Sip Trips #139: Exploring Europe (Part 4)

The final stop on our European expedition was Belgium, where we visited the cities of Brussels and Bruges, looking to get our fill of what the country is famous for: chocolate, beer, waffles and fries!

First up, was Brussels, where we began by eating at The Purple Rose. While we didn’t love the Croque Monsieur Mrs. Sip and I split, we did enjoy our Belgian Beer Tour of seven 4oz beers, served with a side of fries.

This was merely a warmup, as our big excursion of the day was a Beer & Chocolate Tour, which featured tons of chocolate and six beers. The 4.5-hour tour was very good value, costing 80-Euros per person. I liked being able to pick from a variety of chocolate combos, choosing my sweets based on ingredients I thought worked well in cocktails. Following the chocolate, we were treated to a walking tour of the city, prior to hitting three different bars for the beer portion of the outing.

Belgian Chocolate.jpg

Feeling quite jovial at the conclusion of the tour, we made our way to the Delirium Café for further beverages. I had hoped to drink from one of the bar’s massive fishbowl glasses (which you have to put down a 40-Euros deposit for), but they had sadly ran out of the goblets when we went to order. We still enjoyed a drink, but it wasn’t what I had hoped for.

The next day, we popped into Restaurant du MIM, located on the 10th floor of the Museum of Musical Instruments. There, I had a pint of Ramee Blanche, while we enjoyed the views from the outdoor seating section. I had the same beer at Café Georgette, famous for their fries, which can be eaten at the restaurant or as takeaway in a cone. We ordered our chips with Georgette Sauce, which completed the experience.

We then walked across town for drinks at the Brussels Beer Project, which had been recommended to us the day before by our Beer & Chocolate Tour guide. Mrs. Sip and I went with pints of the Delta IPA (Belgian IPA) and Jungle Joy (Mango and Passionfruit Blond). We had wanted to try the Grosse Bertha (Belgian Hefeweizen), but it was tapped out at the time. Mrs. Sip did get to try it when we had dinner across the street at Café Walvis. There, I paired some beef stew with fries and a bottle of Maredsous Bruin, as was recommended on the bistro’s menu.

belgian-beer

Before moving onto the Bruges portion of our vacation, I must mention that I really enjoyed the Grimbergen brand of beer, which we tried in Blond, Dubbel, and Tripel varieties. I found they worked particularly well with Belgian waffles, making for a fantastic breakfast and start to a day of exploring!

In Bruges (an awesome movie!), we began our activities by exploring the main square, while searching for a place to eat dinner. We landed at Huyze die Maene, where I selected from their 22-Euros set menu. My meal included another round of Flemish beef stew with fries, accompanied by a large serving of Kwak beer, which came in a very interesting glass that looked like something from a chemistry lab.

The next day, we toured the Brewery De Halve Maan, which finished with a glass of their Brugse Zot Blond. The tour cost 10-Euros per person, which may have been money better spent on just ordering a couple pints of beer. Mrs. Sip and I have grown tired of learning the process to make beer and really just want to sample the wares. At least we lucked upon a spot in the brewery’s courtyard to enjoy our beverages.

Missing Beer.jpg

While walking around the city, we stepped into one of the beer stores that Belgium is known for. These shops typically carry hundreds of different beers. Mrs. Sip wanted to try a couple from the Mongozo brand, including their coconut and banana-flavoured options. These brews were lighter on the alcohol percentage, but very tasty.

Before heading back to London and flying home the next day, we needed to return to Brussels to catch our Eurostar train. With time to kill, we walked to the nearby Cantillon Brewery, which specializes in sour beers. We ordered a glass of each of the four available brews, including the Gueuze, Kriek, Rose de Gambrinus, and Lambic.

That wraps our adventures from across the pond. Travelling such a long distance with Baby Sip went better than I expected, but it still had its fair share of hiccups, which I hope to delve into in a future Love & Hate article. Until then, at least we have the fuzzy memories!

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BC Beer Baron #273 – Dageraad De Witte

When it comes to Lower Mainland breweries, there are few the Sip Advisor has yet to visit. Dageraad Brewing, based in Burnaby, is one of them and while I must atone for my transgressions, that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying their beers. Such is the case with this release, which I recently tried as a guest tap option.

