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The Belgians

Janet and I love going to the Toronado on Wednesday nights for two reasons.

  1. Ian is on shift.
  2. If we get there before 9pm, Kirsten is on shift, and we never have a chance to talk to her because she works on nights when we don’t go to the bar.
  3. It’s filled with locals and regulars
  4. Few, if any, tourists… translation, it’s relatively empty.

However, the peace and quiet that we were looking forward was not to be found. Why you might ask? Simple. Last night was one of those “theme nights” at the bar.

Let me explain… every few weeks, David has a special night at the Toronado. Usually this means that a new beer is being released, or is being introduced to the bar (like the Hoegaarden night a few months back.) Sometimes Dave features a four or five beers from one of his favorite breweries (like Stone Brewing, Full Sail or Lagunitas). Then he has his mega-festivals: the Belgian Beer Festival, the Barleywine Festival, the Winter Beer Week and Oktoberfest. The largest of the events is probably the Belgian Beer Festival, where people pay $65 a head to spend 8 hours learning about the intricacies (as well as drinking) 30 different Belgian Beers while eating a 6 course meal.

However, the Belgian Beer Festival is only open to 100 people and most of the beers featured at the Belgian Beer Festival run out that night, so the teeming beer-geek masses have to settle for the 46 other beers available at the Toronado.

But this year, there was a slight snag in shipping when they put together the Belgian Beer Festival. A number of kegs got mis-shipped (or held up in customs)… and didn’t arrive until after the night of the Beer Festival. So yesterday Dave held the Remnants of the Belgian Beer Festival Night.

This meant that by 5:30pm, the place was wall-to-wall beer geeks with their little beer-books over analyzing every little freaking nuance of the 6 Belgian beers that they had on tap. Still, it didn’t matter that much because Janet, Carlos, Peg (the chef) and I grabbed some space at the corner where we wouldn’t be that bothered. Funny, that’s exactly what we did at the real Belgian Beer Festival.

Janet wisely stuck to her Guinness last night, but I decided to throw myself into the Belgian Beers. Well, not entirely… I started off with a German Aventinus Doppelweisenbock, then quickly moved to a Kasteel Brown, following it with a Cantillon Iris (the equivalent of a single malt lambic beer) and finishing the night off with a sweet La Chouffe. Carlos also bounced around the Belgian map, having a De Konick Ale, a Kasteel Brown and a Cantillon Iris before leaving for the East Bay. Peg, who had the last Hoegaarden before they blew the keg, stuck with Aventinus.

Throughout the night, a number of regulars stopped by… Steve the Bar Back stopped in for a Maximus and a La Chouffe and Shawn (a friend mentioned on the links page) stopped in to say hi. Todd, Tad, Crab, Ted, Ratchet the Dog and Kenny Ray (all regulars) were there too, but we didn’t get a chance to really talk. Oh well.

Back to the beer… since we got such good seats at the bar, we decided that instead of going out for dinner, we’d just bring food into the bar. We ended up having sausage sandwiches… then Janet had some of Jeff’s potato salad and I went out to grab a chicken sandwich from Hahn’s Hibachi. While I was gone picking up the chicken sandwich, a bunch of beer-geeks from Belgium sidled up to the space next to my chair. It seems that one of the Belgians had ordered a Cantillon Iris on handpump and was unhappy with his choice.

Iris is a very strong, sweaty (as Carlos would call it) beer… and since it was on handpump, it was flat and warm… just like a good Lambic should be. Any beer-geek of a Belgian should know that. But this guy just kept going and going and going… getting to the point where he was really starting to piss me off. So halfway through my chicken sandwich, I put it down and lit into the Belgian. He was whining in French. I was growling in English. Within a few seconds, he backed down and just bought another beer. Chalk up one to the locals.

Anyway, by 9:45, the crowd finally got to us and Janet and I left for home. Then began the dreaded “Recovery from Belgian Beer served at the Remnants of the Belgian Beer Festival.”


Posted in The Barfly Chronicles.

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