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Joakim Ruud
Senior Member
Username: Joques

Post Number: 1494
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Monday, June 15, 2009 - 03:42 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

This is what happens when you let the GPS make decisions about which route to take.



Downtown Rochefort.



Ah, that's more like it!



Getting there...



..."mom, are we there soon?"...



Hmm, which religious metaphor to use here...



Beautiful monastery.



Fantastic refreshing witbier. No spices, but a little tart/sour. Sadly the bottle that I had two minutes ago, couldn't compare.



...



Canal in Ghent



Hopduvel in Ghent



Finally got to taste a Dolle Brouwers beer! This one was great, very hoppy for a Belgian.



I'm bringing home a case of this one.



Banana lambic. Absolutely friggin' undrinkable. Yeah, I know. But I had to try. Probably not a coincidence that this beer didn't have its own designated glassware. Absolutely FOUL BEER!!



I never realized how much a Belgian pale ale resembles a British bitter. It had everything a British bitter has, right down to the low carbonation. Only a little Belgian spiciness on topp. Great beer, and one I will try to emulate back home.



I was getting a littlw incoherent at this point. This is Affligem Dubbel, a great beer! Low to none spice, it was almost like a brown ale with flavours of a light milk chocolate. Superb!



I want to go in there!!



I just had to include this one. This is an election poster in Belgium. Hilarious!



That's it for now. Going out hunting for more beers now.

:-)
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 10451
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Monday, June 15, 2009 - 05:46 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Thanks, Joakim, for the wonderful Belgian travelogue for the rest of us who wish we were there with you.
 

Chumley
Senior Member
Username: Chumley

Post Number: 5842
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Monday, June 15, 2009 - 07:20 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Those pics are way cool.
 

dhacker
Senior Member
Username: Dhacker

Post Number: 1693
Registered: 11-2002
Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - 05:49 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Agreed . . In fact, I'd be thrilled the GPS took me off the beaten path to see sights like that 1st pic.
 

Joakim Ruud
Senior Member
Username: Joques

Post Number: 1502
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Thursday, June 18, 2009 - 09:29 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Thanks, I'll take that as an indication that I'm not just boring everybody to tears :-)

The exit to the St. Sixtus Abbey (Westvleteren) was not exactly a big neon sign. I passed it two times before getting it.




...but the café was a great deal more public friendly than Rochefort. Which was a strange dichotomy. Westvleteren is the lowest-output Trappist brewery and ostensibly the most non-commercial (oh no, we won't increase production to meet demand, and you can't buy our beer any other place than at our abbey), and yet their café and reception area was among the most commercial I've seen in Belgium. It was almost "Mc Trappist".



...but the beer was still fantastic!! I'll tell you, I've on occasion claimed that Westvleteren is overrated. I've had bottles that were less than perfect. In retrospect, they were probably not handled very well. I only had the blonde, since I was driving, but it was one of the best (non-sour) beers I've had in Belgium so far. It was _very_ hoppy! If fact, this may well be the most hoppy non-US beer I've ever had in my life. The hop aroma (british, I think) was spectacular. I struggled for a while to come up with an analogy, and then it struck me: The smell was _exactly_ like when you chuck hops into boiling wort. Just incredible. The flavour was a perfect balance between hops and spice. I bought six bottles, which was the quota per visitor.



I always heard that the hops industry in Belgium was dead. Imagine my surprise when I saw this. Can't exactly compare to the vast hopfields of Germany or Czech, but...



Barley growing wild by the roadside.



Old St. Sixtus is undergoing major renovation.




You've covered 50 km on bicycle, fighting against the wind every goddamned meter of the way. You miscalculated the sun, and are now smelling distinctly like fried bacon. What would really hit the spot? A fresh Duvel, is what!! And another. Now just 20 more km to go...



Fountain on the main square in Roeselare. You're used to naked statues, but seeing a statue caught in the act of undressing was a jolt in more than one way :-)



...and here I'd come to heaven. Or so I thought. Turns out, the brewer was on vacation, so there were no brewery tours. Even worse, their in-house beer shop was all out of beer, so I couldn't get any!! Thankfully, the owner pointed me towards two other competent beer shops in the area. Still, 3 Fonteinen Geuze was in incredibly short supply everywhere. I hoovered both shops, and only got a half-case (12 bottles) of Geuze and one half-case of Oude Kriek. I made up for it with Boon Mariage Parfait and Beersel Oude Geuze.

