A La Becasse, Brussels


We’ve been to Brussels loads of times now, but never made it to A La Becasse, famous for serving sweetened lambic in earthenware jugs.

We put that right on our most recent trip to Germany — we had a quick stopover in Brussels and fancied a sour hit.  It’s a nice little place, friendly staff and very handy for the Grand Place.  The lambic comes courtesy of Timmermans, and it is indeed sweetened and served in jugs.  It tastes not unlike sweet scrumpy cider, and is very refreshing, albeit not that exciting.  The lambic blanc is more interesting than the sweet lambic, as there is definitely more spiciness.

It wasn’t enough to quench the thirst for sourness, though, so we also ordered a bottle of Iris from Cantillon for the next round.  Oh, wow.  We’ve had this before, but forgot just how wonderful it is. Because it’s dry-hopped, you get an amazing aroma, like an American IPA, at the same time as the sourness takes over your tongue, and then a complex fruity aftertaste.

We vowed to stop off at Cantillon on the way back and stock up.

Flat beer in a very popular pub

The Brewery Tap (aka Derby’s Royal Standard) is a beer geek pub and is the primary outlet for the products of the Derby Brewery Company.  When we visited on a Saturday night, it was very busy indeed, but the huge range of guest ales and Belgian beers isn’t the secret to this pub’s success — a majority of people seemed to be drinking wine, big-brand lager, spirits, cider or Guinness.

It is successful, we suspect, because it is bright, clean and modern.

The enticing sounding two day rare beer festival was less successful. The ales on offer were served very flat from a temporary bar in the back yard, and there weren’t many takers. It didn’t help that some members of staff had been called in on their day off to work the festival and were vocally unhappy about it.

We preferred the Brunswick, but the local CAMRA branch disagree, having named the Brewery Tap city pub of the year.

Beer with zing

The Brunswick Inn, Derby

The Brunswick Inn in Derby has quite a following. A friend of ours who grew up in Derby said, without hesitation, that it was the one pub we had to make sure we visited on our trip.

And, sure enough, it is truly one of the country’s great pubs, and worth visiting Derby for in its own right.

There aren’t many brewpubs in Britain and many of those that we’ve visited have less than exciting beer. That is not the case in the Brunswick: the beer didn’t seem especially complex or clever, but was unbelievably fresh. When people say cask ale is alive, this is what they mean.

The pale and hoppy White Feather (3.6%) was the stand out — it was easy to believe that it hadn’t long stopped fermenting.

There were also several guest ales in perfect condition and very tasty, but lacking the zing of the own-brand beers, none of which were anything other than delicious.

We are by no means the first beer bloggers to spot the Brunswick:

Die Derbische Schweiz?

A British phone box in Germany

Because we’ve got Germany on the brain, we couldn’t help but jokingly refer to the beautiful countryside around Derby as the “Derbische Schweiz”, with reference to the nickname given to the national park in Upper Franconia.

Sometimes, though, a joke turns out to have something in it. In 24 hours in Derbyshire we came across:

  1. a very authentic Bratwurst stand with “Schleswig-Holstein” written all over it
  2. a shop and cafe for German and Austrian ex-pats with a window display of Semmel Knödel mixes
  3. two microbrewed, unfiltered, unpasteurised pilsners
  4. more beer gardens (that is, proper beer gardens, with trees and attractive panoramas) than we’ve ever seen anywhere else in the UK.

Maybe all of that makes up for the time we came across a disconcerting and unexplained red phone box in Goslar?

Hop extract but no hops?

We’ve noticed this week that a couple of bottled German beers on sale in the UK — including Franziskaner wheat beer — list only malt, yeast and hop extract in their ingredients lists.

It’s quite common for even decent beers to contain hop extract as well as hops to add a bit of pep, but is it going too far to use nothing but?

It makes us feel a bit uneasy.