The heat in Belgium was still going on when the wonder of a weekend was brought upon us. A bit earlier we had decided to go and visit the brewery of the family Huyghe, in Melle, a small town right at the corner of Gent. We were foolishly thinking that an indoor activity would be good for the hot day. Our friend Ivan was dragged along too, with a promise of some BBQ after the beer tour was done.
Huyghe is most famous for their Delirium beers, which come in many tastes, but they do brew quite some other stuff as well, including fruit beers and also darker stuff. Even though the brewery has a long history, it is nothing but old and drowsy. They seem to be hooked on investing and expanding, and sustainability is one of their core values. The place has a water filtration plant of their own which makes the production very efficient in water usage and they employ people with special needs, who might face difficulties in a normal job market. Great stuff Huyghe!
The English tour goes on every Saturday at 4 pm, you will get in for the mere price of 8 euros a person and it includes beer tasting. Plenty of beer tasting.
The tour starts with a glass of beer, straight from the draft, under an old copper brewing kettle made into a bar. I think we all drank a Campus, which was a very pleasant acquaintance, with subtle flavors and nice sweetness to it. After that was done, the show moved to a small auditorium to watch a short movie on the steps of the brewery becoming what it is today.
After the film, we moved on, to see the older copper brewing installation, that had served the brewery before all the hightec things they have today. Apparently it had taken endless efforts to clean it. They are now serving their purpose as museum pieces, and beautiful pieces they are, large shining copper bowls.
Next we walked to the room where the magic actually takes place. Even though the brewing was not going on, it was still very very hot in the room, the giant stainless steel tanks were breathing heat from the previous brew. Our guide explained to us all sorts of things of the temperatures, boiling times and stages of incubation and filtration. In the next room they held the grains that make the mash. The smell in there was so very familiar and nice, smell of grinded grains, it reminded me of home. They use a variety of different seeds, even spelt and quinoa, which was a complete surprise for me. Oh, and they have a special hop room too, with its own set of scents!
The smells were left behind as we explored some more tanks and pipes and cooling stages and learned why lager is lager (it has a low fermentation; laag = lager). The beer making process is quite a science quest with all of its accuracies and fine tunings. After the tanks we moved to the bottling and barreling lines. Which are extensive. They brew about 200 000 liters of beer each day, so there needs to be quite some bottles and barrels filled. At Huyghe that is also a very well modernized operation, with robots and all. Those liters of beer are then packed into crates and stacked high in warm rooms to keep the fermentation going.
The tour was over, the guide – who by the way was a volunteering beer enthusiast and did a great job – poured some more beers into us. We tasted their triple, the Guillotine, and of course the Delirium itself. Delirium has a story behind it, well the name especially. It was named after a beer inspector, who had had too much to drink that day and was having a delirium tremens. A smart manager from the brewery decided to give that as a name for the new beer they were brewing. And so, also the pink elephant.
We left happy, and a slight bit tipsy which might be the reason why we also now own t-shirts with pink elephants on them. The point is, if you want to be happy, and are in Belgium, visiting a brewery might not be a bad idea, at least the guys of the Huyghe are extra friendly.
The weekend was not over, we still had a Sunday to waste. So we got some friends along, took the car and buggy gear and drove to Zeebrugge, the less known coastal cousin of Brugge. There is a big harbor there and a beach right next to it. Our friends Yulija and Igor had never even heard of buggying before, so we decided to show them what it was all about.
The wind was rather hard, even Waffle was not thinking about flying anything larger than a 4 meter. The dry sand was flying around and quickly finding its way into our eyes, ears and underwear, good thing it was still sunny and warm. There were dozens of kite surfers out there in the sea. I find it always very beautiful to see so many kites in the air, it is a sign of people having fun.
Igor and Yulija were, after bit of hesitation, getting exited as Waffle pulled the buggy together and attached the tandem to it. My buggy was left in the trailer, no driving with a broken arm. I was feeling a little sad.
There was only one buggier in addition to us on the beach and we parked our camp at a respectable distance from him. He was flying an old school delta kite and Waffle was jealous. Apparently those are fun to fly, they try to kill you even more than the ones we use, apparently.
Waffle spread out the first kite, our barely used 4 meter of a Yakuza. The wind was rather hefty. Normally he drives a tandem with a kite twice that size. We managed to convince Yulija to hop in the back after repeating 7 times that she would definitely not die. And off they went, out to the sea and back to the quay, making a turn with sand splattering and out again. We could hear Yulija’s excited screams as they passed us close by. Igor was getting more and more certain, that it was either crazy or dangerous to go and ride with Waffle.
Nevertheless Igor soon found him self sitting as a passenger, as Waffle lifted the kite up, and they went to their way. I was feeling a growing itch to get riding, or at least kiting myself, but of course that wasn’t an option. Plus, to be honest, I probably would have been scared of the wind. I had to settle for the next best option; tandeming. The wind had picked up, and Waffle switched into using an even smaller kite. A kite that gave me some flash backs of Denmark, my very first time of kiting.
After all the tandeming was done, it was time to teach the newbies something. Out came the “shopping back” our tiniest toy kite with only loops for handles. The wind was already too heavy to give a rookie even a 2 meter kite. They ended up having quite some fun with it, learning steering, looping and spinning. Both Igor and Yulija learned fast the basics of kiting; I think Waffle is getting better and better at teaching people!
I think we managed to get two new people hooked to this thing we do. At least they now want to buy a kite of their own to have fun with. That is always so nice, to help people learn new things and getting them excited over it!