Sunday, June 26, 2005

Beery hot fun in the summertime

Is there really a better way to spend a hot sunday afternoon than to go to a beer festival? I've been trying to broaden my beer horizons lately, considering I'm in the greatest beer country in the world, and all. And one tires of Hoegaarden, Maredsous, Duvel, Palm and the like after a while. Under a surprisingly cool big white tent set up in one of Antwerp's main squares, there were 22 stands, 38 breweries and who knows how many different kinds of beer. No beer tent is complete without music, and there were not one but two brass bands and a bagpipes guy. Not exactly local colour, but whatever. It's not like anyone can get enough of "My bonnie lies over the ocean," anyway. And the brass band rendition of "Copacabana" was not to be missed.

Entrance was free, you paid 2 euros for an empty glass and then 1 euro for 20 cl. of any beer. We remained reasonable, sharing eight glasses between the two of us, but still had to go have a pita and take a long walk to make sure we were fit to drive.

The usual categories: blonde, brown (come to think of it, I didn't see any white beer, but there surely was some somewhere), monastery, trappist, kriek (made from a kind of cherry). Then, there were some less usual ones. We ended with Huyghe's (the makers of Delirium Tremens) Mongozo Coconut, which was not only good (and really did taste of coconut!), but also a fair trade product and could only be bought in Oxfam shops. Also of note were Contreras's incredibly rich Valeir Blond and Lefebvre's very tasty Barbar blond honey beer. I have no idea where any of these beers can be bought, which is rather annoying. Slightly less special, but still good: Bockor's Kriek Max and De Leyerth's brown Novicius Vertus, 5.9 degrees, refreshing (especially for a darker beer) but lacking a bit of body (unlike the lively breweress who served us).

We also picked up a book by Michael Jackson (yes, THE Michael Jackson: the biggest beer-writer in the world, the back cover tells us) on Belgian beer, which should speed me down the path to beer expertise. A nice wood handled bottle opener came with the book, a nice complement to the glass (specially made for the festival) we got earlier on.