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After a mere 17 calls, I finally secured two crates of cherished Westvleteren beer for pick up next week.

For folks back home, Westvleteren is a notoriously hard beer to acquire, sold only from the brewery and limited to two crates per car, per 60 days.

The two crates can only be ordered, usually two weeks before hand, by calling the brewery “beer hotline” between 930 and 12.

This beer hotline appears to be a solitary cheery chap, gladly taking his orders in glorious West Flemish.

Today, is a good day!

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Waterloo (win the war of the playground)

I went to Waterloo (I was defeated, you won the war) yesterday, and played on a swing. It was without doubt the highlight of my week.

Other waterloo highlights were the fun times at the local supermarket, delicious Waterloo Tripel in distinguished ceramic glass, and finally ending the minutes of tension between the Flemish and Neapolitan armies.

Waterloo Tripel - really tasty!

Non-Alcoholic Jupiler *with* alcoholic Jupiler. What a badass.

5.2% Jupiler in an alcohol-free Jupiler glass.

They don’t get more Belgian Badass than this. With every glass of sneaky pintje, the chance of deportation only grows.

Don’t tell the feds!

Whilst trying to work out if today was indeed my parents wedding anniversary (it isn’t) I found this old email I sent them nearly five years ago.

It’s one of my many late 2006 rants about I didn’t particularly like the town of Ninove, the first ‘town’ I lived in upon arrival in Belgium. I find it interesting to see how my love of the place hasn’t changed much since my first initial impressions.

Ladies and gentleman of the blog-o-sphere, if you ever find yourself moving to Belgium, I would recommend avoiding Ninove as your first port-o-call. Perhaps go there once you’ve fallen in love with Gent or Antwerpen or heaven forbid Bruges, but whatever you do, don’t allow Ninove to be your introduction to this beautiful country.

Ninove is without doubt the smallest town I’ve ever attempted to live in. There are no shops, no restaurants, no signs of aaaany nightlife.. I’d be crazy to move in here! Having said that – I would certainly spend a lot less money, but whats the point of making money if you can’t spend it?

This afternoon I’m going to head into the “downtown” of Ninove and try to set up my first non-Australian bank account. Apparently all I need is a letter from my employer, which I have (including my contract), so hopefully it’ll be a breeze. The downside is that I’ll have to walk there, a mere half hour hike, however it rains here all day long! I’ll have to get one of those dryzabones next time I’m in the country.

Are those things even made for rain? I have no idea what they are really. regardless – I’ll have to make a start by buying at least an umbrella. Everyone at work was shocked when I told them I only owned one, and that it was in Australia! People here have multiple umbrellas on them at any one time, so the lady I’m living with (in her B&B) gave me one from her car’s backseat.

Apparently Ninove is going to try and get some work with the company that brews Fosters in Europe, that would be funny.. I’d be working at a pseudo-Aussie brewery in Europe! Imagine that. I hope they don’t make me drink the stuff!

I bought a Duvel beer last night for less than a Euro. It was so strange, I’ve never bought one for less than AU$7! I felt rightly royal.

Living in my B&B has been a little tough in the evenings, I don’t have any kitchen facilities, and the only food is in town (half an hour away) – so I’ve gone the past two nights without anything for dinner. This I plan to change tonight, when I go into town. Apparently there’s a pub that will serve me some pasta – I’m ITCHING to eat something that isn’t on a bread roll. eerp.

Incidentally Belgium makes the second best bread-rolls in Europe. If you’re ever in the country I thoroughly suggest you stock up on bread, unless of course you’re coming via the land of the best bread-rolls in Europe.

Ahhh Germany, you and your bread can come over any time.

Last night my dear Ghentlelady prepared her incredible Flemish favourite Stoofvlees, an incredible stewed meat based on dark trappist beer.

