesting, certainly enjoyable too.  A sipper for sure. Could smell it for days too. Careful pour from waiter left 1/5th of the bottle behind. I poured that into the empty glass, predictably sludgy with lots of floaters.

I would have loved to savor it for a while longer, but kickoff was fast approaching. I paid (9.50 euros, which I thought was a very good deal), and rushed off to the pub, where a bottle of Duvel and a pint of Guinness kept me company through the game.

Later that night, we went to another truly great beer bar, ‘t brugs Beertje. It’s small (with room for ~20 people in the front room, maybe 10 people at the bar, and another 15 in the back room), meaning it’s one of those European places where you and your neighbors are pretty cozy. It wasn’t far removed from the main square, and even though our immediate neighbors were Italian and Scandinavian, and the loud conversation at the bar was in English, it felt like a locals place. The walls and ceiling were covered in a wide range of beer signs and nostalgic paraphernalia, which was very cool.

From the extensive menu, I quickly picked out a Rodenbach Grand Cru, a classic Flanders red. Many of you know I’m not a huge fan of sour beers, but they’ve been growing on me. Plus, I was dead-set on taking advantage of the opportunity to try beers such as this one, even though I knew I probably wouldn’t love it.

Rodenbach Grand Cru

The Rodenbach Grand Cru reminded me somewhat of my “gateway” sour, Petrus Aged Pale (a Flanders Oud Bruin), although there are some key differences since they’re slightly different styles. The Grand Cru is darker, with vinegar and cherries at the forefront. Sour is the name of the game, though. I enjoyed it, and would love to drink it again.

While I was working on that, Mrs. Beernerds had ordered her first sour, Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus. We didn’t expect her to love it, but she wanted to at least try some traditional lambics, if only to compare them to the sweetened lambics that she enjoys. As expected, this wasn’t up her alley, or mine for that matter. But I was thrilled to finally taste a Cantillon brew, and it certainly wouldn’t be our last. You’ll hear all about Cantillon and traditional lambics in a couple of days.

Rodenbach Grand Cru (left) & Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus

Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus

For my last beer in Bruges, I opted for another vintage selection, this time of a beer I’ve had before: a 2008 De Struise Pannepot Reserva. I’m a huge fan of De Struise, and this is one of my favorites. It’s a big, dark, oak-aged old ale with plenty of character, and it’s one of those old ales that really feels and tastes “old”, and I mean that in a good way.

2008 De Struise Pannepot Reserva

2008 De Struise Pannepot Reserva

I didn’t have access to my notes, so I couldn’t compare my impressions with the fresher bottle I drank previously. But it was a very good beer, and a worthy finale after two great days in Bruges.