Old China Hands lunch 1 February

Our monthly lunch at Morel’s Restaurant

Old China Hands lunch 1 February was again a pleasant surprise. We were worried how to fill the tables but we ended up with a full house. With 39 we were close to beat our record of May 2018 (43). I give up predicting numbers! It seems the “weirder” the date, the more attendants.

We also had the people of UWEE (Union of Western & Eastern Education) to come and make a small video of the (official) specialists we have right now in the SAFEA experts group.

The video was later posted on their website.

A member few of you know…

Indeed our Belgian friend Wilfried does not talk much about all what he does, except singing with me in our KTVs. Here an old article of China Daily I found back. Little has changed for him since then…
18 September 2012 – Body repatriation becomes growing business in country
By Li Yao (China Daily)

Our next lunch

Next one is Friday 1 March. As all prices in Beijing have been going up, Morel’s Restaurant finally has to increase their too-cheap price of RMB 98 for the copious set menu. Later I will announce the new price that still will be very attractive.
Beware all non-RSVP: a new clean-up of my e-mail list is coming…

Old China Hands lunch 4 January

Our monthly lunch at Morel’s Restaurant

Our Old China Hands lunch 4 January in Morel’s Restaurant again was on a “funny date” (and so will the next one), but we still had a total of 31! A good way to start the new year 2019!
Otherwise nothing special to mention except everybody seemed happy as usual.

Our next lunch

Next one is Friday 1 February, the last working day before Chinese New Year, the Year of the Pig.
Many might be away already for holidays but we count on the hard core to fill some tables.

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:

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:

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..

Belgium the Land of Beer

Belgian beer in Beijing

If Belgium is the land of beer, I have been surprised to find so many of them in Beijing.
So I started a Page of Belgian beer!
The page will be updated when appropriate and I will post more stories about Belgian beer.
See here part of a long introduction of Belgian beer culture, from LISTVERSE.COM.
As said in my page, opinions differ on how many beers and how many breweries we really have in Belgium. The following is one of the estimates.
Interesting however is the part on “World’s Largest Beer Menu: “The current holder of the Guinness World Record for most available beers on the menu is Delirium Cafe, located in Belgium’s capital city of Brussels. They have 3,162 beers available on their shelves.” I visited that Café and it is a great place indeed.

Two famous beer temples in Brussels

During my stay in Brussels in September 2017 I finally made a visit to two of the (many) famous beer temples in the center.

See here the pics of Delirium Café and A La Mort Subite.

Belgians are crazy about beer

Young Belgians are weaned on beer with soda, and old Belgians drink it with breakfast. Even the monks in Belgium make beer. The country has been in the brewing tradition since the 1100s—before it even was a country—and time has only served to open the doors for more and better ways to make the inebriating honey of the gods. We visited a few places in Belgium where beer is nigh religion and tasted for ourselves the holy fervor that has stood to make this country a bastion of alcoholic enlightenment. In the process, we’ve come to an inescapable conclusion: These guys are crazy about beer, and we love it.

Belgium has more individual styles of beer per capita than any other country in the world. With a population barely scraping past 11 million, they produced a whopping 1,132 distinct types of beer in 2011. Fast-forward to 2013 and that number is a mind-blowing 3,043 beers that were brewed among all 10 provinces of Belgium. The Flemish Brabant, a province in the north of Belgium, makes 457 beers on its own.

How it started

The region’s interest in beer began when the Catholic Church sanctioned the use of abbeys to brew and distribute beer to raise money for upkeep near the end of the 10th century. Over the years, the nuns in the abbeys began pioneering new ways to brew, strengthening the diversity that was available to the locals in brewing villages. At the turn of the 20th century, there were over 3,000 breweries in Belgium, but the two World Wars had a devastating effect on the Belgian economy that reached deep into the brewing industry. Now, there are only about 180 breweries in Belgium.

More details

See: “10 Ways Belgium Will Change The Way You Drink Beer” by Andrew Handley, October 27, 2014.

10 Ways Belgium Will Change The Way You Drink Beer

See the other sections for more:

  • Spontaneous Fermentation (Lambic)
  • Beer Cocktails
  • The Longest Bar In The World
  • The Bruges Beer Pipeline
  • The Farm Brewery
  • Trappist Beer
  • World’s Largest Beer Menu
  • Unholy Consumption
  • A Glass For Every Beer


Old China Hands lunch 7 December

Our monthly lunch at Morel’s Restaurant

Our Old China Hands lunch 7 December in Morel’s Restaurant failed to beat our previous record of May 2018, but it was again pretty full house: we were 37. Some no-shows, some simply forgot it…
As always a very lively lunch, the last one of 2018.

Our OCH members in the news!

This time of the year we saw several interviews, mostly related to the celebration of “40 years opening up” of China. See here a selection:

Terry Crossman


Emanuele Francia
Positive energy is driving prosperity in China – Opinion – Chinadaily.com.cn


Bruce on CCTV
[News Live] Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Reform and Opening up Bruce Connolly: Observing China from the Window


Gilbert and Bruce in The Bookworm: “Expats witness China’s changes” (14 December 2018)
As China celebrates the 40th anniversary of the reform and opening-up, China Daily website invited over 30 foreigners to share their stories and insights in Beijing on Wednesday.

Our next lunch

Next one is Friday 4 January, the first one for 2019.