Day two of my five days in Belgium. If you read my last article, <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Beer-News/Article-675.htm>A Day in Antwerp, you’ll understand why I woke up and felt terrible (still half drunk with a raging hangover). However things must be done when you’re on holiday and the thing needing done today was finding a small town called Buggenhout. This town will never leave my memory, never have I had to ask as many people directions to a place before as this.
Quick breakfast and a small snooze and we’re off to the train station at a healthy 10:00am, “just in case” anything went wrong. We were told as we bought the tickets you change at Leuven and there’s a train six minutes later to Buggenhout. So on the train we go when the ticket inspector says there are works on the line, you need to get off at Mechelen and a bus will take you to the next stop and you get a train from there. So number one mistake we get off at Mechelen North before realising our mistake and getting another train to Mechelen Central. There we get off and follow a group of people who “must also be getting the bus, why else would so many people be going this way?”. How wrong I was. Turns out there is no bus, and when eventually finding the information desk he gives us the wrong stance and time of a bus which would take us all the way too Buggenhout. Luckily I was rather angry by this time and was running around asking every bus I could see until eventually I find a train driver who is going to a station which will have a train that will take us to Buggenhout. So of we go on an hour long bus round the bell end of no where of Belgium. Cutting short, we arrive at Buggenhout after thanking the train driver infinite times a girl goes “hey, Ratebeer?” The magic words eh!
It turns out it was sharing’s gf from Ratebeer. They seemed to be in a similar situation and we decided it was time to get lunch, as it was nearly 3:00 by this time. We were walking down a heavily deserted street when a van pulls up and some Belgian starts rambling at us, I have no idea if he was a Ratebeerian but we got out of him that he was going to the festival.
We arrived at the festival got fed and into the fest we go. I sat at what was clearly going to turn into the Ratebeer table with Joris, Carlo, der dopplebock and his German friend. First round had to be serious there’s no point starting at a Ratebeer table with a hangover intending to take it easy, we all know that! 3 kriekenlambics straight up no holes barred, all three rated in 10 minutes and hand up for another round. My plan was to work through every kriekenlambic they had get them out the way so my head would clear and I could start to drink some stuff that might not be as good. I did fire my way through the kriekenlambics relatively quickly, all of them were outstanding, the Lindemans and De Cam standing out particularly. A serious danger to a man that’s a lambic fiend. However Pat (oh6gdx) and Chris (voota – with gf jenny) turned up and then Jeppe (bierkonig), his bro (mikkeller) and Joergen (sorry man I’ve forgotten your name) followed suit. It was therefore time for the first bottle of Brewdog Islay cask imperial stout. A mix of emotions from around the table, Joris was giving it a high five along with Carlo, Jeppe and a few others weren’t too keen but still appreciated the beer. It was my 3rd try and it lived up to its 4.3 status. A few other Ratebeerians turned up just in time to miss it, but ah well there was unblended lambic to be had.
Carlo kept his legendary status at this point by leaving the table to bring in a 3l bottle of his Struiselensis brewed only a few weeks before I believe. Everyone gathered round for a glass (or in my case 3 glasses) of what I assumed to be a Belgian wit. I love to be proven wrong when it comes to new beers, this was a whole new beast! Think a wit but with brett and lemon sharpness unknown to your non lambic ales. It was perhaps the most drinkable beer I’ve ever had. I started to use it as water to quench my thirst and if the bottle was bigger I would have found myself in a bad way no doubt.
I then decided to work my way through a few bottles of gueuze and have a chat with Frank Boon who kindly enough bought me a glass of lambic and described a few of his beers to me. A nice thing, to sit with such a well of knowledge willing to pass on the secrets of brewing fantastic lambic. Carlo was on similar form and no question I asked went neither unanswered nor even “well if I told you that I’d have to kill you” came my way. I was beginning to get back on the usual form by this time, the banter was flowing and with the trades that I’d done I had the best collection of beer Ive ever had in my possession at my feet.
Duff and mesandsim turned up looking rough, so there was only one thing for it. Another Brewdog Islay imp stout. Again it went down with a shower of praise; however I recall Frank Boon not appreciating it too much, perhaps not lambicy enough. There must have been 15 Ratebeerians round the table by this time, and there was lambic in every direction. I was happy and again it was time for another round of lambic. Time was flying past and apparently lambic was running low, I ordered one of every lambic that was left over, only 5 available. All of the oude lambics were excellent while the young ones were, well, needing a little more time.
So the time had came when I’d had every draught lambic there I had had, only 3 bottles I hadn’t had, so onto the bottles. De Ranke Kriek was first on the cards, excellent cherry Flemish sour ale. An interesting mix of two styles that I am very fond of. Moriau Gueuze was another seriously amazing lambic treasure that’s apparently not too easy to get a hold of. After these I was truly punished I remember trying to explain myself to der dopplebock but was not too much use. The time was neigh for leaving. Now but a stoke of luck and excellence on a mans behalf, Craig (cgarvieuk) a new member to the site from Edinburgh was driving back to Ghent and kindly offered a lift, as I had no idea how we were going to get home otherwise.
So after many thanks, goodbyes and high fives, we were in a car to Ghent. What a weekend. What a festival. Many thanks go out to all especially Tim for organising the festival and giving me so much advice on how to get there. Craig a huge thanks for saving my ass and getting me home. Additionally I would like to thank everyone that I did a trade with and the rest of you for the raw banter.