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Old 09-22-2012, 11:52 PM   #1
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Hello,

I will be traveling to the U.K., Germany, and Belgium between Dec 18 and Jan 8. Looking for advice on good beer events during those times, or any general recommendations for places to enjoy and learn about beer. I'm willing to go pretty far out of the way for beer, so anywhere near those countries is also an option.

Thanks

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Old 09-23-2012, 12:12 AM   #2
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Beeradvocate.com has an excellent barfly section for local beer spots in countries all around the world. You might check their forums and see if anything's going on. They have forums for those individual countries. Link: http://beeradvocate.com/beerfly/

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Old 09-23-2012, 12:18 AM   #3
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For events it´s good option the check beeradvocat as aiptasia said or ratebeer maybe. I been in Belgium last year uf and there is a ton of places you can go. Depending in wich cities are you going to be I can recommend a few things

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Old 09-23-2012, 01:45 AM   #4
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Can't remember the name, but I've heard of some monks in those parts that brew what's billed as the best beer in the world; they only sell it at certain times and they limit buyers to one case each; pickup is limited to the abbey they live at. Might be worth looking up

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Old 09-23-2012, 01:49 AM   #5
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I think you are referring to Westvleteren - http://www.sintsixtus.be/eng/brouwerij.htm

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Old 09-23-2012, 04:44 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RiverCityBrewer View Post
I think you are referring to Westvleteren - http://www.sintsixtus.be/eng/brouwerij.htm
YES!! That's the one!!

I first heard about it in a Wall Street Journal article in 2007.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119628388037006909.html

Quote:

Trappist Command: Thou Shalt Not Buy Too Much of Our Beer
Monks at St. Sixtus Battle Resellers of Prized Brew; Brother Joris Plays Hardball


WESTVLETEREN, Belgium -- The Trappist monks at St. Sixtus monastery have taken vows against riches, sex and eating red meat. They speak only when necessary. But you can call them on their beer phone.

Monks have been brewing Westvleteren beer at this remote spot near the French border since 1839. Their brew, offered in strengths up to 10.2% alcohol by volume, is among the most highly prized in the world. In bars from Brussels to Boston, and online, it sells for more than $15 for an 11-ounce bottle -- 10 times what the monks ask -- if you can get it.

For the 26 monks at St. Sixtus, however, success has brought a spiritual hangover as they fight to keep an insatiable market in tune with their life of contemplation.

The monks are doing their best to resist getting bigger. They don't advertise and don't put labels on their bottles. They haven't increased production since 1946. They sell only from their front gate. You have to make an appointment and there's a limit: two, 24-bottle cases a month. Because scarcity has created a high-priced gray market online, the monks search the net for resellers and try to get them to stop.

"We sell beer to live, and not vice versa," says Brother Joris, the white-robed brewery director. Beer lovers, however, seem to live for Westvleteren.

When Jill Nachtman, an American living in Zurich, wanted a taste recently, she called the hot line everybody calls the beer phone. After an hour of busy signals, she finally got through and booked a time. She drove 16 hours to pick up her beer. "If you factor in gas, hotel -- and the beer -- I spent $20 a bottle," she says.

Until the monks installed a new switchboard and set up a system for appointments two years ago, the local phone network would sometimes crash under the weight of calls for Westvleteren. Cars lined up for miles along the flat one-lane country road that leads to the red brick monastery, as people waited to pick up their beer.

"This beer is addictive, like chocolate," said Luc Lannoo, an unemployed, 36-year-old Belgian from Ghent, about an hour away, as he loaded two cases of Westvleteren into his car at the St. Sixtus gate one morning. "I have to come every month."

Two American Web sites, Rate Beer and Beer Advocate, rank the strongest of Westvleteren's three products, a dark creamy beer known as "the 12," best in the world, ahead of beers including Sweden's Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter and Minnesota's Surly Darkness. "No question, it is the holy grail of beers," says Remi Johnson, manager of the Publick House, a Boston bar that has Westvleteren on its menu but rarely in stock.

Some beer lovers say the excitement over Westvleteren is hype born of scarcity. "It's a very good beer," says Jef van den Steen, a brewer and author of a book on Trappist monks and their beer published in French and Dutch. "But it reminds me of the movie star you want to sleep with because she's inaccessible, even if your wife looks just as good."

Thanks to the beer phone, there are no more lines of cars outside the monastery now. But production remains just 60,000 cases per year, while demand is as high as ever. Westvleteren has become almost impossible to find, even in the specialist beer bars of Brussels and local joints around the monastery.

"I keep on asking for beer," says Christophe Colpaert, manager of "Café De Sportsfriend," a bar down the road from the monks. "They barely want to talk to me." On a recent day, a recorded message on the beer phone said St. Sixtus wasn't currently making appointments; the monks were fresh out of beer.

