At the heart of Belgium’s hop growing region lies Poperinge, a quaint town of 20,000 and hour train ride from Brussels. I arrived late in the afternoon after spending the day in Bruges, and set out to find some quality Belgian Beers, which I knew wouldn’t be hard.
The town itself is an adorable little typical northern European town, with many of the towns most important building fronting the town’s main square.
I’d done some research into which bars had the best reputation, and the one that I kept seeing was Cafe de la Paix, which was conveniently located on Poperinge’s main square.
One of the things I love most about European beer bars is, although I showed up at all of them by myself, I almost always wound up in conversations with locals. After engaging the bar’s proprietor for a while, some friendly locals sat down next to me. They were incredibly proud of their town and it’s importance in the Belgian beer industry. After I told them the story of my home restaurant’s Belgian Beer Week, the were even more impressed.
I had three beers at Cafe de la Prix, a tripel and a dark ale from Brasserie Vanuxeem, and another dark ale from De Proefbrouwerij. All were recommended to me by the locals I met. They were proud that these beers had been brewed in Flanders.
I hadn’t planned on a late night, especially since I’d been up since 530AM, was working on 3.5 hours of sleep and I had my much anticipated bike ride to Westvletern the next morning, so I headed back to my hotel intending to turn in early after a beer and some photo downloading at my hotel. I’d read good things about the bar at the Hotel Palace, but it wasn’t the main reason I’d booked there.
When I entered, I ordered a beer and sat at a table by myself. Before long, though, I found myself in a delightful conversation with a British couple in Belgium to check out the World War I sites located nearby. The small comfortable bar had only contained the three of us when I sat down, but more people kept entering throughout the night, and finally, at 130AM I found myself engaged in my fourth long conversation partner of the evening, this time with a local who’s job it was to work with the local hop exporters.
I learned so much about the Belgian hop industry that night. I took copious noted on my phone with the intent of putting the knowledge gained to good use next year during Ashley’s Belgian Beer Festival. Although I tried to go to bed a number of times, he was so proud of Belgian beers that he kept buying me different ones I hadn’t tried, including the 100% organic Jessenhofke pictured above, a tripel that was delicious.
Finally around 3 A.M., I managed to retire. I knew eventually I was going to pay for all of these late nights, but I wouldn’t have traded the experience for more sleep. The people I met will always be one of the lasting impressions of this trip.
Beers & Bars of the Europe 2013 Trip Series: