23 July 2019

Brussels (Marolles & Saint-Gilles) - Monday 1 July 2019

Visits to La Brocante (Marolles), Brasserie Égalité and Brasserie de l'Union (Saint-Gilles) would round off our fifth and final day in Belgium.
On the way from Hotel Barry, Place Anneessens 25 to La Brocante, Rue Blaes 170, Steve and I passed the impressive Palais du Vin. The art nouveau style warehouse building has been recently renovated since construction in 1909.
Walking up Rue des Capucins, we passed the Léonard mural by Turk and De Groot where the actual Palace of Justice (featured in the painting) is also visible in the distance.
We passed La Brocante and made a quick tour of the daily market held in Place du Jeu de Balle.
Returning to La Brocante, on the corner of the market place, we found a table and looked through the menu card.
Eventually a waiter found time to take our order. Steve ordered an Oude Kriek from Oud Beersel but as it was only 11.30am I ordered tomato juice and a ham and cheese sandwich.
2/3 remainder of baguette sandwich - saved for later!
The large baguette sandwich was good value (4.20 euro) and freshly made. We didn't see the cafe's cat today but see Tim's post from 22 March 2019 for more photos from La Brocante including its cat.
Getting a WhatsApp message from Keith alerted us that his group had arrived at our rendezvous point Brasserie Égalité so we headed to Saint-Gilles via the gardens around Porte de Hal and then up Chaussée de Waterloo.
Égalité is one of the Saint-Gilles bars featured in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide Belgium by Joe Stange & Tim Webb.
Brasserie Egalite - Steve arriving as Keith, John & Richard are seated outside.
Brasserie Égalité, Parvis de Saint-Gilles 47, is open most hours of the day and night. 
We arrived just in time to find beers from the large refrigerated display before access was temporarily suspended for an interior cleaning exercise. 
I had been on the look out for Brasserie de la Senne Bruxellensis but picked up a bottle of Brusseleir by mistake. However, this 8% ABV black IPA proved to be an excellent alternative!
From our table outside, the five of us had a good view west towards the church of St Giles which gives the neighbourhood its name. The temperature had dropped since the weekend and it was a bit windy so once the cleaning exercise was completed we found a table inside near the front windows.
Reverting to Saisons, my next beer was a bottle of Saison Voisin from Brasserie des Legendes. 
This is a bar for people who know what beers they will like and can choose a bottle from the fridge but is less suited to anyone seeking advice on what beer to drink.
Brasserie de l'Union (photo 25/3/2019)
The visit to Saint-Gilles had been my idea and for the next bar I suggested either Brasserie Verschueren, by the church, or Brasserie de l'Union a few doors away at the east end of Parvis de Saint-Gilles / Sint-Gillisvorplein. Dear reader, we opted for Brasserie de l'Union.
Arriving at 2.30pm, after the lunchtime trade, we were able to find a table inside.  Our animated waiter was wearing a Brussels Beer Project t-shirt. Unlike our earlier experience we now had advice and strongly held opinions from a beer connoisseur and champion of small local breweries. As well as bottled Saisons from L'Annexe
I followed our waiter's advice to have their draught Saison de Bruxelles (6% ABV), served from a surplus keg from a recent party organised by the nearby nanobrewery.
This was a good final beer on my annual Antwerp / Brussels trip. Now there was only time to retrieve luggage from Hotel Barry before catching the 16.56 Eurostar back to London St Pancras International. 
Leaving Saint-Gilles, I passed by Brasserie / Restaurant La Porteuse d'Eau, Jean Volders Avenue 48, another bar featured in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide Belgium and now marked for a future visit.
Tim Webb / Joe Stange comment in the Guide 'It's an (Art Nouveau) imitation, faux Horta, but who's checking? More obviously authentic is the list of 70+ beers with goodies from Dupont, Lindemans and St. Bernardus.' 
Also nearby is Malt Attacks, a specialisst beer bottle shop, at Jean Volders Avenue 18. 
Steve would catch up with me at Brussels Midi / Zuid. John and Richard would return on a later Eurostar service and Keith would head back to Germany. 
Brasserie Verschueren (photo 22/3/2019)
I was glad to hear that before leaving Saint-Gilles, the latter three also had time to visit nearby Brasserie Verschueren where they met the bar's cat. Richard later commented '... St Gilles was fantastic, relaxing and a nice change from the tourism of the centre.  Three excellent bars and one indifferent cat, with more on the list for next time.  So convenient for the centre, a nice place to live I'd say, and everyone that passed along that street seemed to know everyone else.  Maybe a nice area to stay in future.'


