14 April 2016

Brussels Beer Project and Café Walvis

From the centre of Brussels or Place Saint-Géry, find Rue Antoine Dansaert and head north west to find Brussels Beer Project and Café Walvis just before reaching the canal and the Molenbeek neighbourhood beyond.
Place Saint-Géry
Although less than half a mile from Place Saint-Géry and Place de la Bourse, you will notice the change in style from smart bars and exclusive fashion shops towards unimpressive fast food outlets as you head towards Molenbeek.

Café Walvis

On Thursday 17 March 2016, we stopped for lunch and a beer at Café Walvis after noticing the colourful Brussels Beer Project posters in the windows. 
Inside the cafe / bar has an airy feel from windows on both sides. There are tables by the windows and bar stools provide seating at the angled central bar counter. Some good indie music was playing on the sound system including Herman Dune. This may reflect the fact that regular DJ and live music events are held here.
I chose Vedett Extra White, brewed by Duvel Moortgat, from a choice of six draught beers that also included La Chouffe and De Koninck.
A waitress took our lunch order for soup of the day and a portion of cheese which would be served wrapped in striped paper. The vegetable soup (of the day) was served in large bowls with bread and butter and was good value.
With the advantage of a situation near Porte de Flandre tram (#51) stop and opposite Brussels Beer Project, Café Walvis is well worth a visit.

Brussels Beer Project


It was now after 2pm and across the street at 188 Rue Antoine Dansaert, Brussels Beer Project had opened.

The limited opening hours are shown in the window.
A multi level stainless steel bar is the first thing you notice on entry. The beer fonts are located behind the bar counter. Further inside the building is the tasting room and brewery.
Between the bar and the tasting room a boldly decorated area states 'We are who we are' and provides background material on the Project.
 The list of draught and bottled beers is projected onto a wall at the end of the bar.
To start, I ordered two 12.5 cl glasses of Grosse Bertha and I like it Bitter costing 1.6 & 1.9 euros respectively and we found a table in the tasting room. Glasses on the table had malted barley grains and hop pellets.
Grosse Bertha, a 7% ABV Belgian Hefeweizen was my favourite beer here and I would later buy two bottles to take home (at a bargain price).
My slightly lower score on Untappd for I like it Bitter, a 8.1% ABV Double IPA probably reflects that I don't like it very bitter (70 IBU)!
It was great to be drinking good beers at the source and to have a chance to see the brewery itself. There was a lively atmosphere as we had turned up during a visit to the brewery by a group from Goose Island Beer Company of Chicago on a 'Migration Week' tour of Europe.
The founders of Brussels Beer Project, who raised finance by crowdfunding, Olivier de Brauwere and Sébastien Morvan as well as the head brewer, Yves Leboeuf, were all on hand to answer questions.
Simon and I kept out of everyone's way and enjoyed our beers from a table at the far end of the spacious and stylish tasting room which also has storage for crates of bottled beer and room for parking bikes!
For our next beers, Simon and I shared bottles of Smells like Hops Spirit, a hoppy session beer, and Princess Jasmine, and Oriental Witbier, but found these 'Limited Edition' beers less impressive than the draught beers we had enjoyed previously. The unusual styles and titles reflect one of the project's taglines 'Leave the Abbey, Join the Playground!'.
Head Brewer - Yves Leboeuf
Before leaving, I was able to have a quick chat with Yves and give him a copy of Ullage, the West Berkshire CAMRA magazine which I edit.
Now it was time to leave and catch a tram to Brussels Midi station in time for our Eurostar train to London St Pancras International.

Brussels Beer Project - Brewery and Taproom
Rue Antoine Dansaert, 188
1000 Brussels
Website: www.beerproject.be

Taproom Open

NB Check details above in case of changes after publication (April 2016).

Café Walvis
Rue Antoine Dansaert, 209
1000 Brussels
Facebook: www.facebook.com/cafewalvis 

Brussels Map
Brussels Beer Project is the orange marker in the top left of the map above. 
Map link for an interactive map with notes and photos that can be displayed by clicking on the markers:  www.google.com/maps

