Tuesday, 16 March 2010

PRE-ZBF/The Kulminator

A little later than promised. Oh well. A trip to Guildford to see a mate and settling down in a new routine applying for jobs have caused a little lapse period of my blogging. Also loosing the memory card data transfer for the photos didn't help either.

I went to the PRE-ZBF on March 4th, 2010. An awesome festival in literally a castle in the Belgian heartland away from Brugge. The Alvinne people were responsible for setting it up. An awesome venue. It is only the third festival of its kind.

Let me explain. ZBF is the big national festival held in Belgium. This is called 'Zythos Beer Festival'. This is a huge Belgian beer festival I guess the equivilant for them to GBBF. Speaking of which tickets are released now if you want to go. The ZBF is from the 6-7th March.

My entourage choose the PRE-ZBF on the 4-5th of March. This included a night of whisky and beer with a talk from Joris Pattyn. He is a Belgian Dentist whom writes about beer and speaks at festivals and is involved in tastings' evenings. The Belgian answer to Roger Protz, I guess.

We were greeted by Glenn of Alvinne at the door. He arranged the tastings' glasses and the tickets for us. We already paid the amount beforehand and he had allocated tickets for people whom paid. There were a limited number of tickets for this exclusive event. Each cost 50 Euros. A meal was also included.

I found myself wondering to the Struise beer stall with a small 175ml glass in hand. This glass was perfect. Not a 33cl but 10cl over half a 33cl. Perfect for tasting enough of the beer and enough for ensuring one can get another four without worrying about the consequences. Maybe this glass could be introduced on the British public at beer festivals to entice more tastings' sessions instead of drinking copious half pints which I usually end up doing.

I met the De Struise brewers, Urbain and Carlo, finally, after talking on the internet to Urbain and wondering when I would eventually get to have their beer on tap! That dream came true. I had a wonderful range of Struise beers the first night. The rest happend on the Friday when I handed Urbain my X-33 Czech microbeer. He was very greatful. He stored it in their cooling system to keep it at a good temperature.

Consuming the De Struise beers was an extra experience. These beers are incredibly good. They are a very small brewery in a school in Oustvleteren in Belgium. Very close to the famous Saint Sixtus in Westvlesteren.

During the weekend I consumed a large majority of their beers. 'Dirty Horse Batch O'; 'Earthmonk', the famous 'Black Mes', 'Saint-Amatus' and 'Coffee Club' all from memory. A fantastic range. Sour beers to stouts but probably lacking on an IPA/larger, of which I have every faith of them brewing.

After what seeemed too short a period we were ushered away from the tastings' area to the castle for the evening session. There we consumed some ludicrusly expensive whiskies and some special beers. These were consumed side by side. The whisky was stunning. The beers were equally stunning. The best of the bunch was trying Black Mes there for the first time. On offer was, in order:

1. Alvinne Mano Negra Glenrothes Barrel – Glenrothes malt 1991 43%
2. BrewDog Paradox Isle of Arran – Isle of Arran malt Sherrycask 50%
3. Struise Brouwers Black Mes – Coal Ila 1995 Destillers edition 43%
4. Thornbridge St.-Petersburg Islay Reserve –Coal Ila 1982 55.2%
5. De Molen Hemel & Aarde Bruichladdich – Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 8 60.5%

Joris made a talk on the beer and the whisky comparing the beers back ground and the whisky. A fascinating and in depth talk I wish I could remember more of. I thought for future events he could suggest what tastes he found in the beer before we could judge for ourselves. Joris is a master taster and beer reviewer. He really knows his trade. After the talk we headed back to our hotel. The following day was very much the same with the tastings.

My entourage and myself arrived early at 10:30am on the Friday. I spent most of the morning session missing out on Brewdog's 'Sink The Bismarck' and 'Abstract' (thanks to the Rake for not making me miss these due to their tastings' night) talking to the Thornbridge people. Martin from Brewdog was opposite Thornbridge on their stall. Martin started work in brewing at Thornbridge before creating Brewdog with James. Lovely folks. Talking in depth about their beer and other issues was fantastic. I consumed their 'Bracia' which was one of the highlights of the weekend and something I hope to have at home consumed from bottle for a proper, more dedicated, review.

Beers of the festival for me were De Struise's 'Dirty Horse'/'Black Mes', De Molen's 'Hel and Verdoemenis 666' (say that on a session!), Thornbridge's 'Bracia' and 'Kipling' and also '77 Larger' from Brewdog.

Phil Lowry from the Beermerchants turned up which was a nice surprise. It's always nice to speak to the faces of the people you otherwise only recognise via text and photos. Phil was on a beer buying trip to the lambic brewers so if you want to buy some lambic please head over to http://www.beermerchants.com I bought some Cantillon Iris last night! A rare event in this country!

