Sunday, May 18, 2014

Overdue Tasting Update

So...I've been lazily drinking all the beers I've been brewing and haven't put down any tasting notes whatsoever.  Now that I'm almost done with some of the batches, I realized I should probably put some thoughts on paper to make some improvements for the next go-around.

The Philosopher (Pliny the Elder Clone)
Aroma - Holy hops.  Tons of that dank, resiny, citrus hop character that you get out of Pliny.  The nose practically leaps out of the glass.

Appearance - Perhaps a touch darker than the real thing.  This doesn't really bother me all that much, but I don't think I can call the color cloned.  Maybe changing out the C20 for some C10 would do the trick.  The head is very white and fluffy and sticks around forever.  The lacing is very nice as well.

Flavor - Complete bitterness explosion.  I almost think that if I do this another time I'm going to cut the Magnum bittering charge in half and try to get most of the IBUs from the later additions.  There's just too much harsh bitterness on this that isn't in the original.  Once you can get past the initial bitterness shock, the nice citrus/pine character comes through.

Mouthfeel - Surprisingly has a full mouthfeel given the mash temperature and the sugar added.  Carbonation is pretty spot on.

Overall -  Hrm.  The massive harsh bitterness on the front end really hurts this one in my opinion.  Perhaps a little bit of a thinner body coupled with a more "balanced" hop profile would bring this more into line.  I'm going to table this recipe for a little bit and perhaps revisit it in the Fall.

The Southron (Nelson-Galaxy APA)
Aroma - Citrus, melon, a small hint of the white wine character for which Nelson Sauvin is famous.

Appearance - Nice orange/bronze hue, cloudier than I would have planned likely due to the dry hopping.  Nice head after pouring, very slowly dissipates to a thin layer of foam that sticks around.  Nice lacing.  This is a solid recipe for looks.

Flavor - Very similar profile to the aroma.  The Nelson/Galaxy combo definitely hits first with a ton of melon/white wine.  This is followed up with some nice malt sweetness with the honey malt really shining through.  If you are a fan of Ithaca Flower Power, the malt portion of this beer tastes very similar.

Mouthfeel - Some nice body on this one that leaves a sweetish malty texture on your tongue.  I tend to prefer my beers, even hoppy beers, with a little bit more body and malt backbone, and this one definitely fits the bill.  Spot on carbonation.

Overall - This is definitely in the running for my house APA.  The malt backbone is dead-on.  I probably should dry this out a bit more to showcase some of the hops, but that's really my only critique on this one.

The Tiller (Bavarian Hefeweizen)
Aroma - Nice clove aroma with some muted wheat/hay type smells coming out.  Almost like fresh baked bread.

Appearance -  Cloudy, golden-orange hue.  Nice dense, creamy head at the pour, but it falls away somewhat quicker than I would like.  I may potentially kick out the protein mash rest next time I brew this.  Small layer of bubbles sticks around until the finish.

Flavor - Really nice balance of clove/banana.  The somewhat fruity flavors are followed by a nice wheat/bread flavor that almost tastes like biting into a fresh baguette.  I know decoction mashing has its opponents, but that's really the only thing I changed process wise this time around and I'm very close to the hefeweizen that I want this to be.

Mouthfeel - Very creamy.  This was a trait that I'd always relished from some of the great commercial examples of the style.  I bottled carved this up to 3.0 volumes and was a little worried about bottle bombs, but it almost seems like its a touch under carbonated and when popping the cap it seems like there really wasn't all that much stress inside.  I may try to carb this higher next time to improve head retention and some of the body.

Overall - I'm getting really, really close on my perfect hefe.  I don't know if this will win any competition (although I'll hopefully be finding out soon), but this batch is one of the quickest I've gone through in my entire time brewing.  This is definitely going on the calendar again with some of the changes listed above.

The Squatch (Appalachian Amber)
Aroma - Slight amount of citrus on the nose with a bit of the chocolate malt coming through giving a very, very faint roasted coffee aroma.

Appearance - Beautiful deep brown hue when it catches the light.  Probably a tough darker than I would have liked, but its easy enough to dial back some of the chocolate malt.

Flavor - Very nice balance between the malt and the hops.  Definitely doesn't come across as an overly-hoppy beer or something like a "red" IPA.  So that's good.  However, I probably will cut down the amount of chocolate malt as its definitely coming through in the taste and I was planning to use it solely for color.  Also, the hops on this one are probably better served in an IPA where they can be showcased.  I might just switch this to straight Centennials for the next batch.

