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  Würzburg, in Germany, is world-renowned for its "Franken" wines. However, White (Wheat) Beers have certainly travelled to the city.  The three different ones shown here are excellent examples. All are brewed in the city's Würzburger Hofbräu Brewery. Click on the glasses to go to the brewery's website, from which the image was pasted
Your cursor is on a photo taken outside the bar/brewery part of La Ferme-Brasserie Beck (The Beck Farm-Brewery), in Bailleul, in France. The principal beer is called Hommelpap. Click on the photo to go to the place's website
Beck Farm-Brewery, Bailleul, France
A June, 2002 photo by John White

The wonderful Ferme-Brasserie Beck (Beck Farm-Brewery) is right on the Belgian border in France's Premier Speciality Beer Region: Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Hommelpap, its world-class draught beer, which is only available on the farm, is flavoured using the hops grown on the farm and its main ingredient, malt, is locally produced. The beer, the whole concept of the place, the warmth of the greeting, etc, etc, put this place into the life-enhancing category.

"Speciality/Specialty Beer Bar" of the Month: July
(A Life Enhancing Brewery with a Bar and Hop Fields)

Ferme-Brasserie Beck (Beck Farm-Brewery),
Eeckelstraete, Bailleul, France,
tel 03 28 49 03 90, fax 03 28 42 28 32, www.fermebeck.com

This White Beer Travels "Pub" of the Month was selected by John White of "White Beer Travels". Descriptions of places such as this are normally taken from Beer Guides that have been prepared for White Beer Travels Beer Hunts, all participants getting copies: they typically get well over 100 A4 pages of information per trip. Certain of these guides can be obtained by clicking on the Downloads page of the site, here, or at the top or bottom of this page. However, unusually, this place does not figure in any of these guides, since I only visited it for the first time in June, 2002, as part of a "Podge's Belgian Beer Tour" that month, see the Contacts page for information on these tours. However, I was so taken by the exceptional quality of the place, that I had no hesitation in elevating it to Pub of the Month status, producing the special write-up for it, which you find below. In July of the following year, it was the subject of a White Beer Travels Group Beer Hunt. This write-up is largely based on the first visit, with appropriate additions from the second one. The write-ups on other Pubs of the Month can be accessed by clicking on Archives, or by using the "Previous Month" and "Next Month" links at the top and bottom of this page. In the photo above, some of Podge's group can be seen entering the brewery/bar on the June, 2002 tour.

Your cursor is on a photo featuring hops growing at the Ferme-Brasserie Beck (Beck Farm-Brewery), in Bailleul, in France. Click on the photo to go to the place's website

Your cursor is on another photo of hops growing at the Ferme-Brasserie Beck (Beck Farm-Brewery), in Bailleul, in France. Click on the photo to go to the place's website

The two photos above, with John White on the left, in each of them, were taken by Joyce White. The June, 2002 one, on the left, shows John acting as French to English interpreter for Denis Beck, the founder of this magical brewery/bar, which is just in front of the Hop Poles featured in the photo. The July, 2003 photo, on the right, shows John in a similar role, the guide this time being Denis's son Dany, see below. Guided tours can be in French or Flemish/Dutch. For details of John's French to English translation service, click on Service de Traduction (Translation Service), here or at the top or bottom of this page. The English-language pages of the website for the Bruxellensis Beer Festival, www.festivalbruxellensis.be, that takes place in Brussels, are an example of the French to English translation work that John has undertaken.

This is a magical place in France. It is less than 2 kilometres (1½ miles) from the attractive Heuvelland (Hill Land) area of Belgium, which is in the South West of the Province of West Flanders; the Heuvelland is especially rich in Speciality Beer treasures. The Beck establishment is very Flemish (its main beer has a Flemish name and look at its street name (Eeckelstraete, not "rue de Something")), the concept of the place is superb, the people involved in it are marvellous, etc, etc.

I had been aware of this place for some years prior to my first visit, in June, 2002. In 1996, I had purchased a bottle of the brewery's Hommelpap, in a place selling regional products. It looked promising, in its 75cl bottles, with a cork, held down with wire, the normal practice with such Artisanal Beers, as it was described on the label (Bière Artisanale), see below. However, on drinking it, I was extremely disappointed with it, finding it very ordinary and dull. This led to the Beck Farm-Brewery plummeting down the massive list of places that needed to be visited. I now know that the beer I purchased was way past its best drink-by date, it being a type of beer that does not benefit from ageing, since a major characteristic of it, is hop flavour and aroma. To compound matters, it had been stored in an unsuitable place prior to purchase, i.e. it had been subjected to gross variations in temperature, and had not been properly protected from light.

