Farmhouse Ale Tour of Belgium & France

The Farmhouse Ale Tour has been in full swing this week. We are basing out of the magnificent Brouwershuis B&B at the St. Bernardus Brewery near Watou, Belgium. So far we have had visited the St. Bernardus Brewery, Brasserie Castelaine in Benifontaine, France; Brasserie La Choulette in Hordain, France; and Brasserie Thierez in Esquelbeque, France. All had amazing, but very different beers. Northern France, while little known to the general beer public, has some great beers. We've enjoyed meeting our new French beer friends. Pictured to the right are beer hunters Bryan, John David and Allen on the other Abbey Road, which leads to the great farmhouse breweries of the region.  More to come!

The Belly of the Beast. In a world, where...

This photo would be:
A) A bunch of brewery workers on break.
B) The cast of Glee.
C) A bunch of exchange students from North Dakota State University touring the AB Inbev brewery in Leuven.

Correct answer, "C."

As it turns out, the most interesting thing today about touring the home of Stella Artois was the people on the tour (who knew?).  These lucky future leaders of America are beginning a five-week exchange program in Antwerp.  I asked them (hypothetically, of course) what their favorite beer was in North Dakota and they all said, "Bud Light."  After five weeks in beer paradise (legal drinking age is 16), their re-entry into the Bud Light world of Fargo will be a difficult one.  Damn you Belgium, you ruined them for the rest!
Bob, Carole, Simon & Suzanna

I also met a fun group of international exchange students studying in Leuven.  This was an organized event for them to all get to know each other better.  Afterwards, a group of them invited me to have dinner with them, which was  a great time to meet people from around the globe, get to know them and hear their world views. I met students from Iceland, Netherlands, Serbia, Macedonia and Iran.  What great reminder that we are all one planet and one world.  And, at the end of the day (or brewery tour), we are all more similar than different.  I  thank them for their hospitality, window into their lives and  wish them much luck in their studies, careers and lives.  So what did I learn?  Well, just to mention two things, Iceland's currency has devalued by 80% and McDonald's closed all its restaurants there.  "Ladies and gentlemen, McDonald's has left the country!"

The Generations of Beer Drinkers in Leuven

Oud (old) Leuven Cafe...literally!
"OK guys, only four left..who's with me?"
The cafe scene in Leuven is virbrant; a little something for everyone.  Here is a pic from the Oud Leven Cafe.  Next is a photo from the Young Leuven Cafe, where you can order a "meter of beer":  14 pints for 21 Euros.  Now, if we could just get them to drink something besides Jupiler, one of the common bland pilsners here in Belgium.  This pic was taken in the Oude Markt, which is this huge town square surrounded by bars.  It is known as the largest bar in Europe, and really, who's to argue?

Livin', lovin' Leuven!

My flight from Detroit to Amsterdam was packed.  And, a late departure gave me a three hour layover in AMS.   A surprise U.S. Customs team were selectively "interviewing" some passengers heading down the tunnel to the plane.  I've never seen this before.  The looked at my U.S. passport and waived me through without blinking an eye.   Then, I  made it to Brussels in 1/2 hour with a short flight.  Claimed my bag and I was on a train to Leuven, only about 10 km away.  Found my hotel and did a little walking tour of the town.  My first beer here was a Corsendank Agnus Tripel I picked up at the corner grocery store...a nice welcome to beer paradise.  I'm running on empty, though, despite tyring to sleep on the plane a little.  Leuven is home to the gigantic corporate beer Stella Artois, now owned by AB Inbev.   At least that's what they are calling it at press time.  Tomorrow, by virtue of its location, I will venture into the belly of the beast and tour this mammoth purveyor of uneventful pilsner.  I'll let you know how it goes.  Now, I'm heading to dinner at Domus.  According to the Good Beer Guide Belgium, it is the longest surviving brewpub in Belgium.  Great to be back in beer paradise!