The De Witte is described by the brewery as a sour-fermented Belgian-style spiced wheat ale, thus checking off some of my and Mrs. Sip’s favourite beer criteria. The 5.2% ABV beverage is quite tasty and perfect for summer drinking. It’s suggested that drinkers carefully pour this brew and try to leave as much of the yeast sediment in the bottle.

dageraad-de-witte

Available in bomber-sized bottles, the De Witte has brought home a few accolades over its lifetime. This includes a silver medal at the 2014 BC Beer Awards in the Belgian/French Ale category and a bronze medal the following year in the Sours/Wild Ale class.

For those curious about the brewery’s name (as was the Sip Advisor), it is an homage to the Dageraadplaats, a square in Antwerp, Belgium. There, beer culture is prevalent and the owner/brewmaster of Dageraad (meaning daybreak or dawn) hopes to bring the Belgian style to BC drinkers… a style he likes to call Burnabarian!

For more BC Beer Baron articles, please visit our main page…

Belgium – Moon Drops

Comic Creations

While Get Fuzzy is the Sip Advisor’s favourite comic and he doesn’t stray too far from that strip (although he loves him the occasional Garfield story), Belgium is known for a few animated legends that have recently been turned into feature film franchises. Let’s take a closer look at these works:

The Adventures of Tintin

First published in 1929, Tintin was created by the artist simply known as Hergé (real name Georges Remi) as part of a newspaper supplement. Tintin books have gone on to become big business, selling more than 350 million copies in over 80 different languages. The character is often described as a native son of Belgium, which is pretty good praise for someone whose best friends are a dog and an oft-drunk sea captain.

Have you ever wondered where the name Tintin came from? The character’s first name is actually Martin and Tintin is a common nickname for people named Martin in French-speaking countries. His dog Snowy is actually called Milou in the French comics, while the detective duo of Thompson and Thomson are named Dupont and Dupond.

Tintin Age

Tintin, a teenage journalist and detective, has travelled the world and even beyond it. He’s had adventures in the Congo, the Soviet Union, China, and even on the moon. If you wish to keep up with his globetrotting, you may be out of luck. Some of the regions he’s visited are completely made up, such as Khemed, Borduria, Syldavia, and Nuevo Rico.

The 2011 film release, involving movie moguls Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, sees Hergé actually appear in the opening scene as the street artist. A Tintin theatrical release had been in the works since the 1980’s, when Spielberg first crafted a script for the Belgian icon. There has also been a Tintin TV cartoon (the Sip Advisor’s first introduction to Tintin adventures), BBC radio show, two French live-action films, stage shows, and publicity stunts.

Belgium Balls

The Smurfs

Created in 1958 by artist Peyo (what’s with all these Belgian comic creators going by a singular name), also known as Pierre Culliford, the Smurfs are branded as Les Schtroumpfs, in French. Peyo came up with the word ‘schtroumpfs’ when he forgot the word for salt at a dinner party and made something up on the spot. Smurf is simply the Dutch translation of the word.

The Smurfs, thanks to their North American TV cartoon, become a pop culture hit in the 1980’s (Smurfmania had already hit the U.K. in the 70’s), spawning their own cereal (including a commercial starring a 13-year-old Jack Black), video games, songs, dance craze, theme park attractions, Ice Capades show, and, of course, lines of toys and other merchandise that kids just had to have.

bring-me-a-smurf

In the beginning, there was only 99 Smurf characters, but that number has risen over the years. Despite the growth in population, there are only three female Smurfs: Smurfette, Sassette, and Nanny Smurf… talk about a sausage party! Some Smurfs from the original comics never made the crossover to TV and film. These characters include Alchemist Smurf, Timid Smurf, Enamored Smurf, Finance Smurf, Lumberjack Smurf, and Navigator Smurf.

The Smurfs helped create modern zombies, thanks to a 1959 comic called ‘The Black Smurfs’ (‘The Purple Smurfs’ in North America). The story was about a Smurf being bitten by an insect, before going around and biting other Smurfs, turning them into aggressive, living-dead beings. This comic was released years before George A. Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and featured the birth of Grouchy Smurf, the patient zero who never regained his full Smurf senses following the outbreak.

