Climb and Dine

Just a chill evening with good friends, climbing and then heading out in Old Town for dinner and drinks! We headed to the Bilbo Baggins and I had one of their specialty pizzas and one of my favorite beers ever! I had the Straffe Hendrik Quadruple by Brouwerij De Halve Mann/Straffe Hendrik of Brugge, Belgium at 11% abv.

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Its overwhelmingly delicious! Rich, complex and thick. Plums and raisins with brown sugar and molasses. Musty earthy yeast, very typical Belgian. This beer is quite the sipper and will last a good while. Its everything I want in a beer!

Brouwerij De Halve Maan

The only brewery we had on our list to visit in Bruges was the Brouwerij De Halve Maan. One of my favorite beers is brewed by this brewery, Straffe Hendrik Quadruple. I was very excited to go for the tour!

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We signed up for the tour and while we waited we got a Bruges Zot Blonde, their signature beer.

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Hey, they collect bottles too! Although their collection is much more impressive than mine.

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And finally the tour started! Although, as excited as I was for this tour, I was highly disappointed with how crowded and packed it was. Gone were our little intimate tours when we were in West Flanders. This tour had 30+ people on it! Too crowded to thoroughly enjoy. And people brought screaming children too. Grrr.

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They no longer use any of the old equipment, although they hung on to it for the tours to show the evolution of their brewery and the brewing process.

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We did get to go quite a few places on the tour and through many rooms, we went up to the roof, and there were hundreds of stairs that we climbed! Some of them were quite steep and small.

After the tour, we headed back down to the tasting room and finally got the Straffe Hendrik Quadruple!

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One of my current favorite beers, made even more special since we got to taste it at the brewery! It was wonderful, not served too cold, very dark with dark fruits, currants, raisins, figs, slightly malty bitterness, molasses. Very complex and a treat to enjoy!

Once we left though, we got back out into the heat and the sunshine and our buzz hit us. We needed something to eat! Directly across the square we found a little restaurant that, of course, specialized in waffles!!

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Feeling full and on a sugar high we made it across town to the bell tower, The Belfort. It was getting very hot out, around 90 degrees and nowhere has air conditioning. But we were determined to climb the 366 stairs to the top.

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The Belfort was originally built in 1240 and the upper portion of the tower was built in the 1480s. It currently has 47 bells.

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In the mid levels of the bell tower, were other historic artifacts that gave you a bit better understanding of the history of Bruges. This chest was from the 1250s when the tower was built and had ten locks on it. The keys to the ten locks were distributed to prominent figures in the town, and the chest was only opened on special occasions and contained records and paperwork.

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I have to admit, at this point we were hot and tired of walking, so we went back to our hotel for a power nap.

After, we headed back out for drinks and dinner! Again, we had a specific beer bar in mind, ‘t Poatersgat, the monk’s hole.

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This place was great! It was so dark and cool compared to outside, and it had wonderful arched brick ceilings. We got there before the rush and so the whole bar was ours!

We ordered a few beers to get started, again, beers that we haven’t seen in the states. Like Moinette, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale by Brasserie Dupont of Tourpes, Belgium at 8.5% abv.

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And also the Oude Gueuze Beersel by Brouwerij Oud Beersel of Beersel, Belgium at 6% abv.

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The bartender was friendly and awesome and recommended we eat at De Hobbit if we were looking for hearty Belgian fare. And lucky for us we already knew where it was! It was directly across the street from ‘t Bruges Beertje, the bar we had visited the previous night. We had wanted to eat here the night before, but we ran into an American couple who had eaten there and told us it was terrible. I don’t know what they were thinking because it was delicious!! I got the steak.

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The menus were so cute too! They were written like news papers, with stories, excerpts, outdated advertisements, and wanted ads sprinkled in with the appetizers and entrees.

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Even though we were across from ‘t Bruges Beertje, I couldn’t do any more beer for the day, so sad, we went home and crashed in our food comas.

Monticelloman Triathlon Race Recap

It’s that time of the year again—tri season!

It feels like the season crept up on me though, I felt very undertrained going into this first tri. We picked the Monticelloman tri because it looked to be a pretty small race! The larger races can be fun and exciting, but also a hassle too.

The night before the race, it was pouring and we were driving around looking for a decent place for dinner. This wasn’t our first choice because we thought that even though they are calling themselves an “alehouse” that it would still carry the same old boring beers.  I have to say Capital Ale House really surprised me! They have a fantastic beer menu! And their waiters also knew a good amount about beer and were willing to bring draught samples to try! They apparently have several locations throughout VA, but it didn’t feel like a chain at all.

