Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Do-It-Yourself Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest is on as we speak. Aren't you jealous? Me too. Ideally we could duck in for a few liters, some sing-songs, and be back for dinner and an evening in the armchair. Unfortunately there's the whole getting to Munich, finding a room, and fighting the crowd thing to worry about. Scheisse, that's too much work.

So I like this idea that you can make a little Oktoberfest in your own home. Why not? Crack some Ayinger, fry up some sausages, wrap the wife in a drindl, and strap on the lederhosen. Hell, by that measure it's Oktoberfest six days a week in our house.

Or you can do it like the journalists in Framingham do it. Have the dawgs over on Sunday. Put on some football. Line up every Oktoberfest beer from the local bottle shop and get to work.

Depending on whether you've ever worked as a journalist, this video may either smash or confirm every stereotype you have about newspapermen. Having been one myself, those guys look eerily familiar. Get the feeling they weren't expecting the video camera to show up?

In keeping with the theme, more German stuff later this week. Meanwhile have a look at the Bitten Bullet, a relatively new blog drenched in delicious German lager.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Hopduvel Closes, and Gent is Just a Little Bit Colder.

It seems we'll never get another chance to visit the famous Hopduvel in Gent.

This has been one of Belgium's top beer cafés, even if it is a frustrating hike from the city center. Just like Tim Webb's Guide had warned us. The Missus and I walked that labyrinth with friends one chilly night last winter. The café was the embodiment of warmth. A wood stove blazed in the corner as we feasted on stoverij – alias carbonnade – a hearty beef stew cooked in Westmalle Dubbel. Then some rich, malty and tart Oerbier provided warmth of its own.

Glad we got to be there once. Various reports are surfacing on the Babblebelt and elsewhere that the Hopduvel has closed for good. I'm told there was a private farewell party on Friday. Now nobody is picking up the phone.

This news leaves one undisputed champion of beer-specialist haunts in Gent: the Waterhuis aan de Bierkant.

What can I tell you about the "Waterhouse on the Beerside"? Well, the beer list is an attraction. It's got a nice waterfront location. It's small, dim and smoky. Dried hops hang everywhere. To match them try the house beer called Gandavum Dry Hopping, refreshing despite 7.5% strength, made special for the café by Proef. Also get some cheese or sausage and some of the spiciest nostril-burning mustard you'll ever try. (Later go around the corner to the Tierentyn-Verlent shop and buy a fresh jar of the stuff to take home.)

The Waterhouse doesn't have much in the way of food. That's why I like the place next door, Chez Leontine, even better. This cozy spot specializes in Belgian grandma food. It also shares the entire Waterhouse beer list. Ditch the smoke, keep the beer, get some grub in the bargain. Try the rabbit stew.

So raise your glass to the Hopduvel, whose fire has gone out. But don't give up on Gent.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mysterious Belgian Bar Snacks, Part II: Plattekaas.

It's called plattekaas, or flat cheese, and the name is apt. It's white, creamy and bland. Normally it comes with radishes, onions, possibly shallots, and the most gigantic slice of bread you've ever seen. It's one half of the breakfast of old flat-capped Belgian champions.

What's the attraction? By itself, I have no idea. But it turns out the stuff goes pretty well with lambic, the other half of the breakfast of old flat-capped Belgian champions. Go figure.

Pictured here is a plate at the famous Mort Subite café in the Brussels city center. In this case they pair the gargantuan slice of bread with gargantuan green onions. See that tiny fork in the photo? No, that's a normal-sized fork. Actually somewhat large, as forks go. Then you get to do all the cutting and spreading yourself. A lot of work, but I guess it gives us non-smokers something to do with our hands.

Me? I prefer schepkaas. It's salty as all-get-out and smells like hell. But that's an entry for another day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Digging into Brussels' Nooks and Crannies.

I mentioned once before that I'm working on a book. Collaborating, more accurately, on a guide to the best places in Brussels to drink good beer. A lot of strenuous research, as you can imagine. No fun at all.

Anyway, our editor suggested that I not give the book away for free on this blog. Sage advice, I think. So, how do you feel about five months or so of cruel teasing?

Try to guess this one if you want, if you've done some café-hopping in Brussels. I might or might not tell you if you're right. And taking a cue from Stan Heironymus, you might or might not get a prize. Also: There's no point looking at places on Ratebeer or Beer Advocate for clues. We're digging deeper and plan to reveal several "new" places to the non-Bruxellois world.

