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.


  1. That does look like a good day out. Can you get there by public transport?

  2. Yes, but it's slightly more complicated than driving.

    The nearest train station is Leuze-en-Hainaut. Looks like a 6-minute bus ride or a 20-min bicycle ride from there.

  3. Great summarizing of one of the best brewery visits you can have. Monsieur Dits is the real thing, or as he told me when I interviewed him for a Belgian beer documentary, "I'm not a brewer, I'm a teacher."

    This brewery was saved from destruction by this amazing man who has dedicated his life to teaching history, be it in the classroom or otherwise. Vapeur highlights what is so wonderful and inviting about Belgian culture, when a celebration like this is put on once a month for the enjoyment of life, although I believe that M. Dits enjoys it most of all...

    Be sure to buy the wonderful book about the brewery and have the illustrator Louie-Michel Carpentier personally sign it for you with a custom drawing.