Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Satan's special brews

The other day, I turned on the television looking for something to watch. Since getting nationphone on my computer, I never watch Belgian TV. Why watch Bold and the Beautiful reruns when I can watch reality reruns on Bravo? However, I am a sucker for '80s sitcoms and seeing that Different Strokes was coming on I got excited. Anyone who grew up in the 1980's will fondly remember the show. Everyone loved the Drummonds and little Arnold was just so cute. You could say, this show was groundbreaking as it explored a multiracial family. The excitement was short lived, as I realized since the show was airing on a French TV channel it would be dubbed. However, I wanted to at least listen to the opening credits since it was classic. Here is the first stanza and chorus to jog your memory:

"Now, the world don't move to the beat of just one drum, what might be right for you, may not be right for some. A man is born, he's a man of means. Then along came two, they got nothing but their jeans. But they got Diff'rent Strokes. It takes Diff'rent Strokes. It takes Diff'rent Strokes to move the world."

As the tune started, I started to sing but I was out of sync. Why? Because the song was translated into French!! I was shocked. This was the first time I heard opening credits of an American show translated into another language. The song sounded so ridiculous. Shame on you!

I am not sure why I was so surprised because earlier in the day I heard the 1965 song "It's the same old song" by the Four Tops sung in French. I am not sure why anyone would do this. Do the French speakers really abhor the English language? I understand the French wanting to preserve their language and culture but it becomes ridiculous when anything imported from States gets dubbed and translated. Ironically, I heard this song sitting in a McDonald's Cafe in Brussels sipping a pretty good cappuccino. It never ceases to amaze me when I flip through the channels and see Law and Order dubbed in German or 90210 in French. I understand that non native English speakers want to enjoy these wonderful American imports but listening to gritty New York street cops speak German is not the same. It is comical when California teenagers speak French. It doesn't match up. Such are the issues facing this expat.

Today I am reviewing a Satan brew. He brews some good beer. Not Satan the devil but Satan the Belgian brand of beer. Anything with a name like Satan is worth trying at least once. Aside from the scary devil on the bottle, there is nothing scary about this brew. Satan's Gold is 8% alcohol and is a typical Belgian golden blond beer. The finish is slightly bitter but nothing too hellish. I would definitely drink some more of this brew. Don't be scared and try it out. Just don't use the excuse that the Devil made y0u do it!!


Monday, March 22, 2010

It's spring time in Brussels

Now that the weather is getting a little nicer, people are taking advantage of every little bit of sun. The brasseries and cafes have set out their table and chairs and Belgians are enjoying consecutive days filled with partly sunny or overcast skies. Belgians always talk about the crappy weather. With the spring around the corner, people are beginning to mill around sidewalks, bus stops and random pretty squares eating their baguettes and chocolates. WIth warmer weather comes increased thirst. I noticed lately that people drink cans of beer here like they would a sip Coke Cola riding the New York City subway. No one bothers to hide their little Jupiler cans or Stella Artois beer bottles. I am not sure if this is legal but in New York if you drink from a paper bag chances are you are a lush or homeless person. Just the other day, two men were standing in the middle of a random street, talking and chugging a beer. I just continued to walk down the street with my pram without a worry. Afterall, maybe that's the Belgian way.

The picture above is a mini Jupiler can. Isn't it cute? It is perfect size for the lunch box!! The mini can holds enough beer to quench your thirst but not enough to make you look like some functioning alcoholic!

In honor of the warm weather, I am going to review one of my favorite beers- Lindeman's Apple. This beer is unique as it is a lambic. Lambics, according to the beer bible ALL BELGIAN BEERS (a simple name but an extensive encyclopedia of hundreds of Belgian brews) defines a Lambic as "one of the oldest beers (early middle ages) with ageing hops. Micro-organisms that are present in the air between November and March start the spontaneous fermentation of the wort. The beer matures for months or years in oak wood barrels where the secondary fermentation with the Brettanomyces Lambicus and Bruxellenis begins, giving the Lambic its dry-sour character. Foamless beer." To my sophisticated palatte, this beer tastes like a dry crisp cider. With only 3.5% alcohol, it can give you a buzz if drunk on an empty stomach. The Lindeman's Apple, is one beer that I buy all the time and I look forward to drinking it on my little balcony overlooking the parliment on a warm afternoon.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

'happy Birthday baby girl, cheers!

