Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Around Antwerp in a Couple of Beers.

The coziness and reassurance of a well-worn, well-warmed pub in October. Being American, I know about bars. And the Belgians can call this a café or whatever they want. But this is a pub.

I'm hiding in the loft at the Paters Vaetje, just across the road from central Antwerp's Cathedral. The "Monk's Casket" has been a familiar friend of traveling beer lovers for years, but this is my first time. Crowds, companions and the nearby Kulminator thwarted my previous attempts. But this time I am early, and alone, and thirsty. And in no particular hurry.

So from my upper-floor table I'm looking down on the punters glued to the bar. They get to choose from any of 102 beers here, so naturally they opt for pils and bollekes. I go for 37.5 cl of Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze at €4, which is a steal. The music has been mellow — Neil Young, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan — avoiding the overplayed standards. Less mellow is the barmaid. And now I understand the punters a little better. Sorry boys, but the view is better from up here.

Later I head for the Oud Arsenaal. The chalkboard beer list is impressively obscure, but I settle for a three-year-old Rochefort 10. It would be easier to enjoy if there were about 50 percent less smoke and 90 percent fewer people. One small room is all this place has, and there are more people standing than sitting. I reckon the seats, all 16 or so of them, were gone at opening time.

Hard to get comfortable. Hard to have a chat. Hard to think. Easy enough to drink.

Yep. This is a bar.


  1. You should have mentioned you were going to be up in my hood. If I'm good for anything its buying people a pint.

  2. You're right, Phil! We had the tyke and a couple of houseguests with us (although I did break off for a little while), so I was preoccupied. Owe you one now. Let me know when you come down to check out the new Moeder.

  3. I love Antwerp, and Paters Vaetje and 't Oud Arsenaal are 2 of my favorite cafes/pubs/bars (others being De Kulminator and Waagstuk). My favorite times at Paters are lunch (mellow time, and the old cat, Jupiler, comes out), and after midnight. I very often drink the Boon Mariage Parfait 37.5 cL, but thanks for the tip about the Drie Fonteinen. As for 't Oud Arsenaal, I love the place, and usually stop in evenings when the chances for a seat are higher, though it can be better for conversation to stand near the bar. Ask the staff about anything special or new they might have in bottles and you may be pleasantly surprised. Very friendly folks in both places.