Yeah, so, we drank a lot of beer when we were in Belgium.
Shocking, right? We spent five days in Belgium and all we did was eat waffles and drink beer.
David, an adorable nerd who studies for trips, read about this super rare beer called Westvleteren 12. It’s made in a monastery in Belgium, and it’s a real pain in the ass to get it.
“Buyers were originally limited to ten 24-bottle crates of the beer per car, but as the beer increased in popularity, this was first reduced to five, then to two. For the Westvleteren 12 in 2009, it was limited to one case. When making an order now, the type and quantity of beer for sale are revealed. Sales are limited to one order a month per person per license plate and phone number. Also, the beer must be reserved on their “beerphone” (+32 (0)70 21 00 45) beforehand.” [Thank you, Wikipedia.]
The beer doesn’t even have a label. You can only identify it by it’s black and yellow bottle cap. Of course, ever the collector, David had to have it. So, during our first night in Bruges, we walked around the cute downtown square and searched for a place to have our first real Belgium beer. We walked by a bar, Cambrinus, with a sign that said it served 400 different types of beer.
“This place is sure to serve your Precious,” I said. “It’s got 400 beers! One of them must be that one.”
When we sat down the waitress brought us a massive beer book.
Immediately, David searched the book for his Precious. “It’s not in there,” he said. “Maybe I need to ask for it.”
The waitress came back, David asks, “You probably don’t have it, but I thought I would ask, do you have Westvleteren 12?”
“Yes?!” We both said.
“Yes, we are the only place in town that has it,” she said proudly.
The first bar we walked into just so happened to serve one of the rarest beers in the world. It was priced at 12 euro, but here in the U.S. you can get a bottle on eBay for the bargain price of $40 per bottle. David was pleased.
Obviously, this beer was his favorite beer of the trip. We went back to that same bar three nights in a row, and every night David ordered one or two bottles of Westvleteren 12. On our last day in Bruges, David went to the bar’s store, Beer Temple, and bought five bottles to take home. Unfortunately, the specific glass in which the beer is to be served was not available, but more on that later.
I loved just about very single beer I had, but I definitely had a few favorites. I also learned something. I really love dark beer. I mean, I really, really love it. I was introduced to one of them at The Trappist in Oakland – St. Bernardus Prior 8.
Another favorite was almost not served to me. We went on a tour of the De Halve Maan brewery in Bruges. We were a little early, so we took a seat in the bar to have a beer. David ordered the Straffe Hendrik Tripel, but I wanted to try the super dark one.
“I would like the Straffe Hendrik Quadruple, please,” I said.
“I do not recommend that one. It’s 11 percent alcohol content. Very strong. Maybe you would like to try the Brugse Zot,” the waitress said. The Brugse Zot is their blond beer.
Me: “But I really like dark beer, and I want to try it.”
Waitress: “Do you drink beer often? Very strong.”
Me: “David, how do you say ‘I went to Chico State’ in Dutch? … Yes, I drink beer often.”
I am so glad that the waitress deemed me worthy, but I really love this beer. I’ll admit it, she scared me a little. I was worried that I’d have one sip and get instantly wasted; two sips and I’d start dancing around and drunk dialing. That didn’t happen … this time, but the beer was delicious. I bought several bottles to bring home.
No, the night I got really drunk — and, believe it or not, it was the only night that I got really, really drunk — we were in Brussels. We were walking around trying to pick a place to have a drink, and this man was standing outside a bar, “Come in here have a drink.”
“Umm, OK,” and, we took a seat in the bar. David, of course, asked about his Precious, which amazingly the bar had and — holy fuckin’ shit — the bartender served it in its specific glass. “You have the glass!” David said.
“Yes, of course.”
David and the bartender would banter back and forth about the glass and whether or not he would sell David the glass all night. Sadly, David left without buying the glass; however, this story has a happy ending. He was able to find it online later.
So anyway, I didn’t know what to order. “I like dark beer. Will you just bring me something?” I asked.
“Yes, of course. I will bring you our special,” he said. He came back and put a goblet of Waterloo in front of me. Seriously, it’s a goblet.
See that bowl of peanuts in the picture with the beer? That’s all I had for dinner that night, which is why I got kinda smashed. Originally, we were going to have a beer or two and then go eat, but we met this couple of the Netherlands, Suzanne and Nicholas. We started chatting with them and having such a good time that we didn’t want to leave. Also, they kept buying us drinks. They were very, very cool. In fact, Nicholas is so cool that he doesn’t care when people try to rob him.
Allow me to explain.
Everywhere we went in Paris and Belgium, you see signs warning you about pickpockets. I was always on the lookout. I wasn’t worried about myself. No one is going to get in my purse without me knowing about it. I was always looking out for other people.
So, we were sitting at the table with Nicholas and Suzanne when these two guys came and sat down at the table behind them. They flung their coats over there chairs and started smoking. (Weird, right? Yeah, people can still smoke in bars there.) Eventually, I noticed that one of the guys was pretending to be going in his coat pocket, but he was really going into Nicholas’ coat.
Me: “That man is going through Nicholas’ coat.”
Me: “He’s going through your coat.”
Nicholas: “There is nothing in my coat.” [exhales smoke] “He will be disappointed.”
The pickpocket and I made eye contact. “I’m taking his picture,” I said. Immediately, the thief stood up and went to the bar.
Sorry, back to the beer. Like I said, we had a lot of beer. I tried to remember to take a picture of each different one, but Belgium beer is really strong and I may have missed a few. So anyway, click on this photo of me drinking a beer to see them all: