Unique wine dinner

A gastronomic dinner

To enjoy my rather exceptional wine collection, I organize from time to time a unique wine dinner.
The recipe: tasting very old wines, supplied by me, accompanied by a gastronomic dinner feast organized and personally prepared by Chef Renaat Morel.
See the menu for the dishes and the wine list.

Participants are always carefully selected. This time, Ambassador Nicolas Chapuis (EU) and his wife, Ambassador Marc Vinck (Belgium) and his wife, along with Renaat, Susan, my wife and myself.
As it happens, I know H.E. Chapuis from the nineties when I was working in Shanghai for ALSTOM.
I was again asked for the “occasion”: did I become grandfather? I am since long, nope. It is simply to experiment unusually old wines along with exceptional food, and with nice company. It would be insane to open those bottles at home where I am the only one to drink.

The food and the wine

It was a unique wine dinner as I brought along two bottles of a very famous French wine, exactly one hundred years old. And a Rioja from 1963, plus a not so young Médoc.
See my tools; opening those bottles is pure surgery. Normally impossible to extract the cork without some mess. Then the wines were filtered and transferred to a decanter. See one successful “surgery”:

190626 winedinner

Only the Médoc cork came out nicely.

The verdict? The 1919 wines were just “drinkable” and as one said, tasted a bit like Chinese rice wine. The Spanish one was, as usual, pretty nice.
What counts is the unique experience to say, “I tasted a one-hundred-year old Chateau Lafite (Rothschild)”.

Now I am already thinking of the next wine experiment!

World’s biggest beer exporter

Belgium number one

The Federation of Belgian Brewers (104 members) has published the results for 2018: The world biggest beer exporter is Belgium.
Exports went up into the European Union. Exports declined a little outside of the EU (USA, Chine et Canada). The source is in French.

World’s biggest beer exporter

One of the famous beer shops in Brussels near Grand Place

It also mentions:

  • Exports went up into the European Union. Exports declined a little outside of the EU (USA, China and Canada).
  • Overall Belgium beats Germany in terms of exports. Top importers are France, followed by the USA, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy and China.
  • Consumption of beer in Belgium declined a little.
  • There is a notable increase in low-alcohol beer and no-alcohol beer.
  • In Belgium we have about 300 beer production centers; there were 40 new breweries in Belgium in 2018.

The joy of trying out Belgian beers in Beijing

The updated list of beers is here: https://www.beijing1980.com/belgian-beer/

See some pictures of my investigation!

Yeah hard work!

Belgian beer in Beijing updated

Problems with import

Another Belgian beer in Beijing updated.
Recently the market for Belgian beer in Beijing has been through turbulent times. Sometimes the Belgian exporters are stubborn, don’t follow advice, cut their former channels. Or the Chinese block and destroy containers of beer because of “prohibited content”: that is the little-know acesulfame story. The chambers never look into this. Delirium is suffering and will get worse. Duvel still in some bars and shops but some of my sources are worried about next months import. All very unclear.

Updated list

See https://www.beijing1980.com/belgian-beer/
Bottles added! I will post more updates on Beer in Beijing and beer stories.

Gentse Strop

Ghent, my hometown in Belgium: see the earlier post:
https://www.beijing1980.com/2015/01/30/ghent-my-hometown-in-belgium/

I mentioned the story of Stroppendragers. And the beer Gentse Strop that you can find in Morel’s Restaurant.

See here more details on that story: stroppendragers

Westvleteren in Beijing

Trappist Beer

In Beijing there is plenty of Trappist beer but finding Westvleteren in Beijing was a surprise.
Westvleteren is one of the recognized Trappist beers. See here the introduction by Listverse.

In the silent halls of a 17th-century Trappist monastery, something dark is brewing. The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, commonly referred to as the Trappists, is a monastic order that focuses on the work of one’s own hands as the true path to salvation. Although they don’t take an official vow of silence, Trappist monks avoid speaking unless absolutely necessary, and any speech that mocks or puts down someone else is a sin. All in all, they’re not bad fellows.
But regardless of any religious affiliation, Trappist monks brew some of the meanest beers in the world. There are only 10 authentic Trappist breweries in the world, and six of those are in Belgium. Westvleteren XII, a Trappist beer brewed not far from the city of Ypres, is often called the best beer in the world. Everything the Trappists make from their beer goes back into their abbeys in accordance with their vow of poverty.

