Tag Archives: Kulminator

#230 – Het Kapittel Tripel Abt

#230 - Het Kapittel Tripel Abt

Size: 750 ml

ABV: 10 %

It would be extremely rude to spend a night in the Kulminator bar and not pay more than just fleeting attention to this most impressive of booze joints. As fate would have it I’ve dabbled with a couple of others in the Het Kapittel portfolio, notably the Pater (#2), and the Dubbel (#108) so there would be a good place to brush up on the beers and the brewery.

The Kulminator is close to the city centre but far out enough to be off the tourist trail. For those curious it’s on Vleminckveld – although it’s easy to miss so look for the number 32. Hours can vary but most evenings you will find it open until the owners Dirk and Leen decide they’ve had enough for the night. This is a beer bar which is very much open on the terms of the proprietors which in essence defines the character of the place. I’ve been in enough beer bars now to appreciate a deviation from the norm and this is certainly no exception.

It was a cold wet night in question, and it easily took me two or three minutes to demist the glasses and come to terms with the stuffy layout. It took that long to find a dog-eared beer menu, and appropriate a seat at the bar, which was just enough time for Leen to accept our first order (#228). The beer was delicious, the music was stately and the atmosphere was eerie. Dirk was sat in a dusty corner surrounded by antiquities nursing a goblet of something fancy while completing his accounts. He barely raised an eye at our arrival, although I very much got the feeling that the days takings were peripheral to the real reason for being open.

The story of Dirk and Leen is an interesting one and dates back to 1974 when the couple opened a wine bar named Bodega in the Kiel district of Antwerp. The locals seemed though to prefer the grain to the grape, and so the focus of the bar was diverted towards beer; and not just local beer. Although all the Belgian classics were found there, you could also get your hands on Danish porters and reknowned German lagers and Bocks. One beer in particular, the EKU 28 was particularly popular and a favourite of Dirk. You might have heard of it by its other name – the Kulminator 28.

The Bodega bar eventually could no longer serve the increasing clientele which Dirk and Leen were garnering through their beer selection. Although the cellar could hold around a thousand cases of aging beer easily enough, the bar could only accommodate about thirty people, and so in 1979 they moved to their current location. The name was changed but the concept remained, and by 2005 they eventually managed to move all their old beer across. Some would say the Kulminator is more a museum than a bar, and it is hard to disagree. The place is littered with breweriana, but not only can you choose a beer, you get to select your vintage. Our second order of the night was a particularly expensive Chimay Blue (#45) that sent Leen into the bowels of the Kulminator. She returned a fair time later with a dust-laden vintage beautifully presented in a wicker basket. Needless to say it was well worth the investment.

By the time we had shared the Het Kapittel Abt the owners were getting restless, and we had had plenty enough beer, breaking open a Tripel Karmeliet (#229) and a La Montagnarde prior (#167). It isn’t therefore with much confidence that I bring you the thoughts on the beer, but from what I recall it was a thick meaty amberish brown which was full of flavour. Like most beers they tend to taste better from the bigger bottles where the yeast has more room to develop, and this was no different. By the time we had polished off the remains and put the world to rights, Dirk had kicked us unceremoniously out the door in his trademark no-nonsense fashion and of course having crossed the line of common sense some time ago we went in search of more beer. I’m not sure who was most upset – us the next day with the chronic hangover, or the landlady of our digs who had to let us in at some unearthly hour of the morning. Well and truly Kulminated I’m afraid.

1 Comment

Filed under 8, Abt/Quadrupel, Van Eecke

#229 – Tripel Karmeliet

#229 - Tripel Karmeliet

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.4 %

I am surprised as anyone that it has taken this long to try this beer. After the Dulle Teve (#228) and some wonderful aged Chimay Blue (#45) from the depths of the Kulminator cellar it was time to try this highly rated Tripel.

In many ways the Tripel Karmeliet is a new beer; launched by the quirky Bosteels brewery in 1996, however the original recipe is said to hail from the former Carmelite monastery in Dendermonde. It was there in 1679 that friars made a beer brewed not only with barley, but also wheat and oats – proof that multi-grain isn’t a 21st century phenomenon. It is now heavily spiced and flavoured with Styrian hops which may have been beyond the friars, as was the bottle refermentation, but the idea was the same.

The Karmeliet, or Carmelites, were an influential bunch in Europe in the late 17th Century when this beer was first conceptualised. The Order is said to have originated on Mount Carmel near Haifa in Israel. The mountain has significant Biblical relevance in its connections to the prophet Elijah, and has long been a refuge for hermits laying down their lives to God – long before a 12th Century chapel was built in honour of Mary by the hermetical Brothers of St Mary of Mount Carmel. It was here that the typical characteristics of the Carmelite Order were formed; notably the importance of poverty and manual labour, and latterly the devotion to silent prayer.

Around 1235 the Carmelites were forced to flee Israel under threat of the Saracen invaders and Europe was the obvious destination for many. Over the next two hundred years the Carmelite Orders grew in importance and power, and monasteries blossomed in this new spiritual and intellectual age. Relying on their own labour and alms it was a natural inclination to begin to brew beer for the local population and save them from the evils of disease-ridden water. Of course the Carmelites would have met their match during the French Revolution and they have been virtually wiped off the map apart from small areas of the Netherlands and Belgium.

In the Tripel Karmeliet however the Ordo Carmelitarum lives on, and lives on in style. This is a robustly delicious brew which is instantly recognisable on first looks, and then taste. Its appearance, most notably served in the ostentatious and slightly tacky fleur-de-lys glass, is a light blond carbonated brew, which once put to the nose offers up a miasma of citrus and spice. The mix of wheat and oats into the grist gives the beer a uniquely dry, crisp and refreshing flavour which is bitter and sweet, and yet fruity and hoppy at the same time. It tantalises your tastebuds and defies you to order another. Dont be fooled though – At 8.4% this particular beer needs respect. The Order of Carmelites are well known for their fantastical visions, and I had one or two myself the next morning.