For example: This is on the edge of town, far from tourist civilization. Very quiet. It's also really and truly smoke-free, a rarity in Belgium. The list includes gueuze and kriek from every serious lambic brewer, including 3 Fonteinen, Cantillon, De Cam and Hanssens, served lovingly in big, bulbous burgundy glasses. The management keeps years of tasting notes and beer-related news clippings in a file behind the bar. It also sells older and lesser-selling bottles from the cellar once per year, at rock-bottom prices, to local connoisseurs.

So, where is it?

Tell you next spring.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Celebrating Hops and Making Small Children Wear Funny Costumes in Poperinge.

Arrive to find all of Poperinge barricaded off like it's preparing for a zombie invasion. Pay €7 to enter. Feel safely protected from vehicular traffic, freeloaders and the undead.

Food search reveals pricey three-course meals or cheap bratwurst. Easy choice. Enjoy brat while looking for open café table. No problem there; you're a good planner and anal-rententively early. Have some Hommelbier and wish it was hoppier.

After a few rounds, here comes the parade (zombie-free, although there is one giant devil, a giant spider, and several Germans). Cute little tykes in insect costumes. Everything decorated in hops, whose resinous aromas waft through the air. Bavarian oompah bands. Locals pretending to be Americans, migrant workers and drunks (some don't have to try very hard). Hop queens past and present. More cute little tykes in insect costumes. Then a big finish before the beer festival in the main square. Turns out to be just a Jupiler festival. Back to the café to grab a few decent beers for the train ride.

A tip: The best beers and parade views appeared to be at the Palace Hotel on Ieperstraat. Get there a couple of hours early for a curbside table. The Café de la Paix is also worth a look, especially if you're looking for a proper sit-down meal.

But don't stress about it. You have until 2011.

In the meantime, meditate on this strangeness:

Friday, September 19, 2008

Gemütlichkeit On Tour.

Our friend Andy Neil at Bier-Mania tours is a busy guy these days.

First he found time to post some lovely shots from last weekend's Bruxellensis fest here. Next he'll be swamped with a series of Oktoberfest tours in Bavaria, which can't be nearly as fun for him as he makes out. (You try leading that tour four or five times in a row, see if you feel like a champ.) By the way he still has some spaces available on September 28 in the atmospheric Hacker-Pschorr tent. You know you want to.

Meanwhile you British types who read this blog (approximately 10.67% of you, according to my rough calculations) can catch the Andy Neil road show from October 9 to 12 at Zeitgeist, at the Jolly Gardeners in Lambeth.

Go for that Sternbräu Dunkel Rauchbier. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vapeur Means Steam, Get It?

Speaking of slow things: Sometime you really ought to spend a Saturday out at Vapeur.

Vapeur is a brewery in the Wallonian province of Hainaut, right in the heart of saison country. Its claim to fame is the restored and operational steam engine that powers its mashing tun. And it's worth a visit just for that old engine chugging away like a locomotive, cranking a series of pulleys over your head, and ultimately stirring up that sweet mash. A beautiful thing to see and smell at 9 in the morning.

Yes, you should get there by 9. You don't want to miss anything, do you? Actually once you've seen the engine cranking and poked around the brewery a bit, take a little drive. Go visit nearby Dupont or Dubuisson as noon approaches. Then hurry back. Because Vapeur's blowout banquet lunch is nearly as famous as that steam engine. Possibly more so.

The beer is all-you-can-drink, by the way. OK I'm not wild about the stuff, spicier than I like. But did I mention it's all-you-can-drink? Did I mention the food? The usual offering is a ham slow-cooked in Vapeur's sweet brown ale overnight. Some other smoked salmon and ham may be there too. Baskets full of freshly baked beer bread with various spreads and spices at your disposal. A cart loaded with about two dozen artisanal cheeses, many of them made with beer.

Then once you're stuffed you wait a while. It's getting close to the 3 p.m. mark by now. Drink more beer. Later comes the tarts and beer-schnapps. Well come on, you'll need a digestif after all that.

Vapeur's Open Brewing Day is the last Saturday of every month in the village of Pipaix. Ring ahead at +32 (0) 069 66 20 47 or drop Mr. Dits a line at brasserie at vapeur dot com to make a reservation. Usually it costs €30 per person, payable when you get there, or sometime after.

