Bryan Kolesar of The Brew Lounge won Philly Beer Week's annual raffle, sending him and a local brewer of his choice to Belgium. Kolesar chose John Stemler of Free Will Brewing in Perkasie, and the two are now in Brussels to work on the annual collab beer to be served during Philly Beer Week, May 29 to June 7. The two will contribute blog posts to Philly.com during their trip.
Check in to Philly Beer Week for more information.
Here is Bryan's fourth entry:
Bruges worked just as I had hoped. The train from Brussels to Bruges is a direct route that takes you through Ghent along the way.
It's a smooth trip that costs 14 euros each way and deposits you on the edge of town. From there, it's a 15 to 20 minute walk to the heart of Bruges.
It's a lovely walk through a classic European city that takes you on a cobblestoned tour past churches and museums, along canals, and over bridges. Pages could be written here about the beauty and charm of the city, but we were here (primarily) for the beer.
After a hearty breakfast of breads, pastries, jams, meats, fish, eggs, and coffee, we set off for Halve Maan brewery in the southern part of the city near Minnepark, a relaxing respite on the edge of the city.
John had arranged tours for us and I couldn't have been more pleased since I had skipped the tour during my last visit in 2012. Yesterday, he described the family brewery that had begun with Henri Maes in 1856 and has been passed down through the generations. They certainly do a nice job on the tour of weaving the past together with the present with equipment still on display from years past.
The tour takes guests up steep ladders and through small doorways, eventually to the roof where, as they claim to the third highest point in Bruges, the views of the city are spectacular. Along the way to the roof, customers on tour are led to walk through an open-air fermenter (coolship) no longer in use today. Highly recommended for the itinerary of any beer-loving traveler in Bruges.
The remainder of the day was filled with a mixture of hit and miss bars – "miss" meaning we missed them since they were still on holiday/vacation (miss: Rose Red and 't BrugsBeertje), those just coming back (hit: De Garre and Cambrinus), a few not open until later hours (miss: 'tPoatersgat and Comptoir des Arts).
Any of these, plus another dozen (reference: De Kelk andVlissinghe) or so would make a mighty fine list of how to while away the day and night over fine beers in Bruges. We made due quite nicely with a stop at Cambrinus for a spectacular pairing of smoked duck and the trappistRochefort 10. A few hours at De Garre over several of the house Tripels from Van Steenberge – and naturally the cubed cheese – and Jenevermade for a perfect last stop in Bruges before heading back to the train station.
One late night stop in Brussels was still in order and I found my way into Le Circueil for a quick peek and a Gulden Draak. The bar is off the north side of the Grand Place and, according to Mike Naessens of Eulogy in Philadelphia, was the inspiration for his Old City bar.
We expect the next day to be as epic as they come as Tom Peters, William Reed, Casey Parker and others are due to meet us at Cantillon to start the day off like none other.
Stay tuned for a whole lot more on the tasty subject.
Bryan Kolesar of The Brew Lounge is author of the forthcoming Beer Lover's Mid-Atlantic, May 2015
John Stemler, brewmaster at Free Will Brewing Company, was tied up with brewing issues. His dispatches will continue.
For additional Philly Beer Week information, go to its website.