This is the 4th installment of our Beery Adventures in Belgium. We visited Bruges, Gent, Mechelen, Antwerp & Brussels over 7 days, meeting with vendors for our beer travel company, BonBeerVoyage.com. During our whirlwind week, we were able to visit over 50 beer related places and tasted over 50 different beers.
With Bruges behind us, we are now going to focus on Gent. During our 2 nights and 1 day in Gent we visited 9 bars, discovered a new brewery and tasted 13 different beers.
Our 1st visit was to De Dulle Griet (50 Vrijdagmarkt). De Dulle Griet is a cool, quirky bar which you will find on the square called Friday Market (Vrijdagmarkt in Dutch). The bar is named after a very famous medieval supergun from Gent. You can see this large red canon on display just outside the Friday Market on the canal front. Dulle Griet has over 250 beers to choose from, including their famous “The Max” which is Kwak from Brouwerij Bosteels poured into a Kwak Yard Glass.
As you may know, these glasses are not cheap, so in order to deter sticky fingered visitors from making them into souvenirs, patrons ordering “The Max” must take off one of their shoes as collateral. The shoes is then put into a basket and hoisted to the ceiling by a pulley system. When the glass is returned, so is the shoe! This bar can get crowded, so as a courtesy to your fellow imbibers, if you plan to have a Kwak, wear your odor eaters, please!
After searching the packed pub both upstairs and down and not finding a seat in the house, Ruth & I were fortunate enough to be invited by another couple, on a holiday from Holland, to share the next available table. I started my night off with a Malheur 12, which is a Quadruple and 12% abv from Brouwerij De Landtsheer NV . Ruth started with a Rochefort 10, also a Quadruple at 11.3% abv from Brasserie de Rochefort (Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy). After we finished our Quadruples, we said goodbye to our new Dutch friends and left to check out one more pub before heading off to dinner.
As we walked to Café Den Trollekelder (17 Bij Sint-Jacobs) we heard what sounded like a jazz band practicing nearby. So as I went to check out Den Trollekelder, Ruth went to track down where the great music was coming from.
The 1st thing I saw upon approaching Den Trollekelder were all the trolls in the window. The 2nd thing I noticed was the beer list hanging in the window, at a quick glance it appeared they had about 150 beers. Great list, now to find a seat. As I entered I noticed how empty the place looked. I walked through the 2 levels and the only person I saw was the bartender. I thought this was strange, given the fact of how crowded Dulle Griet had been and how good the beer menu looked. I headed back out the door to find Ruth who hadn’t appeared in this troll den yet.
I saw her standing next door in front of Trefpunt (18 Bij Sint-Jacobs) talking to an elder man with a small plaid shopping cart. The stranger my wife was chatting it up with was Coen, a local artist and poet. He apparently carries all his poetry in that shopping cart. He confirmed that the jazz band we heard would be playing shortly in Trefpunt, which is a music and theater café. We went in & found a couple of seats at the bar near the stage. They have a small beer list of 6 beers on tap and 18 bottled. We both managed to find a something to our liking.
Ruth stayed with Rochefort and this time ordered a Rochefort 8, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, 9.2% abv from Brasserie de Rochefort. I matched her Trappist with an Orval, a Belgian Pale Ale. It is 6.90% abv and brewed by Brasserie d’Orval S.A.
Coen and Ruth got into a conversation about everything from the French Poetry to Bob Dylan. This was followed by her attempt at interpreting his Flemish reading of one of his poems, (the Rocheforts obviously somehow endowed her with translating superpowers). By the time the band started to play we were starving so after the first set we headed out in search of dinner.
We went to the beer enthusiasts’ restaurant Aba-Jour (20 Oudburg) which serves Italian & Belgian fair. Aba-Jour had 6 beers on tap, 55 bottled plus 10 specials on their menu board including Vin de Céréale and Stille Nacht 2003.
While we waited to be seated for dinner, we sat at the bar and Ruth went for a Rochefort trifecta and ordered the Rochefort 6, which is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 7.5% Abv from Brasserie de Rochefort. I went with Drie Founteine Oude Geuze, a 6.0% abv which is a Gueuze from Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen.
With my spaghetti dinner I stayed in the Gueuze family and ordered Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio, a 5.0% Gueuze from Brasserie Cantillon.
Above is a Haiku, written that evening for us by Coen (Coenraed de Waele ) with one of the 7 or so pens he had in his jacket pocket for such occasions. (For those of you not familiar with Haiku, it is a Japanese form of poetry written in 3 lines, the 1st line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7 syllables and the 3rd line has 5 syllables.) This is what it says.