No rush though.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Slow Beer and Hedonism. Or, Time for a Heavy-Handed Post on Beer Philosophy.

Hey there, beer snob. Oh come on, fess up, you know what you are. You're among friends. But what does that title mean to you, "beer snob"? Something I've been thinking about. I'll try to illustrate with a true story. Yay, story time!

So it's muggy mid-summer in Washington, D.C., and I'm camped at the bar of RFD. Sipping a hoppy and overpriced beer. Waiting for a friend. A clean-cut, necktied young man arrives and waves down the bartender. This is what he says: "I'll take a bottle of the DT's!"

DT's, eh? Interesting, I think. Never heard of it. The barkeep pulls a familiar, gray, ceramic bottle from the cooler. Oh... Right. Delirium Tremens. DT's, get it? Cute.

It gets cuter. This young buck, no doubt fresh from a long day of fiddling around on MySpace in his cubicle, forks over his eight dollars. And he promptly proceeds to slam his "DT's." Straight from the bottle.

Mind you this is a potent brew of 8.5% strength. And while it's sweeter than I like, this is still a good beer. In the grand scheme of things. But give the knucklehead credit for knowing exactly what he wants out of life – inebriation – and just embracing it. Chase your dreams, young feller! Don't let flavor hold you back!

Now: That kid was a hedonist. But we're hedonists of a different sort, aren't we? Beer snobs, I mean.

I keep thinking of the Slow Food movement. Besides that philosophy's ecological and political components – which are fine – there's an especially brilliant notion that food is not just a means but also an end. It's the same with beer, wine, and many other arts. There is real pleasure to be found in good beer and good food. If you take the time to enjoy that pleasure it can set your life apart from others. This is nothing radical. There are a lot of unhappy people in this world. They get too few moments that make them happy to be alive. We know that good food and drink can do that – if we stop to pay attention.

OK. So let's say Slow Beer* is the notion that beer should taste good, and that we really ought to stop and enjoy it. If you want to add the bits about environmental impact, fair pay for labor, blah blah blah, that's OK with me. As long as we get the fun part in there.

So, what's snobby about this? Because there's something at least a little snooty about gnashing our teeth and wishing that dude would drink his ale from a glass.

Beer snobs want to enjoy their beer of course, but we also want to drink better beer. More often than not, we also want others to do the same. This implies a certain objective standard. Otherwise, how do we know which beer is better? We're all critics. Criticism assumes that some is good, some bad. For example, we might say that Miller Lite is bad, Westvleteren good.

Here's where it gets tricky. Think about a friend who likes beer but isn't geeky about it. Would you rather see her really savor and enjoy her Miller Lite, or slam a Westvleteren 12 so fast she can't even taste it?

And if I vote for Miller Lite, can I still be in the club?

*Slow Beer is not new either, of course. An Australian chain uses it to market craft beer. A festival in San Francisco is named for it. Other bloggers have written about it here and here and elsewhere no doubt. Quoting beer scribe William Brand from that last link, "beer is one of the original slow foods."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Upcoming Belgian Beer Fests. New! With Unasked-for Commentary.

There were many beers drunk, T-shirts sold, and glasses broken. Lovely ladies played music and manly men kissed each other on the cheek. After two days of festifying, my friends and I marveled at the feat of offering so many good brews from so few breweries. Here's to hoping Bruxellensis was half as financially successful as it was flat-out fun.

Moving on: Here's a look at the upcoming fest calendar. There are beer (or beer-related) fests going on nearly every weekend of the year in Belgium, but some of the most interesting are just around the corner.

(BIG thanks to the Bierebel site and also to Paul Briggs for sharing his excellent list.)

September 19-21, Poperinge Hop Festival. Only happens once every three years, and this is one of them. Not technically a beer fest, as it celebrates the crop rather than the final product. Still, we have it on good authority that there will in fact be beer there. It might even be good beer, if you know where to look.

September 20-21, Fête de la Bière, Pain et Fromage in Durbuy. Alas we'll be in Poperinge instead, so maybe next year. The only way this fest could be more attractive is if it was called "Fête de la Bière, Pain, Fromage et Sex."

September 27-28, Open House at Brasserie Dupont in Tourpes. Drink fresh saison on tap and see where the magic happens.

