Posts Tagged 'de ranke'

Honeymoon beers, part 6: Amsterdam, In de Wildeman

Our next stop was Amsterdam. I’m not nearly as familiar with Dutch beer as I am with Belgian beer, so I was very excited about encountering a beer culture with a history of brewing great, traditional styles, but which also seems to be embracing much of the interesting, creative stuff at the forefront of the craft beer boom.

Our hotel happened to be 4 doors down from one of the more respected beer bars in town, Bierproeflokaal In de Wildeman. It was an obvious first stop.

“Proeflokaal” means “tasting room”. In de Wildeman, despite being right in the middle of the bustling nightlife scene in the heart of Amsterdam, seemed very much a locals place. When we walked in on a Monday night, there was a smallish, older crowd tucked into the small table areas, and a couple of people standing at the low bar. It sounds funny, but that’s how it works – the bar is low, maybe waist-high, with no bar stools or seats, so people stand there and hang out.

I didn’t know what to target here, and their wide selection (with a chalkboard listing ~25 seasonals and rarities) gave me a ton from which to choose. I finally opted for a 2009 Kasteel Cuvee de Chateau on draft, a dark Belgian ale with a thick creamy head and nice boozy kick.

Kasteel Cuvee de Chateau

For my next beer, I asked the bartender for suggestions, and he pointed out the Flying Dog 25th Anniversary Farmhouse IPA. At first I worried that it might be a different name for the Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA, which is a very good beer but which was also readily available in Houston. But the bartender assured me that it was a beer that Flying Dog brewed specifically for the bar’s anniversary. That certainly made it worthy, and I’m glad I drank it. It was the only saison-style beer that I had on the trip, and also the only hoppy IPA that I drank, making it a very nice, refreshing departure, with the added bonus that it was a well-done, interesting blend of the two styles.

Flying Dog / In de Wildeman 25th Anniversary Farmhouse IPA

With Mrs. Beernerds still working on her sweet lambic, I ordered a third beer: De Ranke XX Bitter. I had heard good things about it, and I very nearly ordered it at Chez Moeder Lambic in Brussels, before the waiter recommended a different offering from the same brewery, the Noir de Dottignies. It made sense here, as a follow-up to a hoppy saison, and it held up very nicely. It seemed like an interesting mix between a classic English ESB and a hoppy American pale ale, with just a touch of Belgian yeast to round it out.

It was the third and final De Ranke beer that I drank on the trip, and I must say that the brewery really impressed me. We don’t get their stuff in Texas, and I’m not sure we get it in the US, but it’s well worth seeking out.

De Ranke XX Bitter

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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.


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