Belgium: Moon Drops

Moon Drops Cocktail

Belgium has been dubbed ‘Home of the Comic Strip’ and these panels are considered to be an important part of Belgian life. Next time the Sip Advisor is visiting, he will certainly sit down with a Tintin or Smurfs anthology and give it a read. Some Belgian beer will help with the language barrier!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
This cocktail was simple, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The drops of Sherry floated on top of the drink, gave the brew a unique taste and made it look neat with that hazy red colour. Stella is a clean, crisp and easy to drink beer.

Belgium – Belgian Mojito

Full Meal Deal

Belgium is a pretty creative place. After all, they are responsible for the saxophone, the Body Mass Index, Club Med, Jean-Claude Van Damme (the Muscles from Brussels) and these culinary treats!

Beer

Let’s start with the fact that there are over 800 brands of Belgian beer. When Mrs. Sip and I were in Belgium many moons ago, we decided to try a bunch of different types of brew (not a hard choice, really) and were handed a menu that read like a phonebook. Each beer comes with its own specialized glass, said to improve the overall experience. It’s estimated that Belgians drink 84 liters of beer per person, per year. Those are numbers to be quite proud of!

Belgian Beer

French Fries

According to lore, it wasn’t the French who invented one of the greatest side dishes ever known to man, but the Belgians. In fact, the Belgians have an entire culture devoted to the French fry, including most citizens owning a deep fryer so they can make their own at all hours of the day. As a sauce man, myself, I’m happy to note that the fine folks of Belgium will use an array of different toppings on their fries, including mayonnaise (the big one over there), tartar sauce, and many others.

Chocolate

The sweet stuff is a big deal in Belgium, with chocolatier and confectionary outlets on many street corners. Point being, they are not hard to find. Some of the most popular chocolate brands in Belgium, include Guylian (makers of the sea shell chocolates) and Neuhaus (inventor of pralines and even the method of gift wrapping chocolate purchases). The world’s greatest chocolate sales occur at the Brussels International Airport, as travelers stock up on the goodies before exiting the country.

Belgium Waffles

I’m not sure what exactly takes a waffle and makes it Belgian (apparently this is a North American term to describe larger, but lighter battered waffles), but if they want to lay claim to this breakfast fixture, I say let them have it. In Belgium, it’s more common to see the term Brussels waffle, but it seems to all mean the same thing. In Belgium, waffles are even sold on the street as a snack on the go and sometimes from ice cream trucks.

Belgian Waffles

Brussels Sprouts

One of the most child-despised food items to ever exist, parents of fussy eaters can thank the Belgians for this culinary gem. The sprout has been grown in Brussels for over 400 years and while it could have originated anywhere, Belgium has jumped aboard the edible bud train. Mrs. Sip has recently got into Brussels sprouts, providing they’re roasted and smothered in cheese. I’m still not onboard with the leafy green, but we have a ceasefire with one another.

Mussels

Or as they know it, moules-frites (mussels and fries), has often been given the title of Belgium’s national dish. I like mussels from time to time, particularly if done in a Cajun-esque style and in one of those big pots with other seafood, potatoes, and corn on the cob. Back to Belgium’s take on the dish, the shellfish is typically cooked or steamed with vegetables such as onions, celery, and leeks, although other, more savoury techniques can be utilized.

Jenever

This ancestor of gin has been the national spirit of Belgium for hundreds of years. In fact, Jenever is a protected product of origin and can only be manufactured in Belgium, the Netherlands (where we will sample it in a few weeks), and parts of France and Germany. The traditional serving method includes a shot glass fresh from the freezer and filled to the brim. The first sip should be taken without the use of hands, before you can return to normal sipping procedures!

Belgium: Belgian Mojito

Belgian Mojito Cocktail

As a beer and French fry connoisseur, I give great praise to the people of Belgium and that’s without even taking into consideration the Sip Advisor’s sweet tooth. I won’t even deduct points for their addition of Brussels sprouts to the international potluck!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I’ve never put together what is basically a Beer Mojito, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity. My drink turned into its own ecosystem with all the greenery in there. It tasted pretty good, though, helping me further my claim to being the ‘King of Mojitos!’