18 July 2018

Antwerp - Thursday 21/6/2018

The Parcel Yard, the Fuller's pub inside Kings Cross station, was the rendezvous for our group before catching a lunchtime train from St Pancras International to Brussels Midi.
Arriving at Brussels later in the day than for previous years we decided to catch the first train to Antwerp.
Andrew, Richard and John got off at Antwerpen-Berchem station, convenient for their hotel (Tryp by Wyndham Antwerp) while Simon and I continued to Antwerpen Centraal where we checked into our rooms at the nearby Ibis Budget hotel.
Our first stop,  on the way to Antwerp's historic centre, was at Cafe Oud Arsenaal, Maria Pijpelincxstraat 4, 'authentic pub since 1929'.
Simon ordered a draught Rodenbach and my choice was a draught Musketeers Troubadour Blond costing 2.60 / 2.90 euros for 33cl respectively.
While enjoying our beers it was interesting to look around this much appreciated bar with the bar counter in one corner and only a few tables to choose from. Brewery signs and old photos adorn the walls and ceiling!
The bar front has contrasting wood layers in a geometric pattern. A brass rail runs around the base of the bar and a selection of bottled beers are displayed on the counter top.
A cat was resting in a raised basket at the back of the pub, underneath the front wheel of a dangling old bicycle. A tall blackboard lists some special bottled beers in 75cl and 37.5cl sizes.
Ian McCallum at Oud Arsenaal
Ian McCallum, a recent Twitter acquantaince, joined us, having flown from Edinburgh to Charleroi and on by train to Antwerp via Brussels today. Ian was looking forward to his first visit to BierPassie Weekend festival tomorrow when his friend from Rotterdam would join him. 
With a name 'Run through a Field of Wheat', echoing Theresa May's self-confessed past misdemeanours, this bottled beer from The Musketeers Brewery bucketlist series (No. 1), caught my attention and proved to be one of my favourites on this visit to Belgium.
We got a text message from the main group that they would meet us in Cafe Kulminator so we said goodbye to Ian and the cafe cat!
We imagined meeting up with Ian again at the festival but it turned out that our times there never coincided with his - perhaps we'll meet again next year! However, it was nice to be able to keep up with Ian's posts and photos on Twitter and find out that he would visit De Koninck Brewery and enjoy 'awesome beers' at Cafe Kulminator.
The venerable Cafe Kulminator, Vleminckveld 32, is only half a mile west of Oud Arsenaal.
We found our group around a round table in the raised rear level of the cafe with a view of the conservatory at the back.
From the list of draught beers (van 't vat) chalked on the Erdinger board, I chose Malheur 6° (4 euros). 
There was time for a (bottle) of 9% ABV Musketeers Troubadour Magma Maris Otter before we left in search of a meal closer to the historic centre.
Thanks to Keith who led us to WoW Wok, Oude Koornmarkt 4, less than a 100 metres from the eastern end of the Cathedral of Our Lady, the highest Gothic building in the Low Countries. 
The simple ordering process involves choosing rice or noodles, chicken or pork and type of sauce. The chef got straight to work and soon our bowls of food were ready. 
We caught the No. 11 tram, a 1.60 euro fare when validating a Lijn Card in a yellow machine mounted at each entrance. We were heading to Dageraadplaats - 'Argument Square' from previous visits, notably including one on the day that the EU referendum results were announced in 2016.
On arrival at Dageraadplaats stop we crosed the square to reach Cafe ZeeZicht,

