Archive | November, 2014

A Little Taste of Belgium (in Denmark)

27 Nov

*This blog post is dedicated to my Uncle Brad, Michelle, and Dr. Tony Godzieba, all three of whom I am forever indebted to for introducing me to the sweet nectar of the gods that is Belgian beer.

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Århus University has a student bar on campus called the Studenterhus. It is well-stocked with an impressive collection of Danish, German, and most notably, Belgian beers. This enticed a few friends and I to spend an evening trying their best Belgian brews – and we were not disappointed. Their massive menu featured such standouts as Chimay, La Trappe, Rochefort, Orval, Tripel Karmeliet, and Westmalle (both their Dubbel and Tripel, in case you were wondering). But the crème de la crème was none other than Westvleteren (yep, you read that right):

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Commonly considered the best beer in the world (if you don’t believe me, see also here and here), Westvleteren is brewed by a group of Flemish monks in the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren in western Belgium, close to the French border. The monks live a solitary life of prayer and make their world-famous beer only to finance their monastery, and as a result produce very limited quantities of their prized brew in humble, label-less bottles. This makes the beer almost impossible to find – even in Belgium (one rare exception was when the monks needed money for a new roof, which prompted them to export a batch to the U.S. – more on that here and here). So that’s why we were both shocked and astounded to see a handful of Westvleteren 8s sitting in a locked fridge at the edge of the bar. Despite the steep price (too steep to repeat) we paid up, split a bottle, and drank her down – sip by precious sip. Stupendous. When we asked how in the world they managed to import the best and maybe the rarest beer in the world, all we could get out of the bar tender was “we have a connection.”

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Luckily, this was not to be our last night of Belgian beer and debauchery. The very next weekend, Karen, one of my fellow exchange students, who is from Flanders (the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium) was hosting some of her friends from her hometown. When Karen’s friends saw that I had brought a few (very modest) Belgian beers to the party, they were quick to make friends, and before long had introduced me to Rodenbach, a red Flemish sour ale brewed in their hometown of Roeselare in West Flanders which they had brought with them.

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By the end of the night, we were all planning a pilgrimage to the Westvleteren Brewery. Until then, I think the Studenterhus has got us covered…

J-Day

25 Nov

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If you happen to find yourself in Denmark on the first Friday in November, you’re in for a treat. On this magical day every year, the Danes celebrate “Juledag,” or for short (and translated): J-Day.

J-Day marks the momentous release of the Danish beer company Tuborg’s Julebryg, or Christmas beer.

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The tradition is not difficult to take part in, since Tuborg trucks drive to 100s of towns throughout the country, stopping often to distribute free Christmas-beer and funny blue hats to pretty much anyone within sight of the truck.

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Things are a bit more regulated at the bars, where the taps aren’t allowed to pour the good stuff until 8:59pm exactly. If you start early, you’re likely to be ratted out by one of your customers and will be placed on Tuborg’s “black list” for next year’s J-Day (and you thought finding a lump of coal in your stocking was a tough punishment). National Public Radio has more on J-Day here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/11/02/164185006/christmas-comes-early-for-denmarks-beer-drinkers

When J-Day arrived earlier this month, some friends and I were lucky enough to be at an on-campus, student-run Friday Bar which was partaking in the J-Day tradition, so we got to experience the festivities first hand (and not a minute before 8:59pm):

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Rachel in Denmark

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