Beer and New Friends…AND (MORE) BEER

Day 39: Friday November 18th, 2011

From the Amsterdam bus station, I was off to Brussels, the capital of Belgium and of the European Union. With that, it clearly holds a special spot in international politics and houses the NATO HQ. Ironically, Belgium broke Iraq’s record for consecutive days without a government (with a tad less strife). Most people speak French and Dutch, and English is also pretty common. But who cares about that stuff, Belgium is known for its beer, chocolate, waffles, comicbooks and fries, which I will cover to the nth degree in the next four amazing days.

I wrote in my journal that Brussels reminds me of Seattle, and it must be for the beer culture and the classy bars. I’m not sure what I was thinking, though. That’s what happens when you wait two months to write about it. But Brussels is one of the few European cities that doesn’t scream beauty, as it looks modern and meh for the most part, at least to me. That’s the only negative thing I have to say about Brussels.

Once I arrived, I went to Baraka, a hostel find that had an amazing beef sandwich, fries and orange sauce that is probably the leading cause for diabetes. And it was cheap. This was my first Belgian fry experience, and while they’re known as french fries, don’t let their food imperialism fool you: fries are a Belgian creation. And, while I had been potatoed/chips out in England and Ireland, these were much better.

After that, it was high time to experiment with beer. I went to a classy establishment called Moeder Lambic for beer(s). Their tagline: beer is the answer (daily double). I ran the gamut, trying a Geuze Cantillon that was made through spontaneous yeasting, which sounds dirty, and was a sour and good lambic (lambic’s are beers only brewed southwest of Brussels that are made through this spontaneous fermentation that leads to the sour aftertaste; you can also have fruitier alternatives that are delicious and girly like raspberry; Miel loves them).

Then I had a Val-Diev Grand Cru, weighing in at a 10.5% alcohol content. It’s good to know I had my priorities straight when taking notes. Belgian beers are served in small portions, served with lots of head (not the good kind) and fucking strong, usually dark, distinct full bodied beer. You scoff at the small servings you get, but you won’t be laughing in the morning.

I had two more beers and met Christian, a gentleman from Norway originally but is a Minnesotan and travels a lot, LOVES beer, and brews his own. I gave him my info to follow my blog, and judging by the comments marked “Christian,” he found it. Yay! Minnesota is one of the most underrated states in the U.S., so I would love to somehow happen upon his home brewery, because the guy has made over 40 kinds, I think.

On my way back to the hostel, Europe proved small again: I bumped into Claire, a dreadlocked Australian from Perth, if memory serves, who stayed at the same hostel in Amsterdam as me. She was one of the huge proponents for Dangerous Minds.

She’s tired but down for a drink or two, so we go to Delirium, the MUST STOP of anyone that ventures into Belgian territory. Delirium (you may recognize it from seeing the elephant beer Delirium Tremens marketed as the best beer in the world and costs 7 dollars for about 8 ounces in America) holds the Guinness World Record for most beers in an establishment, clocking in at well over 2,000. Their beer bible, a massive tome of foamy goodness, demanded perusal and led to drool and erections. Delirium takes up a whole block downtown practically, with a cafe and a bar that have perfect atmospheres. I went for a pint of the Tremens and a glass of the Chimay Red for way cheaper than it would have been in the states, and was loving life. Claire had a floris raspberry beer and a mixed berry one, both delightful in their own right.

Then Claire got fries with ketchup and mayo (the main and most popular combo in Belgium that curdles my stomach) and we had another beer in a public square from a market (a Duvel, a notable Belgian beer). Drinking on the street is so commonplace (and awesome) that each shop worker has a bottle opener at your disposal. This isn’t just the case for Belgium, but for most of Europe. After that, Claire had to call it a night, but I got her e-mail, or so I thought. She never responded to my follow up.

I wasn’t done, so I went to Celtica, a bar/club with 1 euro drinks and 2 euro pints. It was packed, but they were serving the equivalent of a Belgian budweiser on tap, and I was meeting friends elsewhere, if they finally fucking showed up. And they did, finally.

They would be Mary Anne (the Aussie from Belfast who is my plan C) and Mariam, one of her best friends from uni, an Asian Australian obsessed with fitness currently living in Glasgow with her boy. She is a hoot and a half, and together they’re hilarious. And you know how sometimes when you hang out with two really good friends you kind of feel left out? I never once felt like that with them during our Belgium adventure despite knowing them for a collective day and a half beforehand. We talked, had another beer at a cafe, and then I passed the hell out.

Next: probably beer.


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