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My Belgian Summer Holiday – Ghent

One of the last destinations with my Off-Peak Unlimited train ticket, was Ghent. I originally planned to go there on a Thursday, but I was unexpectedly called in to work, but this Wednesday was the only full free day I had, and all the bars I intended to go to, seemed to be open.

However, I didn’t check the museums, and as it turns out, Wednesday is a closing day for most museums in Ghent… So after walking to STAM, the city museum of Ghent, in vain, my first stop was then Koffeine, for some coffee and cheesecake.

A bit earlier than planned, I then continued my sunny and scenic walk to Dok Brewing Company for my first beers of the day. This taproom was actually the only one of my beer stops open this early, so I took my time to enjoy my beers, while waiting to move on to the a new bar.

Well, Café De Welkom might be new, but it used to be Brouwbar before. Now it is kind of the city centre taproom of Dok Brewing Company, and they completely overhauled the place. There are considerably fewer taps with beer here than in the actual brewery taproom, so if you’re keen on trying new beers, it’s best to go to the centre bar before you head over to the docks…

For dinner I went to Faja Lobi, originally a Surinamese restaurant, but over the years several cultures and styles have influenced the menu. But put anything with peanut sauce on the menu, and I’ll have that! So I had the chicken satays with spicy peanut sauce, with rice and salad. The drink I had with it was dawet, a quite tasty coconut milk based drink.

I then passed by Huzaar, which would have been another new bar for me, but it was unfortunately closed for some reason, so that discovery will have to wait until another time. Inevitably the next and last bar then was Bar Beenhouwer, with a banging beer list as usual!

From there I walked back to the station, to go home. Just one more mini-trip to go!

My Belgian+ Summer Holiday – Lille

So today’s trip was to Lille, called Rijsel in Dutch, or in this case more correctly, in Flemish. Because although technically Lille is not in Belgium—hence the “+” in the title of this post—it’s in Flanders nevertheless. Lille is in French Flanders to be exactly, which used to be a part of the historical County of Flanders. While it has been a part of the Southern Netherlands for a while, it eventually ended up as a part of France in 1659.
However, to some extent, apparently Flemish is still spoken here, although I haven’t seen or heard any proof of that on this trip…

My Off-Peak Unlimited train ticket was of course not valid for the border crossing, but the international add-on was only a couple of euros extra. With a fifteen minute delay—vandals messed up the signalling system—my train arrived in Lille-Flandres, a train station that was way bigger than I expected!

My first stop was of course at a coffee bar, Coffee Makers in this case, for an espresso macchiato and some banana bread.

Since my Museum Pass isn’t valid here, and I hadn’t been in Lille as an adult yet, for as far as I can remember, I just played tourist for a while. Of course, I had to visit the citadel of Lille as well. This fortress was built between 1667 and 1670, designed by Vauban, a French military engineer, apparently considered the greatest engineer of his time. Unfortunately, it’s closed to the public, because it is still in military use: it’s home to the Rapid Reaction Corps-France. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but just check out what it looks like from above!

From there I strolled past the future location of BBP Lille. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s a really nice building!

My first actual beer stop was at Beer Square, right next to the quite peculiar Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille: modern in the front, old everywhere else.

Even though it was still quite early, the high ABV beers I consumed necessitated a food stop at Friterie Meunier. Their specialty is all kinds of croquettes, and they were tasty indeed!

The next beery stop was then the hôp[i] microbrewery. I loved their beers, the selection of guest beers, and the art on the walls!

After a short stop at La Ressourcerie, I then went to the highlight of the evening, La Capsule. I could easily have spent the rest of my evening here!

I didn’t want to risk missing my train home though, so I went back to Lille-Flanders train station, only to find my planned train had been cancelled…
There was a train to Mouscron however, and from there, it was a direct train to Brussels!