October 5, Brocante Tégestophile at the Belgian Beer Museum in Lustin. Here is your French word of the day. A "tégestophile" is someone who collects beer glasses and other breweriana. In other words, antique schwag.

October 18-19, Brassigaume in Marbehan. Like Bruxellensis, this one is dedicated to small brewers. Lots of strange and interesting beers here. Last year I became a Belgian TV star in my own mind after an inebriated news interview. See if you can spot me in this clip.

November 7-9, Weekend of Belgian Beers in Hasselt. More than 120 beers in a nice town. Have a look at the Jessenhofke, a B&B run by dedicated homebrewers.

November 8, Public Brewing at Cantillon in Brussels. Celebrate the start of lambic-brewing season. Get there bright and early for coffee, croissants, and a taste of fresh wort. And also to beat the crowds.

November 15-16
, the second-ever Bruges Beer Festival. We heard glowing reports last year. Great location at the Belfry, and a special focus on food.

November 22, Quintessence at Cantillon in Brussels. A sort of progressive where you go from room to room, sampling a long series of lambic-and-food pairings for as long as you can stand it. Damn it, this country is going to be the end of me.

December 13-14, Kerstbierfestival in Essen. Highly recommended. Well worth abandoning your family during the Christmas season to attend. My wife has been the DD two years running, and she says it's my turn. Which means we'll take the train.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Not Tonight, Dear.

Last year at Bruxellensis: It's late on Sunday afternoon and simply time for me to go. Or so I'm told by the Woman, and she's nearly always right about these things. So we leave. We make it about one block before I realize I left my backpack at the fest. "You go on," I say. "I'll just go grab it and meet you at home."

Well, come on. I can't just go back without having another beer or two, can I? Obviously it's my subconscious trying to tell me something.

So then it's getting into the evening hours, and I am rapidly becoming unfit for public consumption. That's when the horns start up, clear and brassy, and suddenly making their way through the crowd is a veritable gaggle of young women wielding various wind instruments. I think there are about 20 of these angels, possibly costumed. And they might be playing "Billie Jean." You know, as in, she's not my lover.

They are hilarious and make beautiful music. The group's name is Pas ce Soir, Chéri. (Great name that translates well, I think.) Anyway, this potent combination of tasty beer and intoxication and music and Belgian oddity produces for me one of those moments. You know the kind. The ones you remember vividly, cutting through what ought to be a beery haze. The kind that can come back to you unbidden months or years later as you sip something that, come to think of it, you also sipped that very day.

Anyway. I'm happy to report that Pas ce Soir, Chéri is on the schedule again this year. 6 p.m. Sunday. Think I'll try to pace myself this time.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Let's call it the Beermuda Triangle of Saint-Gilles.

If you're planning to devote some time to Bruxellensis this weekend, it can be nice to get away from the crowd. You know, get some air. That's why it's well worth the seven-minute walk from the fest hall to see what's on tap at Moeder Lambic.

How excited are these guys for the fest? I dropped by for a quickie Taras Boulba yesterday (my dog walked me there) and the staff were already wearing their Bruxellensis T-shirts. Four days early.

Proprietors Jean Hummler and Nassim Dessicy have been telling us for weeks they plan to roll out some special stuff. Possibilities include up-and-comer IV Saison (from Jandrain-Jandrenouille) on draft, the new Saison Cazeau, and a new dark beer from De Ranke called Noir de Dottignies. There may be other surprises; they were also hoping to get an interesting American craft beer or two. You won't know unless you drop by.

Here you can see how easy it is to get from the Albert premetro station to Bruxellensis, from Bruxellensis to Moeder Lambic, and from Moeder Lambic back home again. Architectural sites along the way include the old faux-castle prison and gilded Saint-Gilles Hotel de Ville. Ooooh. Aaaaah. We're walking, we're walking... we're stopping.

About those T-shirts... The Missus and I will be hawking them at the fest Saturday evening. Just look for the two Yanks struggling with euro coins and mercantile French. Our shirts say "STAFF" on the back. No, sorry, those aren't for sale. Don't touch.

Bring us a beer if we look stressed.

No, scratch that. Bring us a beer anyway.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Zoigl, Zwickel, and Shut Up and Drink It at Bruxellensis.

The nice thing about this weekend's Bruxellensis is that the organizers have done all the work for you. They've been selective about who can participate, and it's hard to find a bad beer there. OK, you might find something that doesn't suit your taste. But will it be boring? Unlikely. Might even open your mind to something new.