(Ask me sometime about how we homebrewers misuse the term "lambic"...)



I need a bigger car.



Anybody jealous?
1 case (12 b) 3 Fontainen Oude Geuze
2 cases Boon Mariage Parfait
1 case Boon Oude Geuze
1 case 3 Fontainen Oude Kriek
1 case Boon Kriek
1 case Beersel Oude Geuze
9 bottles Boon Framboise
6 bottles Cantillon Geuze

I'm well over my quota (esp. when you factor in all the altbier I plan on buying in Düsseldorf). My plan is to play stupid on the border.



(Message edited by joques on June 18, 2009)
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 10467
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Thursday, June 18, 2009 - 10:26 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'm thinking what you should say at the border, Joakim. Your application for a licence as a beer importer is pending, and you were making a preliminary trip to Belgium and Germany to meet with your suppliers, who gifted you with "commercial samples" for your trouble.

By the way, are you driving all the way back home via the bridge from Denmark to Sweden, or are you taking the ferry to Oslo from Frederikshavn? If you're taking that ferry I have a story about a bad night with drunken German soccer fans.


(Message edited by BillPierce on June 18, 2009)
 

Joakim Ruud
Senior Member
Username: Joques

Post Number: 1504
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Thursday, June 18, 2009 - 10:54 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'm a notoriously bad liar. The most I can manage, is to feign ignorance. Anything more, and I'll start blushing and stuttering. I'm seriously considering driving all the way home (two extra days) and stashing the excess with my sister in Sweden, instead of taking the ferry from Kiel, which I've already booked and paid for.

I get really upset that it should even be an issue. I am willing to pay the duty on the beer. Why should I have to contend with arbitrary limits? I am allowed to bring 32 liters across. I currently have 38 liters (plus however much altbier). It just ticks me off.

I'll just have to trust to the common sense of the customs officers. Famous last words...
 

Joakim Ruud
Senior Member
Username: Joques

Post Number: 1505
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Thursday, June 18, 2009 - 11:05 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

But I really want to hear that story :-)
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 10469
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Friday, June 19, 2009 - 02:24 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Now I may not have all the details quite right because I'm not really a soccer fan. But I'll tell the story as best I remember it. I took the ferry from Oslo to Frederikshavn in Denmark. It was a Saturday night, and that afternoon Germany had beaten Norway in one of the qualifying rounds for the European Cup. The boat was full of Germans who were returning home in extremely high spirits, including all the duty free booze and beer they could drink, as well as whatever they had brought with them that was still left.

I was hoping to find a bed on the boat, but it was full to overflowing. At the least I thought I might find a chair in a quiet corner where I could get some semblance of a night's sleep. That was not to be. The boat was one big party that roared all night.

Finally I realized there was no point in fighting the spirit; I might as well join in the fun. The Germans of course were in the mood to celebrate, and generous about it. Soon I was drinking in the bar, mostly for free. When they closed and shooed us out onto the deck, some of the Germans merely found the driver of their bus and went below to get coolers they had stashed on board. No one was going to be thirsty.

I got absolutely no sleep and was not really sober when the ferry docked about 7:00 AM. I stumbled onto dry land, got my bicycle and gear together, and set out heading south, my headache growing worse. It was a cool, damp day, with a strong 20-30 km/h southerly wind in my face. I don't know how I did it, but it took me a little more than 12 hours to ride 200 km. I found a youth hostel in a small Danish town that included a room all to myself. Not even bothering to have dinner but taking a quick shower, I collapsed into bed and had the sleep of the dead until about 8:00 the next morning.

It was all the fault of the Germans, of course.