Today my baby girl turns 1! I never thought in a million years my baby would celebrate her first birthday in Brussels. However, the ironic part is that in the last trimester of my pregnancy I began to crave beer. Not just any beer but a good ice cold Belgian beer. I dreamed of Hoegaarden, Chimay and Leffs. I told my husband that as soon as I delivered, I wanted a beer. I even went as a far as packing my trusty swiss army knife in my hospital bag. In case you are wondering- No I did not have that beer right after the baby was born. But within time, once I regained my appetite I enjoyed some wonderful Belgian brews. I am dedicating this post to my baby girl.....

I consider Chimay to be the Champagne of Belgium beers. I remember one friend describing Chimay as rich and milky. He was one hundred percent right. In honor of the baby's one year birthday, I bought a Chimay 2010 Grand Reserve. Even the bottle is regal, with its cork top. As one of the trappist beers, Chimay is a family favorite. At 9% alcohol, this beer is loaded. In the USA, this beer is pretty pricey but at my local Delhaize supermarket, this
.75 liter bottle was less than 5 Euros! The beer has a rich dark caramel color with a subtle bitter finish. While I am not a fan of the darker beers, I love Chimay. In future posts I will review Chimay Rouge and Chimay Tripel. So keep on reading!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

ooh... don't let the baby watch TV before 3 yrs old and Drink something for Saint Patrick's Day

Before I begin my daily Brussels rant, I would like to thank GoAnderlicht for his insightful beer reviews. To take time out of his busy schedule to drink and review some beers was much appreciated. Merci!

This past week, I have visited some preschools and noticed a curious poster hanging on the wall which says that children should not watch TV before the age of 3. I am thinking, "or else?" What does this mean? Will my child end up a psycho if she watches Dora the Explorer or CNN before the tender age of 3? Am I exposing her too early to consumerism? Will she say "buy me this" before Mama? Or will the baby not enjoy reading if she watches cartoons? I am not a child psychologist or pediatrician nor have read many parenting books. Instead I parent by instinct. Ocassionally, I have put the baby in front of the TV but instead of sitting she crawls and pulls toys off the shelves. I may put the baby in her standing contraption and hope she will watch some cartoons for two minutes so I can pee but you know what she does? She looks and then focuses on some cookie crumbs. If anything, a child should not watch TV after the age of 3 (trust me I am not advocating this either, as my husband and I are big TV watchers but we are also readers)! Why? Because as kid gets older and more verbal, they are going to see some piece of crap on TV and want me to buy it. "Mommy buy me this doll that can talk or buy me nintendo and a cellphone." As the child gets older, they will watch shows like Hannah Montana or that show starring Britney Spears' knocked up sister and ask questions like can I dress like the star of Hannah Montana? Or can I be like that Zoe 101? How do I explain that these are only actors and that they are sluts in real life?

Maybe the Belgians are onto to something? I doubt it. When I walk to pick my baby up at creche, I pass a school and everytime I pass it, I cringe. I see high school students hanging out, smoking literally in front of the school doors. Standing in private door ways drinking Red Bull and diet Coke. I see boys with pants down to their butts and girls in tight shirts. Everyone has a cellphone, i-pod, blackberry and beeper. I always say a little prayer when I pass and I ask the one above to give me the patience and knowledge to lead my daughter in the right direction. I pray that my baby will be clean cut, polite, inquisitive and not texting dirty messages to boys. Will not watching TV before the age of 3 guarantee this? I doubt these kids didn't watch TV before 3. Why? Because it is impractical. My hope is that my child will discover a world filled with toys and games and are powered by her creativity and imagination and not a battery.

