Monday, May 5, 2008

All That and a Bag of Chips.

Late report from Open Brewing Day: We hit all three of our priorities at Drie Fonteinen, Dubuisson and the castle at Géants. The last one was probably the most fun, as a medieval atmosphere invaded the courtyard amid perfect weather. Minstrels and jesters ran around and bemused a sizable chunk of Ath and Irchonwelz beer lovers. Outside the castle a sporting dude in knight's getup allowed a gang of young whippersnappers to beat the hell out of him with rubber swords. There was an archery range, which to me seemed less than brilliant alongside copious amounts of Belgian beer. And there was much revelry.

Most exciting for me: the redemption of Saison Voisin. Ah, saisons... I could go on and on and on about them, but not today. For now I'll tell you about this one: The Voisin is generally a touch maltier and darker than other beers calling themselves saisons. It's also been a touch sweeter without much bitterness. On tap, fresh at the brewery, it was another thing altogether. The hops got all serious on me. That plus moderate dryness made for a very refreshing beer on a damn fine spring afternoon. Could be that the recipe has changed a bit since merging with Ellezelloise, whose beers lean on the dry and bitter side. I hope so. Or it could be that I've got no idea what I'm talking about. Also very possible.

In Beersel, we got a sneak preview of Armand's new tasting café at Drie Fonteinen. Sadly there was no glimpse of the café's beer list yet. It should open for real sometime this month, in theory. That's a must-visit if you enjoy real lambic and plan to be in Belgium this summer. Tell Armand that Joe sent you. If you're lucky, he might pretend that he remembers who the hell you're talking about.

The Dubuisson brewery just outside of Pipaix is also worth a visit, especially if you have a taste for the strong and sweet. The weather wasn't quite right for barley wines; I prefer winter and a snifter before bedtime. But the tour was a hoot anyway. The animated film starring the Dubuisson troll is much funnier if your French is as weak as mine. The gym-sized, high-tech bottling machine was truly impressive. Best of all, the beer tent at the end sold bags of chips for 2 euros.

Now, I'm used to be gouged by snack prices in Brussels pubs. So I assumed I was plunking down coins for a tiny snack pack. But behold! It was one of those giant, extra-large bags from the grocery store. They don't skimp on the chips in Pipaix, no sir. They do it right. And every few feet around the tent, there was a poster warning you to use a "Bob," or designated driver.

This is true wisdom when your beer is 12 percent booze.

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