Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sunday at de Grote Dorst

Back in March 2012 I made my first visit to the lambic café In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst in Eizeringen in Pajottenland, Belgium. It was a special BBQ event on a cold Friday evening. At the end of May I again found myself in the Belgian capital, now on a warm and sunny Sunday, so I decided to make another visit to see what the café was like on a church Sunday.

Café In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst in Eizeringen.

In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst or just de Grote Dorst is located on the town square in Eizeringen, opposite the Saint Ursula church. It's only open from 10 am to 1:30 pm on Sundays and church holidays, because it is run in their sparetime by the brothers Kurt and Yves Panneels.

Because it was a Sunday, with few buses going from Brussels to Eizeringen, and I was accompanied by three friends, we opted for a taxi as our means of transportation (making sure it would pick us up again later). Eizeringen is about 15 km west of Brussels, but traffic and small roads means you should set aside at least half an hour in getting there.

Kurt Panneels behind the bar at de Grote Dorst.
We arrived a little after 10 am to find one of the brothers, Yves, busy bringing scooters out of the garage. It turned out he was renting out scooters, for 50 Euro per day, and was taking a group of visitors to the open day at geuze blender Tilquin. I politely declined the offer to join the group as I already had plans for the afternoon and also wanted to spend some time at de Grote Dorst before leaving the Brussels area.

Inside the café I found the other brother, Kurt, manning the bar, and plenty of vacant tables. So my friends and I sat down at a smaller one, and started ordering rare bottles from the cellar of de Grote Dorst.

A rare beer we got to try was a geuze the brothers had blended themselves, just like lambic café owners did a hundred years ago: Geuze tegen de Grote Dorst. This 5% abv geuze, a blend of 11 different lambics, had been bottled in December 2008, so it was three and a half years old when we got to taste it. It was a well made blend, not very complex, but with a nice lemon sourness, hints of oak and with a mild bitter finish. Refreshing and drinkable.

Eylenbosch Guzuze 1990 - still so fresh.
A more exciting entry on their beer menu was the twenty-two year old Eylenbosch Gueuze 1990, one of the last vintages made by this old brewery in Schepdaal. Eylenbosch, which had been making geuze since 1851, was acquired by the Keermaeker brewery (known for the Mort Subite brand) in 1989 and closed down in 1991. Since then Keermaeker has ended up in the Alken-Maes group who now owns the Eylenbosch name but without actively using it. Anyhow, the 1990 Eylenbosch Gueuze was the real deal. It poured a clear golden color, it smelled of ripe apples and sherry cask and the flavor was harmonic and sour, with notes of dry leaves, lemon, apples and sherry. A delicious and surprisingly fresh sour ale.

When church service ended at Noon, a number of the faithful crossed the small square and entered de Grote Dorst for a glass or two of kriek, gueze or lambic. It was interesting to watch this mixture of locals, often in their 70s or 80s, and the young, foreign beer geeks who had already been at the café for a couple of hours. It's no doubt the Panneels brothers have struck a chord in the local community with their old style Flemish lambic café, just as they have in the global beer community - the users of RateBeer ranked de Grote Dorst one of the best beer bars in the world both in 2011 and 2012. So, the future of de Grote Dorst is looking good.

Speaking of beer geeks. A couple of tables away from ours sat three German sour ale fans, including Ulrich "Uli" Kremer, a well know geuze blender from Duisburg who blends geuze under his own h.ertie label. I keep running into him at breweries, bars and beer festivals all over Belgium. It's a small world and at de Grote Dorst you will meet them all.

At 1 pm the taxi was back to pick us up and I said my heartfelt farewells to Kurt Panneels, promising to come back to this peaceful and great lambic café in the heart of Pajottenland very soon.

Geuze blender Uli, left, and Yves Panneels on the scooter.

Photos from my two visits to de Grote Dorst: March and May 2012.


  1. Great post! My friend recommended this place and I am planning on going there in November...enjoy the blog

  2. Thank you :)

    I hope you have a great time at de Grote Dorst in November, enjoy some well cellared sours and the wonderful atmosphere.