roblog - Official Blog of Rob Hurvitz


28 May 2011 - 1:08:46 PM
Brouwerij De Keyzer

I have to say that Brouwerij De Keyser is hands down the winner of the strangest brewery tour I've ever taken. At first I was all excited when I found out there was an old brewery (established in 1758) right in the town of Maastricht, and they gave a tour every Saturday. So I signed up, even though it's only given in Dutch, figuring the international language of beer would be easy to understand, especially with all the brewing equipment around. As you can probably guess, that didn't quite turn out to be the case.

The tour started at the tourist information center building and had three or four stops along the walk to the brewery, during which the guide gave long explanatory speeches about local landmarks or history or what he had for lunch. I don't know because I don't speak Dutch. But we finally made it into the De Keyzer building, and we stood in its courtyard as he gave yet another long speech. But there were a few things to distract me: an old beer barrel transportation device, some hop vines on a wall, an old dog lying in the sun. Then we went back outside and entered the adjoining building. The ground floor was empty except for a few benches and some brewing-related photographs on the walls. The guide then stood in front of us and gave another long speech. To his credit, as he talked, the Dutch folk taking the tour would periodically laugh, so he wasn't just droning on and on.

After the long explanation of the brewing process, or perhaps an amusing re-telling of how his cat had stolen the family car, we headed upstairs to the top floor. The second floor was empty except for a couple old boring artifacts, like shovels. The third floor had an old device in the middle, but otherwise it was empty. The top two floors were pretty much empty. The guide gave long speeches on each floor. It was, in a word, baffling. Where was the brewery? I thought I had signed up for a brewery tour. You'd think someone would have mentioned that there's no actual brewery in this brewery tour. A few nice folks on the tour tried to translate bits and pieces for me, but there wasn't much point, as far as I was concerned. It had become something else, something bizarre. I would just have to go along for the ride and hope it would end soon.

The tour did actually pick up a little at the end when the guide took us into a room off the inner courtyard and switched on the old pulley-driven mash tun, and when we were in the room with all the various old bottling machines that look like torture devices, and finally the beer tasting. They have two beers (who brews it and where is still a mystery to me), and I was able to get a full bottle of the one that I liked. So that was something.

    Rob's Picks
  • Double Saison - 6.5% - Not much of an aroma. Flavor pretty subtle. Dark in color but light in taste. Subtle maltiness, subtle alcohol, quite enjoyable.
    The Rest
  • Troublette - 5.5% - wit bier - Kind of sweet, light, with a bit of coriander flavor. Sweetness builds up, need to drink this with food/snacks. Lots of spices in the recipe. Seems to be brewed for Brasserie Caracole.
double saison
De Keyzer's Double Saison, with snacks -- Maastricht, Netherlands

There were a bunch of Germans in the brewery, too, getting their own tour in German. If an English-speaking tour had come through, I would have been pretty annoyed.
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25 May 2011 - 9:34:32 AM
Maastricht

I ended up spending five days in the lovely little city of Maastricht. It has a lot going for it: a bright red church tower, bits and pieces of scenic old city walls, great walks to nearby villages, twisty city center streets, an old church that's been turned into a bookstore and cafe, an excellent beer bar called Take One -- it's a great place to wander. There's sort of a brewery right in town, too, or there used to be -- more on that in another post.

Spent the first two nights in the hostel, but it was a little too big. It's popular with large groups, which I suppose is nice for the hostel, but not so nice for individual travelers. The groups stick together, which made me feel a little anonymous. Plus the high school group was really noisy -- it was good I had my earplugs. And then a huge corporate group booked the entire hostel for the weekend, so I had to move. Fortunately, the Botel next door had a single available, for pretty much the same price the hostel charges for a dorm bed on the weekends. So yeah, I lucked out. The Botel was nuthin fancy, just a tiny room in a big boat on the river, but it was good enough for me. And their internet connection was nice and fast.

big red
The iconic red tower of Sint Janskerk. Never did hear a good reason why they paint it red. -- Maastricht, Netherlands

helpoort
Helpoort, which really does translate to Hell's Gate (or Hell Portal, I suppose) -- Maastricht, Netherlands