That’s another adventure in the bag, next up: the Hopz beer festival in Hamont-Achel! (Although I doubt that warrants a blog post, since I won’t see much apart from the beer festival itself. The next post will probably be about Bruges!)

Brussel Breweries Tattoo Tour 2023

When I just had my Brussels breweries tattoo in 2022, featuring my seven favourite local breweries, I celebrated the occasion by visiting them all in one epic taproom crawl
Because that first edition was such a success, on the first Saturday after the 15th of June—the date I got my tattoo in 2022—I did it again!

This time around I was a little bit better prepared, and had stamp cards printed in advance, as well as iron-on patches, and stickers.

Again, there was a great turnout, and four people made it all the way to the end with me, two of them for the second time!

Mark your calendars for next year: the Brussel Breweries Tattoo Tour 2024 will be on Saturday the 15th of June 2024!

FyneFest Trip – Day 11

Last Stop in Leith…

Thursday: my last full day in Scotland, and I was going to make the most of it! First order of the day though, was a nice toast with scrambled eggs and bacon at Fortuna Coffee Bar. Coffee as wel, obviously…

Around the corner was the Georgian House, again a National Trust of Scotland property.

From there it was quite a bit further to the next NTS location: Newhailes House. This place can only be visited if you book a tour, so I had done so. However, when I arrived there, it turned out I was the only one on the standard tour, so they offered to ‘upgrade’ me to a more extensive tour half an hour later. Which I happily accepted!

Since I was near the seaside already, my next stop was the Porty Vault in Portobello, Vault City Brewing’s second taproom.

From there it was just a short tram ride to Leith, the new hot spot for craft beer in Scotland..

The Newbarns Brewery taproom was first up, quickly followed by that of Moonwake Beer Co. The last stop in Leith was not a brewery, but a bar: Dreadnought Leith.

By that time I desperately needed food—especially since the Porty Vault didn’t have the smoked sausage subs I was hoping for, or any food, for that matter! Being in Edinburgh, it of course had to be Wings, to check off some more flavours on my list. Choice of the evening: 8 Flames, Thunderstruck, Taps Aff!, and Maximilian’s Molten Mounty, the three hottest sauces on the list, plus one a bit less hot… The 8 Flames definitely had a kick, and would still cause some tears later that night while taking out my contact lenses!

Last stop was of course BrewDog Edinburgh, on Cowgate, the bar that changed my perception of beer forever!

FyneFest Trip – Day 9

Something’s Brewing in Ellon

After a couple of mornings being woken by the sun around four in the morning, I slept in a little, in my nicely darkened hotel room. Unfortunately that meant I was just a bit too late to have breakfast in in my Travelodge, and had to go to a Greggs instead, if I didn’t want to miss my Stagecoach bus to Ellon.

My first stop there was The Coffee Apothecary, so unlike previous trips to to Ellon, I actually got to see a bit of the town itself. This coffee shop is actually somehow connected to BrewDog—James invested in it?—so Equity Punks get a 5% discount here. But more importantly: they have a couple of BrewDog and guest beers on draught. Coffee and craft beer: there’s definitely a market for it!

From there it was a twenty minute walk to DogTap. Through some bribing with a nice bottle of Cantillon, I managed to get a private VIP tour on a day they usually don’t do brewery tours at all… I got to see the offices, parts of the brewery that were only very recently finished, the canning line up close while operating, and heard loads of new tidbits of information and nice anecdotes. Thank you Craig, and most awesome guide Dan!

Back in Aberdeen, it was dinner time. Pick of the night: Jewel in the Crown! I first thought it was closed—nothing to see through the windows and a big closed door—but this Indian restaurant was in the basement, as restaurants and bars in Scotland often seem to be. The chicken Pasanda was quite a tasty discovery!

Foundations in place, a night in the town could begin. First up was the very first BrewDog bar, the flagship; BrewDog Aberdeen! It was followed by the other usual spots: CASC, Fierce Bar, and to again end the evening with, BrewDog Castlegate.