The Session # 91: My First Belgian

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry”.

For this month’s Session Belgian Smaak prompted us to write about our first Belgian beer. My first Belgian beer isn’t just any other beer, it was my first real beer. The first thing besides liquor and ____ light I’d ever had. Here’s my story:

10 years ago I found myself in an aluminum tube hurtling through the air at 700 miles per hour 36,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. I left Cincinnati being an infrequent drinker of whiskey and rarely being caught with a beer in my hand. From Amsterdam to London to Paris my prime thoughts were of enjoying the history and foreign experience of these towns.

The beautiful canals of Amsterdam ©vtveen
The beautiful canals of Amsterdam ©vtveen

We did a pub crawl in London along the south bank of the Thames and I remember thinking the beer was slightly better than what I’d tried in America, but nothing blew me away. Paris was all snotty French people and wine that I couldn’t fully appreciate at the time. To their credit, this was in the early days of the Iraq war when our Congress, in its infinite wisdom, struck French Fries from the menu at the Capitol cafeteria and renamed them, Freedom Fries. I wish I was kidding, but I’m not. So they had some right to be snobby to us ignorant Americans.

From the top of St. Paul's Cathedral.
From the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London before I let my curls grow out.

We took a train from Paris to Brussels only because it was the most frequent flyer mile effective way to get back to America. The train ride was awesome, trains are a great way to see any countryside. In Brussels, we stayed at a small inn where my brother and I slept in a loft above my parents. I say slept generously since my brother’s snoring would drown out a Metallica concert… Before being deafened by nose noise that night we had dinner at a small restaurant on the side of the Grote Markt.

©Francisco Antunes
©Francisco Antunes

We ate some local food, and here’s what we’ve all been waiting for… drank some local beer. The waiter brought out a bottle of something called Chimay Grande Réserve (aka the blue label). All 4 of us immediately fell in love with the beer and by the end of the dinner we’d drank 4 or 5 bottles. I remember being wowed by the deep complexities of spices and dark fruits. I had thought beer was water with a hint of grain or corn. My brain was flabbergasted that beer could actually taste like… anything!

The next day I was again in an aluminum tube some 36,000 feet above the Atlantic at 700 some miles per hour. But when I got back to Cincinnati my life was changed forever. The next few weeks would always find a Chimay Grande Réserve in my fridge, followed by Rochefort 10, then Victory Golden Monkey and then I truly fell down the rabbit hole of real beer.

In a tale of 20/20 hindsight and wishing, I knew then what I know now that the Brasserie Cantillon Brouwerij is about 8 blocks from where I sat on the Grote Markt.

I’ve told my story now share yours. What was your first Belgian?

3 thoughts on “The Session # 91: My First Belgian”

  1. Great story and very well told. I wish my first experience with a Belgian beer was as memorable as going to Belgium. I think my first belgian was a lindemans framboise, but Chimay grand reserve came shortly thereafter. It was an eye opener for sure.

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