Bruges Part Two: The Beer

I had originally intended to work this into the general post about the trip I made earlier, but I really think that good beer deserves a writeup all of its own.

Whilst I’ve already mentioned our tour of the Half Moon brewery in the centre, I haven’t mentioned the brews they produce there. The one we tried on the tour was the 6% Bruges Zot, a citrussy Blonde beer with an appealing aftertaste. There’s also the Straffe Hendrik Tripel and Straffe Hendrik Quadruple, coming in at 9% and 11% respectively, plus the Straffe Hendrik Heritagewhich is a limited edition oak cask version of the Quadruple. Whilst I can’t comment on the Tripel, I did bring home a bottle of the Quadruple, and can report that it is utterly delicious. Heavy, as you would expect from a high ABV brew, but very very drinkable.  I’m equal parts saddened and relieved that I opted for the 330ml as opposed to the 750ml bottle, though, since it’s both tasty, and absolutely lethal.  My ‘can still make sensible decisions’  limit is in the region of three fairly standard pints (of ale, so around the 5% margin). This pretty much knocked me on my arse.

Bruges boasts bottle shops on what seems like every street, and each has plenty of choice. Special mention, however, goes to The Bottle Shop. Situated just a few hundred yards off the main square, not only is the choice enormous, but the advice is outstanding. I had been looking to try a sour beer or two, and upon enquiring, he showed me the shelves where that style was kept, and explained to me (and to other waiting customers) the different sub-styles within the range. Incredibly friendly, highly informative in his descriptions, and generally just wonderful service. He even gave me a business card, saying that I should email back to let them know how I got on with my choices.

From there, I opted for a 4.5% Lindemans Faro Lambic, and a 5% Gueze Girardin 1882 (and here, I’m not completely certain that I’m laying out the names correctly, I’m just copying from the labels, so forgive me if the names are in a strange order). The Lindemans has a beautiful scent straight from the bottle, very clear and sharp. The flavour is very nearly cidery (as in scrumpy/real cider), without the distinct apple sweetness of actual cider, which I’m learning is typical of a sour beer. I could easily drink a few of these.

I picked up four more bottles whilst we walked around, and I’m not going to lie, I selected those largely based on how much I liked the labels.

Hercule Stout. A 9% Belgian stout, packaged in a beautiful stubby swingtop bottle. I’ve yet to try this, and honestly, I don’t even care if it’s delicious or not, because look at the label. (Update: It was as glorious as the label.)

Vivien Porter, 7%. More carbonation than I had expected, but it doesn’t detract. There’s a pleasant fizz on the tongue followed by the smoky, treacley taste of the beer. Quite moreish, and not as heavy as one might expect from a 7% porter.

Waterloo 8 Double Dark, 8.5%. Well, I can’t remember drinking this, but it’s not there, so I must have done. I gave it 5 stars on Untappd, so all I can really say is that it was delicious.

Kapittel Watou Dubbel, 7.5% So, this one’s pretty damn lively. Take care if pouring! A lovely, very quaffable if slightly intense beer.

Bonus beer (which I actually bought in York (but is Belgian): Judas, 8.5%.  A pale beer which is infinitely drinkable! This was a recommendation from the very lovely staff at Trembling Madness, York, as a similarity to Leffe Ritual9.

Something we noticed whilst over there is the propensity for high ABV beers. Of the seven bottles I brought back, the lowest is the 4.5% Lambic. During previous visits to Europe, we’ve discussed the fact that the British seem to have a habit of rushing through everything, rather than spending time enjoying things, whereas in other countries, people tend to take the time to relax, appreciate what it is that they are doing. I’ve certainly noticed over the past year of beer discovery that my drinking habits have changed quite considerably. With the odd noteable exception when I’ve gone to clubs (and therefore failed to pay attention to how much I’m actually drinking in quite a short space of time), I’ve swapped nights out at clubs for afternoons in taprooms and brewpubs, and traded pints for thirds and halves, because I’d rather try a few things and enjoy what I’m drinking.