Bryssel och Brügge, Belgien – Gone Camping på ölfestival, trappistkloster och gör chokladpraliner

Bryssel och Brügge, Belgien – Gone Camping på ölfestival, trappistkloster och gör chokladpraliner


World-class beer
and chocolate graced by God. Those are two good reasons to pack
your camper and head to Belgium. That’s what I’ve done.
Time to excite my taste buds. The EU capital Brussels
dates back a thousand years and offers a nifty blend
of modern and classical. And wherever go you, you’ll likely
find something nice to eat or drink. Belgians like to pamper their taste buds, be it with waffles, chocolate or beer. If you wish to enjoy the latter,
visit the main square Grand Place on the first weekend of September,
when it’s time for Belgian Beer Weekend. Around 40
small and medium-sized breweries let you sample foamy beverages
from all parts of the country. Admission is free, there’s no dress code and you pay with pre-purchased tokens. To learn more about Belgium’s national
drink, I’m meeting Stijn Van Houdt. His business card reads
“licensed beer guide”. I’m quite critical.
I know most and they’re mostly good, but I want to try something new. That’s an interesting one. Something very nice about this beer is that it’s in one of
the most beautiful squares of Europe. There’s nothing like drinking beer
in such a beautiful surrounding. Belgium has soaked up many
foreign influences in its history. Sometimes we seem
to have a conservative image, because our traditions
go back for many centuries. But at the same time,
we see that a lot of brewers experiment to try to find new recipes. Just checking name by name
and I’m thinking – yes, maybe, no. Do you have a preference? So what should good Belgian beer
offer in terms of taste? Most Belgian beers,
you taste the hops, you taste the yeast. You taste the esters. You have some fruit, some spices, even
if they’re not added as an ingredient. This balance is what a lot of foreigners
appreciate in our beers. One main ingredient in beer is hops. A few hours outside Brussels,
we find the hop farm ‘t Hoppecruyt. We visited during harvest time for
the plant that can grow 30 cm in a day and reach a height of 9 meters. Hops was originally added to beer
because the plant contains bitter acids, which have antibacterial properties
and kept the beer from souring. The impact on flavor
was originally a side effect. All the hop plants
you see in this plantation, or in any plantation in Belgium,
are female hops. That’s important, because male plants
contain a little bit of fat and fat is disastrous for the formation
of the foam on the beer. And in Belgium, we like a nice head. What is important in the plant
is the lupulin. This is the yellow you see
when you open it. Now if you smell it, it’s overwhelming. It’s great. I could sniff this all day. In the old days,
even starting from the Middle Ages, we had a tradition
that monks brewed beer. Most monasteries
stopped doing so over the centuries, but the Trappist monks still brew
within the walls of their abbey. Our next stop will be
the Trappist abbey of Westvleteren, where they make what is considered
to be the best beer in the world. Those hoping to watch
some of the 29 monks at the Saint-Sixtus Abbey
in Westvleteren as they brew beer might be disappointed.
It’s all done behind closed doors. But there’s a small museum
– Claustrum – where you can catch a glimpse
of life behind the walls. Alcoholic beverages are produced
at the country’s six Trappist abbeys to raise money
for maintenance and charity. Or as the abbot at Westvleteren put it: “We’re not brewers. We are monks.” “We brew beer
to be able to afford being monks.” The cafeteria serves good food which goes well
with the three kinds of beer made here. They’re called “Blonde”, “10” and “12”. Out of these,
the latter is considered the best. This is like the number one beer
with the highest reputation. This is the beer which we can describe
as the Holy Grail of the beer world. No pressure. So what does it taste like? Westvleteren
12 has tremendous fullness. It’s fruity and complex
and tastes of nuts and caramel. It’s doubtless
the tastiest beer I’ve ever had. Even Stijn has trouble putting into words
what a delight it is for our palates. Then something of a miracle happens. The monks have just finished
a small batch of beer for sale. According to the guide,
it’s as rare as snow in the Sahara. In big breweries, it takes 24 hours
to produce a batch of lager beer. In the monasteries,
it takes several months. They can brew without financial
concerns and focus on what’s important. To make a close to perfect product,
and I can tell you they’ve succeeded. Like the Italians have Venice,
the Belgians have wonderful Bruges. The name is derived
from the word “bridge” and alludes to the docks lining
the waterways a thousand years ago. Back then, the city was central
to the European textile industry and money was flowing in. Merchant ships
used the canals back then. Today, you have tourists
here to enjoy this quaint city. A lot of the charm
comes from the movie-like setting. Swans glide along the canals and the
houses look to be made of gingerbread. Chocolate is also
closely associated with Belgium. In Bruges, there are around 50 makers
and shops in a relatively small area, making the city
especially rich in chocolate. Best of all, you don’t have to settle
for what’s on display. In Bruges, you can try
making these delicacies yourself. You can say, why is chocolate popular? Because you have two ingredients
that make us happy. Fat and sugar. The chocolate is running all the time.
You can stop it by doing this. If you want the chocolate to go again… You stop at the right time
and then you flip it over. And then with this you scrape it off. That’s the result. I’ll be making pralines
filled with hazelnut cream. But I soon realize that I don’t have
what it takes to achieve perfection. The chocolate is hot,
we can’t put the filling in it. So we just tap it on the table. And the filling is flat.
Now I’m going to put it in the fridge. Perfect chocolate is, you take a bite. The chocolate is crunchy,
you taste the chocolate. Then you taste the filling
and you end with the taste of chocolate. If you have those three steps,
you have a good chocolate. Belgians are top consumers
of chocolate in the world. They eat almost ten kilos
per person and year. In Sweden, we settle for half of that. Back into the fridge. After 60 minutes, my lesson is over and I’ve gotten a deeper understanding
of the tradecraft. If you can resist eating it,
you can take the result with you and get the perfect gift
when visiting people. Three kilometers outside the city,
we find Camping Memling. It’s a small facility in a residential area and it’s no bigger than two football fields. It’s open year-round,
has 20 spots with electricity and the lots are about 80 square meters. There are three mobile homes for rent
and a field for tent campers. Most of us have tried cheese and wine,
and that works just fine, but I want to promote
a different combination. As you’ve probably guessed,
beer is a good companion for cheese. You get sweetness,
acidity and bitterness. The saltiness of the cheese
makes for an awesome combination. The local cheese shop recommended
aged gouda, comté and appenzeller. I liked all three, but try it yourself and allow your taste buds
to find the perfect match for you. I have to admit
that I’m getting a bit full now, but I hope
this has made you feel hungry. Hungry enough to come here
and try all this good stuff. And I hope to see you again
on this channel or out on the roads. We went to Belgian Beer Weekend
in Brussels. The Trappist beer
came from Westvleteren. The workshop was arranged
by the Chocolate Museum. And we stayed at Camping Memling
in Bruges.

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