HOPTOLOGY

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Belgium Beer Tour pt. 2 – Bar crawling in Brussels

It's kind of a big deal.

It’s kind of a big deal.

Brussels has quite a few fun historical sites that make the city worth a visit, the medieval town square where the Grand Palace sits being the biggest and most impressive. It’s also home to more chocolate shops in a two mile square radius than I’ve ever seen before. The chocolate is pretty damn impressive so if you ever feel the need to take a breather from your own beer adventure in the city, I’d recommend indulging your sweet tooth for a while. After spending some time playing tourist around the city it was time to resume our beer adventures, and this time we went to a place that my wife was actually more excited to go to than I was.

Delirum Café – Impasse de la Fidélité 4, Brussels, Belgium 1000

My wife is sort of obsessed with Delirium, not only for the beer but for the pink elephant logo as well. To say that she was excited to be here was an understatement. Before coming to Belgium she was already a fan of Tremens and the Noel that Brewery Huyghe releases for the holidays. Introducing her Nocturnum and Red was something of a spectacle to behold2014-01-18 15.49.53

The Delirium Café is something of a frat party having sex with a chaos demon. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Like a bar at the end of the universe, this is a place where people from everywhere come together to get drunk as one. The United Nations should take a page from these guys. You can easy walk around and hear a dozen different languages being spoken as well as finding every other American who happens to be in the city at the same time as you. The crowd slants a little towards the younger side, but not so much that someone in their 30’s or 40’s would feel out of place. It’s crowded and noisy and people tend to swarm the bar for their beer orders, but there are plenty of bartenders that are able to accommodate most people in a quick and orderly fashion. Seating is available all over this big, sprawling location, with tables all around and booths made from old industrial boiling kettles. There is bar seating available as well, although it does come with some risk. Yes, you can get the bartenders attention quickly, but the odds of a press of patrons attempting to smother you so they can place their order are also possible.2014-01-18 15.52.39

The draft list is about 15 beers deep with a pretty worldly selection available, however, if you want to be impressed, you have to take a look at the 2,000 plus bottle list that is also available to choose from. Aside from the Delirium beers, I was able to indulge in Gulden Draak and damn is it good from draft. It’s a safe bet to say that you’ll easily find whatever beer fits you mood. If however the idea of potentially dealing with a ridiculously crowded bar is off putting to you, I’d also like to mention that you can visit the “Little Dilirium Café”, located just a few streets over at Rue du Marché aux Fromages, 7-9 Brussels, Belgium 1000 which has a slightly less chaotic environment and where we had the opportunity to engage with our bartender and several of the very friendly locals. Also, as if my wife wasn’t already in love with Delirium, we now also have four glasses in our home with their name emblazoned all over them.

Moeder Lambic –  Fontainas Plaats 8, 1000 Brussels, Belgium

Moeder Lambic is simply amazing. This is a beer bar that is helping to change the beer culture of Brussels. They were the first bar to refuse to sign contracts with Duvel, insisting that they would not be yet another pawn of corporate brewers. They sell legitimate Belgian craft beer and the rest of the draft board is a wonderful selection from across Europe and even parts of the U.S. Words fail me when it comes to describing how impressed I was with the place. The staff is very knowledgeable about every beer they sell and are eager to answer your questions and even make a recommendation or two if you ask for one, which my wife does constantly.2014-01-18 19.58.27

There is also a great feel of community at Moeder Lambic, it was a full house when we entered but they quickly seated us at a booth shared by another couple. At first we thought this was a little strange, but being friendly Americans we were able to quickly strike up a conversation with our butchered version of French and their better attempts with English. This made for a fun portion of the night as they were able to help us assemble a tasty meat and cheese board that complimented the beers we drank marvelously.2014-01-18 19.09.01

They have 46 taps at your disposal as well as a bottle selection that hovers around the 200 mark. The atmosphere is fun, modern and very cool. I couldn’t get enough of this place and I recommend it wholeheartedly if you are lucky enough to spend some time in the city.