Increasing production is not an option, according to the 47-year-old Brother Joris, who says he abandoned a stressful career in Brussels for St. Sixtus 14 years ago. "It would interfere with our job of being a monk," he says.

Belgian monasteries like St. Sixtus started making beer in the aftermath of the French Revolution, which ended in 1799. The revolt's anti-Catholic purge had destroyed churches and abbeys in France and Belgium. The monks needed cash to rebuild, and beer was lucrative.

Trappist is a nickname for the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, who set up their own order in La Trappe, France, in the 1660s because they thought Cistercian monasteries were becoming too lax. The monks at St. Sixtus sleep in a dormitory and stay silent in the cloisters, though they speak if they need to. Today, though, Trappists are increasingly famous for making good beer.

Seven monasteries (six are Belgian, one, La Trappe, is Dutch) are allowed to label their beer as Trappist. In 1996, they set up an alliance to protect their brand. They retain lawyers in Washington and Brussels ready to sue brewers who try use the word Trappist. Every few months, Brother Joris puts on street clothes and takes the train to Brussels to meet with fellow monks to share sales and business data, and plot strategy.

The monks know their beer has become big business. That's fine with the brothers at Scourmont, the monastery in southern Belgium that makes the Chimay brand found in stores and bars in Europe and the U.S. They've endorsed advertising and exports, and have sales exceeding $50 million a year. They say the jobs they create locally make the business worthy. Other monasteries, which brew names familiar to beer lovers such as Orval, Westmalle and Rochefort, also are happy their businesses are growing to meet demand.


Not so at St. Sixtus. Brother Joris and his fellow monks brew only a few days a month, using a recipe they've kept to themselves for around 170 years.

Two monks handle the brewing. After morning prayer, they mix hot water with malt. They add hops and sugar at noon. After boiling, the mix, sufficient to fill roughly 21,000 bottles, is fermented for up to seven days in a sterilized room. From there the beer is pumped to closed tanks in the basement where it rests for between five weeks and three months. Finally, it is bottled and moved along a conveyor belt into waiting cases. Monks at St. Sixtus used to brew by hand, but nothing in the rules of the order discourages technology, so they've plowed profits into productivity-enhancing equipment. St. Sixtus built its current brewhouse in 1989 with expert advice from the company then known as Artois Breweries.

In the 1980s, the monks even debated whether they should continue making something from which people can get drunk. "There is no dishonor in brewing beer for a living. We are monks of the West: moderation is a key word in our asceticism," says Brother Joris in a separate, email interview. "We decided to stick to our traditional skills instead of breeding rabbits."

The result is a brew with a slightly sweet, heavily alcoholic, fruity aftertaste.

One day recently, the wiry, sandy-haired Brother Joris returned to his office in the monastery after evening prayers. He flipped on his computer and went online to hunt for resellers and ask them to desist. "Most of the time, they agree to withdraw their offer," he says. Last year, St. Sixtus filed a complaint with the government against two companies that refused -- BelgianFood.com, a Web site that sells beer, cheese, chocolate and other niche products, and Beermania, a Brussels beer shop that also sells online. Both offer Westvleteren at around $18 a bottle.

"I'm not making a lot of money and I pay my taxes," says BelgianFood.com owner Bruno Dourcy. "You can only buy two cases at once, you know." Mr. Dourcy makes monthly two-hour car trips from his home in eastern Belgium.

"Seek the Kingdom of God first, and all these things will be given to you," counters Brother Joris, quoting from the Bible, adding that it refers only to things you really need. "So if you can't have it, possibly you do not really need it."
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Old 09-23-2012, 08:12 AM   #7
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If your in the London area, Fullers is a good one to tour. Make sure to make reservations before hand as they fill up rather quickly. Another London area brewery worth checking out is Mean Time Brewing. Better selection of beers than most other U.K. area breweries. Just a heads up if your not used to English Beers, most will be lighter, cask or at the very least low 4% abv. Still interesting places to check out.

If your in Brussels, you've missed Belgium Beer Weekend but Cantillon is worth checking out, old place and produce nothing but lambics. The tour is self guided and get to see everything they use and do for the process plus get to sample some of the lambics. Otherwise there is a bar boasting to have the Guinness world record for the most number of beers for purchase called Delirium cafe. They are supposed to have over 2000 beers. When I went they had 100+ on tap and then a magazine for bottles. Those are the ones I've been to worth mentioning that I've been to in the Brussel area, outside of that there are some various Trappist and other breweries in Belgium but you will need to get around to see them as there isn't a large amount in one area.