21 July 2019

Brussels feat. Gist - Sunday 30 June 2019

Transferring to Brussels on day four would bring first visits to Gist and Au Laboureur as well as repeat visits to old favourites Poechenellekelder, Delirium Cafe (Hoppy Loft) and Moeder Lambic Fontainas.
Steve and I caught the 11.40 Antwerp Central (top level) to Brussels Midi train arriving 12.31. The standard single fare is 7.40 euros. It took a while to get through the sprawling Sunday market between Brussels Midi / Zuid station and Boulevard Maurice Lemonnier and then it was another 500 metres along the shady side of the street to reach Hotel Barry at Place Anneessens.
We could leave luggage in our rooms before continuing past Moeder Lambic Fontainas, Mannekin Pis and Poechenellekelder to reach Gist at Place de la Vielle Halle aux Bles.
As Gist (meaning Yeast in Dutch) was closed we retraced our steps down Rue du Chene, passing a mural, to reach Poechenellekelder.
Plenty of people were seated at outside tables but we climbed the spiral stairs to find a table near the small bar.
(Photo: Steve Kelly)
By now it was 1.30pm and I ordered a coffee while Steve chose a 37.5 cl bottle of Oude Geuze Boon from Brouwerij Boon (7.70 euro). Bottles of the 7% ABV 'blend of 90% mild 18 month-old lambic, 5% strong 3 year-old beer and 5% very young lambic, which provides fermentable sugars and wild yeasts' are given a best before date 20 years after the bottling date. Steve commented 'Sour. Lovely' on Untappd.
Poechenellekelder is famed for its collection of puppets and figures and also has a fine collection of enamel beer signs. A puppet on stilts attached to the hand rail jiggles his head everytime anyone touches the hand rail when using the stairs to reach the toilets downstairs!
My first beer was Saison de Dottignies by Brouwerij de Ranke from the draught beer menu.
When Simon Grist joined us, having travelled on a later train from Antwerp, we ordered lunch. A Croque Monsieur sans jambon for Steve while lasagne was 'the usual' for me and Simon. The lasagne takes a while to cool down and eventually I nearly finished mine.
I stayed with the saison beer style by ordering a bottle of IV Saison by Brasserie Jandrain-Jandrenouille (6.5% ABV, 4.20 euro) as the last beer here. This is the original beer produced at the brewery since 2007 in a rural location midway between Brussels and Liege.
At 4.15pm we walked back up Rue du Chene to meet up with John, Keith and Richard at Gist which had opened at 3pm.
An outside board by the entrance lists the beers on tap including two on cask.
Inside, the two handpumps are just visible behind a blackboard propped up against them. An elevated stainless steel box section houses the taps for the other draught beers.
The interior includes a mixture of seating and a variety of posters and artwork on the white walls. There are two record decks with LPs underneath at the far end of the bar. Some loud frenzied music was playing that meant it was more relaxing to sit outside. However Steve liked the music here and the music played later was more acceptable to my ears.
Opposite the bar is more seating with sections of blackboard above to display the draught beers individually.
Outside our pavement tables gave a view of Place de la Vielle Halle aux Blés which contains a statue of Jacques Brel. This was visited by passing tourists posing for selfies and further distraction arose from vehicles passing and then reversing nearby after finding that Rue du Chene was closed to traffic.
We spent three hours here and the beers I enjoyed from the draught menu were Mongy Session IPA (4% ABV) by Brasserie Cambier based near Lille, Lupulus Blanche the permanent white beer at Gist and the cask version of Brasserie de la Senne Taras Boulba.
Simon with Jenlain & Jody
After my tip to visit the bar, Simon Grist had spent several hours at Gist on Thursday evening and spoken with the owners Jenlain and Jody. Today it was my chance to chat with them. Jenlain explained that they are able to sell casks of beer within three days so that the quality is maintained. They also check the cask beer carefully each day and will not serve it if the quality has deteriorated.
They started with some casks from the London brewers Anspach & Hobday and are able to use the empty casks to source Belgian beers from Brasserie de la Senne, L'Ermitage and No Science amongst others. Jenlain mentioned that they expect to be involved with serving cask beer at the BXL BeerFest at Tour & Taxis, Brussels on 24-25 August, 2019. Jenlain was interested to see the programme for BierPassie Weekend that we had attended in Antwerp but thought that the festival's 20cl servings were on the large side.
