Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bosteels Brewery

Shannon and I took the train up to Buggenhout for a tour of the Bosteels Brewery (turn off your speakers at work). We had arranged it by email a few weeks prior, as they only do tours for groups of I think 20. We asked to tag on to any tour, and they obliged with a 3pm tour on Friday.

We rocked up, right on time, and went in through a somewhat closing gate. Two guys saw us, and one came over. The conversation went something like this.

Me: Spreekt u Engles?
Him: Ya, sure.
Me: We're here for a three o'clock tour.
Him: Hmm. I think the tour was at two today.
Me: Hmm... Shit.
Him: Well... at least come up and have a drink.

Naturally, we obliged, and were greeted with two Kwaks and invited to sit with some employees. It was Friday afternoon and all. The gentleman spoke with his colleague and came back and said that there had been a change in the tour, but they had forgotten to sent us an email, so we would get a private, but shorter tour instead. Can't argue with this.

We were soon joined by the group, who had finished the tour, and were looking rather thirsty. Unknown to us, the group had been asked if a video discussing the history of the brewery could be shown in English. We were informed, and were somewhat embarrassed, but had little option.

About halfway through the film, the group got restless. We heard some mutterings about "English" and "Americans" and were somewhat more embarrassed. But, we started chatting with some folks at our table and things improved. It turns out that they were a group from a local Phizer office. One guy asked how we knew to come to Bosteels. We simply explained that we were really into the beer, and could only get it occasionally, and thought it proper to see the brewery while in Belgium. This seemed to garner favor with the table.

After our TK, we were taken off for a private tour. Our guide was fantastic, showing us some of the historical artifacts of the grounds, including the collection of old stagecoaches.

It was at this point that we noticed the flags over one of the buildings. When we asked what was going on, we were told "oh, we always hang the flag of our guests." How amazingly classy.

Obviously, the wind got a hold of them all, but that was a very nice gesture.

I didn't have my camera during the tour of the working part of the brewery, and I'm not sure I could have taken pictures anyway (trade secrets and all) but it was a really cool operation. Since it was private, we got a great chance to ask questions specific to the operation, as well as about brewing in general. We saw everything from the mash tuns to the label machine (and a stack of labels destined for the US, by coincidence).

A personal favorite of mine was a piece of stained glass over the mash tuns. I wish I had a photo of it. I believe it said this: Er zijn meer oude dronkaards dan oude dokters, but I know it translated to: "There are more old drunks than old doctors."

We all had a laugh about this.

Remember how I mentioned that people started to warm up to us? We're heading back in for another beer, and some folks from our table are leaving. A nice woman told us that she had left a business card on our bags upstairs, and that one of us should connect with her on Facebook. She invited us to stay with her the next time we were in Belgium. Amazing.

The whole of the staff was fantastic. While we were having our third beer (a lovely DueS), we bought some glasses. There were expressions of shock and delight that we had learned how to say please and thank you in Flemish. We were very glad to have made a good impression.

In summary, if you ever find yourself in the Brussels (or anywhere in Belgium, really - it's not a huge country) and you like beer, take the time to go to Bosteels. The people are really top notch, and so is the beer. It was a great experience, and I wanted to make note of it separately from the Brussels post.

Parting shots - a church on the main drag in town, and the sun going down as our train pulled into the station.

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