Question: Where in the world can you hear the words “fry-friendly,” “beer,” and “bar” in the same sentence?
Despite the touristy holiday weekend, Peter and I managed to spend almost three full days exploring Belgium’s capital. With a hostel booked and the best beer bars in the city mapped-out, we intended on leaving early Saturday morning to take advantage of the full day. Unfortunately, (or fortunately?) both of us were more tired than we realized, and ended up sleeping in until almost 11.
We were planning on allotting three hours to journey to Brussels: one hour to walk 3.5 miles to Andenne, the town with the nearest train station, and two hours by train to Brussels. We left our apartment around noon. Although, we packed fairly light, it was a sunny day and soon Peter and I were both sweating bullets. I had a map on my phone, but with the intention to conserve data, I could not follow our current location. As a result, I led us in the wrong direction for a while, extending our journey an extra few minutes. After what felt like forever, we had been walking only 30 minutes and were still 2 miles out. I was feeling pretty bummed at this point.
He noticed us around the same time and immediately came out to the street to give us a kiss on the cheek, and asked us if we were heading to the train station. We confirmed that we were taking a train to Brussels and he immediately offered to drive us to the train station. After grabbing a shirt and car keys, we were well on our way to Brussels. Bruno is my hero.
Turns out (at least the way Bruno took us), getting to Andenne is pretty tricky. There are so many slight turns and small roads that look like dead-ends, it would’ve taken Peter and I hours to find our way. We bought train tickets with only minor difficulty decoding the ticketing booth in French, and before we knew it, we were in Brussels.
Stop number one: fries. We asked the man at the desk in the hostel where to purchase good fries, and he recommended a place a few blocks down the road. He also explained that fries are traditionally sold in concrete shack on the city streets, usually near parks or other points of interest. He also mentioned that there were several surrounding “fry-friendly” bars where we could enjoy a beer with our fries. At this point, I was halfway out the door; never mess with a girl on a mission for fries and beer.
By late afternoon, we made our way back to the city center to visit the Belgium Beer Museum in Grand Place. This small museum showcased their old brewery and their new brewery, and the 5-euro entrance fee included a beer brewed on-site that you could enjoy in the old brewery. Definitely worth it.
We then made our way to one of the more trendy beer bars in Brussels, Moeder Lambic. They had an excellent tap, bottle, and food menu. I enjoyed a Troubadour Magma that was classified as a Belgian IPA brewed with brettanomyces yeast. This beer was like nothing I had ever tasted; it came off strong, like a brett beer, but had a clean finish with no lingering aftertaste. Next I tried Caulier Tripel with a spicy and purfumy aroma with a subtle malt presence; I found it to be a flavorful, yet refreshing beer. We also split a mixed cheese and charcuterie plate replete with only the best soft cheeses and accompanied by a generous portion of bread. It was the best cheese/charcuterie plate I’ve ever had.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering in and out of shops and found ourselves people-watching at a sidewalk café. After a while, we ordered carbonnade flamande, a Belgian beer and beef stew to split for a late dinner. At this point, we decided to stay another night as there were still a couple of beer places we wanted to visit, such as Delirium Café, which holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the most beer varieties (3,162) commercially available. The menu is legitimately a book. I don’t believe I had ever been in a bigger bar, as there were floors upon floors, each complete with an impressive, and unique, tap list. Peter and I both tried a few of the Delirium alternatives, including Delirium Tremens, Delirium Nocturnum, and Delirium Red. There’s nothing like a Delirium on tap in Belgium. After this visit, Peter and I definitely have plans to visit Huyghe Brewery on a future weekend.
Next, we embarked on our quest for Belgian chocolate. After doing a little research, we discovered that Pierre Marcolini crafts some of the best chocolate in Brussels. They specialize in sourcing their ingredients from all over the world. Our box of pralines showcased almonds from Sicily, cashews from Vietnam, and coffee from Java.
Out of all of Marconi's eight locations in Brussels, one of which is located in Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, we decided to go a little south-east of Grand Place to Place du Grand Sablon. Here, you will find a host of Belgian chocolate and confectionary stores including Godiva, Wittamer, Neuhause, and Leonidas. Their storefront is elaborately decorated with colorful flowers. We ended up purchasing a box of chocolates and some macarons for the road. Needless to say, all were delectable.
Today, we spent the entire day bottling the beer. In total, we bottled over 9,000 bottles of Leopold 7 into crates. Before bottling, we added sugar and fresh yeast to the beer, in preparation for “bottle conditioning,” which refers to the process of adding more carbonation to the beer post-bottling. The four of us, Florence, Bastien, Peter, and I, worked the bottling machine. Bastien and Florence took turns loading bottles into the sterilization machine and helping Peter and I put the bottles into crates and place them on the palates. The bottling machine sometimes has a mind of its own, but luckily, Bastien always knows how get it going again. Although the work was monotonous, I found that time went by fast and for the first time, I felt as though I bridged the gap between being an observer and a useful contributor.
Whether we needed to replenish the cap supply, pack more bottles, or inspect the bottles for quality assurance, we were constantly kept busy. Tonight, parts my hands are numb, despite using gloves, and Peter complains of sore legs from transporting case after case. Tomorrow, we will spend the day bottling again and Tanguy will lead the brew.
Today, the article about Peter and I learning how to brew at Brasserie de Marsinne made the first page of the local newspaper! Here’s a preview. I’ll post more pictures (and a full article) as soon as I get ahold of a hard copy.
Now we have witnessed every stage of the brewing process. I can’t wait to become more involved and accept larger tasks in the days to come. Until then, cheers!