Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bruine Café Visitors' Center

I haven't been there yet. I'd like to go. I mention it here because I think others might like to go too. So here is some useful info about the Bezoekerscentrum 't Bruine Café.

One of the newer, smaller and quieter breweries in Belgium is the Stadsbrouwerij Aarschotse, city-sponsored makers of the retro local beer, Aarschotse Bruine. It's a sourish local brown ale style whose existence had been flickering. Larger, more distant breweries had made it on contract for many years, its authenticity leaning toward the dubious side.

This new brewery, which opened late last year, is a city effort to re-claim the beer, stoke some civic pride, and perhaps draw some tourists in the bargain. Upon launching they announced—and I find this promising—that the revival of Aarschotse Bruine was a response to "the sweetening and commercialisation of our tastes," which threaten "the link between taste and region."

So, you and me, we're the tourists. Want to visit? Unless you want a guided tour of the brewhouse, you won't need to round up a bunch of friends and book ahead (although you can, if you want). Individuals can roll up unannounced to the Bruine Café Visitors' Center, at 22 Gasthuisstraat in Aarschot, during these hours: Tuesday to Friday, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; or Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Monday.

Local tourism officials will be there, in the brown café homage, to serve the beer and fill you in on its history and how it's made. Many thanks to Annabelle Verhaegen of Toerisme Aarschot for the details. The photo comes from their website, too.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Highlight #7: Ribbekes on Planks and Magic in Baskets.

An unpaid spare-time blog should never promise things. Like lists. Especially the kind that count backwards. If I were counting upwards I might have left this at, say, No. 3. Or even No. 4. But no, now I must trudge onward under the absurd hypothetical that someone is waiting with bated breath for Nos. 1 through 7.

Well, maybe we will all learn something and grow from this experience.

This is an easy one, though: loads of serious lambics and ribs in a nicely converted Pajottenland barn. That is the Boelekewis. Go on, have a click. I like that picture at the top. Their rib racks look like beards.

This is not a complete list of their bottled lambic beers—for example, Tilquin should be there—of which I believe there are more than 40. They stock all the serious gueuzes and many of the better fruited ones too, like Fou'Founne (apricot) from Cantillon and Oudbeitje (strawberry) from just down the road at Hanssens.

So you will drink well. But this is a restaurant, and you must eat too. Like at most Belgian restaurants (as opposed to bars, cafés and brasseries), people who only want to drink make them feel all awkward and they might just shoo you away. Especially at meal times: Tue-Fri, noon to 2 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m.; Sat 6 to 10 p.m.; and Sun noon to 10 p.m. with cooking all day. Not home on Mondays.

American meat eaters deserve fair warning: We are spoiled by barbecue. We believe that word stands for slowly smoked meat, probably with sauce. In Belgium and most other European countries, ribs are oven-roasted with some herbs and spices. Ideally this is done slowly and lovingly but that's not always the case, and there are some chewy, gristly messes out there. But we found the ribs at Boelekewis to be on the tender side and had no complaints. And it's hard for anyone to say no when you see a wooden plank of them floating past your table.

While you're down there: This is Dworp, just off the E19, which is part of the loop that goes around Brussels and dips south to touch Waterloo. It includes this chunk of Pajottenland that also has a few other spots within easy reach: The excellent Zwaan café is a little farther down the road, and I'll tell you more about them as these numbers get lower. Den Herberg café and brewery is just on the other side of the E19. And jump an exit north and you are in Beersel for Drie Fonteinen and, if it's Saturday, Oud Beersel.

Ribs and gueuze though... That was a highlight.

That's a highlight from a Belgian beer swing. At this rate I will begin this summer's list before I finish last summer's. No. This is the last list, ever. Here's an explanation.