The place is very well covered in Arthur Taylor's Good Beer Guide to Northern France, published by CAMRA (ISBN 185249140). Arthur is the author of The Guinness Book of Pub Games (ISBN 0851125301). John Woods and Keith Rigley also feature it in their The Beers of France, published by the defunct Artisan Press (ISBN 095292383); it is still available from Beer-Inn Print (www.beerinnprint.co.uk). Much of the information in the latter, and the companion The Beers of Wallonia, is to be found on the website, www.frenchbeer.info. There is very good coverage, with photos of Beck on the Web page www.lachope.com/beck.html. The latter Web page is part of the excellent La Chope (The Beer Jug) website, www.lachope.com, an invaluable source of information on beer in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. An excellent French-language beer information source for the whole country is www.biere-france.com.

On the June, 2002 visit, when our coach stopped, in what was clearly a marvellous location, Madame Christiane Beck appeared at the foot of the steps of the coach, where she shook hands with everyone as they descended from it, whilst radiating a really warm smile to everyone. Then we were introduced to her husband Denis, who quickly commenced a tour of the hop aspects of his farm, right from growing, through to drying after harvesting. As he was doing the growing bit, we would be standing by the hop poles, as per the photo above, with the hops growing at almost a visible rate at the time of year of our visit.

Your cursor is on a poster for 'La Fęte de la Cueillette du Houblon' (The Hop Harvest Festival) at La Ferme-Brasserie Beck (The Beck Farm-Brewery), in Bailleul, in France. It was scanned from the poster for the 2002 festival. In 2004, it takes place on Sunday, the 5th of September. Click on it for a bigger, higher resolution version of the 2002 poster

Then we walked the short distance to a barn housing the equipment that separates the desired hop flowers from the stalks and the leaves and the wire that they have grown up. The wire is recovered, but the stalks and leaves have to be burnt, since they cannot be used for animal feed, because of possible metal residues in them (I am not sure why they don't use coir string (wound cotton hair from Sri Lanka), that is typically used in English Hop Gardens, rather than wire). Here, in the barn where this equipment was located, we watched a video, which showed the operations that had been explained to us. The video also covered "La Fête de l'Hommelpap" (The Hop Juice or Hop Porridge Festival (Hymele is Old English for Hop)), which has the alternative title of "Fête de la Cueillette du Houblon" (Hop Harvest Festival). This part of the video features ladies in traditional Flemish costumes removing hop cones (flowers) by hand, from harvested hop stalks, and other activities such as much drinking of the place's beer, watching it being brewed, seeing working Flemish horses, food, musical entertainment, watching faluches (black berets) being made, and the burning of Chu, a straw filled representation of the owner of the hop field. The above is a reduced-sized reproduction of the poster for the festival in 2002. It takes place every two years, on the first Sunday of September, i.e. the next one will be on Sunday, the 7th of September, 2008, commencing at 11am. Click on the poster for a full-sized, downloadable version. Belgium's hop capital, Poperinge, is not too far away from Bailleul. It has a well-known Tri-annual Hop Festival (Hoppestoet, Hop Procession). A short note on it and Poperinge in general is provided below.

It was then a look at the brewery, which is more functional than pretty. It was obtained from a defunct brewery in the Auvergne, the Brasserie St Amant, which was purchased by Yves Castelain of the Castelain Brewery (www.chti.com), brewers of the well-regarded CH'TI range of beers in Benifontaine, and which Yves then sold on to Beck, in 1994, the year Beck commenced brewing. Prior to this, Denis, who very convincingly describes himself as an Agriculturist, had merely raised cattle, poultry, mixed cereal crops, eggs and hops, but felt that, as was once the tradition amongst farmers in the area, he should also brew beer. Only one percent of his hop crop is used in his beer, the rest being sold at hop markets, etc.

As can be seen in the photo at the top of this Web page, the building housing the brewery and its bar is a rather pleasant brick and wood structure, which is brightly painted on the outside with a pair of imbibing dancers. Upstairs, the bar is a gem, with more space than one would imagine; it will easily accommodate over forty people. It stands in front of the farmhouse and the barns mentioned above.

Your cursor is on a scan of a label from a bottle of Hommelpap, the principal beer of La Ferme-Brasserie Beck (The Beck Farm-Brewery), in Bailleul, in France. No indication is given on the label (June, 2002 purchase) that the beer is unpasteurised and unfiltered. Click on the photo to go to the Beck website

Your cursor is on a photo featuring draught Hommelpap, the great beer brewed at the Ferme-Brasserie Beck (Beck Farm-Brewery), in Bailleul, in France. Click on the photo to go to the place's website

The above photo was taken by John White, during the White Beer Travels visit to the Farm-Brewery Beck, in July, 2003. Denis Beck has just pulled glasses of Hommelpap for the White Beer Travels Beer Hunters. Note that the beer comes to the fonts direct from the conditioning tanks. It is the carbon dioxide produced during the secondary fermentation which provides the natural pressure used to push the beer to the fonts. Also in the photo is Denis's son Dany Beck, see above and below, and his daughter (with her back to the camera).

