Posted in May 2012

Belgian Beer Haul

I realize I haven’t been posting much. I’ve been working on my CV and general job search stuff. That takes way more time than you’d think.

Anyway, I was about to break into my Belgian Beer Stash when I realized I hadn’t posted about it yet! So without further ado, I present you with the list of amazing (I hope) Belgian beers. Those of you who appreciate the Stille Nacht (Ryan) may appreciate the De Dolle beers I found.

Belgian Beer Haul

Belgian Beer Haul

It doesn’t look like much for those of you with cars, but we were cursing them by the time we got home.

And for the sake of completeness, here are the beers we sampled while in Belgium.

  • Orval
  • Orval Verte
  • Kasteelbier Bruin
  • St. Bernard Brouwerij Grottenbier Bruin
  • Maes Pils (this was more or less an accident)
  • Leffe Blonde
  • Brasserie Dubuisson Bush Amber
  • De Koninck (original)
  • Tongerlo Brune 6 deg.
  • Tongerlo Blonde
  • Brouwerij Bosteels Pauwel Kwak

Delicious.

Now it’s time to go to a “Vegan Festival”. Because we’re adventurous.

Orval Monastery and Ruins Tour

Orval Beer in Chalice

Orval Beer in Chalice

There are six remaining Trappist monasteries in Belgium that brew beer: Westvleteren, Orval, Rochefort, Chimay, Achel, and Westmalle. And the beer they brew is delicious. It’s so delicious that tourism for these places has grown fairly high in recent years. This has prompted the monasteries to build small restaurant outlets for tourists to treat as a destination, and sample the beer and cheese they make. My brother and I visited a few of these places some years ago, but we missed Orval. So I was excited to add Orval to the list.

We stopped at a local restaurant in the town of Orval, before we arrived at the brewery. We didn’t know it at the time, but the monastery was about 100 meters down the street. Anyway, the first thing to do was try the beer. They only make one kind, but after the drought of flavorful beers, it tasted phenomenal.

Drinking Orval Together

Drinking Orval Together

Next, we toured the ruins of the old monastery before it burnt to the ground during the French Revolution.

Orval Ruins

Orval Ruins

They were pretty awesome. I read all the signs, which taught me that the Orval logo (a fish holding a ring in its mouth) was based on a legend. Apparently, a countess (or someone like that) dropped her ring in some body of water, and after praying that she’d find it again, a fish brought it to her. I’m telling it badly. But that prompted the countess person to give a ton of money to the nearby monks, who started the monastery.

We got to tour a little building that explained how they make beer. They only sell one kind, but they also make a lighter beer called “Verte” (or “Green”) that the monks drink. It’s not for sale, but you can taste it in the cafe nearby.

Orval Verte

Orval Verte. Comes with green writing!

The Verte was a bit odd. It tasted like it was brewed with herbs. I liked it okay. At least it was different; I have a lot of respect for beer that’s different.

Before we left, we picked up a 6-pack of Orval and a block of delicious hard cheese. The beer is sitting on a bench in our apartment. I’m doing my best to resist drinking one.

Sauerkrautsaft (mit Apfelsaft!)

Here is a box containing sauerkraut juice with some apple thrown in. My body can’t decide whether to gag, or convulse.

Sauerkrautsaft

Tastes like someone threw bad meat into the fruit juice

It’s pretty awful. I think if they hadn’t put apple juice in it, I could drink it. But the “it’s juice, but then we added rotting things!” notion has failed here. Back to the drawing board.

No sense in throwing it away yet! It’s time to trick Alissa. Just wait till she comes home! Nobody call her!

Belgian Gas Station Snacks

Last Thursday was a national holiday, so we took a four day vacation and went to Brussels. I’ve been sorting through my photos, trying to pick a photo that best describes the adventure and culture.

Belgian Gas Station Snacks

So many snack possibilities

Mr. and Ms. Kreckel, our driving trip friends, wouldn’t stop at all the gas stations between Germany and Brussels. So we had to compromise, and buy all our snacks here. I got “bolganiese” flavored chips. Alissa got some meat snacks. They were selling huge tubs of loose “American Tobacco”. I would have gotten one, but we haven’t yet taken up smoking.

Anyway, it was a huge success. We ate everything we bought, plus all the snacks the Kreckels purchased for themselves. Sliced meats, gummy bears, chips, chocolate hearts; pretty much all food related items that ended up in the back seat were consumed. We’re pretty proud of ourselves.

