That’s what my life has been like lately. So busy that I haven’t had time to write up most of my recent travels.
Like the Kerstbierfestival last month. Maybe I should get on with it now.
Of course my daily posts take up a fair amount of my time. Especially as I have to research the buggers, too. And did I mention that I was assembling another book? It’s a bit short at the moment, just 120 pages. But I’ll soon sort that out. Bit early yet to tell you the title. I’ll save that until it’s closer to being finished.
Right. Kerstbierfestival. Dolores liked it so much in 2013 that she’s come along again. Though with the chaos caused to the Dutch-Belgian train connections by the Fyra fiasco, it’s a trickier (and slower) journey than it used to be. We’ve cheap Kruidvat tickets meaning we’ve only paid 14 euros for the Dutch part of the journey. The couple of hundred metres of the trip that’s in Belgium cost another 6.50. What a rip off.
In one way the journey has improved: our train connects better with the slow train to Antwerp. Just a few minutes to wait. Once we’ve found where to check out.
We pick up some food from the butchers on the way. The festival is just far enough away from the station for the walk to be a bit annoying. We’ve planned to get there just after opening time, but when we arrive at the hall there’s an enormous queue outside. Which is worrying. Will we get in?
It turns out that the festival starts later than I’d thought and the doors aren’t open yet. But there are still hundreds of people in front of us. How long will it take to get in and will we get seats. That’s an important point. I hate standing at festivals. I blame my half-century old legs. I should really invest in a new pair.
Everything is really well organised at the entrance and we’re soon inside. I get the glasses and tokens while Dolores heads to bag some seats. “As close to bar as possible, Dolores.” I hate walking to fetch beer at festivals, too.
Dolores has done a good job. I can almost touch the bar from my seat. I don’t even bother looking at the programme. I know which beer I’ll start with.
St. Bernardus Xmas is a tweaked version of my favourite Abt. A few extra spices or summink. It is indeed spicy. And lovely.
A group of twenty-something Belgians sit next to us. They’ve an, er, interesting accent. But at least I recognise it’s Dutch they’re speaking. I’ve had experiences with Belgian accents that were so weird, I didn’t twig that it was Dutch for twenty minutes.
I go for a change of pace with my next beer: Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux. A strange one, this. Quite funky and bitter. But weirdly sugary, too. Quite odd, but drinkable.
Next up is a St. Bernardus Xmas. Just checking it’s OK.
Pretty much all the seats are now gone. But we’ve a nice spot so what do I care?
Being a big fan of Het Anker, I try Gouden Carolus Kerst. And the matching beer mat is on the table in front of me. It’s nice and dark with the perfume/spice aroma that you’d expect from their yeast. A bit burnt and nastily bitter at the end. Bit vegetably. Not nice. I drink it out of spite.
Dolores is opting for the weaker options. Which are trickier to find than the huge beasts I’m choosing.
I need to wash my mouth out after that nasty Gouden Carolus. I return to St. Bernardus Xmas and am lucky enough to get a freshly-opened bottle. It’s still lovely.
Next, a total change of pace as I opt for a draught St. Bernardus Xmas. Maybe not quite as lovely as the bottled version. But lovely still.
I realise that I’m being all Beer Nutty for once, writing notes for each beer I drink. Though obviously not quite of the same quality. Just one step up from “full of beery goodness” really.
I randomly choose Rebelle Winter. That it’s 10.5% ABV probably has something to do with my selection. That and it’s on the same page as St. Bernardus Xmas in the programme. Very liquoricy . Sweet/bitter. OK, actually.
It’s 15:50 and getting crowded. I’m glad it’s getting close to effing off time.
Not long left. Best get something special. Like a St. Bernardus Xmas. Nice.
I’m just saying “I’d expect to see Tim Skelton here.” When I do indeed see Tim. Not that it’s been long since we last met. He was on the same table at the beer hacks’ dinner two weeks ago. I congratulate him on the prize for Beer in the Netherlands he won that night.
I try draught St. Bernardus Xmas just to make sure the bottled version really is slightly better. It is.
So I have a bottled St. Bernardus Xmas next.
It’s just about time to go. It’s packed and I’m getting tired. I end with a Netebuk Winter 8. Spicy aroma. Bit of vegetable in there. Liquorice.
And that’s it. As we leave there's a queue of people outside waiting for someone to leave so they can get in. We stroll back to the station and jump on a train.
On the train, I look back through my notes and marvel at how many different beers I've tried: Five. Six if you count draught and bottled versions as separate beers. Way more than I got through at Borefts.
When I get home I crack open a St Bernardus Abt to celebrate.
'Miracle Brew' is coming - at last! - *My first book about beer since 2009 hits UK shelves next week - and North America later this year.* It's been a long wait - nearly two and a half years -...
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