Vrijthof cafes
Cafes lining the Vrijthof square -- Maastricht, Netherlands

medieval safe
Gold and ivory safe in the treasury room of Sint Servaasbasiliek (Basilica of St. Servatius) -- Maastricht, Netherlands

mosaic labyrinth
Mosaic labyrinth on the floor of Sint Servaasbasiliek -- Maastricht, Netherlands

Sint Servaasbasiliek
Sint Servaasbasiliek from Sint Janskerk tower -- Maastricht, Netherlands

scary doll
Scary doll in the treasury room of Onze Louwe Vrouwebasiliek -- Maastricht, Netherlands

reflections on candle holders
Candle holders through a window in Onze Lieve Vrouwebasiliek -- Maastricht, Netherlands

pretty flowers
Pretty wildflowers in a field along my walk to Kanne -- Maastricht, Netherlands

And then I headed into Germany. Tübingen to be exact. A couple friends of mine live there and have a guest room. So that's nice.
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23 May 2011 - 10:32:43 AM
Oudaen Brewpub

This brouwerij and restaurant has a prime location above the Oudegracht and seems to attract more of a professional clientele. There were lots of suits and loosened ties while I was there. The beer is similar: clean, smooth, doesn't take chances. So it's a great place to unwind after a busy day at the office. I stayed at the bar, which is the way to go -- the bar staff were pretty cool.

Oudaen had five taps going: three year-round beers, one seasonal, and the fifth was Gemeente Pils, which was tap water -- a brewery with a sense of humor -- always a good thing.

    Rob's Picks
  • Lentebock - seasonal - 6.8% - Quite nice for a bock. Not the usual malty sweetness. Caramel and alcohol flavors. Like a light tripel. Better after it warms up a little.
  • Linteloo Gold - 5% - Brisk little lager. Light, maybe a touch watery, but with a slight bitter floral edge. Hoppiest of the three regulars. Good summer beer.
    The Rest
  • Jonge Daen - 5% - Kristal/Weizen - Also light, but with a citrus-y edge. Good summer beer.
  • Ouwe Daen - 5% - Wheat - Very light. I think I sense a pattern here. Not very bready, but with a slight honey taste. This is their most popular selection. Good summer beer.

Oudaen sampler
Oudaen sampler -- Utrecht, Netherlands

I have to say, it's kind of nice to visit breweries that only make a few beers. Makes it a lot easier to get through a sampler set.
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22 May 2011 - 9:42:09 AM
Utrecht

I was in Utrecht for just two days and didn't quite do as much as I wanted, mainly because I was feeling lazy but also because it was mostly cloudy with a few drizzles here and there. Utrecht is a pretty city, with lots of cafes lining its canals and a nearby castle that I didn't make it out to -- next time, I guess. I did make it up the Domtoren, the Netherlands' tallest church tower. 465 stairs, and the views from top are worth the effort. On clear days you can supposedly see Amsterdam, but I'll just have take their word on that.

domtoren
Domtoren (Dom Tower) -- Utrecht, Netherlands

the bell! the bell!
Domtoren bell -- Utrecht, Netherlands

Domkerk garden
Domkerk garden, from the Domtoren -- Utrecht, Netherlands

gargoyle's-eye view of Oudegracht
Gargoyle's-eye view of Oudegracht (Old Canal) -- Utrecht, Netherlands

Oudegracht
Cafe-lined Oudegracht -- Utrecht, Netherlands

I also stumbled across yet another brewery, right in town near the Oudegracht. That will be my next post.
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22 May 2011 - 3:14:21 AM
Brouwerij De 7 Deugden

My Dutch brewery tour continues, this time with Brouwerij De 7 Deugden (7 Stars Brewery). They did their first bottling in March, so they are Amsterdam's newest brewery, although Veenhuizen's Maallust is slightly newer. Heard about these two via a colleague of Rene's, the beer connoisseur Harry Pinkster, whose web site details all the Dutch breweries and beers he's tried. I also found out via his site that I basically walked right by Brouwerij Zeeburg while meandering around the neighborhood near the IJ Brewery. Doh!