According to another source there are now officially 11:
6 in Belgium, 2 in The Netherlands, 1 in Austria, 1 in USA and 1 in France:

  1. Achel, of Hamont Achel
  2. Chimay
  3. Engelszell – Austria
  4. La Trappe – The Netherlands
  5. Orval
  6. Rochefort
  7. Spencer – USA
  8. Westmalle
  9. Zundert – The Netherlands
  10. Westvleteren
  11. Mont de Cats – France (recognized in 2011)

More about Trappist and Westvleteren

Read this: “Ale and hearty: Aging Trappist monks brew on”  by Philip Blenkinsop
A gold standard for beer connoisseurs, the Trappist ale in Westmalle Abbey streams through state-of-the-art equipment with not a monk in sight.
The full article:
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-belgium-beer-trappists/ale-and-hearty-aging-trappist-monks-brew-on-idUSTRE59J01L20091020

From Wikipedia:
Westvleteren (Brouwerij Westvleteren) is a brewery founded in 1838 at the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus in Vleteren, Belgium. The brewery’s three beers have acquired an international reputation for taste and quality, Westvleteren 12 being considered by some to be the best beer in the world. The beers are not brewed to normal commercial demands but are sold in small quantities weekly from the doors of the monastery itself to individual buyers on an advance-order basis. Read the full story:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westvleteren_Brewery

20 February 2013 – Vleteren Journal
“Cult Beer Alters Town, but Not the Monks Who Make It”, by John Tagliabue NYT:
VLETEREN, Belgium — On the face of it, this quaint Belgian town has few attractions — a charming brick parish church; a tall wooden windmill at the town’s main intersection. But it has the world’s best beer. In the past few years, several Web sites that ask beer drinkers to rate their favorite brews have accorded that honor to a strong, dark local brew known as Westvleteren 12. In fact, the enthusiastic American Web site RateBeer.com gave the beer the honor two years in a row, dethroning a Swedish dark beer, Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter.
Read all: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/world/europe/cult-beer-westvleteren-12-gives-belgian-town-a-lift.html

And about Chimay:
15 January 2003 – Chimay Journal; “Monks’ Brew Showers Blessings on Belgian Town” by John Tagliabue NYT.
With his billowing white beard and black and white hooded habit, Dom Armand Veilleux, a Canadian-born monk in his mid-60’s, more resembles a figure from Umberto Eco’s novel of monastic mystery, ”The Name of the Rose,” than your average brewery executive.
Yet just across a snow-dusted garden from the room where he receives visitors, a microbrewery throbs, its six huge stainless steel vats fermenting more than 13,000 gallons of beer a day.
Only five years ago, the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Scourmont, where Dom Armand has been abbot for almost five years, turned out 15 percent less. But these days, Belgian Trappist beers — heavy brews, often dark and with as much as 9 percent alcohol — are surging in popularity, spreading blessings on the hilly farmland around Chimay, pop. 10,000, traditionally one of the poorer Belgian lands that snuggle against the French border.
Read the full story: https://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/15/world/chimay-journal-monks-brew-showers-blessings-on-belgian-town.html

Westvleteren in Beijing

I was most surprised to find the beer online: RMB129. Then one evening I was in “Bottleshop”, on Xindong Street, close to Jiamei Dental, a small shop and bar with an impressive choice of top beers. There it was sold for RMB200.
I decided to share my precious Trappist with Renaat Morel who knows all the little secrets of the brewing industry in Belgium.

According to Renaat Westvleteren is pretty close to St. Bernardus Abt 12. I won’t dare to judge.
I had never tasted the beer before as it it basically not available in Belgium, except if you queue up at the Abbey..

Beers with Waterloo history

Napoleon and Waterloo

A bit more about two beers with Waterloo history
Morel’s Restaurant in Beijing is the only place where you can find the special beer “Cuvée Napoleon”. Earlier the restaurant had also the Waterloo beer.

See here some pics related to the two beers, they are also listed in the Belgian beer page.
See below the descriptions as well as some historical background. I left the text in French as I found it in a couple of sources. I cannot confirm all the “historical” stories are correct.
See more in English here:
http://waterloo-beer.com/en/history
and
http://fermedemontsaintjean.be/en/#

Cuvée Napoleon

 “Cuvée Napoleon 1er”, Waterloo 1815” – Belgian Double Dark Beer – Alc. 14%
Delicious Napoleon Beer not only tastes good, it also has a history.
The beer was brewed at a small farm called Le Caillou at Ligny, near Waterloo, where the French general Napoleon was defeated by the British in 1815.
In those years, beer was brewed in winter on large farms, to be consumed the next summer when the farmers went to work on their fields. Water was undrinkable due to pollution in the countryside in Belgium and the Netherlands, while in France they drank wine.
It was called “tafelbier” (table beer) in Dutch and had an alohol content of between 1 and 3%. The farm owner also brewed beer for his own consumption, which was better and had a higher alcohol content.

At the time of the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon once visited a farm at Hougoumont to stay the night and the farm owner let Napoleon taste his beer. He liked it so much he gave his name to the beer. After that visit, the beer for Emperor Napoleon was brewed on his birthday, August 15.
When Jacques, the farm owner, told a friend Napoleon liked his beer, he was advised to start brewing the beer in his small brewery. That’s what Jacques did, as brewing was in his blood as a descendent of a family of brewers. The beer’s recipe was preserved by the family
A special brew was made on the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s Battle of Waterloo, which took place on June 18, 1815.

