Monday, February 4, 2013

Moeder Lambic Fontainas (Brussels, Belgium)

Real men eat quiche
7/30/12, 7/31/12

I found Moeder Lambic during my planned walk listed on Cantillon's website.  If heading to the Cantillon tour, a stop at Moeder Lambic is a great before or after combination.  I thought I had my return down pat when I noted in the morning that the bar is near the Anneessens metro stop.  However, when exiting at Anneessens, it's important to follow the signs to Fontainasplein. Underground walkways lead to several separate "pleins" (open places) and they are two blocks from each other.   I was hoping for a easy up and getting a beer, and got a walk through an interesting immigrant neighborhood instead.

Zwarte Piet by Brasserie de la Senne here in Brussels is the first beer of the night. Zwarte Piet means "black Pete" and is a helper of Santa Claus in the Netherlands, but I understand little about Pete beyond that.  In this case, I got a robust, dark beer that is a nice contrast to the lambics and golden Belgians I've been drinking this week.  Flowing brown lace on the glass leads to a deep ruby ale that's opaque, and smooth without being light.  Dark cherry and chocolate mix with a spice in the nose and taste that seems to be from theyeast but could also be hops—probably a blend.

Zwarte Piete and my view at a table just inside the door
Second beer of the night is Bitter Sorachi Ace from a French brewery, Brasserie du Mont Saleve.  From my trip, I've noticed that bitter styles are starting to make inroads into Belgium, but my impression is that they still shy away from hops compared to Americans.  This is a hazy, pale yellow ale with a giant head in a small footed glass. Very pretty but the taste disappoints.  I love Sorachi Ace as a hop when placed front and center in a beer by Brooklyn Brewery, simply called Sorachi Ace. This use is less than masterful, and while I understand the critique of over-hopped American beers, American brewers have really pushed the limits of hop science and know how to use them.  This is a nice attempt by Mont Saleve, but it falls a little short.

For dinner, I expanded my horizons and ordered the salmon quiche, which was excellent. Those shocked reading this fact, I added fish back into my ovo-lacto diet recently and this is the first I've tested it overseas. The Bitter Sorachi Ace complimented the quiche fairly well.

Moved on to Noir de Dottignies by Brouwerij de Ranke.  A Belgian strong dark ale with a clean tan lace and dark brown to ruby in the glass.  A very light nose of dark fruits and alcohol spice on top of a smooth maltiness.  Body is a bit light with a slickness letting the same fruits and spice slide right off the back. The beer came with a small amount of malt, but not sure why and the waiter left so quickly that I couldn't ask. Nothing on BA either.  This is listed as a "dark and bitter" beer, so my guess is that the sweet malt is supposed to compliment or reduce the Challenger and Saaz hops dosing.  Can't say the combination does much for me besides leaving chunky grain in my mouth instead of slightly hoppy dark beer. Confirmed the next night that the malted barley is meant to be a "chip" to snack ona sweet to counteract the bitterness.

After a month in Belgium and France, I came home and gain only two pounds, drinking and eating as I wished.  I love the smaller portions of food and beer in Belgium, maybe Europe in general.  Delve into the full list of 2012 Belgium and 2012 France posts; the reader will note that I've had a fairly large number of beersall glasses of 25 centiliters.  Food is served in manageable portions as well, so a meal ordered for one doesn't make me feel like a glutton.  A very safe and sane way to to eat and drink.  Moeder Lambic is the epitome of this idea.  This, I think, the US could learn a lesson on how to do.

Finished the night with Rose de Gambrinus, the framboise from Cantillon that I visited this morning.  I didn't have it on-site since I planned to get here later to try several lambics.  Amazing pink head that lingers fluffily on top of a dark red lambic.  My info from Cantillon says 150 kg of raspberries are macerated and placed in the kegs per 500 liters of beer and left to soak for five to six months.  Incredible raspberry in the nose with a light twang from the lambic pushes its way in from the background.  Take a sip andwowwhat sour: vinegar-like kick with the fruit just barely keeping up, almost achieving a balance.  This is a framboise for lambic lovers instead of an introductory lambic like Lindeman's with the fruit leading the sour by a ways.

In spite of the weird, techno backbeat from the bar's music, Moeder Lambic is a great beer adventure.  Besides, the music isn't loud and the focus of the place is light conversation.  I'm pretty sure that one of the workers I saw today at Cantillon is sitting at the bar, so others seem to think that it's a good stop as well. Also, the bar has an especially strong WiFi signal, so I'm catching up on emails while digging deep into the beer list.

Finding Moeder Lambic on my second attempt went much better.  After my adventure at the Atomium (giant model of an atom for the 1958 World Expo that attracts loads of tourists), I emerged from the subway looking right at the bar.

Started tonight with Dupont's Monk's Stout. Black and opaque, even in the mini-imperial pint glass.  Roasted malt and chocolate in the nose that smells like a standard good stout except for a light Belgian yeast funk underneath. More spice appears in the taste to compliment the Guinness-like quality of this beer.

Kerkomese Tripel from Brouwerij Kerkom is a hazy yellow with a stark white head in a glass.  A triple with an amazing spice and fruitiness on top of a light body. The 9% is completely hidden in this smooth drinking beer.  Next, when in Belgium, drink Norway.  Nogne O Imperial Stout is on tap as a special beer, so it's hard to resist this absolute black ale with a creamy tan head. Nose is light for the style, but the taste is fairly spectacular: full bodied, roast, chocolate, slight cherry and an alcohol slickness that makes it smooth. Opens up well as it warms.

My last beer at Moeder Lambic was Tilquin Gueuze on tap.  This was one of my favorites at the Lambic Vistor Center and is just as good on tap. Stark white, fluffy head over a hazy straw gold beer. This is one of my favorites of the trip: a pleasantly sour beer that's not overwhelming. A very perfectly balanced lambic blend.

So I lied. When I said the Tilquin Gueuze was very good, the bartender said the Lambic Blend on tap was better.  Had to give it a try.   Bracingly tart without being overwhelming and a light malt sweetness underneath, probably from a younger lambic in the blend that hasn't dried out yet.  Looks identical to the gueuze, understandably, since both are a blend of the same base lambic.  Tilquin is fast becoming my favorite lambic brewer/blender along with Oud Beersel.

Time spent is my recommendationcheck out Moeder Lambic.

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