Saturday, October 14, 2006


A Prima Primitive

The works of the Flemish primitives are respected worldwide, much like the current status of Belgian beer among connoisseurs.

The wildest (or weirdest) of the painters was probably Hieronymus Bosch from 's-Hertogenbosch in present-day Netherlands, with his gruesome and surreal depictions of hell.

Motifs from his paintings can now be found on the Vlaamse Primitief series of wild ales from De Proefbrouwerij in Lochristi, Oost-Vlaanderen. On their web site the US crafts beer importer, The Shelton Brothers, great ambassadors (and, indirectly, I would believe, sometimes even lifesavers) of Belgian breweries, have a description of six variants available.

On a recent trip to the vicinity of the brewery this beer tourist discovered yet another version, as can be seen in the picture. From the 75 cl bottle poured a quite clear, pale golden-coloured beer with a fluffy, white head. Sour fruit aroma, brettanomyces, very leathery Orval-like, but more fruity. Flavours are very bitter, yet some sweet fruitiness remains. Creamy texture, long dry finish, good carbonation. The label may depicts Hell (something for the Norwegian teetotaler movement?), but inside the bottle hides a heavenly brew.

The bottle was bought in one of those off-the-beaten track Belgian beer cafes that make you feel you have deserved every drop of beer you end up tasting. De Bierkamer is a countryside café in Kluizen, about half an hours bus ride north of Gent. After you get off the bus from Gent, you still have a 600 meter walk alongside the highway to reach this beer haven. With corn fields on each side and not too much traffic it is a pleasant enough walk passing by the odd sight of a garden with deer. In the distance the refineries of the busy port of Gent are visible - you are in the wild of densely populated Vlaanderen.

The next village after Kluizen is Ertvelde, home of the industrious Brouwerij Van Steenberge. The best of this brewery dominates the 100 plus beer menu of De Bierkamer, but treasures from smaller breweries from all over Belgium are also to be found. Do not expect any primitive lagers, though- only quality is allowed into the highly presentable beer list.

It is indeed a highly civilized place to enjoy a wild ale...

Great page!
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