Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cafe De Kring (Lembeek, Belgium)


The train to Lembeek from Brussels was easy and I finally didn't show up too early for fear of getting lost. Walked to the brewery and a worker showed up when I rang a bell in the office; I was directed to walk down the lane past the church to a bar known as Cafe de Kring on the left. The guide starts the tour at the pub at 3 pm on Wednesdays.

The bartender, who looked a lot like my father had he lived to be more than middle aged, poured me a draft Boom Kriek and immediately asked if I was here for the brewery tour.  Lembeek is a small village and blending in is impossible, even if I look Flemish.

The Boon Kriek is maroon to bright red depending on the light.  The Boon glass has the shape of a traditional Lambic glass but not the weight or etching on the side. Cherry predominates in this one, lacking much sour from cherry or lambic. While not a challenging kriek, it's sweet, fruity tang is refreshing on a warm day.

A draft of Rodenbach is next, but, sadly, it was disappointing; however, for 2 euros a glass, it's hard to be too upset.  So, I decided to stay with bottles and tried a 2008 Geuze Marriage Parfait.  Almost a Purdue old gold in the glass with a thin white head. Spiciness is pronounced in the nose and follows through to a puckering taste that's quite dry. Blended, layered spiciness and a peach fruitiness that's light without being thin. Werner from the Lambic Discovery Center said his favorite Lambic, regardless of brewery or blender, was a three year old bottle.  I'm close to that range and can say I beginning to see his reasoning.  I'm going to start aging some favored lambics to test this theory.  My guide for the brewery is here, so I'm having to rush a bit through this fine bottle.

After the tour, we returned to the pub for the guide to get her bike.  On her advice, I delved into a bottle of Halse Duivel (as listed on the menu; Donker Duivels Bier 8 on the bottle).  Translates as "The Halle Devil".  Made previously by a local brewery in the nearby town of Halle, Boon resurrected this favorite. Very hazy dark brown beer with a dirty light brown head.  Almost a sour brown with a clear funk but light with fig, chocolate and black licorice embedded within a laborious malt base.  It's somewhere between a trappist Dubbel and a Flemish bruin, but neither.  Dark cherry comes out as it warms.  I would love to return in winter and drink this on a cold day to let it warm slowly.  Boon brews in through the summer when lambic can't be produced.  Really an outstanding beer and a treat to drink this local some local history.  Because I will probably never repeat it and the train is half an hour yet, I'm having one more for the roadthe only beer I've had twice in Belgium except Westveleteren.

While drinking my second Halse Duivel, I told the bar keep that he looked my father.  He laughed and show me a picture. It looked a lot like him but a bit younger. It was the President of Brazil. I asked if he had traveled to Brazil to pretend to be famous, and he laughed and said no.  This broke the ice, and he handed me a guest book that went back to 1996 and had signatures of brewers, many I recognized, from New Belgium, Squatters, Magic Hat, Appalachian, Bell's, Firestone plus a few Euro pubs I haven't heard of.  Evidently I'm at a beer pilgrimage site that has informed pioneers on their beer quest.  Glad I was able to join in spirit with so many other brewers on this stop on the beer trail.

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