I knew I would be writing a beer blog this month when my husband Jon suggested we go to Belgium for the long Labor Day weekend. I was hoping for a romantic weekend for two to this wonderful little country on the coast, but this was definitely a beer-run! I like beer, it’s just not my favorite. For the love of beer and Belgium, right? We were able to squeeze in lovely Antwerp, so my hopes of exploration and touring were not completely squashed. Jon’s been stationed in Germany several times over the years, so he’s developed quite a expert taste for European beers. I think his love of beer began way back in 1989.
We’ve been married for 23 years, so I knew this was going to be a mission – to find and capture his BEER! So, I began researching his favorites.
This still-monk-made beer (made in a monastery) is his absolute favorite. This beer was named BEST BEER in the WORLD in 2012 and 2014. However, it is also UBER hard to purchase without paying a fortune for unless you buy directly from them.
The monks only brew a certain amount every week and you may only purchase a certain amount when you pick-up. Especially of the Trappist 12, which is their most famous. You must register your car’s license plate and the same car can not pick up within 45 days of the last pick up. I’m not even kidding. It’s on most bases for about $18/bottle.
So here began the chase for us, to gain access to this beer you must
1) Call their hotline number,+32 (0)70 21 00 45 (other seekers told me it took over 1,000 times and they still didn’t get through)
2) Try to capture an appointment on their website (I’ve heard people have it as a screensaver – I won’t mention names for disclosure purposes ~ ha!)
I was never successful.
St. Bernardus – Watau
Next on our list was St. Bernardus brewery. This brewery has had the same recipe as Westvleteren since the 1940’s and they are about 10 km away from the Abbey. I really liked this brewery. I coordinated a tour through their website and it was great! It was an absolutely fascinating story of shared history, neighbors helping neighbors and brewing GREAT beer together.
Honestly, I’m not a huge BEER drinker, love me my wine, but this was good, I really liked it. After our tasting, (which was generous, thank you Johan) we all received a 4 pack (combo) of their famous beers and a great glass! This was part of our tour package. I will definitely be coming back ~ maybe even bring a group!
The brewery is surrounded by hops fields that are their own and it was great to find out over 90% of the hops they use for the beer are all locally grown! Here’s one of my favorites shots I snapped while walking around.
We met a young couple during our tasting who were visiting the breweries on their honeymoon, (she went to a brewery on their honeymoon) I think their marriage is gonna make it. They had just popped in at the Westvleteren Abbey and they missed the tour but were able to eat at the restaurant and shop in the gift shop. Jon inquired about purchasing the beer and it was awesome to find out we could buy the Westvleteren Blonde’s and as much as we wanted for a decent price, €10 to €12 for a box of 6.
On their suggestion, we drove over to the Abbey for some lunch (not a huge menu) and beer, here are some shots of the courtyard and beautiful Belgian countryside near Westvleteren.
I knew we weren’t done yet, thankfully the weekend had just begun. Jon tried to find beer stores who might be selling the Trappist 12. Unfortunately, a LOT of those stores in metro areas are tourist shops and have a great selection but the prices are ridiculous. While walking through Ghent, this place wanted €200/case for Westvlereten Trappist 12. That’s just cra-cra.
I enjoyed some Leffe Blonde (also a Belgian beer) but not as dark. I found it to be refreshing and since I’m a foodie, I loved it with my burger and fries. This Abbey is in the southern part of Belgium and one that I would definitely like to add to my list. I haven’t discovered this part of Belgium yet… not yet!
This Antwerp based beer was a medium color and can be found in several restaurants all around the city. De Koninck has been brewing since 1833. They still have BrewFests and events going on all year-round in Antwerp. They also have a rooftop bar at the brewery making this a fun stop on a tour.
Brugges Beer Experience
After our stay in Antwerp, we headed down to Brugges and Ghent. I booked a tour through the Brugges Beer Experience since I was unsuccessful in getting any Trappist 12’s. I thought I could redeem myself with lots of beer choices. As it turns out Brugges is a great little city to tour and walk around as well. However, Labor Day weekend was loaded with tourists as it was one of the last free weekends for Europeans before school started up again.
The Beer Museum was fun and interactive, it began with an IPAD (in English) describing pictures, displays and historical points of interests (you just had to point and listen) Our tour also included three beer tastings. There were several different flavors to choose from ~ the beer glasses weren’t too small either.
~ Remember these Belgian beers pack a punch – they have a little bit more alcohol than your average Bud.
Because I’m a fruity girl, my favorite was the Kriek Boon. This Cherry beer tasted more like cherry soda than beer. However, after my second I was a little tipsy. Their brewery is located just outside of Brussels and might be a nice addition to a beer tour of Belgium.
Also at the museum, we discovered America now has a Trappist Ale available at Spencer Brewery , St. Joseph’s Abbey in Massachusetts, who knew? Evidently, monk-blessed recipes that came over from Europe years ago. Sounds like an American road trip!
Our time in Belgium was coming to an end and we hadn’t accomplished what we had hoped for… but we hadn’t lost faith yet either. Jon quickly learned you could easily buy the St. Bernardus Abt 12 at just about any Belgian grocery store for a reasonable price. Well, I say just about, it took us four tries and stops before we could load the Prius. Oh, well, Stuttgart is not too far away and it will give us another reason to visit Belgium, when’s the next long weekend?
It’s always an adventure when you ©Travel with Wendy!