Monday, August 11, 2008

Sly Foxes, Disappearing Drunken Tour Guides, Trumpeteers in Cossack Outfits, and Other Belgitude.

Didn't have to be a bender on Saturday. But plow some fine people with plenty of lambic and €1.50 goblets of Witkap Stimulo, and that tends to happen.

We begin at the Rare Vos café in Schepdaal for some tasty vittles and a unique beverage found on cask there. This place is a bit legendary among the geeks; Michael Jackson wrote about it, Ommegang named a beer for it, and Tim Webb gives it a strong recommendation. The weather is perfect so we're more than pleased when they hide the loud Americans on the back terrace.

Girardin makes a special drink, named for the café, by blending lambic, gueuze (which is a refermented blend of old and young lambic), and faro (which is old lambic with some candy sugar in it). Confused? Me too. I'm not sure how old that base lambic is. But the final product comes out fruity, refreshing, and damned interesting. You can even get mussels cooked in the stuff. Me, I can't pass up the raw ones next to some 3 Fonteinen gueuze. After and before glasses of Rare Vos, naturally.

Then we're off to the open house at Slaghmuylder, where the Stimulo has begun to flow and some odd folk in costumes are carrying in various wind instruments. Inside the brewhouse, an old steam engine chugs away on an alternator. It's not clear whether this is a quaint antique or actually connected to the brewery. We'd like to find out, and a young curly-headed dude offers to give us a tour in English... once he finishes this next beer. Trouble is, he keeps getting a next one, and a next one. So do we. Before long, all hope of a proper tour is flushed down the port-a-potties, and we're lost in a crowd of drinkers enjoying a bizarrely costumed Balkan-style oompah band called Yah Tararah. To be frank, we are unprepared for that level of raw, eccentric belgitude. Somehow I manage to make a short video before we escape.

Finally in a stroke of pure indulgence we stop at the Heeren van Liedekercke on the way home. Yet another legend of beer geekery, thanks to its incredible cellar of vintage Belgian ales. By then I'm loose enough to drop the extra duckets on a special one-off gueuze made by 3 Fonteinen five years ago. This is the intense and ponderous J&J Oude Gueuze Roze. The other members of my crack drinking squad go for cheese and salami, but I'm trying to save myself for dinner...

Dinner? Oh hell, we're having friends over. Nearly forgot. I'm in charge of pairings: 3 Fonteinen gueuze (again? uh-oh) with fresh goat cheese, La Rulles Triple with a spicy Thai squid dish, and Struise Black Albert stout with homemade burnt-sugar ice cream. (Yeah, that's how we roll. You should come over sometime.)

Next morning, I'm trying to think of something better for a Sunday hangover than non-stop Olympics coverage on TV.

Nope. Drawing a blank.

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