Next stop, Antwerp. Diamond capital of the world so, of course, Kelly stepped off the train, saw the row of diamond stores and promptly looked the other way. Good thing I’m not big on jewelry – he dodged a bullet there.
The train station is gorgeous and huge with four levels of tracks. The best waffle we had on our trip was at a kiosk on the main level near the tracks. Seek it out. We continued our frites quest in Antwerp and found a few good places around the main square including Frituur No 1. If you want to spice up your frites, ask for the Samurai sauce. This stuff is hot! Lots of mayo and sauces to choose from at all frites places to go with the glorious deep fried taters.
While we’re frying things, check out the counter display for mystery meats and gel like substances that you can fry. Bitterballen can be found everywhere – a Dutch meat-based snack, typically containing a mixture of beef or veal that’s formed into a ball and fried up, baby. I’m not sure what the rest of the items in the case were but if it was on a stick or rolled into a ball (and fried), it can’t be all bad, right?
Parts of Antwerp are more modern than some of the other Belgian cities we’ve visited and it is easy to get lost walking as none of the roads are straight. Lots of American stores line Hopland (seriously, that’s the name!) and Schuttershofstraat – it’s the Antwerpen Robson Street.
Decent tap and bottle list at this small bar. I had a paddle with Gouden Carolus, Cantillon Single Barrel 1-year Lambic, 2013 Cantillon Lambic and a Pannepot. The paddle came with some Westmalle Trappist cheese (bonus!). We finished off with a glorious bottle of 3 Fonteinen Hommage. So yeah, their bottle and tap list is pretty decent!
Another bar to check out as it has an extensive tap and bottle list.
I saved the best for last. You may have noticed that the link for Kulminator is to the ratebeer site but once you visit, you’ll see why they don’t need no stinkin’ website. Owned by Dirk and Leen, their bar has minimal seating, a slew of skittish cats, a year’s worth of bottle recycling hanging about and a huge and impressive cellar list. Dirk knows where everything is in the cellar, even if it takes him half an hour to find it. It’s not what I expected at all. Prior to going to Belgium, I imagined this place to be large and modern not a dark, cramped space with cats darting between your legs.Kulminator is Beer Geek paradise especially when you visit with friends and can share some of the larger bottles. Word to the wise, do NOT sit at the table with all the papers as that is Dirk’s table and he will boot you out faster than you can say vintage ale.
Kelly, Simon and I had a Chimay Blue vertical from 1994, 2004 and 2014. It’s a rare occasion to find bottles of anything from 1994 (their list had Chimay from 1981) and to try all three at once, well, it likely won’t happen for me again. 2004 was fantastic and because of this, I now want to buy a Chimay each year and age it for ten years. The young 2014 was good and the 1994 had oxidized somewhat – still decent, but it had that slight cardboard aftertaste.Other great bottles I had were the 2007 Pannepeut Old Monk’s Ale and Black Damnation II & IV (Mocha Bomb and Coffee Club). The cellar list is about twenty pages long and freakin’ amazing. I’m not sure what Dirk is going to do when he retires (maybe sit in his cellar and drink all the beer?) but if that cellar is ever sold, it will fetch a fortune. This guy had the foresight decades ago to save beers and whereas some don’t age as well as others, to have a vintage bottle list in a little hole in the wall bar is unique and remarkable. I hope to make it back before they do retire.
Only our second planned dinner of the trip, this quaint restaurant is housed in an old Convent building from the 15th and 17th Century. You will find Flemish cuisine (stew, rabbit in Westmalle sauce) and good beer such as the 2010 Gueze Mariage Parfait that I enjoyed. Highly recommended.
Antwerp was a beautiful city and definitely should be on your Belgium itinerary. Hope to see you and your exquisite beers again soon, Antwerpen.