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.

1 comment:

  1. The good news is that it's been reopend since last month.