Mouthfeel - This is definitely on the more full-bodied side, and while its a wonderful beer, probably would be better somewhat thinner for this time of year.  I could see this as a great fall beer as is.

Overall - This is a really nice departure from the usual hoppy stuff that I brew.  Next time around I think I may mash lower, switch to straight Centennial with maybe some Citra in the dry-hop and either lower the chocolate malt or layer in several different crystal malts to get the color a little lighter.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Abbot (Belgian Dark Strong Ale) -- Brew Day

Upon our recent return from Belgium, I've been dying to do a re-brew of my Belgian "quad" recipe that has been styled off of some of the Westvleteren XII clones floating around.  After being fortunate enough to try the real thing, I had some takeaways that I wanted to implement for my next go at it.

I had previously mashed at 149f for my quad as that's what the recipe called for and the style is usually quite dry.  When tasting the real thing, I couldn't help but notice that the mouthfeel was a lot fuller than the one that I had produced.  I decided to step up the mash temp a touch to 152f and to try to control some of my mash chemistry better than the first time around.

The grain bill is quite large on this beer, so I finally got to test out the seams on my custom-built BIAB bag.  Needless to say, it worked perfectly.  After some slight acid additions to the mash to correct pH, we got the boil underway.  The wort had a beautiful color that was only enhanced when I added the belgian candi sugar after the boil.

Also, this is my first brew using my new PET Big Mouth Bubbler.  This thing is just nasty.

The Abbot (Belgian Dark Strong Ale)
5.5 gallon batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.092
Est FG: 1.013
Est ABV: 10.5%
IBU: 41
SRM: 37

15.0lb Belgian Pilsner Malt
1.50lb Caramunich Malt
0.75lb Belgian Biscuit Malt
0.38lb Aromatic Malt
0.25lb Special B Malt
0.18lb Chocolate Malt
2.00lb Belgian Candi Sugar, Dark (add after boil)
1.00lb Belgian Candi Sugar, Amber (add after boil)

1.0oz Northern Brewer @ 60 min
1.0oz Hallertauer Hersbrucker @ 30 min
1.0oz Styrian Goldings @ 30 min

1300ml starter of WY3787 Trappist High Gravity (Westmalle)

Mash @ 152f for 90 min

5/15/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Had to add additional acid again to lower the mash pH into the correct range.  Perhaps I should get my water chemistry rechecked?  Overshot my volume a bit and gathered 8.5gal of 1.054 wort for a 71% efficiency -- only slightly off recipe so I'm just going with it. Ended up with 5.5gal of 1.085 gravity wort as I didn't have time to boil down as much as needed (the trouble with brewing on a weeknight....)

5/28/2014 -- Split and racked into 3 gallon plastic carboys.  One stayed clean, the other got 0.5oz of medium toast French oak cubes.

7/15/2014 -- Bottled the clean batch with 3.0oz of corn sugar for 2.8 vol of carbonation.

7/19/2014 -- Bottled the oak aged batch with 3.0oz of corn sugar for 2.8vol of carbonation.  Judging from the taste going into bottles, the oak aged portion has the potential to be the best beer I've brewed yet.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Blight Batch #2 (Farmhouse Ale) -- Brew Day

SWMBO out of town = double-brew weekend.

I've been wanting to do a re-brew of my house Farmhouse Ale ever since it scored a 39 in the NHC and advanced to the Philly min-BOS.  It was my first competition, so I wasn't expecting much, but now I'm greedy and am pissed that it didn't advance.  Maybe next year.

For this re-brew, I'm again piggybacking off a fellow Philly home brewer after he blogged about his experience with The Yeast Bay's Wallonian Farmhouse Ale yeast strain.  Given the problems that I had with the DuPont strain last time, I'm very much willing to try out a new strain.  I'm also adding a few pounds of rye malt to add a bit of a more rounded, spicy taste.

Additionally, I've raised the mash temperature a bit to compensate for the much better attenuation of the Wallonian Farmhouse strain.  I've been playing around with my water chemistry a bit, and I'm putting the sulfate levels a bit more balanced in this one, in the 80ppm range, hoping to come out with a nice flavorful beer that isn't overwhelmed with the bitter hop punch.

