I admit, the blog is a bit behind its schedule. But there we go again with a very special event.
I dare to say that this was the best beer festival I have been so far.
Bruges Beer Festival
Do you know Bruges?
Well, this city is almost legendary.
Everybody who visits us wants to go to there, or have already been there (or at least have some relatives that have been there). It seems that you may have skip Brussels, but must go to Bruges.
On top Bruges was presented to a broad publicity in the great movie In Bruges from 2008. Making it even more popular and famous.
Taken all this in consideration - we have never been there.
I was a bit excited before going. I was expecting a lot. In fact, it only sounds appropriate to expect a lot from the city that started its existence around year 900.
Maybe I was expecting way too much. Maybe I have seen too much in my life. Maybe a rainy day in February is not the best time to start your adventure with Bruges.
My impression for now is that Bruges is just average. After a careful observation, it possibly will look gorgeous in spring and summer with all the green trees, flowers. Possibly some people will find houses and churches build along the water streets romantic. But, I am fully stripped of this type of sensitivity, therefore it is just another medieval city.
Please don’t crucify me yet. The Belfry kicks ass. Yes, it does. If you ever are there – skip the rest, see the Belfry.
I believe that it requires additional explanation – wtf is Belfry. Not surprised that you have never heard it before (would be more surprised you know what it is). I strongly believe that its typically Belgian attraction (there are around 30 here). Belfry is a symbol of freedom and independence of the city. Usually build in a form of tower in the center of the town. Sometimes it was also used as watch tower and contains carillons Keeping municipal privileges. Carillons and chime bells. Belgian belfries were officially put on the Unesco World Cultural and Natural heritage list in 1999.
Bruges Belfry has been built in the XIth century at the central market place of the city. It has an enormous massive 83-meter-tall tower. Its Carillion contains 47 bells and you can listen to it 3x week. As a visitor, you can pay for the entry and enjoy the building. Or, you can visit Bruges in Early Fen=b and enjoy the Belfry while enjoying the beer (better option IMHO).
There we go, the festival:
One of the best parts of the Bruges Beer fest is its location. Half of the fest is inside of belfry and drinking the beer inside of the 700 years old building is really something extraordinary. Another half of the beer stands is in the big tent in the middle of the square and I almost felt sorry for the guys having to serve beer here. Belfry is better.
Still to summarise: 90 Breweries, 462 Beers, dozens of new beers. A paradise for a beer lover. Price of 1.80Euro for a beer is more than acceptable and many brewers will also offer bottles to take home. Food stands at a reasonable price. Everything fits.
On top, there was a small part of the festival that promoted comic art of Belgium. Belgium may be the only country in the world where comics are considered equal to paintings and are a part of everyday culture. Joining these two seems natural, there are also comic figures present even on the tasting glass.
Book added to a festival is one of the best I have ever seen, with information in both English and Flemish (Flemish-Dutch), maps, photos. Good one. At the entrance, everybody also gets a post card with a stamp and a festival tasting glass.
On top, there is a web page – all the beer listed, you can log in, make your own list, add scores and memos for later (see my scores at the bottom of the page). A dream of a beer geek and any blogger that could have been there. One small point of criticism – it would be clever to add an app on top. Everybody has its mobile phone with and the web page was not the most convenient thing to work with during the fest.
Just one comment for people planning to go there next year (or ever). Be there at the start. Like none of the fests I have ever been this one is fully loaded from the beginning (start at 1 pm on Saturday), and already around 4 pm it gets crowded beyond the limits. I cannot imagine what will happen after around 8 pm.
Fils à Papa (2017)
De Leite, Belgium
Smoked sour ale
Vliegende Paard Brouvers (Belgium)
Very appealing visually. Flat in aroma. Not in taste. Most of the experience is dominated with alcohol notes, some grains and raisins and maybe Belgian cuberdons. This beer makes a lot of effort to be a barley wine, still it lacks something. Maybe a year of aging could help it, balance the aroma, lower down the aggressive alcohol. For now, very average and disappointing.
Inglorious Brew Stars (Belgium)
Great aroma of hops mostly citrus fruits and grass. Solid bitterness just as I like it. Bit unbalanced - hop aroma after pouring is lost after some time and the beer smells of yeasts and in malt. Not that most of you would found it out, the beer would have been gone by then. Maybe not the best IPA in the world yet. But on a good way.
Gentse Gruut (Belgium)
As the brewers explained this beer have been prepared using wild hops. No special brand. Really wild ones. Like in the old times.
Very interesting experience. Strong malty, carbonated, bit sticky on the tongue when drinking. I would swear that there are no hops inside, which I believe is a problem of getting used to heavily hopped, bitter and aromatic ales. Still, Maîtresse is not bad at all. Pleasant to drink and interesting experience.
First time that I am trying anything from the Totem Brewery. They have made it to one of the “Best” lists of RateBeer in 2015 (correct me if I am wrong), but I have never stumbled upon their beer.
Itsamina is hazy orange beer with nice and solid head. Great aroma of hoppy tropical fruits and green grass. Same in taste, well balanced with some malt. Oatmeal addition makes it a bit less harsh that an average IPA, which may be the only point of criticism I have found. I could imagine getting used to it. Very good beer.
Christmas tree double IPA
I haven’t had too many Christmas beers on the blog this year. Reason is simple – I haven’t really had a lot of good ones. Most of what I have tried wasn’t worth mentioning and my appetite for Christmas beer was severly dampened. In fact, it was a good experience with Itsamina that made me try this one. And it was worth it.
Even of it is a bit too heavily carbonated for my taste, Ek Chuah is the best Christmas beer ever. Well it is an IPA to be frank.
Already aroma of pine, malt, orange knocked me off. Taste is also awesome. Imagine Christmas cake, heavy with spices and aromas, but keeping all the bitterness of a solid IPA. Brilliant.
Vivien Imperial IPA
De Vivien (Belgium)
Bruinen Os, wine barrel-aged (BA)
Bourgogne des Flanders
Brown Ale BA
Again and again: who have decided to put this weak beer to wine barrels (red?). Sour, too sour. I strongly believe that I could etch metal using this one. Worst beer I have tried in Bruges.
Sheep Doesn’t Get Sheep
White Pony (Italy)
Belgian Strong Ale
This was quite unexpected that of the best beers I have tried during this festival came from Italy. OK, I know White Pony is gypsy brewer and the beer was brewed in Belgium. Still, its Italian recipe. Somebody had a great idea there, Sheep is complex, rich with aroma and flavor. Pitch dark combination of roasted malts, whisky, chocolate and coffee. Best example of the simple fact that good beer is not worse than a good wine and come close to a single malt.
Last beer deserves extra comment from my side. I am not sure what I was drinking here. Based on the name given on the program it is:
Cocoa & Coffee Beans.
Well the problem is that, as a style it is called stout/scotch*/porter. WTF. So, is this quad, ported or stout? It may be surprising for some of the experts doing the book, but it is not the same. And I cannot say, the beer tasted like it was brewed by Starbucks. Over-aromatized, cocoa and chocolate. Beer is literally gone. I wonder whether it need a lot of maturation to get where it should be. Poor case.
And the list.