7 Deugden is not as centrally located as the others, and especially not as De Prael, a brewpub located smack dab in the city center that was unfortunately closed April 26th to May 26th to move to a new, bigger location, just around the corner from its original spot. But it was a pretty straightforward trip to 7 Deugden's west Amsterdam location. Tram 17 to its second to last stop, then a mile north along Osdorperweg, which starts as a bike/pedestrian path but becomes a regular road, with the same name conveniently enough. You can also take tram 13 to its end, but you have to wander through some neighborhood streets and then hop on a bike path through the fields for a bit. Straightforward or adventurous, your pick.

The owner spent time in Colorado and brought back a few experimental ideas with him. He's still tweaking the recipes, so basically your mileage may vary if and when you try these. Nice folks at 7 Deugden -- I wish them much success.

    Rob's Picks
  • Wijs+Neuzig - 5% - (Wise and Nosey) Spicy aroma, light in color. Immediate zing, then mellows to a nice maltiness, with a bit of a hoppy finish. Slight tart edge. Really fun summer beer.
  • Stout+Moedig - 7.5% - (Stout and Bold) Very dark color. Sweet, strong aroma. Thicker than the others. Initial sweetness to good coffee flavor, then nice smokiness. Can still taste the malty base. A Dutch stout.
  • Dubbel+Dik - 7.5% - (Dubbel and Fat) This might be my favorite dubbel so far, which isn't saying much, mainly because it's not as sweet as the other dubbels. I think it's pretty good, but folks who like the regular dubbels probably won't like this one...
    The Rest
  • Arm+Zalig - 5% - (Poor and Glorious) Made with juniper berries. They add a little something to the subtle aroma and give a nice balance to the malty sweetness. But a little too light and watery on the tongue for me.
  • Scherp+Zinnig - 5% - (Sharp and Sensible) Fruity aroma. Light, but a fuller taste than A+Z. Good hoppiness. It's a chili pepper beer, but this batch didn't have enough peppers, so the spiciness is very, very subtle, although it's more present in the aftertaste as it builds up. Does add a slight edge to an otherwise lightly bready blond. Still tweaking the recipe -- first batch was way too spicy, apparently, but next batch will kick it up a bit. Probably would've been a Pick if it had been spicier.
  • Scheepsrecht - 8% - (hard to translate, sort of "third time hits true") Tripel made with cloves. Strong clove aroma and taste. Blends really well with the caramel flavor. Very drinkable, too, but the clove taste became a bit too much for me. A little less clove and this would be great.

De 7 Deugden
Tasting a beer at De 7 Deugden -- Amsterdam, Netherlands

They do not yet have logo glassware, which I suppose is good for me. Carrying around one glass through Europe is one glass too many -- two glasses would be even worse. I did manage to travel around Patagonia with three glasses at one point, but I like to think I can learn something from past experiences. Guess I'll see how well that holds up...
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18 May 2011 - 2:58:49 PM
Brouwerij 't IJ

This Amsterdam brewery has been around since the 80s, is located at a windmill, and brews up organic beers. And with a name like Brouwerij 't IJ, I just had to visit. They had five beers on tap and one more in a bottle, so it was good I had all late afternoon and early evening to relax with a sampler tray and a small plate of sheep cheese from a local farm where the sheep are fed the spent grain from the brewery. I wanted to ask if they had a file on the particular sheep that produced the milk and if that sheep was happy, had sheep friends, but I didn't think they'd get the Portlandia joke.

The brewery is open only from 3:00 to 8:00, and they do a free tour Fridays at 4:00. I showed up on Thursday so I just got to drink beer. There were a few folks already enjoying a brew in the sun when I arrived around 5:00, and it just got more and more crowded until it was basically standing room only when they closed.

    Rob's Picks
  • Plzen - 5% - Bready, slight honey flavor. Good bitterness. Not too light. A good beer.
  • Zatte - 8% - Their Belgian Tripel style. Nutty, smooth, and really nice. Darkest in color of the five on tap.
  • Columbus - 9% - Tastes kind of like a tripel. Complex sweet caramel, strong alcohol, but with a slight spiciness. A beer to drink slowly.
    The Rest
  • IJWit - 7% - Sweeter and smoother than the Plzen. Lemony flavor. Reminds me of a thicker Hoegaarden. Vaguely oily on the tongue, which was interesting.
  • Natte - 6.5% - Less nutty, more sweet, lighter in color than the Zatte. This is their dubbel. Still looking for a dubbel that I really like...
  • Strius - 9% - bottle - Much more like the Belgian dubbels I've had. Pretty bock-y, with that sweetness I'm not so fond of.

