Note: All of the pictures, except the beer pictures are clickable for full size (~2 MB each).

We woke up at 8:30, had another minimal breakfast, checked out and then headed to Gare Central to catch a train to Antwerp. We sat next to some old Flemish ladies who were talking about Doctors and prescription as far as David could tell (Dutch and German similarities). We arrived in Antwerp Centraal, which was quite beautiful. I took pictures on the way out, so those will be up in a few posts.

We headed for the tourist information booth to get maps of Antwerp. Having lost our Lonely Planet guidebook, we also asked for directions to a bookstore. Luckily we were directed to Standaard Boekhandel, which, in our estimation, has the finest selection of books in all of Antwerp. We were able to replace our Lonely Planet guide.

We took the #2 Tram to Antwerp Expo, near our hostel. We arrived only to find that they were closed until the afternoon. There were lockers, but no keys. We had to walk around the back of the hostel and buzz the back entrance. An employee let us in and let us drop off our bags.

We headed back into town and decided to have lunch and a round or two at Berenbak, which is a pleasant bar/café. There's a back room with seating for dining, as well as several booths in the bar area. Large windows lining the front of the bar provided good lighting. The music was almost exclusively hits from the 90s. I can remember hearing Ice Ice Baby, The Macarena, Winds of Change and What is Love. We had omelettes and frietens. The omelettes were good, though a little different from what I'm used to getting in the US. The fried were served with mayo, which I was happy to use, but David asked for ketchup. We had a round with lunch and a round afterwards before heading out for some sightseeing.

516. Pauwel Kwak

These were served in round bottomed flask-shaped glasses that were held on wooden stands.

Beer Stats:
Brewery: Brouwerij Bosteels
Alcohol: 8.00%
Serving: Bottle
Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale, BJCP Style Guide

Appearance (3.5): Pours a hazy brown with a sudsy, beige head that fades to a thin film leaving patchy lace. Chunks of yeast float around.

Smell (4.0): Malty in the nose with toffee, caramel, raisins with a light spiciness.

Taste (4.0): Sweet caramel maltiness, followed by raisin fruitiness in the center. The finish is lightly spicy and bitter.

Mouthfeel (3.0): Low carbonation, light-bodied and a tad watery.

Drinkability (4.0): Easy to drink.

Overall (3.8)

517. Corsendonk Agnus

Beer Stats:
Brewery: Brouwerij Corsendonk
Alcohol: 7.50%
Serving: Bottle, 750 mL
Style: Tripel, BJCP Style Guide

Appearance (4.5): Pours a lightly hazy golden. A thick, foamy, white head thins to a quarter-inch layer leaving patchy lace.

Smell (4.0): Very fruity, with strong sour apple aromas, yeast and light spice.

Taste (3.5): Light, sweet fruit upfront, mostly sour apple. This fades into a peppery and grainy finish.

Mouthfeel (4.0): Light to medium-bodied, moderate carbonation, a little bit of creaminess.

Drinkability (4.5): Tasty and easy to drink, with a nice refreshing quality.

Overall (3.95)

After leaving Berenbak we went to The Old Stock Exchange, or Den Rhijn, which was the site of the Antwerp stock exchange until 1533.

Inner courtyard of Den Rhijn

Inner courtyard of Den Rhijn

Inner courtyard of Den Rhijn

Inner courtyard of Den Rhijn

We walked through the Grote Markt and saw the Stadhuis, or City Hall, which was built in the 1560s.

The Stadhuis

The statue depicting the legend behind Antwerp's name.

According to Wikipedia:
According to folklore, the city got its name from a legend involving a mythical giant called Antigoon that lived near the river Scheldt, exacting a toll from those crossing the river. On refusal, the giant severed one of their hands and threw them into the Scheldt. Eventually, the giant was slain by a young hero named Brabo, who cut off the giant's hand and threw it into the river. Hence the name Antwerpen from Dutch hand werpen (hand-throwing).

A street near the Grote Markt

Nearby was The Cathedral of Our Lady, for which construction started in 1351. Construction on the first phase was completed in 1521. We paid the admission to go inside, mainly to see the famous Rubens, including The Raising of the Cross and The Descent of the Cross.

