Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What's Your Best Train Beer? And an Argument for Cans.

I'm not talking about the tin-can, train-station swill to which we often resort when nothing else is available. I'm asking about your greatest coup... What's the best thing you've drunk on the train? A Westy, maybe? And did you have the proper glass for it?

It's an occurrence that borders on tradition... We take the train from Brussels to some beer fest or other event, out there in the hinterlands somewhere. We memorize the departure times of the last three trains back to Brussels, and we never ever catch the first two of these. Oh hell, we can spend these last 10 tokens if we wait 40 minutes and go for the last train out... Then, 50 minutes later: Time to book it! Grab something good for the train!

After the hop fest in Poperinge we went with the Petrus Blond, a bit sweet and pretty drab by Belgian standards. The Bavik café next to the station was happy to oblige, even if they had never heard of the brewery's aged beers. It got the job done.

Following last year's Brassigaume my friend Matt and I grabbed one (or was it two?) bottles of Saison Dupont and made use of our tasting glasses. Then the train packed up with post-holiday students on their way back to school, standing in the aisles and sitting in each other's laps. We felt it was only polite to share. By then I felt a bit ill from motion and claustrophobia and just possibly from too much beer. Unfortunately a pack of younglings had hemmed me in, preventing ay dash for the men's room. I managed to fight the bear and win, as we say in the Ozarks, but that was a long ride back from Marbehan.

Then last Friday was Hasselt's excellent Bierweekend. After more than three hours of festing Kjeld and I accidentally-on-purpose missed the last direct train to Brussels and opted for the change in Leuven. We grabbed two 75cLs for the ride – the hoppy blond Lupulus from 3 Fourquets and the quasi-mysterious Helkiase from Dupont. (I suspect that last to be the Vielle des Estinnes with another label, this one made for a medieval hospital museum in Lessines.)

Both were tasty but that saison-ish and refreshing Helkiase really won me over. Unfortunately it also hit the seats and the floor. I returned from a trip to the toilet to find a guilty-looking Kjeld and beer splashed everywhere. Apparently the train had lurched and he was unable to save my glass. Something seems to have dulled his reflexes. We were the only ones riding the train except a conductor, and he was less than impressed.

That's the problem with glassware on the train, isn't it? Once it spills, you've lost that beer. But a tin can... You might lose a few glugs before a dramatic and triumphant rescue.

That gets me thinking more about cans. I'd love to see a few Belgian craft breweries start using them, as some American ones do (see 21st Amendment or the mighty Oskar Blues). In terms of quality there is no reason not to do it. Yeah, there's a certain loss of aroma and prestige.

On the other hand, you look like a real asshole drinking from a tulip glass while fishing.

1 comment:

  1. Great post ! I have truly enjoyed your blog and am looking forward to next weeks trip to Chez Moeder.