BEER TREK 2012: New Adventures in the Beer-o-Sphere

The continuing saga of Michael 'fezz' Nazarec at large in the world of beer, hunting down new and varied species of the fermented ambrosia in its natural habitat: breweries, brewpubs, beer bars, restaurants, train stations, airports and beer festivals.
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Current Posts: fezz's picks: the Top 12 of 2012; Back to Brussels, London Calling; Get Lost in Maastricht; Amsterdam and Beyond; In Bruges and Ghent; Mussels in Brussels; Brussels Beer Weekend #14; Further Adventures in the Beer-o-Sphere; Calgary's Best & Wurst; A Wee Peak at Vancouver Craft Beer Week 2012; A night out in Denver; Drinking Beer in L.A.

Get Lost in Maastricht

 Maastricht is located in the south of the Netherlands in the province of Limburg, a Dutch peninsula tucked in between its neighbours, Belgium to the west and Germany to the east. From original Roman settlement to the birthplace of the European Union, Maastricht is a delightfully historic city built on both sides of the river Meuse, with many squares and cafés, featuring some wonderfully unique cuisine and a deep beer culture.
After our train-bus-train ride from Amsterdam, we relax on our hotel's terrace, watching the square and quenching our thirsts with fruit beers. The local De Ridder Brewery makes Wieckse Rosé (4%), it's bubbly and clear pinky red, sweetish, cranberry-raspberry tart and easy to drink. The St. Louis Kriek (3.2%) is an aged lambic, sweet but with sour overtones, also pinky-red, tighter head, fruity aroma, delicate body. We followed that up with an Erdinger Weissbier (5.3%) a classic German wheat beer, banana and cloves notes in play, cloudy, creamy and smooth. Across the square and seemingly on the wind, we hear the
sounds of distant music. Ready for a stroll, we wind our way through the narrow cobble-stone streets, drifting ever closer to what we discover to be a music festival, their annual Bruis Free Festival and they were rocking day two with a full line up on two stages. The weather was great, blue sky, +20s, and the fair grounds were packed. We saw several very cool Dutch bands (including the Mary Shade Experience, Ozark Henry) and sipped back many Brand Weizen beers at 2 Euros a pop, what a great afternoon! With bands still playing and the sun going down, we make our way back into
the labyrinth of the old city looking for food. After getting lost (what's new?) we circle back around a church terrace and find Café Seijk, a beautiful little classic diner serving traditional Maastricht dishes and great wine. We jump right into two amazing dishes, Maastricht Zoervleis (horse stew in a dark, rich and beery sauce) with Belgian frites and apple sauce and the daily special, a roasted 'lapin' with a beautiful side salad of fresh seasonal veggies. Stunningly delicious, served with aplomb and humour from our fantastic waiter and perfect after an afternoon of dancing and beer at the free festival. Sated, we eventually find the river and our bearings, making it back to our hotel terrace (which seems to be the happening place on the square!) for a night cap of Affligem Dubbel (6.8%) and conversation. We meet a nice couple on holidays from the
north of Holland, but their English is halting and our Dutch non-existent so we just laugh a lot and drink our beers. Then we meet a couple of locals guys back from the festival who regale us with tales of the bands, the festival, the city and life in this lovely little part of the world. Slowly the night winds itself up, fewer and fewer cyclist whiz by, the pedestrian traffic seems to evaporate and only the odd bus and occasional taxi seem to cross the square now. We decide to call it a day as the tower bell in the square strikes 12. Good night Maastricht, tomorrow is another day.

 Of course it was. We cross bridges, explore parks, enjoy coffee in the sun and before we know it, it is time for a beer. We find ourselves in another beautiful square, Vrouweplein, at Café de Comedia,  where all the chairs face out, the better for people watching, and settle in to do the same. The café features the beers of another Limburg brewer, Gulpener. Neither of us cared for the Gulpener Lager, but their Chateau Neubourg Pilsner was passable, the Belgian wit Korenwolf was cloudy with substance and flavour and the Dort was the copper coloured, more malty
alternative. The day was warming and so were we. Off into the streets we go again, intrepid explorers, perusing boutiques and after additional window shopping we are happily lost again, in the maze of streets, until we find the 'speciaalbierencafé' Café Falstaff in the delightful Amorsplein in time for lunch. A tasty smorgasbord of local delights was the way to go, cheeses, chacuterie, dips, bread, bitterballs, accompanied, of course, with a couple of delicious beers. Palm was promoting their Hopper (6%) beer, made with their own estate grown Hallertau hops - some hop dryness, gold, carbonated, easily drinkable brew. Also, Ciney Blonde, (7%) a Belgian strong ale of character, tight white head, clear amber, malt accented, dry finish. A nice pair of beers to start, but the next up

were even lovelier. La Trappe Isid'Or (7.5%), brewed for the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Brasserie de Koningshoeven at the monastery, in limited edition numbered bottles. Spicy aromatics, cloudy, yeasty, creamy and a long finish, this is a very special brew indeed. Also on the table was Urthel Hop-It (9.5%), pale gold, fresh herbal nose, golden yellow, a big malt based bully of a beer but hopped up, truly one of the first Belgian double IPAs, bitter and balanced with a long, dry finish allowing the hops to prevail. The rest of the day went by in a blur, more sightseeing, nosing around interesting public statuary, awing at historical architecture, we might have slipped a siesta in there too, then we sat by the river and thought about this beer journey we've been on. Pretty lucky, pretty fantastic.
That night we dine on 'moules et frites' one more time, accompanied by monk made Orval (6.9%, orange-amber, creamy, smooth on the tongue, notes of bread, yeast, fruit, spices) and Judas Tripel. (8.5%, strong Belgian pale ale, golden, fruity, hints of spice). It's another quiet night in town, in fact we are only 2 of 5 people eating at Basilica this evening, a Monday. The waitress tells us tourist season is pretty much over, students are all back at school, the evenings are getting cool, autumn has arrived. Time to head home.

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