Hear close harmony.
Some Americans in town.
My mind runs open.
By Coenraed de Waele
The next morning and early afternoon we spent touring around Gent. During our rounds we came across 2 beer bars, which were unfortunately closed at that time of the day.
The 1st one was Het Verdronken Land (57 Steendam) which is a tapasbar. They have about 50 beers on their list and is only a short walk N.E. from Den Trollekelder.
The 2nd beer bar which was closed was Delirium Café , (2 Klein Turkije). The Delirium’s entrance would lead you to their basement bar. This is the sister bar of the famous Delirium Café in Brussels, but is has nowhere near the 2000 beers you will find in Brussels. It does, however, have an impressive 150 beers on its menu.
While we walked thru the Christmas Market we came upon a booth promoting a new brewery in town named Gruut. We had a sample of their Belgian Amber Ale which is, as the name says an Amber Ale at 6.6% abv. We found the beer, the way it was made and the beer glass all very interesting, so we inquired about the Brewery. Once we found out it was about a half mile away, we headed off to see…
Gruut Gentse Stadsbrouwerij (10 Grote Huidevettershoek) is a Hop-less brewery. The head brewer a female. They currently make 4 beers, a Wit Beer 5%abv; a Blond 5.5% abv; an Amber Ale 6.6% abv and a Bruin 8% which at the time was in production but not bottled yet.
Gruut is the name of a medieval mixture of spices and herbs used to make beer instead of using hops. Gruut was also the name of the local currency in the middle ages which was used to pay the taxes on the amount of Gruut used.
Here at Gruut they use modern equipment and brewing techniques in the old-fashioned tradition.
The bar/brewery/tasting room is very modern and nice. And it’s worth the visit just to see the restrooms…
With a snack of hard cheese and salami, Ruth enjoyed the Belgium Wit Beer and while I had their Belgium Blond.
The walk back into town from Gruut made us thirsty so we stopped off at ‘t Gouden Mandeke (9 Pensmarkt) for a beer. This was a quaint bar with baskets hanging along the beams of the ceiling. They were very crowded and there was no place to sit, not even at the bar. A quick peek at the beer menu revealed that they had about 50 beers, a good selection, but nothing we couldn’t find elsewhere in town. With a thought of a later return visit, we headed off to find a place where we could sit and enjoy a beer.
We walked to the end of the block to ‘t Galgenhuisje (5 Groentenmarkt). This is the smallest bar in Gent. The location was where they used to hang people, hence its name “the Gallows House”. They had 4 beers on tap and 14 bottled beers. They made up for the small beer list with a great atmosphere. Amazingly enough, a couple was leaving as we arrived so we were able to grab one of the few tables that fit into this doll house sized pub.
I had the Gentse Tripel, which is an 8.0% abv Tripel from the Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V. Ruth drank a Westmalle triple, which is a 9.50% abv Tripel from Brouwerij Westmalle (Adbij der Trappisten van Westmalle). We meet a great couple sitting at the table next to us. After a while of chatting across our tables, we invited them to join us at our table, which made for an easier conversation. And opened up a table for another group!
She is a native of Gent and he is also a native from Gent, but he now lives in Canada a few months out of the year. We enjoyed their company so much that after we finished our drinks here the four of us walked across the street to…
Het Waterhuis Aan De Bierkant (9 Groentenmarkt). Waterhuis is wonderful bar, if the weather is nice you can grab some grub and a beer outside while enjoying the canal view and people watching. Inside it is a two story bar with a casual atmosphere. They have an excellent beer menu; that night they had 16 beers on tap and over 150 bottled.
I drank a Oud Beersel Oude Gueze Vieille , a 6% abv Gueuze which is brewed by Brouwerij Oud Beersel, Ruth had the N’ice Chouffe, which is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 10% abv. This is a Christmas beer made from by the Brasserie d’Achouffe which was van ‘t vat (from the tap).
Our new friends and drinking companions treated us to a round. We look forward to sharing a few with them when we return to Gent during our Belgium Beer Barge Tour in October!
It was then off to dinner after consulting with the locals. We ate at a restaurant called Coeur d’Artichaut (6 Onderbergen). It had a kind of modern sparse décor, high ceilings, black and white. Great atmosphere, great food, great end to a great day! All while having the proper glassware for my Duvel too!
Gent at night:
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