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.