Sunday, August 28, 2005
Belgian Beer Cafés: Kulminator
Much has been written about this place. To cut it short, it is one of the world's top beer cafés and famous worldwide for its vintage beers, some of them dating as far back as to the seventies. It is probably the beer café that made the whole concept of vintage beers known to beer lovers and for many it is the primary reason for visiting Antwerpen.
Nothing wrong in that, but Antwerpen has a lot to offer besides Kulminator. In fact, it may be the most under-rated city in this under-rated country. So I would recommend that you make at least one nights stay in Antwerpen. If you insist on staying in Brussels, know that the last train back from Antwerpen Centraal on weekdays is at 23.23 with the IC I train, on Saturdays you have to get on the IC N train leaving at 23.09. On Sundays this Beer Mecca is closed. You should also allow for 20 minutes to get to the central station from Kulminator, more if you have indulged in decades old trappist beers the whole evening.
On the picture is Leen, who together with her husband Dirk van Dyck (co-founder of the Objectieve Bierproevers-OBF, the forerunner of today's beer lover organisation Zythos) has been running this establishment for more than 25 years. She is about to hand out the beer list- a monster containing some 500-600 beers to a guest. Many of the beers have not been brewed for decades, so do not worry if you do not recognize the names- Leen (who is the most likely to serve the guests) will know them all.
They open late on Mondays (at 20.15) and on Saturdays (at 17.00), other weekdays you can start enjoying their vintage beers at noon. A good tip would be to come here on an "ordinary" day, avoiding the nights of the 24-hour beer festival or the Essen Christmas beer festival, when the place can get pretty packed (and being a husband-and-wife establishment) service be on the slow side. The atmosphere is serene with classical music in the background, only interrupted by a street musician begging for money or a drink.
Kulminator is located slightly off the main tourist area, in the street of Vleminckveld, 5 minutes walk from the Meir or Groenplaats. You can read the newspaper or some magazines or study all the beer gadgets surrounding you (do they ever throw things away here?). Or just reflect on the great beers or life in general. The choice is yours- here there are few intrusions.