Phil took my friend with him to the festival in the evening so I stayed and mingled with my group and random beer fans. I talked to an American, his friend and some Belgians in the castle during consuming a lovely plate of patte and other beers Glenn had choose to mix together. The patte went exceptionally well with the De Molen-De Struise combo. The stout-urbock combo bought out the flavour and the bitterness of the patte which also complemented the beer style considerably.

The experience of the festival was awesome. Everything I had hoped for and then more so. There was even a Rate Beer tent for raters to mingle. I, the loon I am, forgot my notepad so couldn't make any observations on my beer or reviews whatsoever. I managed to remember a few and that's about it. That's mainly due to the vast quantities of De Struise's Dirty Horse I consumed and the fact that the person responsible for the name of De Struise's Black Mes was in my entourage.

Anyway the festival is surely the highlight of my beer calander this year. An awesome event. I only have GBBF and Chelmsford Summer Beer Festival on my agenda now.

The Saturday following was phanonamel. A day lined up for bars in Antwerppen. I was in beer haven. We visited the Oud Arsenaal as the Kulminator didn't open until 5. We found that out at 2! At Oud Arsenaal I had the best Orval of my life. Orval classic aged two years. Also the best Westmalle Dubbel in my life! This was aged 5 years!

I also had an aged kriek beer which was just stunning. I then proceeded to have one more beer before our group headed to the Kulminator. This follows my second best beer experience ever. I consumed a De Struise Pannepot from 2005. The green cap. The body was phanonamel. So much depth to this beer. An intense rich malted dark chocolate coffee ale. One of my favourite beers of all time.

I then proceeded to De Dolle Stille Nacht Reserva 2005. A wonderful craft brewery. This beer was every bit as stunning as I had anticipated. A marvel. The buzz I got from this beer was tremendus. I then consumed a Chimay 1982.

This was the old red bottle. It had lost the caramel edge of modern Chimay. Instead it tasted woody; oaky and leathery and also a tad sherry like. The beer was stunning. The Thomas O'Hardy's I ordered I can't even remember how it tasted but I enjoyed it very much.

Then my group and myself staggered onto a very nice restaurent which I can't recall apart from Rochefort 10 and steak and eventually to the hotel. I seriously urge any true beer afficiondo to visit the Kulminator. It is seriously the best beer bar ever. I have been to a few and this tops the others.

The Sunday was spent visiting pubs serving lambic in Brussels. A good amount of rare lambic was consumed.I had Cantillon Iris and Be Hop from an Italian Micro. Both were stunning. The rest of the day was used up drinking in bars.

At night We found Herge's drinking den.

Afterwords we went to a wonderful restaruent in the City. I had meatbeals in vail and Saison on tap. The meatballs were probably the best I've ever had. There were only three but they were very large and excessively tasty. Nuetnigenough was the restaurent's name. I advise to visit whenever in Brussels.

I got back to my hotel at 2pm and tuned into Belgian football highlights.

On the Monday we had to head home. This trip was still not over. We visited De Struise in order to sample some De Struise and also buy some beer and a glass if we choose. I had a lovely time at the De Struise school. The school they bought was a primary school which otherwise may have been destroyed for most likely housing. See brewing saves establishments!

I had Pannepot on tap for the first time ever which was an amazing experience. It is such a good beer I can not beleive how good it is. I will review it on Thursday when I have my own tastings at home.

I allowed myself to buy some beer from De Struise. I acquired Pannepot Grand Reserva 2005; some Pannepot, some De Dolle Stille Nacht, some other De Struise. Urbain was an awesome host. Carlo was busy with his artwork which he unvailed on the internet on Rate Beer. An epic piece it turned out to be.

There I met Owen again whom was at the festival. I spoke to him a bit at the festival. He said he was working for De Struise but transfers to Brew Dog the following week at the time of the visit. What a job. I hope to meet him during his time in the UK. He is also a blogger.

Our enterouge left De Struise at 2pm for a quick blast to France and to the Eurotunnel. I was reminded by the impending rush hour. Realising I had 22 bottles of beer with me to take during rush hour past a terminal change was not going to be fun at all. I somehow got all of these home and only had to leave one bottle of De Molen with my friend. I was very impressed with taking 22 bottles from Stratford International until normal Stratford and then to my home. A big feat. Thank you national rail for providing lifts but note you need one at Stratford!




  1. That all sounds amazing!! I'm jealous. Next year I will have to try and make it over.

  2. It was just awesome. I can't believe how good it was. You met a few of the people I went on this trip with. I need to see how this thing tells my e-mail that I have a comment.. Soz for the slow response.