11 April 2016

North Bar, Leeds

My previous visit to North Bar, Leeds, was in December 2012 when the bar was decorated for Christmas.
North Bar - December 2012
Some more photos of the bar were included in my Huddersfield, Batley and Leeds blog post under the heading 'Sunday (3)'.
North Bar - March 2016
On the evening of Monday 21 March 2016 my plan was to revisit North Bar and continue on to Oporto Bar for some Gaslight Club live music. However, there was such a good atmosphere and so many good beers to choose from that I stayed in North Bar until closing time!
I found a table near the back next to the 'beer wall' which has the names of beers served at the bar over the years.
Among original artwork at the back of the bar is a painting of Belgian cyclist - Eddy Merckx.
My first beer was Comfortably Numb, a cask golden pale ale brewed by Bad Co of Dishforth, Leeds which cost £1.65 for a half pint.  
My next beer was Prototype, a 3.8% ABV cask session pale ale that is a permanent house beer at North Bar, brewed by North Brewing Co. 'just 900 metres up the road'. A good feature of the North Bar is that there are water glasses next to a tall jug of iced water with sliced fresh lemon on the bar for customers to help themselves from.
My clear view of the bar made up for the lack of company. Behind the bar, hanging on hooks, is an impressive display of personal beer mugs.
Further away, the neon sign behind the bar declares We Beer. When my glass was empty and I was thinking what to order next, James the bar manager kindly offered to fetch a beer for me but I wanted to go up to the bar to do this myself.

This was when I discovered that the We Beer logo also appears on some North Bar glasses. The half pint keg Beavertown Bloody 'Ell in the photo turned out to be one of a select few beers which I have scored over 4 points on Untappd.
With beer and service this good I decided to stay in North Bar but opportunely moved a bit closer to the entrance when a group found a table near my first table towards the back and proceeded to cheer each other while drinking some shots!
While ordering my next beer I persuaded James and Bridie to pose with a copy of Ullage and introduced myself as the West Berkshire CAMRA magazine editor. James explained to me that there are other North bars, including Harrogate and Otley, in the North Bar 'family', apart from this one at 24 New Briggate, Leeds. 
I'm sure it's good for customers to see staff who obviously enjoy their work and take pride in it.
The keg Magic Rock Cannonball (7.4% ABV) India Pale Ale, brewed in Huddersfield, was another rare beer for me to rate over 4 on Untappd, confirming my opinion of North Bar as a top bar.
As the evening wore on the bar became busier and some band members dropped in carrying instruments in cases. 
When I took my empty glass back to the bar with the intention of leaving, James was telling a customer about the merits of Swannay Brewery (Orkney Islands) Banyan. I decided to have a third of a pint of Banyan, a keg pale ale hopped with Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe and ended up chatting at the bar with Mick, the customer who had just ordered a pint. I was happy to find a third beer to rate at 4+ on Untappd.
Mick mentioned that ShuffleDog, a BrewDog bar with shuffleboard tables and pinball machines in the basement was quite near and so I resolved to visit ShuffleDog the next day.
It wasn't long before James was ringing the bell for last orders and then for closing time.
Good night to my favourite bar in Leeds! 
Don't miss North Bar when you visit Leeds. Please pass on my regards to James, Bridie and Mick.
On the map of bars and pubs visited on this visit, North Bar is shown in dark red and ShuffleDog is shown in purple. An interactive map which displays photos when markers are clicked can be accessed with this Google Maps link.

North Bar, 24 New Briggate, Leeds LS1 6NU

10 April 2016

Wakefield's Black Rock & Beer Exchange

Wakefield Westgate railway station
Most of the Wakefield pubs featured in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide are closed at 2pm on a Monday. However, the Black Rock was open and only a short walk from Wakefield Westgate station, so after leaving the train from Kings Cross, I headed there via Cheapside and Silver Street.

The Black Rock 

The ceramic tiled exterior give the Black Rock a distinctive look and research shows that it was originally a Melbourne Ales (Leeds) public house.
The Wakefield Civic Society blue plaque under the decorative window records that John Potter (1674-1747), a former Archbishop of Canterbury, lived here as a boy in the family home above his father's draper's shop.
On the way to the bar, an engraved CAMRA mirror and a beer board showing six cask ales give a favourable impression.
A half pint of Kelham Island Easy Rider was served through a sparkler, to give a creamy head, for the reasonable charge of £1.30.
From a comfortable seat at the furthest point from the entrance I could survey the main room of the pub, decorated with views of the city and mainly populated with older men. A succession of classic 1960s pop songs playing on the pub's decent sound system appealed to my ears and compensated for the lack of conversation.

Wakefield Beer Exchange


A conveniently placed pedestrian crossing makes it easy to reach Wakefield Beer Exchange on the north side of Bull Ring, opposite the Black Rock.
A  blackboard in the doorway mentions 6 cask ales and keg beers are available at the 'Beer Cafe & Bottle Shop'.
The exterior and interior of Wakefield Beer Exchange and the Black Rock are about as different from each other as it is possible to get! The same probably applies to their respective clienteles although it was quiet here on a Monday afternoon.
A changing exhibit of original art adorns the walls at the Wakefield Beer Exchange. In March prints by Ron Wilson were on display.
My first half pint was Fox Glove by Slightly Foxed (£1.55). The bad news is that the beer is more expensive than at the Black Rock but the good news is that 1/3 pint glasses are available so it is still possible to try the keg beers without major expense.
The beer exchange was quiet so I was able to have a chat with the barman. It was great to discover that Adam was familiar with the End of the Road festival and festival bars operated by The Really Good Bar Co. I hope to meet up with Adam again at the 2016 End of the Road festival.
I persuaded Adam to pose for a photo with a copy of Ullage, the West Berkshire CAMRA branch quarterly magazine which I edit.