TB Original Turmbräu Premium Pils FEINER PILSGENUSS AUS BESTEN ROHSTOFFEN

TB Original Turmbräu Premium Pils

TB Original Turmbräu Premium Pils

The flavor is of rich malts. Oats. Toasted barley, and aromatic hops. Rich and bitter, but not too bitter. The yeast adds a nice bread aroma. Almost perfect.

Not really. This beer was crap.

Also, it took forever to find the brewery. Apparently, it’s owned by Rewe. In other words, it’s the Sam’s Choice of beers. I took the title of this post from the trademark application for the can design.

They trademarked it.

Social Buttons Not Added!

I was planning on adding some share icons for Facebook and Google+ (and so on). I experimented with some plugins today, but all of them were ugly or worked poorly.

I’m not sure how important it is. You guys are all smart enough to copy the link and paste it into your Social Media Platform of choice, right? Do that instead.

We Try So Hard To Fit In

We were invited to a birthday party on Saturday.

This was a problem.

Actually, several problems. I’ll list them here.

  • What do you wear to a German/Italian birthday party?!
  • What do you bring?!
  • Who will be there that knows enough English to carry on a conversation??
  • When the host invited us, how drunk was he?
  • Do we buy him a small gift? A card? A cupcake? Five Euro in a plain white envelope?

I only have two pairs of shoes with me; rough-looking gray Converse, and a pair of expensive dress shoes for interviews. That means I either have to dress down, or dress up. Can I wear old jeans with nice black shoes and a t-shirt? Nobody knows. I finally settled on my dress shoes, a casual button-down, jeans, and a brown sport jacket. As usual, I tucked in my shirt. I’m trying to ride the line between dress-up and dress-down. It’s a hard line to walk, particularly when we’re living out of suitcases.

On our way, we picked up a 6-pack of Rothaus; if it ended up being weird, we could at least justify our behavior as foreigners that didn’t know better. We put it in a bag because old habits die hard, and we’re not entirely sure what the rules are about carrying beer in public, despite being told repeatedly that drinking on the street is okay. At the next stop, two people boarded the train with 6-packs in their hand. No bag.

Damnit.

We took the bag off discretely. Not so fast as to make it clear that we wanted to be like everyone else; just slow enough to say “Hey, I had a bunch of other stuff in this bag earlier, but now we’ve finished all our errands and can just carry the rest of this stuff. Oh, is this beer the only thing in here now? Okay, let’s just carry it. I’ll put the bag away. Thanks dear.”

The host greeted us at the door in sandals (with socks), jeans, and a t-shirt. The guests were wearing either t-shirts or button-downs, and nobody had their shirt tucked in. The jacket was overkill.

Fuck.

Think quick! As soon as I was handed a beer, I took off my coat as I walked to the coat stand. That sent the message “it’s too hot in here for a jacket, ha ha!”. Then I noticed that nobody was wearing shoes. We causally took off our shoes, as we talked about how great it was to move to Stuttgart, but that New York was really great too and so we’ve been walking around and it’s a really great city and wow, it’s just so great to start a new job YES! Scary to start a new job too! Okay, our shoes are off and my jacket is on the coat rack.

Now it’s time to get this shirt untucked.

Maybe I’ll distract everyone by dropping bruschetta olive toppings all over the floor.

I’m some kind of social butterfly.

Hey Kids! Let’s Go To The Park!

This Sunday, we took a walk with a good friend from grad school. As soon as he arrived, he stored his things in a locker and we went out in search of adventures. The city was built with a large park snaking its way into the center, so we started near the train station, and wandered through the park for several miles. It was big.

The parks around here are generally awesome. I believe you know about the rope swings. They’re awesome. And the jungle gyms, while typically too small for us to play on, would have been fantastic as kids. But the rest of the park is distinctly different than those in the US. Let’s play a game. What do you see in the photo below?

  1. An uneven walkway in which hornets build their homes
  2. A fun park feature for children
Hornet Sidewalk Nightmare

Hornet Sidewalk Nightmare. Or maybe a playground.

Wrong! (Okay mom, you got it right. But that’s just indicative of how I was raised. Ha ha ha!).

Stone Hills

Stone Hills

I’m not kidding about the hornets. Zoom in on that sidewalk photo above. There’s a hornet crawling into a hole. I was tempted to poke at it, but I can run faster than the hornet, and there were a lot of kids around. So someone was going to die.

This next photo was taken a foot from the path.

