Ancient beer and charming clutter

The Kul­mi­na­tor Beer Cafe in Antwerp is a great lit­tle place, full of tat, and with a cel­lar full of inter­est­ing aged beers. We turned up the night before they closed for their two week sum­mer break and the own­ers were in a very relaxed mood as they began to wind down.

Boak had been jonesing for a prop­er sour Kriek, and so went for Boon Oude Kriek – a mere youth of a beer com­pared to some on the menu, from 2004. This tast­ed like cher­ry drops in lemon juice. Inter­est­ing, but not nec­es­sar­i­ly all that plea­sur­able, and a bit of strug­gle to get through.

Bai­ley went for a Hoe­gaar­den Grand Cru from 1987, which came in a dusty, rusty bot­tle, with a vin­tage glass. This smelt incred­i­bly malty and tast­ed like bar­ley sug­ar. There was no hop char­ac­ter, and none of the char­ac­ter­is­tic spici­ness, although a hint of acrid bit­ter­ness remained. Odd­ly, it remind­ed us of Fuller’s 1845, but with a thin­ner body. Prob­a­bly not a beer, then, that stands up to 23 years mat­u­ra­tion.

We could­n’t pass up the oppor­tu­ni­ty to drink some extinct British ales, although it seemed weird to go to Bel­gium to do so. Gales’ Prize Old Ale (1982) had no head at all. It smelled like an amon­til­la­do sher­ry, which was also the main flavour at first gulp. There was also a lit­tle salti­ness. It had an extreme­ly long after­taste, with notes of cocoa, liquorice, mar­mite, orange peel…  we could go on. There weren’t many flavours that weren’t in there some­where. Again, an expe­ri­ence rather than an absolute plea­sure. And you can get a whole bot­tle of sher­ry for €9.

Courage Impe­r­i­al Stout, actu­al­ly brewed at the Anchor brew­ery long before it became yup­pie flats, was beau­ti­ful­ly served in a nip glass of an appro­pri­ate vin­tage. Even after all those years, a nice off-white head was present. The aro­ma was, again, like sher­ry – this time, some­thing raisiny and sweet. The first taste was of raisins and choco­late, giv­ing way to oak, smoke, burnt cream and cof­fee. Unlike the Gales, it still had some hop flavour and bit­ter­ness. In fact, it tast­ed amaz­ing­ly fresh and alive – there was a real prick­le on the tongue – plen­ty of zing.

The cel­lar, which is behind glass and gen­tly lit, offers tan­ta­lis­ing glimpses into the future: some spe­cial De Molens, not on the menu, “will mature for 25 years”.

This place is absolute­ly unmiss­able for the beer geek. Just remem­ber to bring plen­ty of cash. The above set us back €38, and they don’t take cred­it cards. Prob­a­bly just as well for our sakes.

See also:

7 thoughts on “Ancient beer and charming clutter”

  1. I love this idea of a beer muse­um you can actu­al­ly drink in, and that they have vin­tage glass­ware as well! Fan­tas­tic.

  2. Nice post, thanks. I must get there at some point – I’ve tried some aged Gales POA from when it was good, and would like some more, rather than the hideous­ly infect­ed last bot­tlings that I’ve man­aged to cel­lar *rolleyes*

  3. My vis­it to the Kul­mi­na­tor was one of the high­lights of my trip to Bel­gium.

    We spent hours there drink­ing 2004 Westy 12, Mikkeller/Struis IPA, Dolle Oer­bier, draft Chouffe N’ice and lots of gueuze.

    As I walk to the toi­let I could­n’t help but get dis­tract­ed by the win­dow into one of the store rooms where I spied lots of Mikkeller and De Molen and have ever since regret­ted not ask­ing about the bot­tles of Hair of the Dog that I spot­ted on a high shelf.
    Aren’t these beers avail­able to buy? I thought they’d just not updat­ed the tele­phone direc­to­ry-size menu

Comments are closed.