8 Dec 2011

Tripel van de Garre and Staminee de Garre

The beer

Served in the most stylish, elegant glassware in beer history.

Presented on a small wooden tray draped in lace, accompanied by a few cubes of local cheese.

Fuzzy, off-white head contrasted against fierce orange body. A tiger in a transparent prison.

Even before it gets anywhere near your face, Tripel van de Garre is a joy to behold.

The closest beer has ever come to art.

Classic Belgian yeast and candi perfumes send a frisson of excitement pulsating through your nervous system.

Taste buds primed, mellow, refined sweetness sweeps into your mouth.

A sublime, dry, wine-like finish almost makes you weep as it slips down your throat, such is its gracefulness.

Its 11% ABV is masterfully hidden – just as it should be – and there’s no alcohol burn.

The house beer.

The definitive example of the style.

The bar

De Garre doesn’t seem to be there the first time you look for it.

Tucked away down an inconspicuous alley between two confectionery shops in Bruges, when you finally reach your destination, it feels like you’ve boarded the train from platform 9¾ at King's Cross station, found the secret garden, discovered Narnia at the back of a wardrobe and stepped through the looking glass.

There is something magical about places that are hidden.

When you uncover the entrance to this place you feel special, privileged and like something fantastically amazing is about to happen.

And it does.

Ramshackle timbers, decrepit staircases, soothing classical music and a murmuring buzz of friendliness greet you like an old friend.

There is nowhere like Staminee de Garre.

The match

Bruges is drenched in a deep fog tonight.

It makes the city distinctly eerie – still undoubtedly charming, but with an edge of mystery, a sense of sorcery afoot.

Ducking down the alley towards Staminee de Garre fills me with an infantile glee that I haven’t experienced in some time.

Coming in from the cold, I take my seat at an empty table and feel a wave of comfort wash over me.

The house tripel please.

I am Jack’s ultimate definition of relaxed.

Staminee de Garre is a place you can drink in alone without ever feeling awkward. My ultimate definition of a great place to consume great beer.

If I were to open a pub in London, it would be modelled on De Garre; a killer house beer, a decent list and a vibe that is so chilled it’s practically asleep. A dream-like atmosphere that still pulses with human activity.

In my quiet contemplation I ponder whether this kind of establishment could be ported over to my hometown.

Sadly, I don’t think it would work.

My perception is that Londoners don’t tend to drink this way. At tables. Nibbling on cheese. Thinking.

I wish I could drink this way. Every night.

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