This fest is small and manageable. Assuming no late additions, you can count the Belgian breweries on two hands: Blaugies, Cantillon, Cazeau, De Ranke, Dupont, Jandrain-Jandrenouille, Rulles and Senne. Just eight of them, with an emphasis on lambic, saison, and well-hopped ale. The profile, while maybe narrow, is flavorful.

One of the real treats of this fest is that it's not limited to Belgian beer. You might have to live in Belgium to really appreciate the worth of that fact. It can be very, very difficult to find decent, non-Belgian beer in this country (a complicated issue best tackled another day).

Possibilities this weekend include a range of German, Italian and Spanish craft beer. The German range is especially interesting, with some rare styles making their way over in Andy Neil's van. (Andy is the man behind the Bier-Mania Cultural Beer Tours, which I have experienced and recommend.)

Altbier and Kölsch you may know personally. But how about Dampfbier, Kellerbier, Zoigl and Zwickel? Plus some Dunkels and a Dunkel Rauchbier for good measure. Mind-openers, all of them.

Also: Press Andy on the differences between these styles and he'll likely give you the best advice of all.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Secret Orgies in the Hotel De Ville, Public Ones in the Grand Place.

Well, no luck talking my way into Belgian Beer Weekend's costumed pre-fest ceremonies. Not for lack of trying. Maybe next year. Oh I'm sure it's all very boring, but I prefer to imagine it like Eyes Wide Shut plus beer. And what's a guy gotta do to try on a hat like this, short of trying out for the school play? Reckon if I can find a hat like that, they'll let me in automatically next year?

Elsewhere some asshat chastised me for suggesting this fest would be full of drunk Americans and Brits. I felt shame at my chauvinism, forgetting about all the drunk Belgians. Until I actually went to the fest. Let's just say that I (a) felt vindicated and (b) fit right in.

Meanwhile I saw a lot of familiar faces and met some new ones, including the classy dudes at Cave Direct. Go buy beer from them.

The fest's most interesting beer to me was that Bockor Foederbier. Not too complex, but it was tart and refreshing. Something between an unblended Flemish sour and a malty lambic, and it could be the base for the brewery's sweeter commercial beers (I can't recommend the Max series unless you prefer fruit candy to fruit beer). It's still mysterious but I'll let you know when I find out more. With luck Bockor will prioritize this more serious and interesting offering.

Another pleasant surprise was revisiting the light, fresh and hoppy Saison 1900 from Lefebvre, whose other, sweeter beers – such as Barbar – usually fail to turn me on. The Saison was a bit malty but fairly low on esters, making me think of lager or even Kölsch. Not a bad thing. Still, it was flabby next to Saison Dupont. Of which I had several glasses. Even though I have plenty at home. Shameless, I know.

Next up: Bruxellensis. A more discriminating, buttoned-down affair. No orgies as far as I know, but the selection of veggie quiches is impressive.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

How to Avoid Beers Made from Cactus and Quinua.

A couple of years ago two friends of mine approached Belgian Beer Weekend on the Grand Place with a perverse idea: a competition to see who can find the absolute worst beer at the fest. After a few trials they arrived at Huyghe's Mongozo Coconut. There was no need to go further. The unique blend of sugar syrup, alcohol and suntan lotion had brought the contest to an end.

But let's say you want to approach this weekend's fest with a curiosity that's less scientific, more hedonistic. You actually want to try some good beer – preferably stuff you can't find in a Belgian grocery store – and annoy your friends by consistently picking better ones than they do.

I can help. Or at least I can cut through the noise on this prolific beer list. Bear in mind that your tastes and your own, so own them. No refunds, no guarantees.

Beer to start with while you make your drinking plan: Easy. Saison Dupont, on draft.

Breweries to try if you've never tried them:
Dupont, Verhaeghe, St. Bernardus, Boon, Bavik and De Landtsheer. In that order I think. Trappist breweries: Achel and Westvleteren, since they're all nice but the other four are widely available.

A few rarities and curiosities:

Bockor Foederbier: I've never seen this anywhere. Could be an unblended version of the Bellegems Bruin, a red Flemish sour in the vein of Rodenbach. The word "Foederbier" suggests it's straight from the barrel. Possibly, maybe connected to the Grand Cru Rouge that Bockor made for Ommegang in New York (and thus for Duvel Moortgat).

