Saturday, 21 February 2009

Gouden Carolus Classic (on tap)

I reviewed this beer before during the official 40b40 marathon, but this time, I had it on tap because I was at the source. We took a family trip today to Mechelen, which is about 25 minutes north of Brussels by train, and in the afternoon, we went to the pub at Het Anker brewery, home of all the Gouden Carolus beers and a few others.

One-time capital of the Low Countries and Belgium’s ecclesia-stical capital today, Mechelen is a lovely city, and we had a great time walking around: market on the main square in the morning, then to the cathedral, lunch, other sights, and finally off to Het Anker. I’ve added a photo here of the disjointed town hall, which was built in the 14th century but then had one chunk of it ripped down and remade in a completely new style in the 16th -- the rest was supposed to follow, but then Margaret of Austria, governor of the Habsburg Netherlands, died in 1530, and building ceased mid-stream. The capital moved to Brussels, Mechelen was never the same, and the half-finished town hall is a constant reminder of its lost glory.

The cathedral of St Rombout, also pictured here, is one of the most interesting churches I’ve seen in Belgium. Loads of relics in reliquaries, an amazing wooden pulpit with carved animals, and a series of 25 paintings detailing the life -- and after-life -- of the legendary 8th-century saint himself, whose reliquary we got to see as the back of the altar was opened for some reason. I love relics and reliquaries, particularly bones in transparent cases. Each one is such a wonderful testament to some past scam: “Hey, pilgrim, looking for that special souvenir? How about the fourth metatarsal of Saint Fred?” We also heard the carillon chime, which here is quite a treat, as Mechelen seems to be the world’s top carillon location. They even have an entire music school dedicated to it.

Somehow, I got diverted from the subject, however, which was beer, specifically Gouden Carolus Classic on tap, consumed in the pub at Het Anker brewery. I liked this brew the first time I tried it, and this second tasting confirmed that opinion: dark, sweet, caramel, smoky, leaving syrupy coating on the tongue. I didn’t quite get the aniseed I remember from last time, but I wonder if that’s a flavour that develops over time in the bottle.

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