Unfortunately I was so overwhelmed by the culinary experience that I forgot to photograph the moment, however here is her recipe handed down from generation of beer-drinking-belgian to another so you can try it at home, should you have a ready supply of Rocheforte 10:

  1. Cut up a kilo of Chuck Casserole steak into nice big chunks
  2. Heat up a fry pan, and get it nice and hot!
  3. In a big pot, brown an onion with some butter, let it rest
  4. In the big hot fry pan, melt some butter and the cook the meat on high heat until it’s nice and crusty
  5. Add meat to the big pot with the onion
  6. Add your trappist beer to the pan (not the big pot! the pan!) and whisk the crusty crap from the meat together with the beer making a bizarre sauce. Don’t let the beer boil, otherwise you’ve wasted a fine fine brew.
  7. Place your trappist sauce into the big pot
  8. Add a few bay-leaves (three or four), thyme, and then the ultimate grandma secret: A piece of white bread smeared with Dijon mustard on both sides. This will add not only volume to your brewing stew, but also add a whole lot of awesome.
  9. Let the stoofvlees stew on low heat for a few hours, adding a little more water (or beer, though the flemish recommend drinking beer from here on) if the liquid gets low.
  10. According to legend, stoofvlees tastes better if you leave it to sit for a day, so once it’s cool, put the pot in the fridge and go eat some fries and a beer, or something.
  11. The next day, boil some patatoes, heat your stoofvlees, and eat like a king.

You may wish to get some more Belgian fries insted of the boiled potatoes, but that’s only if you live in Belgium – because you can not get good fries outside of the land of potato. This is just accepted fact.

Whilst served in most Flemish restauarants, you’ll rarely find two stoofvlees’ the same. Some add chocolate (Ghentlady opinion: This is just crazy), wine (destroys everything), sugar (far too sweet) or corn starch (makes sauce horrible). However in my seasoned opinion there is very little you can do to make beer + meat go wrong.

Next time you’re in the imported beer aisle, get a Westmalle Dubbel or Rocheforte 10 (though possibly also a Leffe Bruin, but this is only if you are really desperate) and go get stewing.

Unless of course it’s Thursday, and you’re at home eating vegetarian the good ol’ fashioned Gent way!

It’s been four years of Belgium and likely four thousand beers of Belgium, but after all this time and hops, I still come back to Rochefort 10 as the post dinner beer of choice.

This stuff pours itself. The glasses are sexy, the bottles are firm. The crates they are delivered in are deliciously weighty, and their prices are deceivingly low (they give 10 euro return for your bottles! Cop that, tax man!). The beer is meaty, without leaving bits in your teeth. There’s a trace of caramel, or at least something sweet, however it’s not too much to chase away thoughts of dessert.

There is a downside to this dear dear brew though, in that the idea of a second Rochefort after your first always makes sense up until the next morning – these beers have an uncanny way to usher in the most demobilizing hangovers I’ve ever had. Some might suggest the 11.3% alcohol content is sign enough, however I think there’s something a little darker going on amidst this holy Trappist beer. The monks have put a little bit of their ‘magic’ in each bottle, just enough to cause trouble!

I have made the near impossible decision to stop drinking after just one bottle this evening, however the fridge is full for another week and a bit.

Oh blessed be thy Belgian beer supermarket!

The most beautiful empty crate I have ever emptied

For my birthday last year, Annelies suprised me with not just one sucker punch, but twenty-four, each bottled in a glass bottle marked ‘West Vleteren’.

West Vleteren beer is regarded by many Beer snobs as the beer to beat, consistently rated the best beer in the world (BeerAdvocate.com #1, RateBeer.com #1).

The 10.5% brew was an absolute joy to drink, tasting like a Rochefort with a caramal aftertaste.  The taste of alcohol is not at all overpowering, however this is no simple lager – the many complex flavours and thick malt make it a difficult to drink more than one bottle in a sitting.  I worked my way through half a carton in less than a month, however the last twelve lasted a good deal longer – the scarcity of the brew started to dawn on me.

One of the key ingredients that makes the beer all the more appealing is the difficult path one must take to actually aquire a bottle. For starters, the only place in the world to buy the brew is from the manufacturer themselves, a small monastory in West Flanders. Secondly, a maximum of two crates can be bought by any one car (not person) at a time. And after all that, West Vleteren is only available if you have made a pre-arranged appointment with the monastory, often several weeks in advance.

According to their website, there is no available beer between now and March, and quite possibly longer. It looks as though I’ll be waiting quite some time for my next West Vleteren fix!

Hommelbier

Thought it great at first,
Now – a dry, boring Orval
Only one will do
.

I’ve been back to this drop once or twice in the past few months, though despite always being a little disappointed by the blandness, there’s something that gets me buying it again and again. At 7.5% alcohol volume, it’s not exactly a beer that can be sneezed at, however it doesn’t sooth a thirsty throat like a non eleven percent-er should.

Interesting (?) to note is that you can read about Hommelbier on wikipedia in both eastern Flemish, and Western. Flanders. What a place, eh?