Het Anker Brewery Tour

The next morning we woke up, packed our bags, and were ready for our brewery tour! I thought this was one of the best brewery tours we went on because it was only the two of us and a guide! It was much more personal, no waiting in line and easy to see everything. The guide was amazing too, we spent a lot of time talking about every aspect of the brewing, the owner,  and the process.

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I was impressed with the brew kettles. The owner still tries to use as much of the older equipment as possible. Ill tell you what, it was pretty hot in here. The high for the day was almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and with the beer being brewed it was steamy and hot in here.

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Luckily when we were in here they were filtering the wort. I was amazed that the beer was exposed to the open air. All of these vertical segments were filters and when we came back through a little later we saw two guys hitting them against each other to knock the mash down into a trough below. It looked like a long process.

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We also learned that Gouden Carolus has begun making whisky.They only started in the past year or so, at a different location, so no whisky was available to taste yet. I’m not big on liquor, but if I ever see it I’ll probably give it a try.

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Ah, and then finally the tasting. We got a glass of the Ambrio and the Classic. After such a good tour, its always such a treat to finally taste the beer you have been thinking of non stop for the past hour or so.

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We also decided to stay for lunch during which we got another beer, the Cuvee Van De Kaiser (Blue) at 11% abv.

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I’m glad we had this beer with lunch, because it was pretty strong. Super delicious! Dark berries, very malty, almost a woodiness to it, with hints of butter, and candy sugar sweetness.

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It went really well with the steak I got. We really took our time with this beer and savored it. This was the last brewery we got to visit, and we got a bit sad that afterward we had to leave and catch another train back to Brussels.

Although, once back in Brussels, we dropped off our bags to walk around the city one last time. We we staying in a different place than we had our first night there, so we got to see new sights as we walked back in to the heart of town.

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Since it was our last night there, I had to get Belgian waffles one last time. So glorious!

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And that’s it, the end of the Belgium trip. The next day we left and I can’t believe that we went to all the breweries that we did! I would go back in a heartbeat. Although, next time, we may need to visit the French half of Belgium and go to all of the other breweries that we couldn’t make it to during this trip!

Hotel Picnic Brunch then on to Mechelen

The next day, we again packed up to head from Antwerp to Mechelen. But before we left, Jack ran out to various little stores and put together a picnic brunch for us. We also had a bottle of beer that we were hanging on to from Bruges, and knew we should drink it since we weren’t planning on bringing any bottles back with us.

So with our brunch we split the Gouden Draak 9000 Quadruple, which at that point I had never seen available in the states, of Brouwerij Van Steenberge of Ertvelde, Belgium at 10.7% abv.

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Yes, the beer pours darker than the Gouden Draak, but it still wasn’t dark and heavy enough for me to really think of it as a quad. Still quite tasty though. Boozy with lots of fruit, apricots, plums, bananas. Toffee and caramel. A very good beer to pair with breakfast.

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Once we checked out it was a very quick trip down to Mechelen. We immediately found the Gouden Carolus brewery to drop off our bags. I thought this was one of the coolest parts of the trip, we were actually staying inside the brewery!

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Unfortunately our tour wasn’t until the next day, but we dropped off our bags, relaxed for a bit, changed and headed back out to check out the town. On our way out, we found a beer vending machine by the front door! I have never seen a better stocked vending machine anywhere! We didn’t get one, since we knew we would have a ton of Gouden Carolus beer during the tour, but it was so tempting!

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Inside the walls of Gouden Carolus were the brewery, hotel, and original farmhouse from 1625.

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The original farmhouse, is still lived in by the owner! So no tours were available. It was so picturesque.

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The town of Mechelen was smaller than Antwerp, but much more enjoyable. very walk able with tons of old buildings with architecture throughout the centuries. Mechelen used to be the old capital of Belgium and was also huge in the textile trade.

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As we were wandering around the city, we stumbled upon a little open door in a very large wall. Once we determined we could just walk around we went in. We found Margaret of Austria’s Palace. The palace was closed but the grounds were open.

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And for dinner we found a café right next to the bell tower. I was so excited about Gouden Carolus the next day that I got the Gouden Carolus Classic with dinner.

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I want! This was too cute!Jack loves biking, so I could totally see myself in the front basket!

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Back in the Gouden Carolus courtyard, they had tons of old brewing equipment that is no longer in use.

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It actually got quite chilly or else we would have walked around the town more, but it was a long day, and we knew we had to be up for the tour the next day. So we called it an early night, with all this traveling I was ready to crash.

Duvel

The next day, we rented bikes again and left the city. This bike ride, maybe 18 miles to Duvel. Seemed to take forever and was very tough. There was no great straight shot there along the canals and we got lost a few times. I got very hungry on the bike ride and we stopped at a little grocery store for a quick snack. All I can say is that the chocolate in Belgium is amazing. Even the chocolate available in the grocery stores! It was a good pick me up!

Although when we got there for the 1:00 tour, we found out it was only in Dutch and that an English tour would be available at 4:00. So we rode back into the main town and had tea and some lunch. And actually fell asleep on a bench in the sun by the canal for an hour.

