14 March 2009

Stepping out

Dave, Laura, Séan and I left Cantillon in the late afternoon and caught up with Mrs Beer Nut on Rue Tabora, just outside one of my very favourite Brussels boozers. I wrote about A La Bécasse after my last visit in 2007. It's well hidden up an alley with only the giant flashing red neon sign indicating that it exists. It was quite crowded when we got in, but we squeezed round a table and ordered Lambic Doux for four, which arrived in one of their trademark clay jugs.

I absolutely love this beer, and I think most of my drinking buddies did too. They noted a certain cidery quality to it which I'd never noticed but is definitely present. The drinkability is just astounding. With the jug drained we moved on.

We didn't move very far, mind: just up Rue du Marché aux Herbes to A L'Image de Notre Dame. I'm a big fan of this Brueghelesque two-room affair concealed up yet another alley. It has quite an extensive beer list for a central pub, and my first pinstick got me a Belgoo Magus. It's quite a light and spicy blonde ale. A touch of yeasty spiciness starts it off, moderated by some zesty oranges and lemons. The sort of classic easy-going beer that Leffe Blonde would give its eye-teeth to be.

Also around the table was a light and caramelly Pater Lieven and a strong and malty La Divine, but Séan was the one who really struck gold with his La Gauloise Bruin. I think it was more than just the name which suggested a smoky character, and this sits next to rich dark plumminess on a very full body.

Time to move on, and for some reason A La Mort Subite was chosen as our next stop. It had been many years since I visited the brown café that thinks it's a beerhall, and which is famed for its lousy service. The main room was packed so we scurried upstairs and found a table there. We didn't have to wait too long for service either, which was pleasantly surprising. Alken-Maes beers dominate here, and I decided to follow Boak & Bailey's recommendation of Ciney Brune. Quite complex, this clear red-brown ale. Mostly it's the sort of sweet and malty affair I was expecting, but there's a very interesting sour kick mixed in with the caramel. I liked it.

Mrs Beer Nut has a particular penchant for the restaurants of Rue Rollebeek so that's where we dined, passing over Séan's suggestion of In't Spinnekopke La Rose Blanche. We came back towards Grand Place after, finding Poechenellekelder full. The possibility of drinking beer from ceramic skulls at Le Cercueil had been something of a running joke through the evening. With a few beers on board this seemed a perfectly natural option. When we found that Le Cercueil -- where the light is ultraviolet, the tables are coffins and the soundtrack is rrrrock -- includes Orval among its skullable beers the joke just got funnier. Five skulls of Orval around the coffin. I'm not sure where I stand on Orval. I've found it tough going in the past, but supping it from a ceramic cranium without really thinking about it I really quite enjoyed it. Not too powerfully horsey but still loaded with character. Perhaps from-the-skull is the best way to enjoy it. Noted for future reference.

Fun and all that Le Cercueil was, it's damned expensive. So we moved on, back to Rue du Marché aux Herbes. This time we hit Au Bon Vieux Temps, probably my least favourite of the three pubs on the street. Still, it wasn't too crowded and the beer was good. Looking for a good Flemish red, I opted for Bourgogne des Flandres, mistaking it for Duchesse de Bourgogne. Oops. Anyway, it's still quite enjoyable, though a little unexciting. Needing more malt in my life, I moved to Westmalle Dubbel and stayed there for the rest of the night.

I don't do pub crawls very often. When the occasion does present itself, it's nice to do it properly. Just one more day of beering left in Brussels.


  1. Sounds like you guys are having a great time. You are making me want to head to Belgium some time.

  2. BN,

    Just a tip about the Poechenellekelder. I also went there on both Friday and Saturday nights . While it can appear packed they have a downstaiars "no smoking" room which is often empty. On the first visit the place looked so packed we were about to leave until one of the waiters asked if we were OK sitting down there (and no problem with service despite being away from the main action upstairs).

    Also managed to try a bottle of Zwanze - the new Cantillon rhubarb (!) lambic. Not as fierce as you might think.

  3. Good to know, John, thanks. Is it down the back by the toilets?

  4. Hmm. I'm jealous, although it's sunny enough in London today to sit in our local beer garden, so not all bad.

  5. BN,

    Yes it's at the back down there.

  6. Anonymous7:27 pm

    brought a colleague to a la becasse when i was in bruxelles on work a few months ago, he's a miller/bud drinker but loved the lambic doux in there we also noted the cider(ish) quality to it.

  7. I thought lambic doux had more of an apple juice note than a cider one. Specifically cheap, made from concentrate, apple juice. Maybe that is how they sweeten the beer?

    And I suggested La Rose Blanche http://www.accueilettraditiongrandplace.be/rlb/intro.php not In't Spinnekopke.

  8. Oops, thanks for the correction. I wasn't impressed by the menu card they had out on Sunday afternoon. Very unbeery it was.

  9. Anonymous10:26 am

    How could I have missed Le Cercueil while I was in Belgium? That's exactly the kind of place I love-- goth cheez! Did you make any "Alas Poor Orval, we drank thee well" jokes?

  10. Much of that sort of thing, yes.