Today I am reviewing Saxo Beer, another off the beaten path beer. That is one of the Belgium's beauties. Try finding Saxo at your local bodega in New York City. This blond beer is a pale gold with about 7.5% alcohol content. I know this is going to sound redundant but the beer is a little bit bitter but is extremely thirst quenching and crisp. I love crisp and light beers like Saxo. The beer goes well with a nice green salad made with leafy greens from Flanders tossed with olive oil and sea salt. Cold cuts like smoked turkey breast also go extremely well with blond beers like Saxo. There seems to be something very harmonious between the saltiness of the cold turkey and the bitter crispness of the beer. If you ever find this beer at a speciality beer shop or at a bar, try it. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Don't judge a face by its make-up

Today's beers: Cobra (an Indian beer) and Duchesse de Bourgogne

Living abroad has been an enormous learning experience. It is one thing to visit Brussels and say "wow this city looks mismatched and run down" but it is another thing to actually live here. Once you arrive and unpack luggage for an extended period of time, the situation changes. I no longer look at the Mannequinn Pis like a tourist, I see it as a rather curious national symbol. I now understand why this tiny little peepee boy is the Belgium symbol. Would I have understood that as a tourist? While I detest the graffitti, I have come to understand that cartoons and defacing public transport and buildings is a Belgian past time and acceptable.

This brings me to something else that is uniquely Belgian and that is the Conservatoire Africain. Founded in 1876, the organization consisted of the Belgian Bourgeoisie who wanted to help their fellow citizens during a famine here in Belgium. Africa was in vogue at the time so someone came up with the idea to dress up as Africans in festive costumes to maintain secrecy. The volunteers known as Noirauds would put on a black face and go through the streets of Brussels asking for money. Today, in 2010, every second weekend in March, this very bizarre tradition lives on. You will see men dressed in dapper costumes with black faces asking for money. Today the money goes to underprivilaged Belgian children. Older Belgians recognize and think nothing of these good doers but for the younger generation and foreigners like me, you get a jolt. In the US anyone with a black face would get their ass kicked. Americans find this extremely politically incorrect and offensive but in Belgium, this old Belgian charity is part of the society's fabric. Queen Paola has been a patron of the charity since 1959.

Sunday, at the train station, I encountered one of these men. Other than the bizarre black face, his costume was very dapper. He was waiting for the train like the rest of us. I sort of sneaked up to take a picture but he saw me and montioned to me. So I went over and came face to face with one of these Noirauds. He was jovial and let me take a picture. I told him I read about the charity and would like to make a donation. Unfortunately, it was too late. They were no longer allowed to accept any donations as the collection was officially over. But I received a pamphlet and a smile. While it was very jarring to see a white man in black make-up, the lesson is not to judge a person by how they look no matter how politically incorrect it may be.
If you are interested in learning more about the charity check out

In the spirit of keeping an open mind, I am having Go Anderlicht review two beers. He is a loyal reader and is also interested in beer:

While waiting for our takeout dinner from our favorite restaurant, I ordered a Cobra, a beer from Bangalore, India that claims to be "Premium Beer, Extra Smooth" and "the world's most celebrated lager." Well, I beg to differ. It tasted like butter, and felt like grease going down my throat. That combination works well for some foods, but certainly not for beer. Not quite sure what the brewery was thinking with that one. Very cool bottle, though (picture below).

The other beer that I tried was Duchesse de Bourgogne, a 6.2% alcohol dark, reddish Belgian beer, that claims to follow the "Flemish Art of Brewing." It was a bit sour, quite fruity, not horrible, but not my favorite. Melissa couldn't drink it, but I finished it easily.

Why does Melissa give me the bad beers to review?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spit on you

Today's beers: Stella Artois and Keizersberg, two Leuven classics.