Keith Morore - Homebrewer - Cafe ZeeZicht

16 July 2018

Antwerp - Friday 22/6/2018 part 1

The spire of Sint-Willibrordus church breaks the horizon, looking north east from my bedroom window at the rear of the Ibis Budget Antwerp hotel, on Friday morning. The weather looked fair but taking a jacket proved to be a good idea.
Later, Simon and I sat in the warm upstairs area at EXKi,
, at the junction with busy Carnotstraat.
We walked past cafes and Chinese supermarkets before reaching the triangular open space of De Coninckplein with a bike sharing station in one corner.
Beer lover Simon
It was a lucky coincidence to find that we had stumbled upon the entrance to Beer Lovers Bar, Rotterdamstraat 105, facing this corner. Unluckily, it was closed but we resolved (unsuccessfully) to return here later in the weekend.
We peered through the windows to view a contemporary style spacious interior. There were posters on the corner entrance door for a Brouwerij Kees tap takeover / meet the brewer (22 June 2018), a 2nd Anniversary Party (23 June 2018) and for Billie's Craft Beer Fest (30 Nov - 1 Dec 2018).
Colourful artwork decorated the Muizenstraat windows of Beer Lovers Bar.
We continued our walk, following the tram tracks into Richardstraat which is lined with houses of different styles and shapes.
We walked back to Antwerp Centraal station where the main entrance is on Koningen Astridplein. Left of the station and also visible in the panoramic photo is the entrance to Antwerp Zoo, with a camel statue above.
Our plan was to take a De Lijn tram (3 / yellow line), from a station underneath this square, to the western terminus at Zwijndrecht Park and Ride Melsele.
Dorp tram stop - viewed from tram 3.
The tram travels underneath Groenplaats and the river Scheldt emerging at ground level to complete the journey westwards via Dorp. This long journey was good value for 1.60 euro using a Lijn Card.
From the terminus we set off on foot for the walk of a mile north to Cafe de Smoutpot. Our route was along a level minor road wide enough for a single car but with no pavement for pedestrians. We passed a farm shop in the way and saw a variety of crops growing in the fields.
We arrived at 12.30pm to meet up with the rest of our group who had walked from the same tram stop but by an alternative road.
Time for the first beer of the day - chosen from the blackboard with details of draught beers which is slightly different from the printed beer menu.
I chose Kwaremont and it is explained to me that this is the cyclist's beer and a cyclist figure is portrayed in the stem of the bulbous glass.
Keith, Simon and Andrew - Cafe de Smoutpot
Our table is opposite the bar and my seat has a good view of the cafe with its wood burning stove and chimney pipe on the left and traditional armchairs at the front near the entrance. Unusually, a 1950s style fridge door has a dominating position on a shelf over the stove! Sound insulation panels are suspended from the ceiling. The pale green paintwork is tastefully reflected in the beer menu.
Another nice feature is the use of cupboard doors and drawer fronts for the face of the marble topped bar. Note also the stylish 1970s'ish retro TV set on a shelf behind the bar.
We decided to order lunch to go with our next round - several ordered Croques Madame and there was an order for a mixed plate of cheese and meat.
I ordered a Croque Monsieur to go with a draught Tank 7. An explanation for the wide availability of this Farmhouse Ale is that Duvel Moortgat acquired the Kansas City based Boulevard Brewing Co in 2013.
I took the opportunity to photograph Anneke with a copy of Ullage, the West Berkshire CAMRA magazine.
L to R: Simon, Andrew, Richard, John & Tim
She kindly reciprocated by taking a photo of our group for the De Smoutpot instagram account.
Anneke and Nelis reopened De Smoutpot in 2017. An article in Het Nieuwsblad on 8 July 2017 by

De Smoutpot is one of the places featured but note that it has been redecorated since the photos for the book were taken.
Another attractive book is Authentieke Belgische cafes by Regula Ysewijn. This is also published in English as Belgian Cafe Culture.
It was time for another beer and I ordered a 5% ABV Saison style Blonde Stoot from Bieren Cabardouche of Antwerp, served in a tumbler style glass.
Before we left there was time to have a look at the extensive garden behind the cafe.
There is also a covered outside area positioned on the right side of the top garden photo.
Our group enjoyed this visit and having enjoyed such friendly service and hospitality it is very likely that we will return to Cafe de Smoutpot on our next visit to Antwerp.
We all took the same rural route back to the tram stop, which was along a different road than the one that Simon and I had used earlier.