.
The very photogenic Brouwerij 't IJ -- Amsterdam, Netherlands

IJ sampler
Sampler tray at the IJ -- Amsterdam, Netherlands

Turned out they had two different logo glasses for sale. A full-size glass and a smaller taster-size glass. I gave in to temptation and bought the small one. It's small -- so it's not nearly as crazy as carrying around Europe a large glass for a month. I'm just carrying around Europe a small glass for a month...
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17 May 2011 - 9:16:02 AM
Amsterdam

After a day or two in The Hague, I rolled into Amsterdam and promptly bought an "I Amsterdam" card, which meant I had 72 hours to cram in as many participating museums and whatnot as I could. So, I was running around Amsterdam like a tourist with his head cut off the first three days. Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Nieuwe Kerk, Oude Kerk, Hermitage Museum, Joods Museum, Rembrandt House Museum, canal boat tour. Whew! I certainly got my money's worth. And I didn't even mention the Anne Frank House, which is not included with the card. I then went to the Brouwerij 't IJ to recover from the whirlwind of tourist activity. Most of the museums had a fairly strict policy against photos, and all the lovely canals half in shadow and half in sun made taking good pictures a bit challenging. I've done my best, but I haven't taken as many pics here as I thought I would. So it goes.

Amsterdam is a pretty cool city, a place where I feel like I could live, although it wouldn't be cheap, especially with the current US-Euro exchange rate. The hostel where I'm staying is in a cool, relaxed neighborhood, rather than the red light, party neighborhood, so I'm getting a good night's sleep, for better or for worse.

Pretty soon my trip will be half-way done. I've been talking to folks about where they've been traveling, and of course now wish I'd done the one way ticket. Harumph! Iberia and Eastern Europe will have to wait for another trip...

Rijksmuseum tulip
Tulip at the Rijksmuseum -- Amsterdam, Netherlands

sexy downspout
Sexy downspout at the Rijksmuseum -- Amsterdam, Netherlands

I am Rijksmuseum
I am Rijksmuseum -- Amsterdam, Netherlands

canal shot
A canal picture with bikes locked to a bridge railing is pretty much mandatory -- Amsterdam, Netherlands

de Nieuwe Kerk
View of De Nieuwe Kerk from within its choir chamber -- Amsterdam, Netherlands

de Oude Kerk organ
De Oude Kerk organ. The world photojournalism exhibition was on display in the church cum museum, with all sorts of cool and/or depressing photographs on display. -- Amsterdam, Netherlands

folks by canal
Some folks by a canal, taken during my little canal cruise -- Amsterdam, Netherlands

magere brug
Magere Brug, aka the "skinny bridge," if I heard correctly -- Amsterdam, Netherlands

hermitage garden
View of the garden behind the Hermitage museum -- Amsterdam, Netherlands

1695 haggadah
Haggadah printed in Amsterdam in 1695. It was fun to recognize the illustration. -- Amsterdam, Netherlands

Anne Frank House
Anne Frank House -- Amsterdam, Netherlands

I stayed in Amsterdam for a full week, and now I'm in Utrecht. Next on the agenda is Maastricht, but it depends on bed availability. The weekend is looking pretty booked... I suppose I should start thinking about my route down to Switzerland soon.
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8 May 2011 - 1:28:27 PM
Maallust

Got out to a cool new Dutch brewery called Maallust. Unfortunately it doesn't translate to "bad lust," which might be appropriate for the Netherlands. Maal means mill, a grain mill, to be precise, and lust is merely liking to do something, in this case mill grain. Bad Lust sounds much more fun, though. Anyway, they've been open for about a month or so and have three beers they sell. It's a small place so that might be it for their beer offerings for the next hundred years or so. Erin, Rene, and I made the trek to the UNESCO-recognized prison museum in Veenhuizen where the brewery is located to check them out. It's a beautiful building they have, so I hope it's successful.

