Sunday, May 31, 2015

St. Bernardus--the highlight of Watou, Belgium

    A few miles down country lanes from Westvletrren takes you to the village of Watou, practically on the border with France, pop. about 2,000.  The brewery of St. Bernardus, another mile south of the village, amid Flemish fields green in May, hums with activity.
The brewery was built in 1946, just after WW II had leveled much of Belgium, and has been expanded in recent years to a 100-hectoliter (close to 90-barrel) batch capacity.  The monks of St. Sixtus abbey in Westvleteren outsourced their brewing to St. Bernardus for a period of years, but when the popularity of their trappist styles really took off, resumed brewing as a monkish endeavor in 1992.  Still, the sense that St. Bernardus Abt 12 is a quadrupel a lot like the legendary Westvleteren 12 is hard to put out of mind.  Plus, you can get the St.B ales readily: I bought a bottle at Elizabeth Station in Bellingham shortly before I left.

The brewery had no tour the day we stopped in Watou, but it had something most breweries don't: a fine and comfortable little bed and breakfast right on the grounds.  In this picture, some of the 14  fermenters loom over the beautifully groomed courtyard of the inn. The grounds include a clay tennis court, koi ponds, a few pieces of sculpture, and inside, a refrigerator stocked with all the beers bottled here, which the guests pay for on an honor system, putting a euro or two in for each bottle they pop after supper at some cafe in the village.  Breakfast the morning after was great, too, the hostess, Jackie, will make you an omelette on request.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (Visited 05/27-28/15)

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