Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Some goodies from Belgium

It’s useful knowing people from abroad, especially when they can supply you with beer from time to time.

One member of my team has a friend who lives in West Flanders. They both share a love of VW Camper Vans, computer games and stuff relating to World War II. Living in Belgium, John has grown up with an obvious appreciation of beer, and good beer at that.

He has brought goodies over for me before, and last week he brought some more. He and my colleague, were heading off to Busfest; one of the largest gatherings of VW Bus owners in Europe, if not the world.

Held over three days at the Three Counties Showground, in the shadow of the Malvern Hills, Busfest is all things VW, and much more besides. My colleague was back at work today and he brought with him a fine selection of beers from the St Bernardus Brewery in Watou, which I had pre-ordered via Belgian John.

They were all a little shaken up, so will need a week or three to settle. No matter, as I shan’t be drinking them in a hurry, especially as strong beer needs to be treated with respect.

With the exception of the strong, dark 10% St Bernardus  Christmas Ale, I have all of the beers brewed under the St Bernardus range, and what’s more I’ve got two bottles of each! The beers are:

·  St. Bernardus Tripel (8% ABV)
·  St. Bernardus Extra 4 (4.8% ABV)
·  St. Bernardus Pater 6 (6.7% ABV)
·  St. Bernardus Prior 8 (8% ABV)
·  St. Bernardus Abt 12 (10.0% ABV)
·  St. Bernardus Witbier (5.5% ABV)

The St. Bernardus range is considered a close match in recipe and style to the beers from the Abbey of St. Sixtus, at Westvleteren, a brewery whose beers are held in high regard by many beer drinkers. Westvleteren beers can be hard to obtain outside their immediate area, so I may ask my Belgian contact to pick some up for me, next time.


Russtovich said...

"The St. Bernardus range is considered a close match in recipe and style to the beers from the Abbey of St. Sixtus, at Westvleteren"

My brother lives in northern France (just south of Lille). I had the good fortune to go to Westvleteren with him two summers ago (then on to Ypres). Did not know St Bernadus are similar to St Sixtus. Will have to keep an eye out over here.

Oh and good luck getting any bottles of Westvleteren. I've heard they are difficult to acquire.


Paul Bailey said...

Hi Russ, this post of mine, which was originally published in 2015, attempts to explain the similarity between St Bernardus and Westvleteren beers.

You can buy bottles of Westvleteren beer at the modern and spacious In de Vrede café, located just across from the abbey. Attempting to buy your beer at the monastery gate is a much more fraught experience, as not only are you limited to just one case per car, but your order must be reserved at least 60 days in advance.

You do this by calling the brewery over the "beer phone"; a dedicated number which is supposed to put you through to the brewery, but good luck with this as it is reckoned that only around 200 callers get through during the two-to-three-hour window when orders may be placed.

Some determined drinkers do get through, and most afternoons, a line of cars forms outside the monastery walls at a pick-up point for the latest batch. Drivers stay in their cars as staff check registration plates, load the single crate and then take the credit card payments.

RateBeer are to blame for the over-hyping Westvleteren beers, as the article explains.

Russtovich said...

Thanks for that Paul. When you mentioned that you were going to try and purchase some Westvleteren I thought you meant just popping down to the local off license. I should have known you'd know all about the 60 day advance, keep calling, procedure. Oh and I'd forgotten you can buy some right next door to the abbey.

And yup, it's a good beer but not the world's best. I don't think any one beer is the world's best. It all depends on the season, time of day and what you feel like having at that particular moment.

I've got your Best Beer post open but will wait a few hours to read it as I will do that with a beer, and it's just gone 9am here. :)


Russtovich said...

Ok, back from errands and have cracked a cold one and read your best beer post.

"The reason of course is beer is such a diverse drink, with a myriad of different styles and strengths, that there are in fact dozens of “best beers in the world”. The choice of beer depends on many things and is influenced by location, climate, company and occasion, so whilst a nice cool Pilsner is to be enjoyed whilst sitting out at a pavement café on a hot summer’s day, a cool, well-hopped pint of traditional English bitter is equally appreciated after a long walk to a traditional country pub. Conversely, the two aforementioned Abbey beers are best enjoyed sat in front of a roaring log fire on a cold winter’s night."

Apologies for cutting and pasting so much but that is precisely what I was trying to get at in my remarks in my post above this! :)

"Get out there and try these beers for yourselves. Even better, try and visit some of the places which produce the world’s classic beers and experience how better they taste on home turf."

Agreed! My current favourite beer is MY favourite. I don't expect it to be everyone's favourite. Heck, I was a devout Guinness drinker until about 10 years ago. Now I only drink Guinness once in a while on tap at a bar. I find the taste in the cans/bottles has changed. Maybe it's just me getting older (heh), or maybe it's a minor tweak the bean counters at Guinness have performed after Diageo took them over. Or maybe it's partly due to the craft beer impact on the scene at about the same time. It might be the fault of my spouse. I started working away from home for 18 days a month 10 years ago; a mining construction camp where alcohol was not allowed. She used to go to the liquor stores around town and pick up various beers for me to try on my 10 days a month at home. :)

And I kick myself for forgetting you could buy the beer at Westvleteren! Oh well. As mentioned my brother lives barely an hour's drive from there. Next time I visit him we'll drive out there mid-week.