I'm also using my newer whirlpool hopping approach whereby I add a small amount of the 3oz of whirlpool hops at flameout and stir this for a few minutes.  Then I drop in my immersion chiller and start the cooling process while adding a few hop pellets every 30 seconds or so until the wort drops below 180f.  Once this threshold is reached, I add the remaining whirlpool hops (around 2oz on this batch) and stir this pretty vigorously for around 3-5 minutes and then proceed to chill down to pitching temps.

Recently, for my brews that trend to the hoppier side, I've been relying on my flameout/steeping additions for the majority of my IBUs.  I've found a small amount of Magnum as a first wort hop adds a nice round bitterness that nicely complements the softer IBUs from the flameout additions.

Wake up -- it's brew day.
The Blight v.2 (Farmhouse Ale)
5.5 gal batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.054
Est FG: 1.004
Est ABV: 6.6%
IBU: 33
SRM: 4.3

9lb Pilsner Malt
2lb Rye Malt
1lb Flaked Wheat
1lb Candi Sugar Syrup, Clear (add to end of boil)
0.5lb Carafoam

0.2oz Magnum @ FWH (10 IBU)
0.5oz Calypso @ 5 min (4 IBU)
0.5oz Citra @ 5 min (4 IBU)
0.5oz Mosaic @ 5 min (4 IBU)
1oz Calypso @ Steep 10 min (4 IBU)
1oz Citra @ Steep 10 min (4 IBU)
1oz Mosaic @ Steep 10 min (4 IBU)
2oz Calypso @ Dry-Hop 4 days
2oz Citra @ Dry-Hop 4 days
2oz Mosaic @ Dry-Hop 4 days

1250ml starter of Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse

Mash @ 150f for 90 min

5/4/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Initial mash temp at 151f, figured that should be fine to drop through 150ish through the 90 minute mash.  Added gypsum and lactic to get sulfates and pH into range.  pH came in a touch high again mid-mash so I added another bit of lactic to get it to 5.3.  Gathered 8 gal of 1.041 wort for a 76% efficiency -- quite a bit better than I'd been experiencing lately.  Who knows, maybe its the crush.  Boil proceeded as normal.  Conducted whirlpool hopping as indicated above.  Gathered 5.5gal of 1.053 wort.  Fermentation in approx. 3 hours -- one of the fastest I've ever had.

5/21/2014 -- Dry hops added.

5/24/2014 -- Bottled.  FG of 1.004 is just totally stupid.  Amazing attenuation on this strain.  Tasted great.  Primed with 4.8oz corn sugar for 2.75vol carbonation.

7/6/2014 -- Some tasting notes.  Not too bad, but not what I was hoping for...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Tired Hands HopHands Clone -- Brew Day

I recently was fortunate enough to spend a Sunday afternoon at the newish Tired Hands Brewing Company brewpub located just a short drive away from Philly in Ardmore, PA.  The brewpub, run by Jean Broillet and his wife Julie, has been getting some very positive press since it opened for its quality hop-forward beers and constantly changing tap list full of small-batch, well-crafted brews.

Of their two regulars, HopHands and SaisonHands, I dramatically preferred HopHands.  The brew seemed just perfect for a summer quencher.  HopHands is a 4.8% ABV American Pale Ale described by Tired Hands as "brewed with oats and hopped with a blend of Simcoe, Amarillo, and Centennial.  Not os lush citrus, fresh cut grass, under-ripe kiwi, and slight pineapple".  I'm not a big kiwi aficionado, but I'm very impressed by that description.

A fellow Philly home brewer did a ton of legwork already trying to clone this beer, so I'm merely adjusting his recipe for what he said he would change for the next go around.

My mash pH came in a little high at around 5.6, so I added a bit more lactic to the mash to drop it to around 5.45.  It seems my chemistry spreadsheet is off a bit, the past few batches I've had to add some more lactic to the mash.

Tired Hands HopHands
5.5 gallon batch -- 60 minute boil
Est OG: 1.048
Est FG: 1.010
Est ABV: 4.9%
IBU: 36.1
SRM: 4.4

9.5lb 2-Row Pale Malt
1.5lb Flaked Oats

0.3oz Magnum @ FWH (16 IBU)
0.5oz Amarillo @ 5 min (3 IBU)
0.5oz Centennial @ 5 min (3 IBU)
0.5oz Simcoe @ 5 min (4 IBU)
0.5oz Amarillo @ Steep 10 min (2 IBU)
0.5oz Centennial @ Steep 10 min (3 IBU)
0.5oz Simcoe @ Steep 10 min (4 IBU)
2oz Amarillo @ Dry-Hop 4 Days
2oz Centennial @ Dry-Hop 4 Days
2oz Simcoe @ Dry-Hop 4 Days

750ml Starter of washed WY1028 London Ale

Mash @ 150f for 60 minutes.

