at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Brew Blog: Ashley's Belgian Beer Festival

It just so happened that the same weekend we planned a baby shower for my sister-in-law, there was a Belgian Beer Festival going on at Ashley's -- a favorite hangout of my brother's. He was able to participate in the festivities all week, but Tom and I were at least able to join in for part of the weekend. They had numerous events and special menus -- beyond the seemingly never ending list of Belgian Beers on tap. It was really quite an impressive production.

Ashely's Belgian Beer Festival

Kwak at Ashley's Belgian Beer FestivalWe participated in the Scaldi's Dinner -- sort of. At any rate, I got a delicious Monk Burger -- with beer cheese made by Belgian Monks. My brother and Tom had already been hanging at Ashley's earlier in the day while us girls were at the baby shower...and Tom had already had his Kwak -- which he learned you are supposed to drink by using the wooden handle rather than removing the glass from its holder.  A story from my dad's trip to Belgium also came up. Apparently, back in the day when glass was more rare and expensive, before they would give you a beer in a glass like this, they would take some collateral to ensure its safe return. The collateral? One of your shoes. I guess my dad went to a bar where they still did this. It would be kind of fun to hang out with a bunch of people all wearing only one shoe...

With dinner, Tom ordered the Tripel Karmeleit by Brouwerij Bosteels. I also learned something interesting with this order. It came in a special glass that had the name of the beer logo'd on it. Ashley's had to get special permission to allow use of these glasses, because Michigan law actually prohibits the use of alcohol logos on a glass (or on store windows, etc.). Conversely, there was a time in Belgium where it was actually required to use a glass that bears the logo of the beer.

The next morning we did the Belgian Waffle Breakfast -- decent waffles, but nothing too exciting. Tom tried the Special Extra Export Stout by Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers. He gave it 3.5 stars -- it's bottle conditioned with lots of carbonation for a stout and is much lighter bodied than an American stout. 

Later that day, we participated in the Trappist Experience, which was a really cool event. We learned all about Trappist breweries and got to sample three different beers. In order to be considered a "Trappist" beer, it must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, all of the equipment must be completely owned by monks, it must be brewed by the monks or the monks must supervise, and the proceeds must be used for charity. Only 10 (? we saw a couple different numbers, but I think that's correct) breweries in the world are considered "Trappist" -- and 6 of them are in Belgium.

The Trappist Experience at Ashley's Belgian Beer Festival
"The Trappist Experience" - great informational event by John Staunton who
works directly with the monks to import Trappist beer.
The three beers we sampled were:
  • Orval by Brasserie d'Orval
  • Trappistes Rochefort 6 (they produce a 6, 8 and 10 -- which refer to the tax level of the beer, as determined by the gravity level)
  • Westmalle Trappist Dubbel
I was not a huge fan of any of them. Turns out Belgian beers are not really my style. I actually liked the Orval the best and the Rochefort 6 the least. Tom and my brother both liked all of them, but rated the Westmalle Trappist Dubbel the highest, at 4.5 stars and 5 stars, respectively. Learning about the background of these beers and about the lifestyle of the monks that brew them made it all around a very cool experience and added to the level of appreciation of each beer. One could potentially conclude that buying Trappist beer is a charitable act! And, if I ever make it to Belgium, I'd like to find an open Trappist monastary to visit!

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!