I harbor a great deal of affection for the town of Poperinge, to which I was introduced way back in 1998.
I'd organized a motorcoach tour, wherein 16 of us visited beer pilgrimage spots in Netherlands and Belgium. It came to me attention that the tourist office in Poperinge was dipping its toes into beer tourism, and had an inexpensive program to supply a guide to board our bus for a few hours and officiate.
We went to a countryside roadhouse, learned about old-fashioned pub games, toured the Van Eecke brewery in Watou, and finished at the Hopmuseum Poperinge.
There a strange man approached me and asked if I was the tour leader Roger, whereupon I met Luc Dequidt, then the tourist office's director, and these days happily retired.
Many bountiful returns have accrued from this meeting with Luc, beginning with my first triennial hop festival in September, 1999. I've only missed one since, in 2011.
In 2005, the missus realized she liked beer after all. The revelation came in Brugge, when she absconded with my Trappist ale, a Rochefort 10. Hence this dispatch from Poperinge, where she closed the deal. It was dated September 22, 2005 and written following our return home for publication at The Potable Curmudgeon.
2017 updates will be linked here, in due time.
In the grand tradition of beer advertising, we've chosen a beautiful woman to display the product being touted.
Trust me - it's really Westvleteren 12, the beer that “disappeared” from circulation when it was selected as the best beer in the world by readers of RateBeer.com.
Not that it was easy to find, even in Belgium ... even where it is brewed.
The Cafe de Vrede, across the lane from the Sint Sixtus Abbey, was closed for its annual autumn break, which seems usually to occur at the very same time that beer lovers gather in nearby Poperinge for the triennial hop festival. We biked past the venue, and as my old friend Barrie would say, paused to kiss the lock on the door before proceeding into town.
Arriving at the marvelous Hotel Palace in Poperinge, we found no Westvleteren at that estimable cafe; actually, it wasn't clear whether Guy had had any from the start, or whether his stock already was depleted by the time we checked on Saturday.
Cafe de la Paix? Fine food and a great beer selection, but no, not there, either.
Then on Sunday, in preparation for the parade, we dined at the Poussecafe, located just up Ieperstraat from the Palace, and the elusive Trappist elixir was right there, printed on the paper menu, in full view.
I asked the server, who proved to be the owner, "Do you really have this beer in stock?"
He shrugged and replied: "It wouldn't be listed if I didn't."
An incredible lunch followed, and the food was good, too, but I still prefer Rochefort 10, with Westvleteren a close second.
Later, comfortably seated along the parade route, I was introduced to a great new way to enjoy Poperings Hommelbier.
Pitch the lemons and limes, and go back to the basics.