A Night Out With The Belgians
I went out by myself last night. The Secret Agent was working and I visited my grandma after work. Dealing with my family would make a devoted Scientologist resume to psychiatric medication, but I just headed up the street from grandma, walked past my beloved Little Prague, turned right in the alley and at the sight of the usual madding crowd at the Minzar kept walking. Don’t care much about that smokey hipster bar near Salon Berlin so I stopped at Norman’s.
Opened like 10 years ago by the people who run Norman Premium, probably the biggest marketers of craft beer in Israel, the drinks that are poured and served at the bar are still mainly Norman products, even under the new ownership. We are not big fans of the place: the tiny space is claustrophobic, prices are high and the tap selection is pretty much limited to Belgian stuff and seems to never change. Anyway, it wasn’t as full or familiar as the other bars around and I just wanted a quiet drink. A quick look at the tables and I knew what to order: Bel Pils, light beer to lighten up my mood. That’s a Belgian Pilsener brewed by Duvel Moortgat that I first saw served in bars some 2 years ago. Guess that Norman Premium had to add a light lager to their line of products for the sake of the pubs that pour their stuff or something. This is a clear blond beer that has fresh grassy saaz hops aroma and lacks the smell of lemon that so many pilseners have. As the beer sits in the glass malty aroma is released and does it good. Taste is bitter, lemony and tangy, the body is light and carbonation is lively – a little too lively to my taste – and its finish rich for its kind. To sum up, Bel Pils is a fun choice when you are surrounded by heavy Belgian ales and fancy something lighter. It cannot be compared to the Czech goodness that’s poured up the alley, though.
I was going to drink one glass and head home, but Ms. Dover responded to my FB check-in, saying she’s on her way there so I waited and ordered another glass, this time St. Bernardus Abt 12. When I started to mind what I drink, this used to be my favourite beer. Its complexity fascinated me and The Secret Agent and I bought it and ordered it whenever we could. I reviewed it last year in my Hebrew beer blog and it tasted a little strange to me. At that time I related the strangeness to a hoppy phase, but last night’s taste revealed that I just can’t stand this beer anymore. It smelled of raisins and spices and was heavy on my nose. I sniffed it for quite some time, making a fool of myself at the bar, scared to taste. Finally I closed my eyes and sipped. It’s been a long time since I last drank St. Bernardus, any St. Bernardus. I expected sweetness, but the alcoholic smack was a true surprise. Sweetness came afterwards but what I used to enjoy now feels too crude. Full body, carbonation, long bitter alcoholic finish and general WTF sensation.
Shocked, I left Ms. Dover and her friend and took the bus home. It happens to be that we live right by Chouffeland, a small street bar that pours Brassarie d’Achouffe ales from its 3 taps but mostly serves commercial bottled lagers to the d’Ouchebags of the neighbourhood. The Shmupis, two AVID fans of Belgian ales, such avid fans that calling them avid fans is belittling the phenomenon, had checked in there so I stopped by and called The Secret Agent, who just returned from work. In need of hop-infusion, I ordered Chouffe Houblon. The Secret Agent opted for Mc Chouffe which I’ve already written about. Mine was exactly what the doctor prescribed: Hazy golden blond liquid protected by a bright white frothy head that smells hoppy; some grass, some fruit and grapefruit, a little alcoholic too, but nothing to fuss about. It tasted bitter, hoppy and fun. With a light-to-medium body, long, bitter finish and a surprising balance, it was a fun beer for a summery night. Yup, late September, sun sets practically in the afternoon, thanks to the thoughtless arrogant bastards that run this country, but temperature is still in the upper 20’s (Celsius, right?).
How was the Mc Chouffe? It was good. Sweet, bun-like aroma, a little malt and some wine. It tasted sweet and malty and had a full body, mild carbonation and a long malty finish. Good beer. I was happy that I could enjoy a full dose of strong Belgian ale; during tastings we only sample beer and at home we share bottles and hardly ever drink Belgian beer these days. All in all it was a good experience.
With the Mc Chouffe and beers #113, #114 and #115 I Must Try Before I Die in my system, falling asleep and putting family shit behind, if only for a short while, was easy.