At the bus stop today, I was minding my own business when some guy started staring at me and kept saying boola. I think that it what he said but can not be a hundred percent sure. So I just continued to eat my snack, then he spat on the ground and walked away. Not sure what to think other than this guy is a dirty pig, I let it go. Then I began to think about Flanders. Sometimes I just want to escape the dirt, the french speakers and the hustle and bustle of this European Capital. I long to go somewhere the streets are clean, where the architecture looks very Dutch and the television is not dubbed but subtitled. Imagine watching Law and Order dubbed in French? This is when I long for Flanders. If Belgium were to implode tomorrow and you had one day to decide if you were Wallonian or Flemish and that would be it, I am on the next graffittied train north out of Brussels.

This past Sunday, the family took the train to Leuven. Only twenty minutes outside of Brussels but might as well be a country away. Everyone speaks Dutch and you feel like you are in Holland. Leuven is home to Stella Artois, probably the most famous of Belgian beers. While in the US Stella is an "expensive" beer in Belgium you can order a big mac with a plastic cup of Stella. I normally don't drink Stella Artois because there are so many other beers in Belgium to drink but since we were in Leuven, I wanted drink one of the local brews.

Stella Artois is a good solid beer. Unlike a lot of the American cheapo beers, Stella may be cheap in Belgium but it is still a decent beer. It had been a long time since I sat and enjoyed this quintessential Belgian pilsner and I am glad that I did. Stella from the tap is crisp, refreshing, robust and thirst quenching. The beer is not full-bodied but rather a nice smooth drink with hoppy notes. My dining partner decided to to try a Keizersberg, a caramel colored beer brewed in Leuven. This beer had a nice spicey essence to it with a bitter finish. My friend enjoyed this new discovery, I on the other hand was happy with the old Belgian classic.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Party like it's 1990-something

Today's beers: Blanche du Hainut and St. Idelsbald Reserve Ten Duinen Dubbel

I received some interesting news this morning. Guess who is coming to Belgium to play in concert? If any of my two followers guess who's coming to play in Belgium, I will personally pay for their roundtrip ticket and provide a place to stay. Any guesses? It's Boyz II Men. The reason I offered the free ticket was because I figured no one would ever guess them. The only song I remember them singing was the song that goes Boyz II Men...a lot of times, with a real catchy beat. Apparently, the group is still around, performs and has new music. Funny how they slipped under my radar. So they are performing in Brussels on May 3, 2010 at the Ancienne Belgique. I believe they are opening the concert. Not sure if I am going to attend. I was never a big Boyz II Men fan. However, I wish I had attended the "I Love the 80's" concert back in November (advertisement above) because I really loved '80's music. Luckily, Belgium is in a little time warp as they always play '80's music in the metro station and people still wear stonewashed jeans.

If you are looking for an excuse to spend springtime in Belgium, this may be the impetus to get over here. Of course while you are here, you might as well enjoy the beers. It is a two for one!

If you do decide to come to Belgium for the concert, you might want to sample some of the unique brews this tiny country has to offer. I recently tried Blanche du Hainaut, an organic non-filtered beer with a 5.5% alcohol content and loved it. All of its ingredients aside from the water are organic. This white beer had a zing and exploded in my mouth. I think it was the coriander and orange peel that added to the intriguing taste. Also it is nice to occasionally to enjoy a beer that is environmentally responsible.

If you need a beer with a little bit more alcohol, then try out St. Idesbald Reserve Ten Duinen dubbel with its 8% alcohol content. This is a dark brown beer that looks a darkly brewed ice tea. I am not usually a fan of the darker brews but this brew had a nice warm intense taste with a sour tang as it slid down my throat. St. Idesbald also has a tripel and a blond, both I am looking forward to sampling. Check them out at

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gaufre Belge and it's Mercredi so we're closed

Todays beers: Stella, Maes, Jupiler and Leffe, Belgium's everyday beers

When I picked up my baby today at creche (french for daycare), she had in her hand a little piece of soggy waffle. My baby is turning Belgian, I thought to myself. She has spent more of her life here in Brussels than in Brooklyn, NY and is more familiar with the sites and sounds here than in the US.

