A Sunday Morning Stroll
Sunday 25 June was the final day of Antwerp Beer Passion Weekend XVIII. Some roads were closed to traffic for the Men's cycle road race component of the 2017 Belgian Road Championships.
Mark, Simon, Dave (aka Bod) and I set off from Bogaardestraat and stopped for a mooch around the flea market (vlooienmarkt) stalls in Sint-Jansvliet square, facing the imposing entrance to the Pedestrians' / St Anna's tunnel which goes to the left bank under the Schelde / Scheldt river.
I was pleased to find a stall selling a variety of Belgian beer glasses and paid 3 euros for a 33cl Westmalle chalice.
From here we walked south west, next to the closed main road, past residential blocks on the city side and industrial buildings on the river side until we turned left to reach FOMU - the Foto Museum.
After this exercise we had a relaxing break for coffee / tea / wifi in the Pixel museumcafe.
On our route back to the city centre we passed Waterpoort (near Huisbrouwerij -Brasserie 't Pakhuis visited in 2016)
The city's main art gallery, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts remains closed for renovation but we browsed the stalls outside for Lambermontmartre - the monthly summer art market.
Bier Passie Weekend, Antwerp - Final Day
By the time we reached Groenplaats we were ready for our first beer of the day using a 2 euro token for a 20cl measure from the brewery stalls inside the festival enclosure.
The festival was less busy than on Saturday so it was a good opportunity to chat with some people involved with the festival. Having enjoyed Troubador Magma it was good to meet up with Stefaan Soetemans, a founder of Brouwerij The Musketeers. Stefaan mentioned that the brewery will be moving from Ursel to an old brick factory in Sint Gillis-Waas, with plans for a visitors tap room on site, opening by the summer of 2018.
It was nice to meet Ben Vinken, Beer Sommelier and organiser of the beer festival, at last year's event. This year, Ben (on the left of the photo) kindly exchanged my copy of Ullage, the West Berkshire CAMRA magazine, for a special edition of his publication 0 Bierpassie Magazine.
The 75th edition includes a tribute to 'Beer Hunter' Michael Jackson (1942-2007) on the 10th anniversary of his death.
For the festival, special beer mats with a selection of Michael Jackson's beer quotes, were provided at tables and also available for sale as a pack of 100.
Cheese is an ideal accompaniment to beer. Disposable plates with portions of Vieux Chimay and Westmalle cheese available for sale at Ben's Beer Sommelier Bar (2 tokens / 4 euros).
Visitors to Ben's bar included Hans 'Pif' Bombeke (left), Chairman of Antwerps BierCollege and Coordinator of Modeste Bier Festival and his colleague also involved with Modeste Bier Festival which will be held in Antwerp 30 Sep - 1 Oct, 2017.
It was nice to be able to exchange a copy of Ullage for Antwerpse BierCourant the publication of Antwerps BierCollege. This includes a calendar of events on the back cover.
Some music from the bandstand livened up the beer festival on Sunday afternoon.
Having spent all our beer tokens it was time for a late lunch.
Lunch at Aura Bar Brasserie, Antwerp
We returned to Aura Cafe Brasserie, Hoogstraat 34, an establishment where our group had previously enjoyed lunch in 2017.
This time we asked for a table in the rear courtyard which was sheltered by a natural vine canopy.
A 'bolleke' of locally brewed De Koninck was the draft beer that I ordered and Simon carefully poured his bottle from Brouwerij Het Nest.
Away from the bustle of the festival and the high street, the only noise in this quiet haven came from church bells at intervals. It was peaceful enough for Mark to doze off before the food arrived!.
As remembered from last year, the cheese omelette and salad surrounded by a long slice of cucumber was perfectly prepared.
Antwerpen-Centraal railway station
We headed to Antwerp Central station for a train to Brussels. The station's dome is visible from many parts of the city. The terminus building, designed by Louis Delacenserie with eclectic influences is regarded as one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world.
Platforms are on several levels and our train departed from the depths, accessed by escalators.
Moeder Lambic Fontainas, Brussels
As on previous visits to Brussels, my first beer was enjoyed at Moeder Lambic, Place Fontainas 8.
There were more people sitting outside than inside the stylish bar.
It was the weekend of a Quebec breweries event.
Draught beers from Dieu du Ciel!, Le Trou de Diable and Dunham were available.
My choice of Cyclope Kappa IPA by Brasserie Dunham (5.7% ABV, 25cl / 5 euro) was refreshing with tropical fruit notes.
Bar Au Soleil, Brussels
Walking to nearby Poechenellekelder, to meet up with my friends who were staying in a different hotel, involved passing Bar Au Soleil where DJs were playing interesting music outside. There was only time to stop for a photo.
Next to the infamous Manneken Pis fountain, Poechenellekelder is another Brussels bar that always gets a visit when I am in the city.
An advance party of Mark, Dave and Simon from the Antwerp train had already been joined by Karen and Barry, just returned from a day trip to Bruges. A third table was brought into play so I could sit with them in the front courtyard.
My first beer was a Zinne Bir from Brasserie de la Senne, a Brussels brewery visited by Mark and Dave earlier in their two week Belgian trip. Zinnebir was originally created by Bernard Leboucq for the second Zinneke parade in Brussels in 2002. Zinneke is a nickname given to people from Brussels reflecting the multicultural aspects of the city.
Before long, our group was joined by Keith, John, Andrew and Richard.
They had left Antwerp earlier in the day in order to visit the SWAFF craft beer festival in Brussels. Andrew mentioned that he really enjoyed some beers from Tempest Brew Co, based in the Scottish borders. Other British breweries represented at SWAFF included Beer By Numbers, Northern Monk and Weird Beard.
Now we could order our meals and I followed Simon's example in ordering the esteemed lasagne. From the draught (au fut) beer menu, my choice was Brasserie de la Senne Schieven IPA.
With ten around the grouped tables, including Karen wearing the Barbãr horned hat found by Mark, there were few lulls in conversation. However, when John broke a rare silence by exclaiming 'bollocks', Andrew mentioned his observation that John was uncomfortable in silent moments. As conversation ranged to the possible venue for Simon's forthcoming 50th birthday on Thursday, it would soon be Andrew's repetition of 'Guildford' that earned him a reprimand, to much amusement.
The interior of Poechenellekelder with its intriguing collection of puppets and figures was glimpsed on occasional brief visits inside.
With tobacco smoke wafting across the courtyard and clouds threatening rain, it might have been advantageous to have retired indoors but this opportunity would later occur to obtain a final beer once the main bill for the evening's beer and meals had been paid.
Our experienced waiter, who disciplined us into ordering rounds of beers, instead of individual beers at our convenience, eventually presented John with the main bill of about 240 euros and the invidious task of collecting contributions from everyone.
Eventually the bill was paid and orders were taken for a final round of drinks.
After the final settlement and farewells, gone 1am on Monday morning, the changing crowd of tourists at the Mannekin Pis had evaporated and we returned to our various hotels.
Cheers to everyone on this Belgian trip, one I hope to repeat several elements of in June 2018.