Tag Archives: Ash Wednesday

#148 – Ezel Bruin

#148 - Ezel Bruin

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 6.5 %

The logo of the Ezel beers is one of a donkey holding a frothy glass of beer – hardly surprising when you consider that Ezel is Flemish for donkey. Like everything though with Belgian beers there is always a story behind the name.

The nickname Ezel is one that has been given to inhabitants of the municipality of Kuurne. Situated near to the Bavik brewery, it is only a tiny place, with a population of 12,000, but it has faced much derision over the years from its neighbours. The donkey slurs started many years ago when the traders from Kuurne would arrive early in Kortrijk for the market, with assess and carts loaded up with vegetables. The inevitable hullabaloo of braying animals and the rattling across the cobbles would often wake the unfortunate residents. The common greeting was “It’s those asses from Kuurne again!”

There is another story which is part of local legend, and tells of a priest who unable to hold a funeral service on Ash Wednesday, asked the sacrister to take over. All went reasonably well until the application of the cross of ash onto the foreheads of the congregation, where the sacrister couldn’t recall the latin words which were to be proclaimed. He was later castigated by the priest with the immortal line “You were born an ass, and you will die an ass!”, which of course he mistook as the line he had forgotten for all future funerals.

The whole of the local area is now often tarnished with the Ezel taunt; not really as a taunt of stupidity but more likely a reference to the patient and dogged perseverance of the local people. The people of Kuurne have a lot to answer for! Its all very good natured though and something worthy of local pride – in fact the town even has it’s own donkey statue outside the town hall – an oversized and stylish ass named Ambroos, and the winner of the annual pro cycling race between Brussels and Kuurne receives a large fluffy Ambroos on the podium. The association continues with this rather average beer.

The Ezel Bruin had sat in my cellardrobe for well over a year and was by now covered in a mysterious thin layer of dust. The initial aroma on opening was full of promise also; the wafts of herbs and fruit piercing the stuffy evening air. It all went downhill on the tasting though. A thin, effervescent dark brown concoction which was distinctly average and by the time I was half way through, the 250ml had long since become redeemable. The words the sacrister should have remembered were ‘Remember, man, that dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return’. I am happy to banish this one long from the memory.

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Filed under 5, Bavik, Belgian Ale, Donkey

#121 – La Binchoise Brune

#121 - La Binchoise Brune

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.2 %

The most striking thing about the standard beers from La Binchoise is the funny looking gentlemen on the labels. Yes, the ones that look like they have just finished a medieval game of water polo. There surely can’t be any better place to start.

These strange clown-like characters are called Gilles, and are the most definitive image of the festivities that take place at the annual Carnival of Binche. The town where the La Binchoise brewery is based is not a big place at all, yet this festival is famous throughout the world – so much so that recently it was proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Quite a mouthful to live up to!

The festivities can often last up to seven weeks, but the main focus of the carnival takes place during the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday leading up to Ash Wednesday. Sundays are generally marching and dancing, with Mondays often descending into a late night pub crawl. The real colour and fun though begins on Shrove Tuesday. While we in the UK blandly knock up a few pancakes after a long day at work, the Gilles of Binche are up at the crack of dawn slipping into their vibrant costumes, wax masks and clogs. They then wait for the legendary tambourine men to come and fetch them and lead them down to the main square for the real fun and games. Plenty more dancing and marching usually happens in the morning, to ward off the evil spirits of course, then in the afternoon the Gilles find their large decorative ostrich feather hats and proceed throughout the town pelting locals and revellers alike with oranges. You couldn’t script it if you tried. The pelting of fruit is a largely popular part of the fun, although in recent years the high spirits have been somewhat frowned upon with increased reports of damage to property and injuries to bystanders.

Either way, I have heard enough to make me check my calendar for the next one – I have always been game for a bit of a food fight. I’m not sure I would make the trek over for the beer alone though. It didn’t start well with me on my hands and knees once again scrubbing beer out of the lounge rug due to my inability to prepare for a gusher. Once I was back on the sofa, the head had dissipated and I had quite lost the moment. She was a thin beer, and seemed a little weak for the stated ABV. There are plenty better browns than this although it is unlikely to offend anybody, unless of course half of it ends up on your best rug.

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Filed under 6, Abbey Dubbel, La Binchoise