Sunset in the Capital
Well, not in the capital, but near the capital.
DC Brau, the biggest brewer in the District, makes a mean Belgian pale ale. The Citizen pours an amazing, bright orange. It even smells orange, with tangy citrus, stone fruit, and spice. Perfect for a nice spring day on the porch in the dappled sunlight.
We skipped the Atomium in Brussels. It was too long a drive out of town, and there was too much beer to drink. Atomium Premier Grand Cru just started showing up here in Portland, and I am a sucker for weird looking beer.
Atomium is actually really tasty. It’s a strong pale ale with great fruity esters that mix with the malt sweetness to make a fresh honey scent. Stone fruit and peppery spice dominate the palate with plenty of malt to back it up. Really, really solid for a random bottle purchased on a whim. Sometimes it’s nice to leave expectations behind and just crack open a beer and let it surprise you.
Brussels is much larger than Bruges and contains tons of beer. We found our way to a few places to taste some new stuff. I really need to stop ordering beers purely because I’ve never heard of them. There are a lot of beers I’ve never heard of for good reason. St. Feuillien was just another plain Belgian pale ale, nothing remarkable. The Mort Subite claimed to be Xtreme, which is never a good sign. It was basically cheap Lindeman’s. We stumbled into a weird bar called A La Becasse that can only be entered off a creepy alley way. They made their own lambic in white and doux. The white was lemony and the doux was apple. Neither were anything to write home about, sort of watery, but they weren’t offensive at all. From there we headed to the Little Delirium Cafe and I ordered a Delirium Nocturnum. It was not what I wanted. Bobby had the Delirium Tremens, and despite the difference in color, the Tremens and Nocturnum tasted very similar. Both are light and bubbly, both have a similar medicinal smell and taste. The Nocturnum was like a melange of stout and pale ale, and not in a good way. I am sick of Belgian pale ales.
In Bruges we visited the Brewery De Halve Maan, makers of Straffe Hendrik and Bruges Zot. It was my first full brewery tour. The smell of hops was nearly overwhelming. The brewery was started in 1856 and renovated and revived as a modern brewery. Today you can tour the old brewery and parts of the new one. The brewing is still done in the central brewery, but the bottling and production side are located in another part of the city. While we were there, they were brewing a batch of Straffe Hendrik quadrupel. The tour emphasized the evolution of the brewery from the traditional methods to modern, scientific process. At the end we had glasses of Bruges Zot. It was my second serving of the pale beer, but the brewery version was less filtered. It tasted like Duvel but less peppery and more bitter.
Bruges is a great beer city. Every restaurant and bar serves a full selection of great Belgian brews. I started the evening with Indian food and a Duvel. It’s a pale Belgian ale with a great spiciness. It’s dry and tingly with a peppery hop finish. I followed that up with a Gouden Carolus Classic which was darker and figgy. Sarah said she got a hint of hazelnut. There is definitely a little nutty flavor with a lingering molasses flavor. We couldn’t get a table in the big beer bars, so we headed out of the main bar squares to a tiny, dark bar blasting 80’s music and drank Abby beers feet from a pinball machine. My Rochefort 10 was served super cold, but while it warmed up I sampled the St. Bernadus Tripel Bobby ordered. It was decent, I’m not crazy about tripel, but it was pretty good. It was a little bit floral but super dry with a floral nose. Kathleen hated the Gulden Draak, too sweet? There was definitely a hint of something savory. My Rochefort ten never really warmed up completely but it was delicious. Sweet and dry. Roasted and fruity. There was a ton of potential in that glass, definitely unique.