Chapeau Cuvée: De Troch makes a lot of dumb, commercial fruit beers. But they also make this apparently authentic and interesting gueuze. The St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition from Van Honsebrouck is a similar exception. Besides the two Boon gueuzes those are the only serious ones on the list.

Boon Lambic: Frank Boon's aged and unblended lambic, straight from the barrel. Or a plastic jug that was recently filled straight from the barrel. Sour and strange but refreshing. In Belgium it's only found in a small handful of cafés.*

If none of those float your boat, well, we can't be friends. In that case I suggest the Floris Cactus.

Good luck.

*(such as the Belga Queen in Brussels, pictured here, which also has the unfiltered Palm pale ale)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Brussels Beer Fests Deliver the One-Two Punch in September.

The next two weekends are huge for the Brussels beer enthusiasts.

From Friday to Sunday is the big Belgian Beer Weekend on the Grand Place. Next weekend, September 13 and 14, is Bruxellensis. These are two of the best fêtes on the Belgian calendar, and they're the only two full-on beer fests in the capital.

More importantly, for those who live here: Nobody has to drive!

Here's what I was thinking: Some Brussels-based beer writer ought to really whoop and holler and make a big deal out of the next two weekends. Isn't that what bloggers are supposed to do? You know, pretend that lots of people are reading and make a big deal out of stuff. Unfortunately there are only three or four of us beer bloggers in the city, far as I know.* So it might as well be me. (Ahem.) Naturally my unrivaled promotional powers will bring hundreds of thousands of additional thirsty pilgrims flocking to the city, ready to sample the country's best tipples in opulent surroundings.

Anyway, this weekend's bash is the opulent one. How can you beat the Grand Place for ambiance? This one's also bigger (43 breweries at last count), more commercial, and slightly more expensive. Did I mention the ambiance?

One of the more interesting things about the Belgian Beer Weekend is the funny little ceremonies. Check out the lineup for Friday afternoon:

2.20 p.m. Celebration of Saint-Arnould, Patron Saint of brewers, with the consecration of the beer organised by the Knighthood of the Brewers' Mashstaff, in the Saint Michael and Gudula Cathedral, Parvis Sainte-Gudule at 1000 Brussels.
3.30 p.m.

Academic session and enthronement ceremony of the Knighthood of the Brewers' Mashstaff, in the Gothic room of the Town Hall of Brussels.
(Access limited to invited guests and press).

4.30 p.m.

Solemn inauguration of the beer stands on the Grand'Place by the brewers, the Grand Master of the ‘Knighthood of the Brewers' Mashstaff', the Mayor, the aldermen of Brussels and the invited guests.
(Access limited to invited guests and press).

Think they'd let me in?

*The only others I know are Andreea's Belgian Beers – attached to her snazzy food blog – and Andrew Stroehlein's 40 Beers at 40. Also one very nostalgic one in French called C'était au temps où temps Bruxelles brassait – or "It was the time Brussels brewed" – a nifty Jacques Brel reference. Go read them all.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Which is Smaller: The Average Output of a French Craft Brewery, or my French Vocabulary?

Question: What's the difference between a French microbrewer and an American one?
Answer: About 10,000 hectoliters.

That was a little joke from Simon Thillou, proprietor of the excellent Cave à Bulles bottle shop in Paris. Any serious search in Paris for French craft beer starts and ends in his shop. And that's all the sneak peek you'll get into an article I'm trying to sell at the moment (want to buy it?).

The bottle you see here is not in Paris but Brussels, generously shared with us a few months ago by Jean Hummler at Moeder Lambic. This is the balanced and refreshing Cuvée des Jonquilles from the Bailleux brewery in Gussignies. From Cave à Bulles recently we also picked up a bottle of that brewery's Saison Saint-Medárd, which really blew the Missus and I away as a classic and dry saison-type beer in the Belgian mold. Either are versatile with various foods, moods and weather. Just our style.

By the way: Jean says Moeder Lambic will be offering some special treats during next weekend's Bruxellensis festival, which takes place just a few blocks away. That festival, meanwhile, promises some fun beers from Germany, Italy and Spain – besides all the Belgian beauties.

Incidentally I've offered to volunteer at the festival in a fit of beer-fueled civic enthusiasm. Not sure what I'm in for yet, other than taxing my anemic French to its very limits.