5/3/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Mash pH came in a bit high so added 1ml of lactic to drop it to 5.45.  Efficiency came in low again at 68%.  Maybe I'll just throw in the towel and assume this is my new baseline efficiency.  Gathered 5.25gal of 1.046 wort.

5/18/2014 -- Dry hops added.

5/22/2014 -- Bottled.  Final gravity was 1.010.  Right on target.  Got two cases of bottles, added 4.1oz of corn sugar to prime at 2.4vol.

7/6/2014 -- Tasting notes.  Came out pretty nice.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Beer Travels -- Belgium/France

My wife and I recently returned from our first, hopefully of many, trip together to Europe.  As my wife is a huge Francophile, we spent the majority of the trip being tourists throughout Paris.  Since we were in the area, I convinced her that we should pop up to Belgium for a few days and crush some delicious beers before we return to the States (she didn't need much convincing).  Our plan was to spend 6 days in Paris, take a quick Thalys train north for 2 days in Brussels and 1 day in Bruges.  Both of the countries are spectacularly beautiful places, so much so that it really makes American cities pale in comparison.  We had a wonderful time in both spots and we really were upset coming home.

In both cities we booked lodging via AirBnB.  If this is not a service you've used in the past, I highly recommend it.  Compared to a regular hotel, its much cheaper and it places you in the "real" neighborhoods of a city so you can really feel the culture and live the life.  This is the third time I've used AirBnB and I really don't think I'll book hotels again unless absolutely necessary.

Paris (this won't take long)
As beautiful of a city as Paris is, there really is no beer scene that I could find.  Almost literally nothing.  France is truly still a wine country which is somewhat amazing considering the level of globalization these days and the merging of beer into gastronomy in the States and elsewhere.  We stayed in the fashionable Le Marais section in the 3rd arrondissement.  This section is fantastic and is filled with cafes, wine bars, great restaurants, art galleries and tons of shopping.  It also has a much older/historic feel than most of bustling Paris.

We did stumble upon one decent beer bar in Le Marais, L'Art Brut Bistrot.  The bar, which we originally thought was a restaurant, is right off of the Pasage Moliere -- this is literally just a passage between buildings that you could easily walk past.  The small bar had a great ambiance and looked to be filled with students as the crowd trended young and I heard several different languages.  L'Art Brut Bistrot had a decent beer list compared to elsewhere we dined in Paris with the menu having a few Chimays and the like.  Nothing to write home about, but decent for Paris.  The staff was incredibly friendly and seemingly very appreciative that we tried to stumble around the French language -- to which they always answered in English.  They taught us some new phrases and were genuinely happy that we had found their little bar.

I really only drank beer on one other occasion in Paris.  Many of the cafes/brasseries were advertising something called Picon Biere.  Figuring that this was just a local Parisian beer that isn't exported, I ordered one with the intent of trying the local flavor.  The French aren't particularly known for their beer, but I assumed this was just some local lager.  What was delivered to our table was a total abomination.  Apparently, I have since learned, Picon is actually a liqueur derived from fresh oranges.  What is done in Paris, is a bar will take something like a Heineken or a Kronenbourg and add some Sirop de Picon to the beer.  It lends the beer a ginger/orange type flavor with the aromatics just leaping out of the glass from the effervescence of the base lager.  It was truly atrocious.

But, beer aside, this is a wonderful city.  I was in awe over the sheer size of some of the public spaces that were impeccably maintained and open for all citizens to use.  I can't imagine undertaking some of these public works in the States without us falling all over ourselves with the politics.  The sights, food and people we met in Paris were all very kind and friendly.  It's an incredible city that I know I'll visit again.

Holy shit.

The quality of beer in this city is just amazing.  Upon arriving at our flat in Brussels, I whipped out my "Around Brussels in 80 Beers" book -- this was instrumental for beer AND food -- and checked out some of the local landmarks in our neighborhood.  We were staying in Ixelles, the posh neighborhood directly to the southeast of the city center.  Right around of the corner from us was a bottle shop that was rumored to have some Westvleteren on hand occaisionally...

