Category Archives: Bar

Antwerp

Antwerp is just a short railway jaunt from Brussels, where I often find myself these days, and last Saturday we headed off on a little day trip to meet the ‘Twerps (we never called them that so I’m not sure whether they find it acceptable or not). Arriving in Antwerp is pretty spectacular, it has one of the most beautiful railway stations I have been in. Walking in to the city it became apparent that it’s a pretty trendy city, there were a lot of design shops, and their

‘Twerp Choppers

city bikes are this excellent cross between a BMX and a chopper with the high handles. It’s like they have a city council stuffed with hipsters. Added to that, there were almost as many people riding fixies as there are back at home.

The main square rivals Brussels (and any in Europe I’ve been in) for beauty, plus it has a fountain in the middle which features a beheaded giant, and the water spout feature is cunningly used to recreate the blood spewing forth from his neck. Cute! The beer in Antwerp is local brew, De Koninck Belgian Pale Ale, which is a reddish coloured beer, but with enough bitterness to make it a bit of a quaffer. It seemed pretty popular, it’s always nice to see a local beer hold its own. I found it quite nicely balanced, and if I lived in Antwerp I’d have no problem with it being my everyday drinker.

Signs in the Oude Arsenaal

Beyond the workingman’s delights of De Koninck though, I checked out two speciality bars, the Oud Arsenaal, and Kulminator. Oud Arsenaal is a lovely little bar, it seemed to draw more of a local crowd than a tourist one, plus, it’s very much an afternoon bar. It opens until 22.00 on Friday, but on Saturday it closes at 19.30. On Monday and Tuesday it’s closed. It’s a relatively small bar, square, open, with the walls covered in tin beer ads. It had a couple of taps, among them Rodenbach, but I decided to go for the ‘huis’ beer (unspecified), just for fun. It turned out to be a lovely drink, it had the spicy caramel sweetness that I associate with many American beers, but, it well enough hopped as to produce a very pleasing beer, with a really rich mouthfeel, full of caramel but not cloying. We didn’t have time for another, but I asked the barman what it was before I left. He told me it was Troubadour ‘Special Belge’. Some years back, the bar asked Troubadour to brew an old recipe that used to be brewed by a now defunct brewery attached to the Oud Arsenaal. It was successful, and Troubadour released it as ‘Special Belge’. I hadn’t heard of ‘Troubadour’ before, so I took him up on the offer of a four-pack of different Troubadours for €7.50. Why not? (but more on that in another post).

The Kulmination (Boom!) of our evening in Antwerp

We made our way to legendary bar ‘Kulminator’, which appears at the top of all of the nerd-sites, for what that’s worth. I can see why, it’s a beer-nerd’s paradise. Their speciality is aged beers, such as particular vintages of Lambic beer and Trappists. But at the prices, I’d rather just wait it out. I had an Oerbier instead. While I was perusing the magnificent beer list, a Belgian teenager flicked a Westvleteren cap on to the menu in my hand. I looked up, slightly taken aback. “Very good beer” he confided. “Very expensive beer”, I returned. “Yes, but it’s my favourite”. I couldn’t resist. “Oh, do you drink it often”, I asked? Chortles from his companions. They asked me where I was from. “Dublin”, I replied. “Ah”, nodded one of them, before sagely adding, “England”. A third one apologised that his friend’s geography was not great. No, nor his politics, I thought.

Kulminator is higgledy-piggledy place, with tables strewn about, hops dangling from the roof, and crates of beer stacked everywhere. I don’t think they had any sort of food. Their selection is almost paralysis-inducing though, it’s cosy, and the proprietress was very friendly. I’ll certainly be back.

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Camden Town Brewery

The Brewery Bar

For some reason I wasn’t expecting much from my brief stop by Camden Town Brewery, I think it was because all I had seen from them was their label design which I found a little dull. I’ve since warmed to it. When we visited, they were having a ‘street feast’, which involved lots of stalls producing yummy food setting up outside the brewery. This reminded me of Kernel, who operate in and around Maltby street market, so they’re also surrounded by excellent food. Furthermore, Camden Town Brewery are underneath a set of railway arches, just like Kernel. It’s very easy to find, it’s just up a lane beside Kentish Town West railway station, just off Prince of Wales road.

Needless to say my expectations were exceeded. Camden Town brewery is a stylish little brewery

Pale Ale, Gentleman’s Wit

tap, it’s fitted out in a fairly functional manner, not unlike a Brewdog bar. The beers I tried were excellent and the staff were friendly and clearly enjoying the day. As I understand it, they only open on Friday afternoons/evenings. I tried their Pale Ale, which is a standard American Sierra Nevada style ‘C-hops’ offering, but done very well. Their ‘Gentleman’s Wit’ is a Belgian style Wit (wheat beer) spiced with roasted lemon peel and bergamot. Bergamot is something I had previously considered spicing a Wit with, and on the basis of this, I think I’ll give it a try, it worked well. I also tried their stout, ‘Ink’, which seemed to me to have the sort of creamy fulsome body that I associate with an oatmeal stout; I don’t think there are any oats in it though, in any case, thumbs up for ‘Ink’. They must be

Conicals and kegs under a railway arch

doing well, as they’ve just installed two large, new, conical fermentors outside the brewery. I also noticed that they had some sort of automatic gizmo that pumped the spent mash out of the mash tun through a large pipe in to a bin outside, eliminating the need for hopping in and getting your hands dirty. Slackers.

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Good beer in Venice

Great bottle selection in Venice

It’s a game of two halves, Bill. In the first half, I stood in a Venetian square beside some Dutch racists, and behind a baying Italian mob, only to see Ireland finish their dismal European championship campaign with a 2-0 loss to Italy. In the second half of the evening, I found a great little beer pub and drank some really nice beer. Up until then I had despaired of Venice; for all its beauty, for all its excellent food and wine, all I had seen was Moretti, Peroni, Castello and a few red versions of same. Then we happened upon a bar which didn’t seem to have a name, but which had something like “beers from all over the world” on a blackboard outside. They only had Becks, Budels, and Leffe on tap, but they had six fridges full of bottles, including many Belgians, Italians and Germans. We had two very pleasant American IPA style beers from Ducato, and a Birra del Borgo / Dogfish Head collaboration called ‘My Antonia’. Although it was described as a ‘pils’, which was continuously hopped, it tasted pretty much like Dogfish Head’s 60 minute IPA to me, but unfiltered and bottle conditioned. I had a local dark ale from ‘San Gabriel’ called ‘Nera di Tarzo’, which was a little sour-fruity, I’m not sure it should have been as sour as it was. This place is a beautiful find if you’re in Venice though.   You can find it in Cannaregio, the northern quarter of Venice, on the ‘Fondamenta degli Ormesini, which is the same canal as the “Fondamenta de la Misericordia”, just further west. I think it was number 2708. Here is a link to a Google satellite map which may help.

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A pair of Ducato beers. Both full of US hops

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