The last bar that I’d like to share with you is something from a time vortex…

 Au Bon Vieux Temps – Impasse Saint-Nicolas 4 Brussels, 1000 Belgium2014-01-19 13.51.55

In my mind, I’m not sure it gets much better that visiting a 300 year old Gothic bar in the heart of the city off of a dark and scary ally. While it’s possible, according to my wife, that I spent far too much time trying to actually locate this place, I can say with all honestly that it was worth it. Saying it’s a little tricky to find is something of an understatement, although in my defense, trying to locate a small bar in a foreign country certainly adds a degree of difficulty to my efforts. You need to pay attention because the first and only thing you’ll see is a non-descript sign pointing you though an archway that could easily send you back in time or a parallel dimension. Next you walk through a dark ally, with only a few lights pointing you towards your destination. The stained glass windows will probably make you think you have found some sort of old church rather than a bar but once you walk trough the tiny doorway, you find yourself in a bar where time has seemingly stood still. Beautiful wood paneling along the wall, with tables both big and small available to any groups or couple who make their way inside. This bar is essentially the polar opposite of the Delirium Café. Instead of big crowds and lots of noise you get a much more subdued and classy environment in which to enjoy the beers of Belgium. I also found this bar to be more populated with locals then many of the spots around the GranPalace. What also helps to distinguish this bar from all of the others in Brussels is the fact that they stock, on a regular basis, the very rare Westvleteren XII trappist quad, from the monks at Saint Sixtus. It’s a tasty beer and well worth the effort if you have the time to indulge. Being an ‘old school’ bar, they don’t have any draft beers, just a very nice selection of Belgian beers, a mix of trappist ales and other less rare Belgian style ales. 2014-01-19 12.38.39

These three bars represent what I would personally consider the cream of the crop. However, when in Belgium, it’s pretty hard not to find a bar with some pretty decent beers to select from. One thing you may notice is that some bars will prominently feature signs and logo from one specific beer. From what I was told, these are bars that are essentially owned by that brewery, which is something that is illegal in the U.S. My personal stance is that I avoided going to any such establishment but to each their own. I’d much rather find the locally owned, small business and give them my money. While waking the streets you will also find several very nice bottle shops such as “de Bier Temple” and “250 Beers Belgium” which can easily provide you with any souvenir bottles that you might want to bring home…unless of course, you have some other bottles in mind that you’d like to bring home with you….

Westy XII!!

Westy XII!!

That’s what we call a ‘teaser’

Cheers,

Tom2014-01-19 14.14.33


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12 Beers of Christmas pt. 3 – Deck the Halls with Beers aplenty…Beers #9-12

Here we are and Christmas is upon us. I can smell the chestnuts roasting on the open fire but I can’t let that distract me from the visions of great holiday beers that are dancing through my head. Let’s wrap this up like a present to put under the tree.

Picking up where we left off…

9. Lost Abbey – Gift of the Magi – Belgian Golden Ale 9.5%ABV Leave it to the mad geniuses at Lost Abbey to create a beer based on the Three Kings and the gifts they delivered to the baby Jesus; Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. What we get is an ale of golden color that uses the bark of Frankincense to add the bittering component and a dash of the herb known as Myrrh. The beer is delicious! Even if you don’t care for the bible, this beer might cause you to reconsider. Once the big, frothy head on this beer settles down you will find a pleasant spiced aroma waiting for you. First taste will bring a mild sweetness to your palate then the hops will come on the back end. The beer has some crispness to it as well and as it warms there will be a little bit of dryness to the finish. As usual with beers from Lost Abbey, this can be bottled aged which is never a bad idea if you can be patient.

If it's good enough for Jesus...

If it’s good enough for Jesus…

10. Delirium – Noel – Belgian Strong Dark Ale 10.%ABV – In my house there are few rules as simple as the “The pink elephant will never steer you wrong.” OK, so maybe the rules in my house are a little weird. Noel is another fine example of Belgian’s making great beers, especially for the holidays. The pour is a rich mahogany color with a strong nose of holiday spice and fruits. The beer drinks much the same way with a hint of sweetness and bitterness surrounded by strong spices. This beer also finishes with a slight dryness. As it happens, this beer can be aged as well.

Pink Elephant on a sled. Normal Saturday.

Pink Elephant on a sled. Normal Saturday.

11. Brasserie Dubuisson – Scaldis Noel – Belgian Strong Dark Ale 12%ABV – If you go looking for this one, the name on the label that jumps out is simply the ‘Scaldis Noel’. This is a big beer in a little bottle. It pours a rich dark amber color with a big frothy head of a creamy color. The nose is all spice and fruits and you can detect a hint of the strong alcohol that lies waiting for you. It has a sticky sweet quality that mingles well with the spices involved. The beer drinks incredibly well especially as the flavors warm and have a similar effect on your body. This is another beer that came on my radar late as I was formulating my list and came on strong to knock other contenders to the side with relative ease. This beer also cellars well so I might grab a few more to stuff my own stocking with this year.

The surprise performance!

The surprise performance!

