While in Belgium, my goal of reaching 200 different Belgian beers tasted was becoming a reality. After a fast start though, my new intake slowed down, as I was caught up in the predictable pattern of reunions with friends and host families, often at their own place, on their own time, or on their own coin. This severely reduced my opportunities to try new beer, and though it is not something I begrudge them of in the slightest, it just meant that in the land of close to a thousand beer, I was running into a surprising challenge to try at least 16 new to me in about a week. I did however drink lots of old favourites when the opportunity presented itself, and that in itself was of course enjoyable.
On the day I was to leave, I headed to the train station, bound for Amsterdam, sitting on 197 career different Belgian beers. As I rode the train through Ghent, I decided that whatever the time delay, I would accomplish the milestone in Belgium, right now, at 12:30pm! Getting off at the last station in Ghent, Dampoort, I raced into town to begin my final adventure in Belgium of the trip.
I headed over to Het Waterhuis aan de Bierkant where I knew I would find a large selection of excellent beers, many of them new to me. I had long since found that the average cafe in Belgium did not offer more than about twenty different beers, and most of the time none of them were new to me. Thankfully, one of the benefits of being among the foremost beer nations on earth, is that there are plenty of amazing speciality beer cafes in Belgium, and Het Waterhuis (also known as the Bierhuis) is one of the finest in Ghent. My plan was to start there, and see where the afternoon took me.
Beer number 198 was the beer of the month, Brigand, a strong blond from Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck. Beer number 199 was a bottle of Hanssens Artisanaal (sinds 1896) Oude Gueuze. As opposed to the gueuze I drank A La Morte Subite, this one follows the traditional, unsweetened recipe for blending, hence the addition of the Dutch word for “old,” oude. I took notes for this one on the back of a Brigand coaster.
Pours a cloudy gold, bubbly liquid.
Nose: Deceptively tame for an oude gueuze, tangy.
Palate: Assails the taste buds with bracken and heath, death on the wheaty moors.
Finish: Triple tangy, reminiscent of sour cherries.
After about an hour and a half and two beer, I left Het Waterhuis for the Vrijdagsmarkt, hoping to drink my 200th different Belgian beer at De Dulle Griet, another one of Ghent’s excellent cafes. Alas is was closed, and with a train to catch, I deemed it wise to make haste for any cafe that was open in the square. I ended up at Joai’s Muziekhal where I drank a Gordon’s Finest Scotch Ale, my 200th Belgian beer, which is a bit ironic since the name makes it seem like I had made some sort of a drunken mistake. However, Scotch ales have been brewed and consumed in Belgium for generations, and Gordon’s comes in a particularly beautiful thistle shaped glass, which made this beer momentous on its own!
The end result of drinking three excellent high percentage beers was that my train ride was a bit drunk. Actually, this train ride was one of the strangest drunken experiences of my life. My mind kept racing about, full of indistinct thoughts upon the subject of girls, and my eyes kept closing themselves without my consent, only to reopen instantly because every time they were closed, I suddenly thought that I was being attacked by dragons! A true story. I even took some notes about my state of mind whilst this was happening, however they are rather difficult to decipher, being in English, French and Dutch, and the just of them has been related in the above sentences.