Saturday, December 15, 2012

Brouwerij Bosteels (Buggenhout, BE)

Fresh Kwak on site.  Simply, wow. 

Got my first lesson on how to ride a train to a small town in Belgium. Since I'm typing on the steps of Brouwerij Bosteels, my train skills seem to be coming along nicely.  Of course, being me and unsure of the route, I'm here several hours early. Oh well.

I had a nice chat with an Italian family trying to see if Bosteels was doing a tour. The younger man with passing English said he found the brewery on Wikipedia. I saw them leave a bit later in a small motorhome and he wished me a nice day on the tour since they weren't waiting for the 1:30 pm time.

My first venture into Flanders feels very comfortable. It looks like Iowa--flat and full of corn and cows--and everyone reminds me of a relative. When I initially located the brewery, I wandered around the courtyard  and a farmer was just leaving with a wagon load of spent grains, I assume for his cows. Otherwise, Buggenhout is a charming small town with only a few businesses near the center and a beautiful old church.
Elke, Sven and family listening to Bosteels owner

Bosteels doesn't do many tours and usually only groups of 15 or more. I was added to a Dutch language tour as the only option, but it should be fine. As long as I see beer stuff and hopefully some samples, it will be success.

As we started the tour, a young women, who I saw arrive with her family out front in a mini-van, offered to translate for me.  I found out later her name is Elke and she has a master's degree in tourism and recently starting blogging about beer as well.  Elke does tours in Belgium, beer related or not as the case warrants.  Based on her recommendations, my wife and I, on a later leg of the trip, spent as much time as we could get in Ghent.  Because our hotel was in Antwerp that night, we only spent the day in Ghent but it was one of our best stops. Ghent is at the top of our list of places to return to in Belgium.

While I didn't catch a lot of the details, I found the small family brewery to be a mix of old and new, a theme that repeated itself on this trip.  The brew kettles showed signs of being repaired and welded many times over the life of the brewery.  However, other sections, like the lab and bottling line, were clearly carved out of newer space in nearby buildings.  The brewery is almost a metaphor for Belgium--an ancient art trying to survive in the modern world.

View of front of Bosteels from sandwich across street
After walking and talking in Dutch, we're in the tasting room, which was specially built in one of the buildings with a wood framed ceiling in a brick building. Then the big surprise. A full draft of Kwak was given to us in its own glass. Very cool. This tour just became worthwhile.

The Kwak is shimmering copper in the glass. Fresh and clean, as expected on site, but the main difference is the increased hop and spice notes in the local version.  Again, not surprising, but very fun to drink in proper form.  And I (and most I've seen in the US) am drinking it wrong. The stand is used as a mug holder and the glass doesn't come out of the stand. FYI.

Bosteels brew house
As most people paired off at the large tables, I wandered over to sit with my new friends that translated for me on the tour.  Elke and I chatted about American beer geeks and beer in general, and then her husband Sven and I talked for a while as well.  Most of her family spoke English to varying degrees, so we traded beery information back and forth across the table over glasses of Triple Karmeliet (best draft of TK ever).  Most of the people on the tour left after their first draft of TK, but we were offered a second while the owner of Bosteels talked with Elke and Sven's family.  Also in Dutch, so I didn't understand enough to write about but the atmosphere was great.

As we started to pack up to leave, Elke and Sven invited me back to their house is Wetteren, which I kindly accepted.  I don't normally go home with friendly people after a beer tour.  And, since I was travelling alone for this part of the trip, my wife had just warned me just the day before at the airport to not be overly trusting.  She knows me--I often make friends while drinking beer.  Bosteels was my first tour in Belgium, so my wife's words were still ringing in the back of my head.  I'm glad that I went along for a wonderful night of Belgian beer, local frites and conversation with new friends.  Truly one of my best beer drinking experiences ever. Thanks Elke, Sven and family.


  1. Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post.
    Candy Lingerie

  2. Thanks. Happy if it was helpful.