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Kielegat, or—as it’s usually known—Breda

Breda is right across the Belgian-Dutch border, and they have a nice brewery there, so I’ve wanted to visit it for quite some time. After a couple of futile attempts to find a travel and drinking buddy for this trip, I finally went by myself this random Saturday in February. Only, it turned out to be not just a normal Saturday…

In the south of the Netherlands—Brabant, Gelderland, and Limburg, to be precise—carnival is a kind of a big thing. I should have known it was the opening Saturday of carnival that day, because I grew up in Limburg… However, it had completely slipped my mind. Only after seeing people dressed up on the train platform where I was to take my train into the town centre, it dawned on me…

The train was full of instruments and people playing them, and loads of singing, drinking, dressed up people, ready to head into town as well, for the official start of the carnival celebrations.

First things first: coffee. That already turned out harder than expected, since the place I originally intended to go, closed down for the whole duration of carnival. Luckily Koffiebar Sowieso was still open, and they had some nice apple pie!

I then decided not to just ignore the festivities, but join in, or at least a little bit, and attend a gathering of ‘zaate hermeniekes’ (drunk marching bands). Totally by accident, I then also walked in on a basil sowing ceremony, apparently a local carnival tradition.

By then I really started to get thirsty, but as it turned out, even bars known for their craft beer offer, during carnival often only serve pilsner… So what started out as an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and longing for the carnival celebrations of my childhood, quickly turned into annoyance. After trying and failing to get a decent beer in four different bars, I finally found one bar largely devoid of fancy dress and face paint, and still serving their full range of beers. Ironically this bar—Beers & Barrels—was right next to the local AB InBev plant…

Since the main reason for coming to Breda—a brewery taproom—required me to have some food in my stomach, I then went to Klein Java for some proper Indonesian food. Their dining room was actually closed for carnival as well, but luckily they had pity with me, and served me my take-out at a table on a plate anyway!

Then it was finally time for Brouwcafé Frontaal and the brewery and bottle shop behind it! On Facebook they announced the bar would be open and carnival-free, so that at least would be my safe haven for the rest of the night. Or at least I thought it would be… As it turned out, carnival is so popular in Breda, there weren’t enough craft beer lovers left to keep the bar going until the anticipated closing time, so I got to spend a bit more time in the train station that evening. I did however have just enough time to try all the Frontaal beers I wanted to try!

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