Wild Park Streams

Wild Park Streams

This was a pretty great feature of the park. Fish and rocks and probably some cute little mice and snakes, all in one place! I do not know why the kids weren’t out here trying to damn up the creek. Because if I was 10 years old again (or if Alissa wouldn’t have been around), I would have totally tried to dam up the creek. Causing mass flooding. People would have had to crawl on top of the hornet-nest-rock-hills to survive.

Park Duck-bird Creatures

Park Duck-bird Creatures

The birds were suspicious of every move I made. I didn’t want to eat them, I just wanted to pet one of the baby duck-bird creatures! They didn’t speak English, and I couldn’t speak enough German to convince them I had good intentions.

Friends in the Park

Sunlight, directly in the eye

We walked until we found a food stand overlooking the Neckar river, which winds around Stuttgart and up through a bunch of towns further north. I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy drinking Beck’s beer in the warm sand. They had a small “beach” area set up, complete with reclining cloth chairs and little wooden tables to hold your beer. Pretty great. I got a tan. Alissa called it a “sunburn”, but I’m pretty sure it’s a tan.

So to review, German parks are made up of the following:

  • Awesome jungle gyms with zip lines
  • Hornet-infested rock hills
  • Streams with fish and overgrown grass with no signs to indicate damming them up and watching them overflow is disallowed.
  • Beer gardens.

It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.

Stäffele Adventure

Once upon a time, the hills of Stuttgart were populated by farms and farmfolk. Since they had no electricity (and thus no U-bahn), they were forced to carve steps into the side of the hills to get around. So all around the bowl that makes up Suttgart, there are small steps that wander up through the hills, known as Stäffele. A friend told us that little old ladies walk up and down what can sometimes be tiny, seemingly unsafe stäffele. In the winter. Covered in snow and ice.

Back a few weeks ago, we were in a town a the base of a sprawling grape orchard. At least, I’m assuming it was a grape orchard. It could have been cocaine. But whatever it was, the land was tiered off, and several columns of steps snaked between the tiers. It was gorgeous. We didn’t take photos, because it was rainy and we were in a car. But we remembered, and went out a few days ago, to find some stairs.

We finally found some called Haigststaffel, that begin in Degerloch.

Top of Haigststaffel

Overlooking Stuttgart near top of Haigststaffel

Here we are at the top.

Us at top of Haigststaffel

Young people trying to find the start of the stairs

We actually wandered around for a bit, because we missed the entrance to the stairs. The photo above is before we realized that we were not in the right place. Ahh, the ignorance of youth. We’re older and wiser now.

Descending Haigststaffel

Descending Haigststaffel

These stairs look much wider and safer than some of the ones we saw earlier, so I’m not entirely sure if one can use the cute “le” ending to describe these. There was no danger at all.

One of the coolest things about this area of the city is the absolute abundance of plant life. Some of these houses have forests and jungles in their back yards. I tried taking photos, but they don’t do it justice. And it doesn’t appear that Germans are big fans of well-mowed lawns. It’s rather nice, because it allows the wildflowers to bloom. I remember picking the dandelions out of my grandparents’ yard when I was a kid, whereas here, they’d have just let them grow.

Bottom of Haigststaffel

Bottom of Haigststaffel (as with all photos on this blog, click to enlarge)

As it turned out, the Haigststaffel didn’t reach the bottom of the mountain. Luckily, we spotted another set of stairs nearby.

Fritz-Münch Staffel

Fritz-Münch Staffel

We walked down the stairs until we hit Marienplatz, a medium-sized square where kids ride bikes and the parents sit at the cafe and drink beer and eat ice cream. It’s also the final destination of the Zacke, which I posted about earlier. Since the train winds up the mountain, there are some areas where it looks like a roller coaster. I’d post a photo, but all my attempts came out looking stupid.

The walk down was great, but we took the train back.

Maultaschen Dinner

There’s a delicious Swabian food called Maultaschen, which is essencially a dumpling stuffed with minced meat and spices. Tonight, I made it for my Frau. Here’s a blurry picture:

Maultaschen Dinner

Maultaschen Dinner with Onions and Tomatoes That I Remembered To Salt

It seems to be served in one of two ways; either as pictured above, pan fried with carmalized onions, or boiled in a chicken stock, and served as a soup. I wasn’t initially a fan of the somewhat strong liver-like meat, but this was really good. It’s growing on me.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

On Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, Maultaschen are a traditional dish in Swabia, because the meat is concealed under the pasta dough and cannot be seen by God. Therefore they have earned the nickname “Little Cheaters on God” (Swabian “Herrgottsbescheißerle”).

Fantastic.