(Unfortunately the Scandinavian countries were among the first to embrace Prohibition in the early 20th century, and some of that attitude has never quite worn off.)
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 10470
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Friday, June 19, 2009 - 02:45 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Oh yes, and along the way that Sunday I got lost (there was no GPS back then) because the main road became an autobahn, motorway or whatever the Danes call their superhighways. I was forced to do ded reckoning on roads like the one in your photo above. On one of them a farmer was grazing his cows and had actually stretched an electric fence temporarily across the road. I was not about to backtrack for 10 km in that headwind. There was a little more than half a meter's clearance underneath the wire, and I thought I might just barely slide my bicycle and myself through the gap. Well, I did just about clear, but the ground was damp enough that I got a nasty jolt in the process. I'm not sure the cows understood my cursing, but it likely needed little translation.

The next day was sunny but the damned wind was just as strong from the south southwest. I was supposed to visit some people I knew in the south of the main Danish peninsula about 50 km north of the German border. I realized there was no way I could ride another 200 km into that kind of wind. I did make it there that night, but only because I cheated and took a train for the last 60 km.

The people I stayed with laughed at me and said I needed a meteorology lesson: the wind blew from the south or southwest in that region about 280 days a year. So I quickly abandoned my plans to ride to Germany and took an overnight ferry from Esbjerg in Denmark across the North Sea to Harwich in England. The English winds were far kinder to me, and it was a treat to once again understand the people's everyday language. And that's the reason I never got to Dusseldorf to sample the altbier. I had to stand up a fellow I had met in Hungary who promised me a never-empty glass at a pub called the Cafe Zweistein.

(Message edited by BillPierce on June 19, 2009)
 

Joakim Ruud
Senior Member
Username: Joques

Post Number: 1506
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Friday, June 19, 2009 - 08:49 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

200 km, that's more than impressive! I've only ever cycled 100 km once before, and that was the day I almost broke both my wrists last summer. I'm in Leuven now, and planning to rent a bike tomorrow. Hope I won't have the wind against me all the way like last time :-)

I hope there's no big soccer match in Germany when I'm going home on Tuesday, as I have to hole up in my cabin with my laptop and finishing a deadline. Those Germans sure do love to party!

Norway and Sweden have historically been very puritanical about alcohol. Denmark not as much. And Sweden loosened up considerably after joining the EU. Now I sometimes feel like Norway is an island of puritanical intolerance against alcohol. It's sad. On the upside, I just got a message on Facebook saying that our state controlled alcohol shops just started importing 3 Fonteinen Geuze! :-) Which means 3 Fonteinen is more readily available in Norway than in Belgium. Hmm, what is this weird new time/space continuum? Did Doctor Who accomplish this...?

Guess I'll have to stock up before they find out that it's not selling, and stop importing it.

For anybody wanting to store Geuze for a long time: I talked to Frank Boon on email, and he told med that if you want to store the beer for more that two years, he recommends laying the bottles on their sides to wet the cork. I say this because I heard (on the BN I think) that you didn't need to, that the CO2 pressure in the bottle somehow would preserve the cork and you could store the bottles upright. Well now I have the real information, straight from the horse's mouth.
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 10471
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Friday, June 19, 2009 - 10:43 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I guess I like longer distance cycling. My wife and I try to get in 100 km on our tandem on Sundays. There's a pub with a good beer list located almost exactly 50 km from our house. On many days in Europe I would ride about 130 km, which was not bad because I was carrying just over 20 kg of baggage on the bike. But there were some days I rode more; the record for the trip was 259 km with a tailwind in Greece and Macedonia. My all-time daily record for a day with no baggage is 350 km (217 miles), which took me just under 15 hours. I'm a little old for that now, but I still try to ride at least one "century" (100 miles or 161 km) every year.

To make this beer-related, some years ago I went on a 155-mile (250 km) group ride with some hardcore cyclists. Toward the end of the day we stopped briefly at a country tavern because it was about the only place to take a break. I ordered a beer, while everyone else was drinking water. "How can you drink and ride?" one of them asked me. "How can you not?" was my reply.
 

Joakim Ruud
Senior Member
Username: Joques

Post Number: 1507
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Friday, June 19, 2009 - 12:20 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

So I just came in from running the ring around Leuven (9,5 km; I vowed not to gain any dead weight on this trip. So far, so good). Along the way, I picked up a familiar smell. Somebody was brewing beer! I started to look around for a brewery, maybe it was a micro? So I rounded a corner, and there was Stella Artois :-) Don't know if it's their main brewery, but it was big. I've never seen so many kegs in my life. Stacks of them, bigger than houses.