The Belgian waffle is unlike any waffle you have ever tasted. If you get them from the waffle-mobile or somewhere where they make them from scratch, they are dense inside and crispy on the outside. They are usually finished off with a nob of butter and then sprinkled with powdered sugar. Of course, they can be topped with Belgian chocolate, whipped cream, fruit, jam, or ice cream but no maple syrup. You will find waffles on menus in most Belgian restaurants and at stands all over the country. Then there are the waffle-mobiles that are sort of like the icecream truck. These vans are parked anywhere and inside is a little kitchen with a waffle iron and thick batter. They are made to order and are delicious. Waffles are the perfect street food but you will end up with sticky fingers. Of course you can buy waffles in all the supermarkets. Store bought ones are never the same but my baby loved her little Belgian sweet.

As an American, it is hard to get used to the fact that Belgian stores are open only 6 days a week. In the US of A, most stores are open long hours every day. Like many European countries, Belgium shuts down on Sundays. Maybe this meant to force families to spend some quality time together. Frankly, on Sundays, I like to parse the baby off to my husband and be ALONE. Who needs family time, I want "me" time. Unfortunately, now that I am sort of Belgian, Sundays are family days.

However, there are random supermarket branches open on the Belgian day of rest. While foodmarkets are not the most exciting place to visit, at least if you need bread, beers, nylons or milk, you have somewhere to go. Not all branches are open and finding THE ONE can sometimes be a family activity in itself. The hitch? Open on Dimanche (Sunday) means the store will be closed one day during the work week. Unbelievable yet very crafty of the Belgians. They still manage to get a six day work week!

However, Brussels is chock full of little bodegas. These stores are open every day and some are only open at night. You can buy all your provisions there along with a calling card to Camaroon. Sometimes you can even get fresh samosas and baguettes. These little markets lurk on almost every single street in Brussels. For example, there was an Indian take out restaurant a block away from my apartment. One day it shut down and the next day, it opened up as a little market. Thank goodness. Like supermarkets, these little gems usually have a decent alcohol selection. Hard liquor is usually behind the counter but beer and juice are displayed prominently in the window (check out the picture above). While the beer selection won't be extensive it is decent. Stella Artois, Maes, Jupiler and Leffe beers are usually found in all these places. These beers are pretty good Belgian brews. I particularly like the Leffe because it goes very well with waffles.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Assymestrical nostrils and a class belgian brew or two

Today's beers: Duvel and Villers Trippel

I have had this hacking cough for the past few days so I went to the Belgie doctor. I call my doctor the Belgie doctor because he is our family doctor here in Brussels. Unlike in the US where you have to go sit in a waiting room, wait to be called and then wait 12 thousand hours to be seen, medicine is very relaxed here. Everyone just sits in the waiting room, no nurse, no receptionist, no sign in. It is just you and the baby next to you with the snotty nose. The doctor then opens his office door and almost instinctively the next patient walks in. In the two hundred times I have been there, I have never ever seen a scuffle between the waiting patients. Could Belgians be the polite people of Europe? To make a long diatribe short, the doctor asks me a couple of standard questions and then looks into my nose and tells me I have assymetrical nostrils. Frankly, I was shocked. I always prided myself on my nose. No point in dwelling on my facial imperfections when there are beers to sample.....

Duvel, just saying the name brings a smile to my face. Duvel was one of the first Belgian beers I ever tried. I don't remember the whens and wheres but chances are it was in France, while I was living there. It was the first beer that I was able to truly appreciate. Made from barley and not corn (like some American brews) with a foam that looks like a fluffy cloud, its bitterness goes so well with salty nibblies. Its golden hue looks as sunny as the rare Belgian sun. Its whopping 8.5% alcohol is not for an empty stomach. The bottle says it should be served at 6 degrees celsius (that is just semantics). Duvel has always been a favorite of mine and whenever I shop for food here in Belgium I always toss a bottle or two in my basket. Check out the website if you want to learn more about this Belgian classic.

