Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Something Old, Something New

Day two in Belgium. Well,  not exactly Belgium, we did wander over the border to the Netherlands.  I was ready for adventure after a good nights' sleep.  Our first stop, was in Hamont-Achel  to the Brouwerij St. Benedictus Abbey of Achel.  The tour had been there in 2007 which was my first trip.  This year we were fortunate to have a tour of the church and the chapel that the monks use with its beautiful stained glass.   The border between the Netherlands and Belgium runs through the property of the Abbey. 

The newest and smallest of the trappist breweries, Achel started brewing about 1998 with help from Westmalle. Chimay is the largest, Achel the smallest.  They have a lovely cafe and the courtyard in summer is filled with tables. And a store filled with great beers and of course chocolate too!  

 Back on the bus and over the border! You know you are in the Netherlands when you see the fabled windmills.  We are headed back to  Brewery Koningshoeven, brewers of La Trappe. In 2008 during our previous visit, there was much construction taking place. We were very pleased  to see the new cafe for a bit of lunch and of course a glass or two. There were several new beers to taste.  Purr, has organically grown ingredients and is and very light yet tasty.  As with many breweries, La Trappe is experimenting with barrel aging. Barrel aged in oak, each batch of tripel has a different character, we tasted beer from a sancerrre barrel and a port barrel. . They have 3 yeast strains, 1 for the traditional trappist, 1 for the whitt, purr and bock, the last for the contract beers. Some brewers recycle the yeast, La Trappe has a propagation area so that they have fresh yeast for each brew. Ludwig, the brewer is very passionate about buying from local farmers, and they buy the best ingredients they can locally. 
So we have had some old and a little new.  After a stop at the store, we're back on the bus and headed to our final stop, something new, the  Brewery de Dochter for a tour and tasting. A micro brewery with great attention to detail, the  tour consisted of the brew room and the tasting room, with a peek at the storage.  Ronald ages some his unique beers in whisky barrels, one of which, Embarasse, was heavy with peat. And in payment for our tasting, we snag 'Happy Birthday' to his lovely wife!  It is finding these small breweries and seeing the passion of the brewers, engaged in work that they love, which makes these trips so fascinating.

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