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Since it was the night before a race, I limited myself to one beer! But I made Jack promise to come back here for victory lunch after the race!

After tasting a sample, I decided to go with the Vampire Slayer by Clown Shoes Brewery of Ipswich, MA at 10% abv.

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Pours almost completely black. Dark chocolate creaminess, slight subtle smoke, and espresso/ coffee flavors, slightly bitter, big chewy mouthfeel. This does not go down like a 10% beer, quite smooth and the alcohol is well hidden.

Quite an odd twist, this beer also contains holy water! Aptly named I suppose!

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So this year, I decided to step it up and go from the sprint distance to the olympic distance for my triathlons. Olympic distances: swim: 1500 meters, bike: 24 miles, run: 6.2. The only down side to this is that since Jack and I are both racing at the same time now, we have no one to take awesome action shots.

Anyway, the race was set up wonderfully, the bikes were racked lengthwise like in pro races and it made the transition so much nicer since nobody was stuck with a bad spot deep at the end of a row.

I was a bit nervous about the water temperature since it was about 70 degrees. I looked around and saw that EVERYONE else had a wetsuit on. But everyone always says not to make big changes for race day. I figured I might be cold, but I’d live.

Well, I lived, but it wasn’t pretty. After the gun went off and I swam about 200 yards, I realized that my throat and chest had seized up from the cold and I couldn’t breathe. I started to breaststroke, to have my head out of the water,  but I still couldn’t get any air into my lungs. I usually love the swim portion and couldn’t believe this was happening! I made my way to a lifeguard on a surfboard and hung on until I could get my breathing back. At this point, I looked around and realized that I was dead last. But I didn’t drive down here and pay $100 to swim just 200 yards! So I decided to try to carry on. I also have a huge fear of dark lakes, and this was about as dark and lonely as they get. I couldn’t even put my face in the dark water, so I swam the whole damn thing backstroke. I managed to pass about 10 people so I was feeling better and was actually relieved when the swim was over. Next time, I will wear a wetsuit!

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The bike was windy and lonely. I didn’t realize, but when you do a small race, there will be a lot less people around you! The run was the only part that I felt strong on. Those 6 miles flew by and I finished with a nice long sprint to the finish!

Jack actually finished 13th overall and 2nd in his age group!

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I have to say that I completely approve of their prizes for age group winners!

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And yes! We made it back to Capitol Ale House and had steak and potatoes! I was starving!

I also couldn’t resist and ordered the Straffe Hendrik Quadruple by the  Brouwerij Straffe Hendrik/ De Halve Mann of Bruges, Belgium at 11% abv.

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This is quickly becoming one of my favorite beers. Whenever I see it on a menu I lose all willpower and I am compelled to order it! Sweet but not sickening, and slightly tart. Subtle fruit such as cherries, dates, plums. Medium to full body. Moderate fine-bubbled carbonation. You can definitely taste the alcohol, as you would expect, but not in a bad way, warming. This is definitely a victory beer!

Andrew and Kristen’s going away party

Jack and I were pretty sad to hear that Andrew and Kristen were moving away, but they’re heading to Boston, so maybe we can go visit again!

We didn’t leave to go out right away, so Andrew grabbed me a beer from his fridge, I guess its appropriate that it’s a Sam Adams! (Since they are out of Boston)

Not sure why I’m making this face, I think its because I’m somewhat skeptical about Sam Adams beers in general.

I had the Sam Adams Belgian Session out of Boston, MA at 4.25% abv.

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Not a bad beer, a bit lighter than I was expecting. Not quite the yeastiness or mouthfeel of a traditional Belgian. Almost more like a Hefe.

And this picture, I have to admit, I took the following night at Voltaire’s birthday party, but I realized that I had to have a picture of Andrew since he is the man we are out celebrating!

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Later in the night we made it out to Chadwick’s in Old Town. Their beer selection pleasantly surprised me!  I ordered the Straffe Hendrik Quadruple by Brouwerij Straffe Hendrik/ De Halve Mann of Bruges, Belgium at 11% abv.

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This beer is AMAZING! It’s fast becoming my new favorite beer! Sweet but not sickening, and slightly tart. Subtle fruit such as cherries, dates, plums. Medium to full body. Moderate fine-bubbled carbonation. You can definitely taste the alcohol, as you would expect, but not in a bad way, warming.

This beer is so good that it will be hard to order anything else after. Most beers will pale in comparison.