The Sonia Show

Writer. Mocker. Beer drinker. Old movie watcher. Mother. Goober.

Beer pressure


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.

I tried several different St. Bernardus beers, but the Prior 8 is still my favorite.

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.”

Waitress: “OK.”

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.”

Nicholas: “What?”

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.

The guy on the left is a pickpocket.

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:



Author: The Sonia Show

I'm a writer/podcaster/mother/goober in San Francisco who likes to drink beer, shop, laugh and make other people laugh, watch old movies, feed my unhealthy obsession with pop culture, kick breast cancer's ass, go on adventures with my mighty, mighty good man David and my awesome autistic son, Calvin, wear orange and root for the San Francisco Giants, participate in general jackass-ery, talk about TV, eavesdrop on strangers' conversations, make nerdy “Star Wars” and “Simpsons” references, and post personal things about myself on the web for all to read, which makes me some sort of literary exhibitionist.

14 thoughts on “Beer pressure

  1. Dude this whole post is full of awesome.

    “Yes, I drink beer often.”

    (Because I like to repeat the funny things people say in order to savor the funniness just a little bit longer.)

    They tried to pull that with us in Germany too. I think they just assume all tourists are lightweights and they don’t want you to get gangraped in their country after having one dark beer. (Little did they know I’m into that too!)

  2. There is a place in Decatur (an incorporated city totally surrounded by Atlanta) called the Brick Store, a pub and restaurant that would be perfectly at home in San Francisco—all the men working the room sported bushy beards, all the women were tattooed and everyone was pierced. Anyway, upstairs is the Belgian room, with probably 40Belgian beers on tap and scores more available by the bottle (and a nice selection of scotch and bourbon, too).

    I’ve only been there once, but had the Gulden Draak, which was an Amber brown triple; described as having a natural toffee flavor with a bright cherry sweetness, hoppy & rich. I would say yeah, yeah, yeah… it’s good… give me another.

    I am now going to have to move Belgium up on my list of places to visit, and to properly train, I’ll be heading to the Brick Store on a weekly basis, if not more frequently. Will definitely ask for Westvleteren 12

  3. @Marie: In Belgium, usually David would order a lighter beer and my order was darker. The waitress or bartender would always put the dark beer in front of David. Seemed sexist to me.

    @Greg: If you are looking for places to go, then yes, Belgium is great. Bruges was really cute, but Brussels is a little more happenin’.

  4. Great post. Man, I really want to go to Belgium now. Or at least The Trappist. Oakland and Belgium are about the same distance away in my head.

    • TK, Oakland and Belgium are equal distance from SF. Also, there is a language barrier. We have some travel guides we can loan you.

      If you want some company at The Trappist, David and I are always looking for reasons to go. The Trappist is the reason we went to Belgium on our honeymoon.

  5. They all probably thought you were lightweights because here in Europe it’s generally assumed that the only “beer” Americans drink is Budweiser…
    You might consider a trip to my homeland – the UK – next time as the Brits are mighty (and traditional) beer drinkers and there are more types of beer than inhabitants (or so it seems to me). An old friend of mine was a very enthusiastic member of our university’s Real Ale Association – these guys (and gals) are SERIOUS ale drinkers… [speaking very quietly] I don’t personally like beer at all, though I did go through a (very short) phase of “liking” “bière rousse” – a French concoction of beer and whisky.
    Sounds like you had a great trip!

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