Micro, indeed... :-p
 

Joakim Ruud
Senior Member
Username: Joques

Post Number: 1508
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Friday, June 19, 2009 - 12:27 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Have you ever considered "Den store styrkeprøven", or "the great trial" translated? 550 km from Trondheim to Oslo in 24 hours :-)

Only crazy people need apply. And they do, in droves.
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 10472
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Friday, June 19, 2009 - 12:54 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

The most celebrated cycling ultramarathon is Paris-Brest-Paris, held every four years since 1891. It's 1200 km, and some people do it nearly nonstop (with breaks totaling only 3-4 hours). The record is just under 39 hours. You get a medallion if you finish in less than 90 hours.

I have a friend who rode P-B-P in 1991. He became so tired he fell asleep on his bike and crashed, suffering cuts and scrapes and what was later found to be a cracked wrist. Not to worry, he got back on the bike and managed to finish in 81 hours, stopping for five hours at a hotel.

That part of France is rolling country, with an occasional hill of note but no mountains. The Trondheim-Oslo event sounds more rugged.

And if you want serious cycling self-abuse, there is the Race Across America, 3100 miles (4988 km), going on right now from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD. The record for solo riders is 8 days, 9 hours and 47 minutes. Since it began in 1982 there have been three deaths on the race.

(Message edited by BillPierce on June 19, 2009)
 

Joakim Ruud
Senior Member
Username: Joques

Post Number: 1509
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Friday, June 19, 2009 - 01:23 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Insane...!
 

Joakim Ruud
Senior Member
Username: Joques

Post Number: 1510
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Friday, June 19, 2009 - 01:30 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Just remembered: There are two bicycle races at around 300 km in Scandinavia (that I know of). Around the Mjøsa lake in Norway (235 km) and around the Vättern lake in Sweden (300 km).

I've been toying with the idea but never really committed to a full spring and summer of high intensity training. I'm running half marathon this Sept, though. That might get me fired up enough.

(Message edited by joques on June 19, 2009)
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 10473
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Friday, June 19, 2009 - 01:40 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I saw the Vattern lake in Sweden from a Mercedes. My bike was in the trunk. The driver was a crazy Dane who sold women's bras and panties to department stores. He had a collection of photos of buyers wearing his products (and some who were wearing even less).
 

Joakim Ruud
Senior Member
Username: Joques

Post Number: 1511
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Friday, June 19, 2009 - 03:03 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Haha! But Bill, why was your bike in the trunk instead of on the road?
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 10476
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Friday, June 19, 2009 - 03:39 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I met the Danish salesman at a bar in Helsinki. In less than a month I had ridden there from Athens (including a ferry trip from Poland across the Baltic). He thought what I was doing was absolutely crazy and insisted that I put my bike in his car and come back home to Denmark with him for some rest and recreation. We took the overnight ferry (as large as an aircraft carrier) to Stockholm, where he had a couple of sales calls. Then it was a hellbent trip across the Swedish countryside at 160 km/h, with an illegal police radar detector and my eyes acting as a lookout. We made the last ferry of the day from Göteborg to Denmark with about two minutes to spare.

He neglected to tell his wife (in 1986 he had the first cell phone I had ever seen) he had a guest with him, but I could tell from the look in her eyes that this was standard procedure. His English was perfect, but she didn't speak a word beyond "hello" and "thank you." She was a native Inuit from Greenland, where he had been in the Danish coast guard.

Ah, those were the days!
 

Bob D
Junior Member
Username: Fl_bob

Post Number: 82
Registered: 07-2007
Posted on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - 02:18 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Joakim, thanks for posting those pics. I would have loved to have been there.

Bill, you are far more trusting than me. I don't think I could travel to another country with someone I met in a bar. I would be afraid I would end up having to wear his product in his newest pictures.
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 10544
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - 05:40 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Bob, his photos were all of female buyers wearing his products. He seemed safely heterosexual to me, even if a little on the crazy side.
 

Joakim Ruud
Senior Member
Username: Joques

Post Number: 1545
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - 07:34 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Bill is a wiry dude, I think he could have held his own in a wrestling match.

You can't go all your life being afraid, man. Don't you pick up hitchhikers either? :-)

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