    Rob's Picks
  • Vienna - Vienna via the Northwest, apparently. Reminiscent of Mac and Jack's African Amber. Kind of bock-like, but without that bock-y sweetness I don't like.
  • Blond - Interesting flavors. Bit of maltiness, bit of spiciness, not as light as I expected. Definitely grew on me. A nice surprise of a beer.
    The Rest
  • Weizen - Bit of honey aroma and taste at first. Good breadiness, light on the tongue. Good bubbliness. A fine summer beer, I initially thought. The more I drank, however, the more apparent a green olive taste/aroma became. Not so pleasant, that.

Maallust beer selection
The three beers made by Maallust -- Veenhuizen, Netherlands

shiny shiny
Shiny new brewing gear at Maallust -- Veenhuizen, Netherlands

happy bob
Me enjoying a Maallust beverage -- Veenhuizen, Netherlands

Maallust had two different styles of glasses available for purchase. This time I gave in to my bad lust for logo glassware and bought the skinny one. I left it with Erin and Rene. When they get around to traveling out to Seattle they'll bring the glass with them. Works for me. Maybe I can convince them to visit De Halve Maan and Cantillon, too.
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8 May 2011 - 12:13:07 PM
Waddensee Islands

I originally wanted to do a two- or three-day bike tour out of Groningen and hit a couple of the UNESCO-recognized Waddensee islands, but the holiday week combined with unseasonably warm and wonderful weather caused all affordable accommodations to evaporate, and I didn't have a tent to use. Alas. Instead I settled for two separate day trips to the islands of Schiermonnikoog and Ameland. Took various combinations of buses, trains, and ferries to get to the islands, then rented bikes to check out what they had to offer. Pretty relaxing spots, those islands, especially Schiermonnikoog. Basically flat, which made for pleasant biking, with wide beaches and a lighthouse on each. Ameland is bigger with more inhabitants; Schiermonnikoog is mostly national park. There are three other islands in the chain in the Netherlands, but I've seen enough for this trip. I'll save those for next time...

windy beach
There was some fierce wind on the first outing, which made these cool looking sand streams along the beach -- Schiermonnikoog, Netherlands

sea foam
Pretty sea foam patterns on the beach that may or may not have been caused by the wind -- Schiermonnikoog, Netherlands

vuurtoren Schiermonnikoog
My first Dutch lighthouse -- Schiermonnikoog, Netherlands

Ameland plateau view
Biked as far east as I could on the second island, ending up at a scenic plateau with this view of the southeastern coastline -- Ameland, Netherlands

dunes and beach
Dunes lining the beach. Should've have a little less dune and a little more beach in the photo. Oh well. -- Ameland, Netherlands

mud digger
Wandering around in the low tide Waddensee mud is a popular thing to do, but I somehow managed to miss out on some wadlopening. This guy was just out digging in the mud, though. Takes all kinds, I guess. -- Ameland, Netherlands

By the end of the Ameland ride I was really wishing I'd been wearing my biking shorts. The padding would've been very welcome.
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7 May 2011 - 2:56:25 PM
Groningen

I spent about a week in and around Groningen, staying with some friends. Made it there in time for Queen's Day, and then Remembrance/Liberation day rolled around. It was a very festive week. It was also a very popular travel week, so it was especially nice to have a guest room to crash in and not have to worry about fully-booked accommodations with inflated rates. Thank you, Erin and Rene!

To be precise, I arrived the afternoon before Queen's Day in order to be around for Queen's Night, a much better name than Queen's Day Eve. Live music and dj's, big crowds of people out having fun, some wearing orange but pretty much all of them drinking. This celebration basically continues all the way through Queen's Day, with a big crazy yard sale in the morning/afternoon to mix things up a bit. Good times. Besides celebrating Dutch holidays, I did a little sightseeing around town and managed to get in a little climbing at a local gym that sports the world's tallest climbing wall. I assume it's the best climbing in the Netherlands. The funny thing is, I'd seen pictures of this climbing wall a year or two ago, but hadn't really noticed where it was located. And here it was. So of course I had to go pay my respects. I also made it to two of the Waddensee islands as well as a nearby brewery, but I'll save those for separate posts. Gotta keep my readers coming back for more...