“La Bataille de Hougoumont”

Hougoumont — ou Goumont — est le nom d’un lieu-dit situé sur le territoire de la commune de Braine-l’Alleud, dans la province du Brabant wallon en Belgique (Arrondissement de Nivelles).
The farm of Hougoumont i was held by the Duke of Wellington.
Hougoumont a joué un rôle central dans la bataille de Waterloo dans laquelle les forces alliées des armées commandées par le duc de Wellington (composée de Britanniques, d’Allemands) et celle des Prussiens, commandée par le maréchal Blücher, étaient opposées à l’armée française dite Armée du Nord emmenée par l’empereur Napoléon Ier.
La Ferme du Caillou se situe au hameau du Caillou à Vieux-Genappe, section de la commune belge de Genappe dans la province du Brabant wallon.
Après sa victoire contre les Prussiens lors de la bataille de Ligny le 16 juin 1815, Napoléon Ier installa son dernier Quartier Général à la ferme du Caillou le 17 juin. Il y passa la nuit et y établit ses plans de bataille pour la bataille de Waterloo le matin du 18 juin 1815. La ferme fut ravagée par un incendie le matin du 18 juin 1815.

Histoire La Bière Waterloo

Aujourd’hui, la Waterloo fait partie de la prestigieuse Finest Beer Selection de John Martin, qui entend ainsi préserver le fleuron brassicole du Brabant, et valoriser tout l’art des microbrasseries régionales. Il s’agit là d’une véritable reconnaissance pour cette bière originale et artisanale de qualité. C’est également la garantie de sa pérennité et de sa notoriété grandissante auprès des amateurs de bières fines et exclusives.

Histoire La ferme de Mont-Saint-Jean

La bière Waterloo est brassée avec passion à la ferme de Mont-Saint-Jean, située sur le champ de bataille de Waterloo. La notoriété de ce site historique, sis à cheval sur Waterloo, Plancenoit et Braine-l’Alleud, remonte bien au-delà des combats du 18 juin 1815.
D’importantes rénovations furent entreprises en 1778. Après la Révolution française, la ferme fut déclarée bien national, pour ensuite être acquise par un propriétaire privé, Grégoire Boucquéau, en 1815. En 1846, la ferme fut finalement vendue à une famille de fermiers originaire des Flandres, les Claus.
La ferme joua un rôle clef durant la Bataille de Waterloo. En effet, le Duc de Wellington décida d’y établir son hôpital de campagne lors du fameux « Bal de la Duchesse de Richmond», organisé le 15 juin 1815 à Bruxelles.
Les jours qui suivirent, environ 6.000 soldats blessés y furent soignés, sous le contrôle du Deputy Inspector Gunning du Royal Army Medical Corps, et de son équipe, d’où l’appellation Hôpital des Anglais ou Ambulance Britannique.
Les soldats britanniques ne furent pas les seuls à être soignés à Mont-Saint-Jean. Durant quatre jours, les médecins et chirurgiens prirent soin sans relâche des nombreux blessés. La scène fut d’une rare violence et selon les témoignages, « les membres amputés s’entassaient aux quatre coins de la cour de la ferme ». Le nombre de victimes s’éleva à 63.000 à la suite des 4 batailles ayant eu lieu entre le 15 et le 18 juin 1815.
Le Prince Guillaume d’Orange-Nassau y fut soigné pour une blessure à l’épaule, avant d’être transféré à Bruxelles. En 1826, son père, le roi Guillaume 1er des Pays-Bas érigea le site de la Butte du Lion en son honneur, juste en face de la ferme. Les aides de camp de Wellington, les colonels Delancey et Gordon, ainsi que son neveu et secrétaire, Lord FitzRoy Somerset, y furent également soignés.
À cette époque, l’eau contenait beaucoup de bactéries. Pour éviter les contaminations, il était plus prudent de boire de la bière. Les brasseries locales situées aux alentours approvisionnèrent les soldats en bière de haute fermentation, comme celles connues aujourd’hui sous le nom de Waterloo, en l’honneur du Prince de Waterloo, titre officiel du Duc de Wellington.
Napoléon donna lui-même le nom bataille de Mont-Saint-Jean à la bataille de Waterloo, prouvant ainsi l’importance du site de Mont-Saint-Jean.
Située à une vingtaine de kilomètres de Bruxelles, la ville de Waterloo est célèbre dans le monde entier pour avoir été le terrain d’une des plus célèbres batailles napoléoniennes: la bataille de Waterloo.
Cette bataille légendaire s’est déroulée le 18 juin 1815 et s’est terminée par la victoire décisive de deux armées : celle des alliés, commandée par le Duc de Wellington (composée de Britanniques, d’Allemands et de Néerlandais) et celle des Prussiens ; toutes deux opposées à l’armée française emmenée par l’Empereur Napoléon 1er.
Les combats n’eurent pas tout à fait lieu à Waterloo mais un peu plus au sud, sur le territoire des communes actuelles de Lasne, Braine-l’Alleud et de Genappe. En France, la bataille a souvent été appelée « bataille de Mont-Saint-Jean », lieu plus précis de l’engagement effectif.
© La bière Waterloo et la Ferme de Mont-Saint-Jean sont des marques déposées et exploitées par la société John Martin s.a, rue du Cerf 191, 1332 Genval, Belgique.