Sunday, July 27, 2008

A little piece of Belgium at home...

So for no good reason today, I started reminiscing about my previous trips to Brugge, Belgium. I've spent a total of 3 weeks in Brugge and consider it my pretend home in Europe. I love frites from the green wagon in front of the Belfy (green curry sauce, please), the waiter who speaks 5 languages fluently at Den Dyver, and the sheer wealth of beer bars that are particularly cozy and inviting on damp and cold Belgian nights.

One of my favorite beer bars is Staminee de Garre. It's a bit hard to find because it's literally down an alley and virtually unmarked save the Duchesse de Bourgogne sign out front.

It's a small beer bar with a huge leather beer menu of several hundred beers, most of which are in bottles. But they do have their own house brew on tap, and if I remember correctly, you're only allowed 3 of those delicious brews due to the high alcohol content. Each beer is brought out on a tiny round wooden tray and with its proper glass (naturally) as well as a small dish of cubed white cheese which is eaten with toothpicks. The waiter sets the cheese on the table, then holds the glass to the wooden tray with his thumb, practically holds the glass/tray sideways, and pours the beer with caution to not get too much of the yeast poured in the glass.

The bar gets packed and smoky, but it's also the kind of place where you feel like you're one of the few tourists inside...mostly because all of the other tourists are flocking to t'bruges Biertje which is Brugges' most infamous - and least atmospheric - beer bar IMO.

In any case, I felt a sudden sense of nostalgia for Brugge and "my" bar today, so I decided to recreate a little piece of it at home this evening. Hops and I stopped off at Safeway on the way home from Magnuson dog park to pick up some white cheese. I like Jarlsberg (lite) for cubing and enjoying with Belgian beers, primary because it's a very benign mild flavor that doesn't really interfere with the flavor of the beer. My next stop was at Bottleworks in Wallingford where my goal was to only buy one bottle of new (to me) Belgian beer to enjoy at home for dessert. While my intentions were noble, I managed to walk out with 5 beers -- 2 new to me, and the other 3 some tasty beers to welcome the arrival of my parents to Seattle from VA this Thursday.

My beer of choice tonight was the Special Reserva 2006 from De Dolle Brouwers. I've had numerous beers from De Dolle, including the more popular Oerbier and the less popular Extra Export Stout (which was a bad "win" at an auction -- a whole case of skunked beer!). This beer is aged in oak barrels and packs in 13% alcohol. It pours a very nice coppery brown color with a decent head and has a sour, woody smell. I hadn't read anything about it, so I was totally unprepared for how tart it actually tastes. I'm a huge fan of sour beers, but being unprepared for one threw me off at first. The first sip is very sour and tart, and almost tastes of vinegar. It lacks the cherry tones of my favorite sour beers (the aforementioned Duchesse and its sister Vichtenaar), and the sweetness of them too. While I didn't like the first sip, I did enjoy subsequent sips - it's a very interesting beer whose taste doesn't reveal any hint of its high alcohol content and whose tartness becomes less biting as the beer warms. I'm glad I gave this beer a shot, but I'm probably not in any rush to go buy a second bottle of it.

I had the proper glass and the bowl of white cubed cheese with a toothpick...was just missing the little wooden tray!

Beer: Special Reserva 2006
Brewery: De Dolle Brouwers
Style: Flanders Oud Bruin
Alcohol Content: 13%
Serving Type: Bottle
Cost: $5.49/bottle
Where Purchased: Bottleworks (Wallingford)
Rating: B+

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