bones for sale
Bones and shells for sale on Queen's Day -- Groningen, Netherlands

more crap for sale
Cute little toothpick holders for sale on Queen's Day. I managed to resist the urge to buy them all. -- Groningen, Netherlands

city hall
Looking down on city hall -- Groningen, Netherlands

gold exchange cafe
The former gold exchange (now a cafe), one of the oldest buildings in town -- Groningen, Netherlands

martinikerk
Martinikerk, which translates to Martini Church, where I suppose it's happy hour all the time. Featured in an episode of The Amazing Race! -- Groningen, Netherlands

Excalibur
The tallest climbing wall in the world. Of course it's in the Netherlands, the flattest country in the world. Two days later they started adding new pyramidal features to the overhanging face. -- Groningen, Netherlands

So yeah, I had a great time in Groningen. I'm now sitting in a pretty happening square in The Hague, enjoying some free wifi after a tasty dinner of asparagus tarte. Going to hit a museum or two and a lighthouse tomorrow, and then I'll be Amsterdam-bound.
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5 May 2011 - 12:57:57 AM
De Halve Maan

Another town, another brewery. De Halve Maan has been brewing in Bruges since 1856, and only recently introduced their fourth beer. The brewing scene in Europe is a bit less fast-paced than in the U.S., apparently. De Halve Maan is a popular place -- the 45 minute tour was packed. Unfortunately, they only had two of their beers on tap, and after those I really needed to get other things done. Maybe I can find the Straffe Hendriks in bottles elsewhere before I'm done with this trip.

The tour was really enjoyable. We scrambled around throughout the entire building, even getting on the roof at one point. The guide (Andrew?) was funny and energetic and imparted a whole lot of information in a very entertaining way. I was impressed.

Update! - I did find one of the Straffe Hendriks beers, at a restaurant in Maastricht, which solved the problem of deciding on a restaurant for dinner that night.

    Rob's Pick
  • Brusge Zot - 6% - Their blond ale. Good golden color and cloudiness. Lovely bready taste with sour edge. Fairly complex taste but very drinkable.
  • Straffe Hendrik Tripel - Good strong-tasting tripel. Sweetness balanced by the alcohol taste. Pretty light on the tongue, actually.
    The Rest
  • Brusge Zot Dubbel - 7.5% - Very different from the blond. Darker, sweeter, less sour tasting. Sort of a Belgian bock. Good, but a bit too sweet for my tastes -- this gentleman prefers the blond...

moon logo
Moon logo by the brewery entrance -- Bruges, Belgium

brusge zot
A glass of Brusge Zot -- Bruges, Belgium

De Halve Maan also had logo glassware for sale. Argh! All these cool glasses just slipping through my fingers. I'm hoping to bring home some sort of glass from Europe. Maybe from Switzerland...
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4 May 2011 - 12:23:23 PM
Bruges Clues

My blog post catch-up continues... Today we have the lovely town of Bruges (or Brugge, if you prefer Flemish/Dutch). Since seeing the movie In Bruges, I only seem to pronounce it as "f*en Bruges." I arrived a bit later than planned on Wednesday, there were three heavy downpours on Thursday (managed to be indoors for them, fortunately), and I left Friday morning. So, I didn't quite do as much as I would've liked, but I managed. It's a hard life, traveling and seeing cool things. What's a guy to do?

For those of you not familiar with it, Bruges is a remarkably well-preserved medieval town. It's just oozing quaintness and charm. It's also close to the coast, where there are four lighthouses, but I didn't get out there. One more day would've been nice.

charming canal view
Charming view of De Halve Maan brewery during the canal tour -- Bruges, Belgium

quaint bridge
Quaint leafy bridge, as seen from the canal tour -- Bruges, Belgium

city hall
The lovely City Hall, or stadhuis, in Burg Square -- Bruges, Belgium

belfort
The Belfort, a clocktower in the main square with 366 stairs -- Bruges, Belgium

player carillon
The Belfort has an automated carillon system. This drum looked like it was eight feet in diameter. -- Bruges, Belgium

carillon gears
The gears that make the bells ring -- Bruges, Belgium

bruges(tm)
This is supposedly the most-photographed view in town -- Bruges, Belgium

bridge house
House on a bridge. The canal tour boat didn't go through here, unfortunately. -- Bruges, Belgium

pretty bridge
Charming and quaint bridge usually very crowded with tourists -- Bruges, Belgium

mary of burgundy
Tomb of Mary of Burgundy -- Bruges, Belgium

madonna and child
Michelangelo carving Madonna and Child. The child doesn't look particularly Malawian to me. -- Bruges, Belgium

gentpoort
Old city entrance, Gentpoort, still in use by cyclists -- Bruges, Belgium