My dining partner tonight decided to take a Villers Triple out of the fridge. According to the bottle, it is "brewed according the ancient abbey recipes." This is a direct quote; obviously the Villers abbey does not a native English speaker to proof their label. However, an ever better quote on the bottle is "A BEER BREWED WITH LOVE, IS DRUNK IN THE RIGHT MIND." This is a direct quote, I kid you not. I am wondering if this is a drunk Confucian Monk talking. I hereby offer the Villers abbey or any other beer abbey, if you need someone to proof your labels, contact me. I would not charge all that much, hell I am not even allowed to work here in Belgium! My identity card is somewhere in Ixelles 1050, our local commune. However, my baby and husband are legally allowed to work so they would accept the money. Not me.... just them (sorry for that rant). Back to the beer, Villers is a pretty good blond slighlty cloudy beer with a bitter finish. My dining partner would definitely drink it again. I noticed that it had a bit of a bite in the back of tongue. There is no website so if you if were looking for an excuse to visit Brussels, you may have found it!!!

Monday, March 8, 2010

So many beers and it's only Lundi

Today's beer: Altitude 6 Blonde

The weekend is over and Brussels becomes revived as EU bureaucrats, reluctant expats, students and native Belgians begin their week. The streets may be strewn with beer cans and white garbage bags, school age kids slunk to the bus and stores get ready to open after being closed as usual on Sunday. I was up for most of the night with a dry hacking cough hoping that each coughing fit would not wake the baby up. To relax my diaphram I thought of which beer I would sample today. Eventually I drifted off to sleep.

At 11am, my husband rang me worried that the blog was not updated since last night. I told him it is 11am and I would not drink any alcohol before I had a couple cups of strong coffee besides I have a baby to take care of. However, it is past 7:30pm, the baby is safely tucked into her crib and my time is now mine. Before I can enjoy anything, I sweep up the crumbs from some baby biscuit and pick up some tissue bits from a napkin the baby joyously ripped up. I now open my tiny European fridge and choose a beer. I decided to choose Altitude 6, a pretty obscure blond beer with 6% alcohol content.

To my sophisticated palate, the beer has an extremely bitter aftertaste. I also saw a quite a bit of sediment or floaties. At first I thought maybe my glass was dirty so I poured some more beer from the bottle into another glass and saw more floaties. So it is safe to say, this beer has quite a bit of sediment. Sediment or not, the beer is not a favorite of mine. However, since taste is purely subjective, I would still recommend a gulp if you ever have the opportunity.

Check out the website at for more information.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Drink Up- a blog about Belgian beer (and some others)

Why would people give a crap what I have to blog about? It seems like everyone with a computer and a thought has taken to blogging. Some people have worthwhile things to write about while others not so much. In the vast internet world, it doesn't matter because there is enough space for everyone to write about what they feel like writing about.

My blog will be about beer. Why? Because after about seven months in Brussels, the only charming thing I find about Belgium is its vast array of beer. Often I lay awake at night or roam the often deserted and graffiti-covered streets of Brussels trying to find some redeeming quality to the city. I make a mental list in my head - the dense chewy Belgian gauffres sold everywhere, the chocolates, the mussels, the Brussels sprouts, the frites, the Belgian endives, the beer and the list goes on and on. When I try to think of beautiful places in Brussels that I would swoon over or recommend to visitors, I think of Grande Place and the Mannequin Pis. But the food always outweighs the pee pee boy. I always come back to the beer. The great thing about the beer is that you can enjoy the beer in a nice building and get buzzed enough that anything in Brussels will look decent.

Wherever you walk in the city, you see signs on restaurants, bars or cafes advertising beer. Beer is not alcohol but a way of life in Brussels. You drink
beer not to get smashed but because it tastes good and compliments your meal. Don't get me wrong, there are lushes and drunks lurking here. I saw a couple at Gare du Midi. However, you won't find the drunkards indulging in US mass produced beer, no. They will drink Jupiler or Stella Artois, two decent beers that are standard in Belgium but sold at a premium in the US.

A disclaimer: I am by no means a lush. I am a responsible mother and wife. I never drink out of depression (though I should sometimes) or drink myself to sleep. I am just an expat who enjoys a nice tall mug of beer.