Monday, 8 March 2010

ZBF 2010

I can't remember missing ZBF. And you have to go back a way to find a 24-Uur Festival (its predecessor) I didn't attend. No surprise, then, that I went this year.

Saturday. That's the day to go. Mostly because I don't want the threat of work the next day. Could limit my fun. And I wouldn't want that. I could stay at home and get bored.

I let Mike work out the travel arrangements. Amsterdam to Antwerp, then Antwerp to St. Niklaas. Une pièce d'urine, as the French say. It didn't work out quite that simple.

One of the very first things I read in Dutch, back in 1987, was an article about the HSL (Hoge Snelheids Linie or High Speed Train line). They were trying to decide whether it should go directly from Amsterdam to Rotterdam or if it should go via Den Haag. In typical Dutch fashion, it took about 10 years to come up with a decision. The line was finally finished a couple of years ago. But, inexplicably, trains have only recently started to use it.

Saturday there were no trains running on the old mainline between Amsterdam and Rotterdam. So no Amsterdam - Antwerp train. Instead, we had to take the Fyra* to Rotterdam and change there. How exciting. First time on the new high speed line. "Are we on the new track?" I asked. "Yes. Look it's got a different catenary." Andrew is very observant about stuff like that.

Despite the new line being years late, NS still hasn't got new rolling stock. Instead, they've painted some old carriages a revolting combination of pink, red and mauve. It doesn't make them go any faster.

That's enough about the journey. It wasn't that exciting.  Oh, one more thing I almost forgot. I bought a couple of cans for the train. They didn't have Gordon's Finest Gold so I had to make do with Navigator 8.6. It's a cheeky little number, perfectly suited to al fresco drinking on a park bench. It works on a train, too.

Our arrival in St. Niklaas was carefully timed. For half an hour after the doors opened. Late enough to miss the initial rush. Early enough to get a seat. I hate queueing. And standing. And waiting. I'm the impatient type.

Mike had a list of breweries to watch out for. I would tell you them all, but I wasn't paying that much attention. And, seeing as you had to pay for it, I didn't bother getting a programme. Mike had one. Waste of money getting two.

Glazen Toren. That was on his list. And the closest stand to our seats. Obvious place to start. I had a Scotch. Before we get any further, I'll warn you: don't expect any beer descriptions. I've given up on the anal geek bit, spoiling the day by obsessively making notes. Pushing my way through crowds. Yet another thing I hate. So once the place filled up a bit, my beer choices were limited to the closest stands.

The Glazen Toren Scotch was pretty nice. I don't know if it really bears much resemblance to a Scotch Ale as brewed in Scotchland, but I've given up worrying about that sort of crap. As long as my glass is half full of something pleasant, I couldn't really give a toss.

Name-dropping time. (These names probably won't mean a lot to you. It's not as if we're a bunch of celebs.) I always meet loads of people at the ZBF. Sebastian. Jim who was on a beer tour with me a couple of years ago. Mark and Sarah. Des de Moor. You might have heard of him.

My second beer was another from Glazen Toren. Their Tripel. Quite pleasant, too.  Then it was time to implement my plan. My beer drinking plan.

Randomly sampling hugely different beers sounds like fun. But it ends up just being confusing. That's why I have my plan. I call it my Stout and Lambic Plan. It's basically like this: first I drink just Stout, then switch to lambic, before returning to Stout to finish off.

I looked at Mike's programme. Bugger. Just four Stouts. And one of those was from De Dolle Brouwers. I'm not wasting my money on that again. Not after the sour, infected mess it was last year. Trying not to get too discouraged about my ruined plan, I picked a Stout off the list Troubadour Obscura, brewed at the Proefbrouwerij. Mmm. A nice enough beer. But almost completely unlike a Stout. That's when I abandonned the plan. For a new one. Tripel would replace Stout. Except when I fancied something strong and dark. Or when I couldn't be arsed to walk far. It wasn't much of a plan.

That's it for now. Part two will follow tomorrow.

* The fast train service within Holland.


Ed said...

Did your beer for books plan work?

Ron Pattinson said...

Ed, sort of. I gave Sebastian a book and got to taste his beers in return.

Des de Moor said...

Thanks for the namecheck Ron...and for the book at the festival, which I found absolutely fascinating. And for the introduction to Sebastian, whose website is now linked from mine. Great to see you there. I've put up my own report on the event and the Pré-ZBF at the desdemoor dot co dot uk site -- the selected beers of choice are the Oud Beersel unblended lambic, Dochter van de Korenaar Noblesse and Écaussines Ultrabrune.