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So when 4:00 rolled around I was excited to get started. We had a fairly large group. They start off with a 10 minute movie showing the history of the brewery and how the beer recipe was refined and perfected through the years. Also, I learned that the correct pronunciation of Duvel is more like Duvil. The beer got its name for having a higher alcohol content after they re-did the recipe in the 1920s, after getting surprisingly drunk on it, someone exclaimed, “that beer is a real devil”

We also got these bracelets that were to be used at the end of the tour to get our two beers apiece and a Duvel glass!

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I will honestly say the worst part of the tour was the reflective vest and headphones they make you wear. How awful.

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Although when we did get into the bottling section, it was nice to be able to hear our guide. This was obviously the brewery with the largest production that we visited. They also bought and now bottle De Konnick, Chouffe, Maredsous, Vedette, Liefmans, and in the States they own Ommegang.

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The guide was describing to the Europeans on the tour the beers of Ommegang, but she had never tried them herself. She turned to Jack and I and had us talk a little about the Ommegang beers that we have had, their availability in the Sates, and if they were actually good. I think they were all skeptical, but personally ill take any beer from Ommegang over a Duvel any day!

The original farmhouse still stands from 1871 where the brewing was done originally as a farmhouse operation.

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They had a very nice spacious tasting room. Before they serve any beers they give you a pouring lesson. The proper way to pour a Duvel. Duvel glasses have a very small engraving on the inside bottom of the glass. The D shaped engraving allows the beer to sparkle upwards to form a head. And you should never pour all the sediment and extra yeast into the glass, leave about 1cm of beer still in the bottle. It makes it cloudy and actually can change the taste of the beer. I knew how to pour a beer, but I thought it was very nice to get a proper pouring lesson. I like how Duvel thinks its important enough to add it to the tour.

Although, neither Jack nor I opted for a Duvel. We chose beers from the breweries that Duvel bought out and now owns.

Jack chose the Liefman’s Oude Bruin. Oude Bruins are sour beers, good choice.

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I picked the McChouffe of Brasserie d’Achouffe at 8% abv.

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Poured a reddish brown, typical big Belgian yeast, light caramel, and a bit nutty. Smooth creamy mouthfeel. Really enjoyable. I was already feeling the alcohol by the time I finished, I’m glad they also brought us over a cheese plate of appetizers!

For my second beer I decided to branch out a little and get the Maredsous beer that I never order. I got the Maredsous 6 at 6%abv.

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Not bad for a blonde, sweet bread, light lemon and citrus, cloves. Very drinkable and refreshing. I’ll probably stick with the 8 though since I tend to like darker beers.

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After that, it was back on the road, we found a much less scenic but more direct route home, thank goodness, and it shaved off a few miles.

For dinner we found De Groote Witte Arend, The Great White Eagle.

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They had a super cute wonderful out door courtyard. It was a little chilly out, but the courtyard was the place to sit.

I wasn’t in the mood for lot of heavy drinking. We had already had a full day of beers at Duvel, so I decided to give the Mort Subite another try and got the Kriek.

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Not bad, light in alcohol, which is what I was aiming for. Very fruity, tart cherries. Refreshing after the long bike ride back in to the city. The food portions here were huge!

After returning the rental bikes we briskly walked the chilly mile back to our hotel. It felt like a very long day and I positively collapsed in bed, quite content.

Antwerp and the Eleventh Commandment

The following day, our time in Bruges, was at an end. We took the train over to Antwerp. After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we set out to walk around the city center. Unfortunately, the beer bar we were looking for was closed in the afternoon, so we settles for an average restaurant next door with a mundane beer list.

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I ordered the Mort Subite Gueuze by Brouwerij Mort Subite of Asse-Kobbegem, Belgium at 4.5% abv. It was a very average gueuze. Some bubbles, but a fake fizziness to it. More like sugary lambic. But it was cool and refreshing during lunch.

But I was very excited to go out to dinner, it looked like we picked a great place called Het Elfde Gebod which means The Eleventh Commandment.

And the Eleventh Commandment was Thou Shalt Enjoy Your Food

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They had a great area of outdoor seating but I thought the best part was the inside. They have a huge collection of religious icons and statues. Its stunning.

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I started off with a beer, De Verboden Vrucht (the Forbidden Fruit) by Brouwerij Van Hoegaarden at 9% abv.

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I did not know when I ordered that this beer was brewed by Hoegaarden. But it was actually pretty good. A Belgian Strong Dark Ale, sweet and malty, caramel, vanilla, spices, orange peel and apples. Dry finish. While drinking out first beers Jack and I wandered all over the bar to look around. It was great since we were the only people inside!

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Apparently throughout Belgian history, the protestants and the catholics both had their ups and downs. But since the protestants don’t believe in any idols many of the statues were taken out of the churches. Sometimes they were taken out by the Catholics for safe keeping. Many of these statues were lost of forgotten and made it onto the black market.

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And don’t ask me how they got here. Maybe they were bought in bulk?

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During dinner, I picked out another beer I’ve never heard of before, Moeder Overste Triple by Brasserie Lefebvre of Rabecq-Quenast, Belgium at 8% abv.

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This beer tasted strangely familiar. I believe it’s the kind of hops used, I think they must use the same hops as Magic Hat #9. Had a familiar sweet and very floral taste. Spicy with pepper and cloves. Honey, orange peel. Very smooth.

I would definitely recommend this bar, it was super easy to get to, nice area, and very cool inside, may have been one of the best bars, in terms of atmosphere that I’ve ever been to.