12. St. Bernardus – Christmas Ale – Belgian Quadrupel 10%ABV – While it was not initially my intention, I did save the best for last. This beer ranks right up there with actually witnessing the birth of Christ, minus seeing placenta and all that nasty stuff. This beer is worth turning into Ebeneezer Scrooge and hoarding for your self. It’s that damn good! It pours super dark and with a wonderful cream colored head and a sensual nose of dark fruit, candied sugars and mulled spices. The taste is complex and understated with notes of caramel and Belgian hops on the backend. It refrains from overwhelming the palate and it masks its high alcohol content superbly. The Christmas ale goes down silky smooth and can do nothing but remind you of all the comforts of the holiday. If I had need of a fireplace in Southern California I would sit in front of it with this beer and think of Christmases long, long ago. As it happens, this beer is also prime for ageing and it may be the first beer that I attempt to cellar. I can’t recommend St. Bernardus’s Christmas Ale enough, it’s it alive with the spirit of the season.

If it's good enough for Snoopy...

If it’s good enough for Snoopy…

 

So that wraps up the list of my twelve favorite beers of the Christmas season. Belgium made its presence felt on these final four didn’t they? With any luck, next year, I’ll find twelve all news ones to rave about and as always, I’d love to hear any recommendations that you might find.

Cheers and Merry Christmas,

Tom


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OB Noodle House – A gem of a bar and the food is great too!

I like soup. I really do. It’s one of those food items that I sometimes get a craving for and can eat it all day long. Chicken noodle, cream of potato, tomato, clam chowder maybe even a nice lobster bisque if I’m feeling fancy. But for reasons that I can only assume are based on preconceived notions, I never really had much interest in ever going out and trying pho. That dish just so happens to be the specialty at OB Noodle House, a place of which I’ve heard good things about for years but in times past when I would make an attempt to dine there I would quickly be defeated by the incredible long lines and wait times.

Emphasis on bar!

Emphasis on bar!

Well, I can say with all certainty, ‘that was stupid of me’. Everything that hit our table was instantly gobbled up by our party and met with rave reviews from all around. You can now consider me among the converted, pho is great and they have a pretty extensive menu of other noodle based dishes that I will hazard a guess and say are pretty delicious as well. In case you are wondering, I ordered the OB Special (XL) (as a former resident of Ocean Beach I felt obliged) that comes with rare streak, well done steak, brisket, flank and tripe. It was more than filling and pretty impressive as well.

That is a whole lot of meat!

That is a whole lot of meat!

But I’m not here to talk about the high quality food they serve up, I’ll leave the restaurant reviews to my friend Megan over at monkeybreadandsweetpea.com. Nope, I’m going to tell you about one of the most impressive rotating draft lists I’ve seen at a restaurant in a very long time.

The bar at OB Noodle house is legit. On the night of my visit I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but what I got blew the top of my head straight through the roof. As we rounded the corner to our table adjacent to the bar and I saw the large pink Delirium elephant, I dared to dream that maybe, just maybe, this bar was going to have a decent selection. When the bartender placed the draft list in front of me, a single tear rolled down my cheek. It was magnificent.

Aside from Delirium Tremens, you could find such delight as Petrus aged pale xtra sour, Gulden Draak Belgian Triple, Double Dog Imperial IPA on Niro, Lambic Peche Fruit Beir, St. Louis Gueze xtra sour, Avery “Czar Russian Imperial stout”, The Bruery “Autem Maple”, Dogfish Head 60 & 90 minute IPA, Cuvee De Jacobins Rouge Sour, Uinta Hop Notch IPA, Stone’s 17th Anniversary IPA, oh and a little favorite of mine known as Blind Pig from Russian River.

Blind Pig pairs well with pho

Blind Pig pairs well with pho

That’s just a fraction, they have 40 taps of awesome at this place and if the beer isn’t enough for you they also have sake, of which we saw several table doing sake bombs…of which I have retired from since after my last experience I’m pretty sure I talked to Jesus…or a homeless guy in an ally. It’s very fuzzy.

The place has a great energy and vibe to it. From the lighting to the music and martial arts movies playing silently on the giant TV behind the bar, this place is a really good time.

One of these day I’ll sit down and write more about the underrated craft beer scene in Ocean Beach, but until that day do yourself a favor and check out the offering from OB Noodle House. Go for the noodles and stay for the beers…or go for the beers and stay for the noodles. Either way you’re going to be more than happy with your choice.

OB Noodle House is located at 2218 Cable St San Diego, CA 92107. Reservation for groups of 8 or more are available after 6pm. Also look out for great happy hour deals every day of the week.

Cheers,

Tom

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