The Gulp // Cask Ale comes to Brussels post by Brussels resident Eoghan Walsh about Gist which had led to our visit includes details of the Gulp cask festival held there on a Friday in May 2019.
It was time for Simon to go to Brussels Midi to catch his Eurostar train back to London so he departed at about 7.15pm. While John, Keith and Richard were keen to visit Poechenellekelder for lasagne and then move to Delirium Cafe's Hoppy Loft, Steve and I had an alternative plan and would meet them at the Hoppy Loft later. Before leaving we had to get photos at the Jacques Brel statue!
Au Daringman
Steve and I walked to Au Labourer via Galeries Royales Saint Hubert pausing for a glance at A la Mort Subite.
Contnuing, we passed Saint Catherine church and then along narrow Rue du Flandre passing Au Daringman at 37, the corner with Rue du Chien Martin.
A la Mort Subite, Au Daringman and Au Laboureur are all featured in Regula Ysewijn's book as authentic Belgian cafes. A visit to Au Daringman is on the cards for my next visit to Brussels.
Au Labourer, Rue du Flandre 108, is at the northern end, at the junction with Rue du Marche au Porcs.
Regula Ysewijn writes 'Today we find an early 1920s decor with wooden wall panelling and a matching bar, all made by Henri Houbaer from Koekelberg, who also created the interior in other Brussels cafes around this time. On the outside of the bar you still find the traditional geuze corkscrew, I have never seen it in such a prominent spot.'
With prominent advertising for Papegaei from Brouwerij Verstraete this was an 8% ABV strong blonde ale that we both ordered. It is brewed with barley, wheat, oats and fresh hops by Adam Verstraete at the Deca brewery in Woesten, near Ypres. We sat at a table inside to avoid most of the traffic noise outside but all the doors and windows were open on this warm evening. The distinctive music playing on the sound system was by Alain Bashung (1947-2009) from En Amont, his last studio album, released posthumously in 2018.
We left at 9.15pm and stopped to take a photo of the Cubitus mural that faces Au Laboureur from across Rue du Marche au Porcs. The scene is of the Mannekin Pis statue but Mannekin's position has been usurped by Cubitus the dog and he is the spectator by the railings.
On the way to Delirium Village we stopped for some Asian food at a new minimalist cafe / restaurant in Rue du Flandre that Steve had spotted with an illustrated vegetarian menu displayed in the front window
Crossing the pedestrianised Boulevard Anspach, Steve noticed the bicycle wheels suspended across the street in connection with the Tour de France which would start from Brussels within a week.
We arrived at Delirium Cafe, Impasse de la Fidélité 4, at about 10pm.
We climbed the steps from the entrance to reach the Hoppy Loft and find the others sat at one of the tables with a top made from a wagon wheel in the dimly lit room.
From the list of 20 draught beers above the bar, I enjoyed a 25cl glass of Zero San, a Brut IPA dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin from Reservoir Dogs (Nova Gorica, Slovenia) costing 5.60 euros.
There were two other beers from Reservoir Dogs, four beers from Oitava Colina (Lisbon, Portugal) and three beers from Beerstorming (Brussels) amongst others.
The Hoppy Loft has plenty of brewery enamel signs on display and there are more on the passageway that leads to the toilets.
One of the cheapest beers (3.80 euros / 25cl) was Delirium Tremens by Huyghe Brewery and this seemed a good reason to reacquaint myself with it!
When the Hoppy Loft closed we joined the lively crowd in the passageway outside. Impasse de la Fidélité is the location for Jeanneke Pis fountain and statue, protected by railings, another photo opportunity!
Moeder Lambic Fontainas is on the way back to Hotel Barry from Delirium Village and this is where I enjoyed my final beer of the night - Noisy Pale Ale brewed by No Science. The 6% ABV Belgian IPA (60 IBU) is brewed with Challenger and Mosaic hops. This was a recommendation from Jenlain of Gist who had called in to his old workplace for a beer. Jenlain pointed out the six handpumps against the wall at the back of the bar and mentioned that he had been involved in expanding the range of beer styles served from these pumps. He also pointed out that there is only limited storage capacity for beers to be served from the handpumps but that KeyKegs could be accommodated. 
With music by the Handsome Family playing on the sound system it was nice to be able to sit at the bar with good beer and good music. As usual the Moeder Lambic staff were reliably professional. 
Hotel Barry is only 250 metres away and I would sleep soundly despite the residual heat and lack of air conditioning in my room.