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Old 09-23-2012, 08:42 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VagabondBrew View Post
If your in the London area, Fullers is a good one to tour. Make sure to make reservations before hand as they fill up rather quickly. Another London area brewery worth checking out is Mean Time Brewing. Better selection of beers than most other U.K. area breweries. Just a heads up if your not used to English Beers, most will be lighter, cask or at the very least low 4% abv. Still interesting places to check out.

If your in Brussels, you've missed Belgium Beer Weekend but Cantillon is worth checking out, old place and produce nothing but lambics. The tour is self guided and get to see everything they use and do for the process plus get to sample some of the lambics. Otherwise there is a bar boasting to have the Guinness world record for the most number of beers for purchase called Delirium cafe. They are supposed to have over 2000 beers. When I went they had 100+ on tap and then a magazine for bottles. Those are the ones I've been to worth mentioning that I've been to in the Brussel area, outside of that there are some various Trappist and other breweries in Belgium but you will need to get around to see them as there isn't a large amount in one area.
+1 on Cantillon don´t care for the Delirium cafe thougth. Moeder lambic it´s a great place. The good thing about Belgium is that its a small country the highways are free and the train is great fast and cheap (there is 10 ticket voucher that you can share and and it´s valid for trips in all their railway network) Antwerpen it´s really close to Brussels, if you decide to go there you have to visit the Kulminator bar, it´s been named best beer bar in the world for several years. It´s a small brown cafe with a grumpy old man and his wife behind the counter and they are speciallized in aged beer, you´ll find treasures in their beer list.
On your way to Antwerpen from Brussels there is a town called Mechelen, beatiful little place home of the Het Anker brewery, this is the only brewery in Europe that haves a hotel, nice place to spend a nigth and have dinner. try their Cuvee Vaan de Keizer (it´s great!) there is also a small bar that sells the cheapest Westvleteren that you can find in a pub around the globe, las yeart was €3 for a blonde, €3.5 for a 8 and i think the 12 was €4.20 i don´t remember the name but I think it was called Den Stille Genitier or something like that. Then you have Brugge the Venice of the north great beer bars there Brugge Biertje and Gambrinus my two favorites you can do a little tour in Haalve Mann or visit the Struisse bottle shop at the town center.
Hope this helps
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Old 09-23-2012, 09:37 AM   #9
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There is tons of stuff to do over here. Where exactly will you be? I might have some free time during your stay and would be happy to hook up and show you around a bit.

Stay clear of beeradvocate if you like to speak your mind when challenged. Ratebeer is light years ahead of the maturity level of BA. Censorship is nearly non-existent on RB.

Belgian Beer Weekend was a couple weeks ago and is not a good way to spend any time you have. Most of the fests will be on hiatus during your trip, but there might be some popping up in smaller towns. Borefts is the best, but it's next weekend so that doesn't help. ratebeer has an awesome database of festivals and other events.

Kulminator closes frequently over holidays, and might be closed during the time you are here. Check their site for details though.

Cantillon is well worth the trip. As has been mentioned above, Delirium Cafe is not the best place, but they have four locations now in the same area and is decent as a tourist destination. It's crowded though. Moeder is pretty good, but a bit pricey on some of the stuff you can get locally for far cheaper. Beer Planet is pricey as well, but they have the best selection of Mikkeller. Beer Temple is alright, but like Delirium it's a tourist stop. Worth at least a visit. Again, pricey.

Depending on where you will be in Germany there are a few nice places. Not much in selection I'm afraid. But the local beers are pretty good. Bamberg is especially good.

London is awesome now. Brewery tours are sparse, but there are a few craft breweries that have been popping up. Check ratebeer. Craft Beer Co. is pretty good, as is the Brew Dog pub. Craft Beers sister establishment, CASK Pub and Kitchen, is awesome. They had Pumking on tap and a slew of cask conditioned ales. Well worth the trip.

Let me know your itinerary for the Continent and I'll see if I can make myself available. I can even bring you some Westvleteren. It's a nice visit to the area for that, but you can't do much except sit in the cafe without a reservation for the beer.

There is tons more to do that I probably won't remember to post in here, but get in touch and I can help you out.

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Old 09-23-2012, 09:48 AM   #10
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User suprchunk it´s rigth
This is in facebook (friends of Kulminator):
Closing dates year round !! :
first 2 weeks of August , during the Christmas Holidays, Around Easter Holidays.
And sporadically due to restocking and a big clean every once a while a break off as well , all for the better cause of the Kulminator bar ;-).
There is another website (official I presume) but it´s in flemish and I don´t understand much of it.
Sucks that it is closed in those dates it´s a beatiful place to spend a few hours drinking beer
Agreed about Craft beer co. too great place.
If you are around those places it can be interesting to pay a visit to De Molen in Bodegraven (Holland) great stuff being brew there they have a tour on saturdays if I remember correctly and a very good bottle shop and restaurant.

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