The next morning, we woke up ready for another day on the bike! This time we took the road heading out of the opposite end of town and explored an entire new area. After about 12 miles on the road, we found Abbey De St. Sixtus which is best known for brewing the Trappist Westvleteren 6, 8 and 12 beers.
The bottles are fairly unremarkable and have no labels, only caps to let you know what you’re drinking. The abbey does not have tours, but there is a beautiful new restaurant at the abbey gates for people wanting to try the hard-to-get beers.
I have never seen this beer available in the States, and not only that but you cant get it anywhere else in Belgium. Only at the abbey café. Needless to say, I was DYING to taste this nearly mythical beer!
I got the 12 and Jack tried the 8.
A very flavorful and complex beer. Candied fruits, molasses, rum and raisins, caramel, figs and dates, alcohol is slightly present, a little boozy. A few sips in, the lacing on the sides of the glass was beautiful.
Once we finished out beers, we walked around a bit and we had enough time to hop back on the bikes and see if we could make it to another brewery that day.
St Bernardus was located only a few miles down the road!
Now here’s a funny fact, St Bernardus used to brew the beer for St Sixtus. They both have identical recipes for the 12. They both use the same hops and both have the same water source. (And actually St Bernardus still uses the original yeast that St Sixtus used to use before St Sixtus switched to the same yeast that Westmalle now uses) So why is the Westvleteren 12 rated one of the best beers in the world? Tim Webb who wrote Good Beer Guide Belgium (my bible while I was there) seems to think its all hype, and its only considered better because beer snobs seem to think that anything hard to obtain is better. So who knows?
Anyway while at St Bernardus we were able to take a tour of their hop fields!
Unfortunately, they weren’t giving brewery tours that day, but we popped into the nearby town of Poperinge and found their beers at a local café. Jack tried a beer from Van Ecke Brewery, also only a few miles away while I got the St Bernardus 8.
I chose the Prior 8 because it was only 8% abv and I knew we still had quite a bike ride to get home. Lot of malts, lightly spices, dark fruits, figs and pears, sweet and almost nutty.
For dinner I ordered the crepes. We were less than 10 miles from the French border at this point and the waitress looked at me like I was crazy. Crepes were on the menu. Crepes! So they brought over the English speaking waitress. I tried to order crepes. Ah, she says, pannekoeken! I just couldn’t believe that we live thousands of miles away from France and know what crepes are, but 10 miles from the border that are called Pannekoeken.
I also learned that whipped cream is slagroom in Flemmish. It sounds unappetizing, but my pannekoeken and slagroom were delicious!