Beer Mania (Ixelles)
This little shop along a quiet street in the Ixelles neighborhood is quite the little gem.  Upon walking through the front door, you're greeted with shelves after shelves of some of the finest beer on the planet.  At first we grabbed a bottle of Girardin Kriek and were going to crack that at a table in the store (which also boasts a small cafe geared to beer paired finger foods) when my wife noticed a few wooden crates marked "WESTVLETEREN".  Since I hadn't shut up about Westy's for several days, she expertly guided me towards a pallet that I just wanted to fall on top of and snuggle my way into the middle.  Beer Mania had several stacks of Westy Blonde, 8 and 12.  Now, since, like us, Belgians are capitalists, the Westy's were all priced outrageously at €12 a bottle.  Did that stop me?  Of course not!  A bottle of each please, s'il-vous-plait!  

After sitting down at the cafe, the owner mentioned that he has his own beer, Mea Culpa, that he brews and serves as this cafe.  As a homebrewer myself, I felt obliged to take him up on trying his concoction.  Along with a cone of fries, he brought out an expertly crafted Belgian Blonde.  I could get used to this Belgian lifestyle.  We put the Westvleteren's into the fridge back in our flat and ventured into the Brussels City Center in the drection of Moeder Lambic...

Moeder Lambic (Brussels)
Again, holy shit.  Moeder Lambic is perhaps one of the nerdiest beer nerd bars on the planet -- and with good reason.  At any time, you can find a draft list containing multiple Cantillon one-offs, Tilquin, de Ranke, De La Senne, and other gems that I hadn't heard of and couldn't wait to try.  The bar itself was quite modern with a generous amount of seating outside which was perfect for the beautiful Spring weather that we had for the trip.  The bartenders are incredibly knowledgeable and visibly proud of the establishment.  Here's what we sampled at Moeder:

Cantillon Kriek
Cantillon Faro
Cantillon Mamouche
Cantillon Fou' Fonne
Kriek De Ranke
Brouwers Verzet Oud Bruin Editie 2012

This is truly just a stupid beer list.  There was so much more that I wanted to try but considering we had to find our way home in a strange city where we don't really speak the language I felt it best to cut myself off.  I was almost wishing that beer didn't get you drunk so I could keep trying more...almost.
Looking stupid enjoying some Fou' Fonne

Thoughts on Westvleteren
By now the Westy's had cooled in the fridge so we got to tasting.  These have been written up ad nauseam, so I'll be brief.

Westy Blonde -- This was a wonderful beer.  I don't often drink blondes in the States just because there are so many tasty, thirst quenching IPAs available, but this beer was really nice.  I'd say its probably the best example of the style that I've tasted, although its probably outside of the official BJCP IBU guidelines -- it seemed a tad hoppy to me.

Westy 8 (Dubbel) -- This was the very first of the Westvleteren's that I tried and I was a bit worried.  I'm typically not a huge fan of the style, and I have to admit this didn't sway me all that much.  It was very nicely malty, its just not a flavor that I prefer all that much.

Westy 12 (BDSA) --  Perfection.  This was definitely the best quad that I've ever sampled in my life.  It's very hard to live up to the stupid hype of "best beer in the world", but I feel this one did pretty well.  It pours with a thick, rich head and has a very creamy, full mouthfeel.  I've brewed several clones in my day and I'd say that the taste of mine are pretty close, but the true 12 had a much more "buttery" texture to it that was just fantastic.  Not worth importing a case of it at close to $1000, but I'm glad I paid the 12 euros to try it.

Brasserie Cantillon
Visiting the Brasserie Cantillon in the southern section of Brussels was a day that I will long remember.  The walk takes you through a bit of a rougher neighborhood with a predominantly Middle Eastern ethnic makeup.  It is hardly the area in which I imagined I would find one of the most revered breweries in the world.  The outside of the brewery itself is incredibly unassuming.  I had known that space constraints were a major factor in the scarcity of Cantillon brews, but never in the world would I have thought it would be this small.  The area around the brewery does feel a little rough and you can't help but wonder how much this has changed over the years.  The building density also makes it very evident that it will be impossible for the current brewery to expand production on a meaningful basis.  Relocation would be difficult with regards to spontaneous fermentation -- who knows what you'll get in a new location?