The Cathedral of Our Lady

The Cathedral of Our Lady

The Cathedral of Our Lady

The Cathedral of Our Lady

The Cathedral of Our Lady

We were looking through the guidebook trying to get our bearings, when I noticed an old man paying particular attention to us. He eventually came up to us and was very friendly. He told us about various sights in Antwerp that he thought were notable, one of which was a tunnel under the Scheldt River. We then walked to the river to see Het Steen (The Stone), a castle built in the 1200s to control access to the Scheldt.

Het Steen

Het Steen

A small alley that was notable for some reason.

Having done enough sightseeing and not enough drinking we headed to Oud Arsenaal. On the way we walked by the first skyscraper in Europe, The Boerentoren (Farmer's Tower). There was a single row of tables that lined a bench on the right side, while the bar was on the left side. There was considerable standing room in between. When we arrived the bar was pretty empty, but as soon as we had decided on drinks the bar filled with a large group of middle aged to retired men. One of them sat at the table next to us and struck up a conversation. He explained to us that he was from Ghent and was part of a group called "The Brotherhood of the Monday Friends," a group that got together to drink on the four Mondays a year that are holidays. We also told us a bit about beer, it was nothing that I didn't already know, but I listened anyway. Oud Arsenaal was their last stop for the day, which was fine with him since he had to be back in Ghent later that evening to drink with the rest of the Medieval Crossbow club that he was a member of. I asked him if it was a good idea to drink while shooting crossbows. He maintained that one needs to drink while shooting crossbows in order to be relaxed enough. He got up to talk to other members of The Brotherhood, but before they left he returned to our table and slammed his fist down in what seemed to be a friendly goodbye gesture.

We also saw two men across the bar who had both The Good Beer Guide: Belgium, and The Lonely Planet Belgium guide. On our way out we spoke to them. They were both from Germany and were on vacation in Belgium. More about them later, since we would run into them several more times.

Our first round was an Achel 8° Brune, which I had had before, and an Achel 8° Blond.

518. Achel 8° Blond

Beer Stats:
Brewery: Brouwerij der St.Benedictusabdij de Achelse
Alcohol: 8.00%
Serving: Bottle, 11.2 oz.
Style: Tripel, BJCP Style Guide

Appearance (4.5): Pours a lightly hazy golden with a very thick, meringue-like, off-white head. The retention is good with thick patches of lace.

Smell (3.5): Fruity, bananas, definite black peppery spice.

Taste (4.0): Light fruitiness upfront. The finish is peppery and spicy with a significant aged-hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel (4.5): Thick and full-bodied, low carbonation with a dry finish.

Drinkability (4.0): The bitterness is quite nice.

Overall (4.05)

Our next round was side by side Gueuzes.

519. Oud Beersel Oude Gueuze Vieille

Beer Stats:
Brewery: Brouwerij Oud Beersel
Alcohol: 6.00%
Serving: Bottle
Style: Gueuze, BJCP Style Guide

Appearance (4.5): Pours a lightly hazy golden with a fluffy, off-white head that fades very, very slowly.

Smell (4.0): Some fruity aromas are evident above an acidic sourness, there's also a light funkiness. Swirling brings out more sourness.

Taste (3.5): Sour and acidic with a fruity citric sweetness. The finish is lightly funky with a slight bitterness.

Mouthfeel (4.0): Light-bodied, low carbonation, lightly dry finish.

Drinkability (4.0): Good. Sour and funky with a nice balance. Has all of the lambic characters, but isn't extreme.

Overall (3.9)

520. Hanssens Oude Gueuze

Beer Stats:
Brewery: Hanssens Artisanaal bvba
Alcohol: 6.00%
Serving: Bottle
Style: Gueuze, BJCP Style Guide

Appearance (4.5): Pours a lightly hazy golden (slightly darker and clearer than the Oud Beersel). Topped by a fluffy, white head that fades, leaving patchy lace.

Smell (5.0): Sour and acidic with considerable funkiness. Swirling increases the funkiness.

Taste (4.5): An intense sourness is evident upfront and lasts throughout. There's some citric character in the center that brings along a very mild sweetness. There are light grassy and earthy elements in the finish.

Mouthfeel (4.5): Light-bodied, low carbonation, very dry.

Drinkability (3.5): Sour and funky, but delicious. This definitely wins in a side-by-side

Overall (4.45)

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