11 Comments

Filed under 9, Abbey Tripel, Bosteels

#208 – Oerbier

#208 - Oerbier

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

Oerbier is the flagship beer of the de Dolle Brouwers, and was the first beer to be launched by the Mad Brothers. The name of the beer roughly translates as ‘primitive beer’, ‘original beer’, or ‘beer from the source’ – a title which reflects the evolutionary nature of both the beer and the brewery.

The de Dolle Brouwers story first began in 1980 following brothers Kris and Jo Herteleer’s attempts to make home brew from English supermarket kits. They were still at college at the time and making a shed load of experimental beers. Eventually they decided to enter a competition in Brussels, and they picked one of their 35 creations. Amazingly this Oerbier won, and the cash first prize was all the incentive they needed to begin their new business.

The success of the Oerbier was really down to a change of approach from the Mad Brothers. The initial efforts at brewing hadn’t really yielded anything worthwhile, so they opted to use the finest natural ingredients – spring water, fresh hops and yeast, only malt, and strictly no colouring, preservatives or filtering! This philosophy has continued to guide de Dolle Brouwers to cult success now across the world where their beers are revered. The Oerbier continues to be the flagship beer, and the small yellow man on the label continues to represent the brand. The cartoon figure is a sprouting yeast cell, who carries a mashing fork in one hand and the perfect glass of Oerbier in the other. The year Anno 1980 represents the date the brewery began, and the words Nat en Straf literally translate as ‘Wet and Strong’, which is a pretty decent analogy of the Oerbier, although it has been even stronger at times.

The real beauty of the Oerbier, which may frustrate those who seek consistency, is that each annual effort is brewed differently. I found this out later in my journey when I tried an older version at the Kulminator bar in Antwerp. When the beer was first made it used Rodenbach yeasts which left the beer at around 7%. Eventually in around 1988 once Palm had taken over Rodenbach, the de Dolle Brouwers started to evolve their own mad strains from the original yeast and the ABV rocketed. In around 2000 the beer was over 10%. Nat en Straf indeed!

The 9% version of the Oerbier I tried was simply immense. It poured a beautiful conker brown with an attractive mop of white head glistening like an oasis on the top. There was an adequate dosing of sediment which added to the experience, and the aromas were far too abundant to even begin trying to decipher. The first taste was divine, a sweet and complex meaty brew that scintillated every taste bud. Again, there were so many flavours that I couldn’t begin to tell the story. It’s not often I drool over beers, but this and the Boskeun (#82) are easily amongst my top five brews – so much so that on my last trip to Belgium I called in to the brewery to stock up on supplies and get my own flagship glass.

Leave a comment

Filed under 9, Belgian Strong Ale, De Dolle Brouwers

#122 – De Koninck Tripel

#122 - De Koninck Tripel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

If you asked me to describe what Antwerp means to me I would probably say three things. Diamonds – shouldn’t it have been Antwerp where James Bond had the infamous fight in the lift in Diamonds are Forever? Nausea – the worst whitey I have ever had in my life was after an errant Norwegian persuaded me one fateful night to stick a wad of snus on my gums (which I forgot about until the headspins began) . Finally, it has to be the Kulminator bar – the best ever Chimay Grand Reserve (#45) aged and served from the cellar. The hangover though was crippling.

Ask any Antwerpian however and you might get a different answer. The Schelde – the famous river which dissects the town is the lifeblood of the city. The Zoo – apparently so? The most likely answer though would be De Koninck beer. Probably no beer in Belgium is so intrinsically linked to a city than De Koninck. The beer started being brewed here as far back as 1933, and has been as popular with locals ever since.

The phenomenon may be more of a regional thing though. On my wanderings through Belgium I rarely see it out of Antwerp, which considering 114,000 hectolitres is produced annually is quite remarkable. The brewery reckons 35% leaves the country though, most to the Dutch, and you have probably as much chance of seeing it in Amsterdam as you will in Brussels. Go to Antwerp however and you have no chance of escaping the influence. In any bar, it really is a part of the furniture.

Recent events are worrying the locals though, with Duvel Moortgat only a few days ago acquiring 100% of the shares in De Koninck. It is fair to say that De Konick have had better days – there was a time when they would brew up to 140,000 hectolitres a year, but their beers now only equate to about half a percent of the overall Belgian beer market, and as the world recession hits us all, it is wielding its stick particularly on café culture in Belgium. Drinkers have less money, and as De Koninck is very much an Antwerp café beer (present in at least a hundred cafes in Antwerp alone), it is a worrying sign. La Chouffe is an example of a relationship with Duvel Moortgat that has worked well and we keep our fingers crossed that De Koninck is able to keep its head above the froth.

As for the De Koninck Tripel, which came highly recommended I might add, I would bestow a consistent 7. As the beer is made with biological South American cane sugar, as opposed to the typical Belgian white sugar, I had expected a sweet, thick glutenous beverage, but it was much lighter, and I just couldn’t recreate the head that dominates the advertising. If it meant buying a crate to keep De Koninck from selling up (and out) though, then I’d be happy keeping this as a safety beer.

(Post-Script) – Antwerp has never been renowned as the party capital of Europe, but I seem to have had my fair share of debauchery here. It was only after racking my brains further on what Antwerp means to me, that I recalled getting detained by the police on a long walk back to my hotel. I had rather unintelligently chosen the main police office wall to urinate against. I have made better decisions in my life.

1 Comment

Filed under 7, Abbey Tripel, De Koninck