One more post for Belgium, and then I'll get some Netherlands pictures up. I've been hanging out so far in the north, in and around the city of Groningen, but will be heading south later in the week, after a visit to the world's tallest climbing wall, a brewery, and the Frisian Islands. Hopefully not all at once.
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2 May 2011 - 2:37:33 PM
Cantillon Brewery

Hey, it's a Belgium brewery post! Cantillon was mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide, and I'd read about it in a little Belgian beer-centric travel article. So I was looking forward to the visit. They were closed because of Easter when I went by on Monday, but it was business as usual on Tuesday. Cantillon Brewery has been mixing up the lambic since 1900, and still using a bunch of the same equipment since day one. From the informational handout, it looks like they do nine different brews (all based on lambic), but I only sampled three of them. Quite nice, I thought.

    Rob's Picks
  • Gueuze - A mixture of one-, two-, and three-year old lambic. Really sour! Taste is intense, but hard to describe. Kind of malty. Fascinating.
  • Kriek - Cherries in lambic. Cherry aroma not too strong, but flavor a good complement to the lambic.
  • Rosé de Gambrinus - Raspberries in lambic. Very strong raspberry aroma, but flavor's not too strong -- seems to mix well.
Cantillon
Outside the Cantillon Brewery -- Brussels, Belgium

old skool mash tun
Antique mash tun that they still use -- Brussels, Belgium

cooling tun
I'd never seen a cooling tun before. This is where the magic (i.e. the spontaneous fermentation) happens. -- Brussels, Belgium

barrel fever
The lambic ferments in these barrels in the attic of the brewery for three years -- Brussels, Belgium

steam clean
Steam cleaning an aging barrel. The shiny chain hanging from the post is another part of the cleaning process. -- Brussels, Belgium

aging gueuze
Bottled Gueuze aging to perfection -- Brussels, Belgium

brewery cat
Don't want to know what sort of beer this will be... (this was actually an old barrel being used as a table in the tasting room that the brewery cat seemed to like) -- Brussels, Belgium

glass and bottles
My Cantillon taster with a selection of their bottles for sale -- Brussels, Belgium

They also had various logo glasses for sale. This was frustrating -- I didn't want to carry around glassware with me for six weeks, but I could've had a lovely Cantillon tulip glass! Mon Dieu!
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1 May 2011 - 10:34:28 AM
Brussels

So I'm actually now in Groningen, Holland, staying in the guest room of a friend who is now living here, but I finally uploaded some pictures from Belgium. I'll focus first on Brussels. Eventually I'll be all caught up.

I spent about two and a half days in Brussels, and thought it was all right. Weather was unseasonably warm and wonderful, and I happily went about in shorts -- no more cold wet Seattle spring. Spent most of my time wandering around the center, but I got out to the "unavoidable" Atomium (as described by their handout), too.

manneken pis
Manneken Pis, the little peeing boy -- Brussels, Belgium

pretty facades
Very well-kept facades across the street from my hostel -- Brussels, Belgium

candles in a church
Candles burning in an old church I wandered into -- Brussels, Belgium

Grand Square, south
The impressive city hall in the Grand Square -- Brussels, Belgium

Grand Square, west
The west side of the Grand Square -- Brussels, Belgium

Grand Square, north
This building on the Grand Square is now a museum, featuring 800 or so of the Manneken Pis costumes. Didn't visit it, though. -- Brussels, Belgium

atomium
The "unavoidable" Atomium, a very large replica of an iron atom -- Brussels, Belgium

space age escalator
Cool escalator in the Atomium. It took me to the future. -- Brussels, Belgium

atomium
I like this chaotic shot of the Atomium -- Brussels, Belgium

There was also lots of good food and beer in Brussels. So yeah, I enjoyed it. I had a fancy Belgian waffle, but forgot to indulge in the Belgian chips. Guess I'll just have to go back some day.
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