Wakefield Beer Exchange is associated with The Revolutions Brewing Co and many of the beers served at the bar have been obtained by beer exchanges with this brewery, hence it's name.
Before leaving to catch a train to Leeds, I enjoyed a third pint of Chinook, Southern Cross and Bravo IPA, a collaboration beer between Northern Alchemy and dAt bAr brewed in Newcastle.
The Google map above shows the position of the two bars. Click on the link to see photos of places passed on the way from Wakefield Westgate station.

I will try and time my next visit to Wakefield for after 4pm when the majority of pubs open. However, an earlier start would give me a welcome opportunity to revisit the Black Rock and Wakefield Beer Exchange!

03 April 2016

Brussels Beer Bars & Cafes

Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent have their own advocates as Belgian beer destinations but one big advantage that Brussels has for visitors from Britain is that it is a Eurostar destination and therefore easily reached by train.
Look out for the Tintin mural inside Brussels Gare du Midi on arrival. The alternative name for the station is Brussel Zuid and it lies south of central Brussels.

Moeder Lambic Fontainas

A good place to stop for a beer if you are heading to central Brussels is the second location for Moeder Lambic at Fontainasplein 8, just beyond Anneessens metro station.
Moeder Lambic Fontainas
Inside the bar is a central passageway with fixed seats and tables on each side. This leads to a long bar and a raised area with extra seating at the back.
The layout of the seating areas is symmetrical with a small wooden chair at the passageway end of each table. The bench seat backs match the polished concrete of the floor but they are made from grey painted plywood. A vertical flat panel on the exposed brick wall end of each table conceals lighting fixtures.
Saison de Dottignies - Brouwerij De Ranke
A waiter will take your beer order and return with the beer in the correct glassware and a small glass dish of roasted barley grains. Each table has a menu listing draught and bottled beers.
There is also a portable blackboard with details of additional beers currently available which the waiter can bring to your table. With up to 46 beers on tap, impressive interior design and good service, this is one of many Brussels beer bars worth a visit.


Poechenellekelder lies only 200 metres away and the pedestrian streets of Rue du Marche au Charbon and Rue des Grands Carmes (via Manneken Pis) lead to this establishment at 5 Rue du Chene, named after its puppets. If you arrive on a quiet day outside the tourist season, a waiter may be able to find you a table in the richly ornamented main room.

The beer menu is split by style and I chose a Blanche Troublette which was expertly poured by the waiter at the table. A small glass dish of complimentary savoury snacks is brought with the beer.
The limited food menu includes an excellent and substantial lasagne with a cheesy topping served on individual ovenproof dishes.
Lasagne at Poechenellekelder
A look around the cosy bar reveals a display of oak barrels and enamel signs next to the stairs to the lower room. Apart from puppets hanging from the ceiling a large puppet is also seated at one of the tables at the top of the stairs.
Poechenellekelder was featured by Jeff Evans as the Inside Beer Pub / Bar of the month in December 2012. This Inside Beer post can still be found in the useful Pub of the Month archive.

Booze 'n' Blues

For a late night drink and a change of scene, Booze 'n' Blues, south of the main Sant Gery area, at the junction of Rue des Riches Claires and Rue de la Grande Isle, also lies about 200 metres from Moeder Lambic Fontainas.
The lovely old Rock-Ola jukebox may be playing vinyl singles or else there will be good music from a sound system. The blackboard behind the bar lists the beers available.
Brasserie de la Senne - Brussels Calling
This is a good bar to find a selection of beers brewed in Brussels by Brasserie de la Senne like Brussels Calling (pale ale) or Zinnebir (6% ABV 'Brussels' People Ale').
Brasserie de la Senne - Xmas Zinnebir
The bar is adorned with old photos, posters and ornaments. If you visit the bar on a Tuesday you may find space to sit at the bar and enjoy prompt service but the midnight closing time may be earlier than at the weekend.

Most of the photos in this post were taken on Tuesday 15 March 2016 when the three bars were visited by Tim Thomas and Simon Grist. 

An interactive map has been created for this Brussels visit - the three bars in this post are shown with green markers on the map below. The map shown below has been made available for sharing www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zcSqbrcXaX-0.k2ohZyVJtR_U&usp=sharing