The brewery opens up into a tasting room, maybe "area" is a better word, that also doubles as barrel/pallet/bottle storage.  Everything was very crowded the day we were there as the Zythos beer festival was the same weekend.  As Cantillon doesn't participate in Zythos, most festival-goers made their own stop on the day that we happened to visit.  Oh well, the more the merrier.  Cantillon runs a self-guided tour (guided tours available with advance notice) throughout the brewery with a very detailed pamphlet about their process as you go from grain to glass.  For a self-guided tour it was surprisingly well done.  When we did the tour the brewing season had recently ended (October-April) so they really allowed you to walk freely around the whole facility.
The coolship in the attic of Cantillon
Barrel aging room at Cantillon
At the conclusion of the tour, all guests are invited to try a half glass of Cantillon Gueuze, followed up by your choice of either Kriek, Unblended Lambic or Iris.  After the tastings, they run a bar that has multiple Cantillon varietals along with the occasional collaboration.  We sprung for a bottle of the Lou Pepe Kriek.  The Lou Pepe series of Cantillon are probably as close to a "brewer's reserve" that you could get.  The Lou Pepe Kriek is a two year old lambic aged in wine barrels and sit on top of a generous (close to 10lb per 5 gallon) amount of tart cherries.  It is simply wonderful.  One of the great things about getting this beer at the brewery is that it totally lacks any type of label and just has an "LPK" marked on the bottle.  While tasting, we ran into a few other Americans beer nerds and had a great time.  One of the Americans was a Chicago guy who is a master BJCP judge and was in town for the Zythos festival.  One of the other American's was a brewer from the Brauerei Uerige in Dusseldorf who had graduated from the Siebel Institute in Chicago.  Fantastic nerdery proceeded.  In all honesty, the Cantillon tour should be mandatory for all beer nerds world wide.

Jean Pierre Van Roy of Cantillon

The train to Bruges takes roughly an hour and leaves from any of the three Brussels stations.  It's a "commuter" train so you can go to the station on the same day and buy tickets.  Trains seemed to be leaving every half hour.  Bruges is simply a magical city.  It's a beautiful place that is completely overrun by tourists during the day.  We stayed somewhat into the evening and by around 7pm the population of the town had fallen by close to 90%.

That said, we still very much enjoyed Bruges.  Within the city limits of Bruges, there is only one brewery still in operation.  Brouwerij De Halve Maan offers a 45 minute tour (which we did not take) and a very large, modern taproom/restaurant.  De Halve Maan is famous for their Bruges Zot Belgian Blonde beer, the unfiltered version of which can only be purchased from the taproom at the brewery.  The beer has won numerous gold medals including the World Beer Cup in 2006.

We decided to pair this with a pot of the Flemish Stew for Two.  This was a wonderful slow cooked beef strew that paired perfectly with a dry Belgian Blond.  De Halve Maan also offers a dubbel, tripel and quad, however in the spirit of sightseeing we didn't get a chance to try these.

Belgian Cuisine
We were only in Belgium for three nights, so our experience with the cuisine was somewhat limited. However, there were a few highlights that are worth pointing out:

Moeder Lambic -- They have a nice mix of finger foods, antipasti, tartines and quiches.  We tried a mixed plate of antipasti and it was HUGE.  It was really nice to snack on while tasting some Cantillon.  One plate served two easily.  It wasn't anything particularly Belgian, but it was delicious nonetheless.

Waffles -- Get them.  Get them plain.  Get them with sugar.  Get them with nutella.  Get them with anything.  Just get them and don't stop.

Chocolate -- We stopped by Passion Chocolat and got a small box of chocolates.  It was fantastic.  The girl behind the counter was extremely friendly and loved giving us samples -- which we gladly accepted.

In 't Spinnekopke (The Spider's Web) -- This is a cozy, beer aficionado restaurant on the west side of Brussels.  If you are a non-French or Dutch speaker, be forewarned, the staff seemed a bit shaky on English.  Luckily we have a bit of French under our belts and managed to mumble and point our way through the menu.  We had the "Mussels Au Gratin" (super cheesy deliciousness) and escargots.  Both were fantastic.  For dinner my wife had the duck breast and I had rabbit cooked in lambic.  As you can assume, that was also fantastic.  For dinner we polished it off with a waffle on fire -- because...why...wouldn't you?  Cantillon, Boon, and Drie Fonteinen can all be had here.

Dell' Arte - We got an early dinner here while in Bruges.  The service was overly nice and probably spoke better English than I do.  I had another rabbit, this time in kriek.  Again, fantastic.

This simply was an amazing trip.  The quality of food, wine and beer consumed was incredible.  If you get the chance to swing by Brussels for a day, Cantillon and Moeder are simply must do's.  I can't wait to get back.