During the tour of the brewery, which is situated just in front of the hop poles shown in the photo above, hand labelling of the 75cl bottles of the beer was taking place. The labels have the legend "Brassée en Flandre par le Houblonnier au pied des Collines" (Brewed in Flanders by the Hop Grower at the foot of the Hills), see the reduced-size reproduction, above left, and a note on the Hills below. Afterwards, we went upstairs to the bar. Soon Denis was dispensing a draught beer into 33cl handled glasses, see above right. What is amazing is the fact that the beer is completely opaque. In the taste, hops are obviously well to the fore, given that the brewery is surrounded by its own hop fields. But, it also has a most pleasant, balancing sweetness. It is a top bracket product that magically gives one a sense of well being within seconds of taking one's very first sip! Independently, after the first visit, both myself and Podge declared it to be "The Beer of the Tour".

Denis kept emphasising throughout the visit that he had had no training in brewing, but he has got a real gift from somewhere, as the draught beer is very special. The beer sampled was the place's only year-round beer, which, as you can see, is called Hommelpap (7%). This means Hop Juice or Hop Porridge, the latter being appropriate, in view of its serious cloudiness. Note that the language of across the border in Belgian Flanders is used, and not the French "Jus de Houblon".

Typically, there are two 500 litre brews a month (120 hectolitres per year). It is an infusion mash at around 75oC. With the nature of the place, a number of different hops are used in the beer, these changing from time to time, Denis liking to experiment. None are Saaz, see below, as I have seen reported elsewhere. Typically, they are Magnum, Nugget and Challenger. Denis is the president of the local hop-growers' co-operative.

I mentioned to Denis that I had not been impressed with the bottled Hommelpap that I had tasted in 1996. Denis was fully aware of this problem. He said that, as a consequence of it, he no longer sells the beer wholesale, apart from to a handful of outlets (places he can trust) such as 'T Kasteel Hof, in Cassel, details of which are given below. Such places apart, Denis now only sells the bottled beer in his own place (to take home) since he feels that it should be stored at a constant temperature and drunk within a month of purchase, something that he emphasises to all purchasers.

I purchased a couple of bottles of Hommelpap on the June, 2002 visit and followed the instructions. The beer was in a different league to the same beer that I had tasted in 1996. However, the brewery's real star is the draught beer, which really is special. If the Becks were the grumpiest, unwelcoming people in the world, I would put up with them to return to drink this beer, but, of course, they are quite the opposite: truly wonderful people. Hence, this special write-up for their place and its wonderful draught beer, which is only available in the bar above the brewery, or just outside it on one special day at hop harvest time, see above.

Note that all references to the bottled beer that I have read state that it is filtered, including the three mentioned above, but today, this is no longer the case. Denis stated that he does not add sugar to the bottles to induce, with the yeast present in the bottle, a further fermentation, as this would be "industrialising the product". However, the bottled beer pours clear, if not shaken, and is only slightly cloudy if its sediment is dispersed within the beer, i.e. it is nowhere near as murky as the draught beer. Of course, both the draught and the bottled beers are unpasteurised.

I knew that there was a second beer, only brewed in Spring, that is also 7%, called L'Alezane, in which oats (l'Avoine) are included in the mash, as well as the malt produced in the region for the other beer. Denis said that it was light brown in colour, as per the splendid horses that he pointed to from the window of the bar. These were of Flemish origin called Alezan. Note that Alezan is both a breed of horse and a general horse colour (chestnut). Beers are feminine, so Alezan becomes Alezane for the beer. The horses feature on the video working the fields, including hop harvesting. The Alezan breed disappeared from the area, but Denis obtained a number from the Amish Community, in Ohio, in the USA, who are renowned for breeding horses that are particularly suited to farm work. The Amish Community shuns modern technology: they do not use electricity; carts and farm equipment are horse-drawn; etc. See the following website for more information on them www.amish-heartland.com.

The first drink in the bar was included as part of the group visit cost, all participants getting to keep their glass, which has the label's hop flower and the beer and the brewery's name on it, see above. Extra beers cost €2.50 (33cl), as they did on the second visit in July, 2003, and in August, 2006. Most in the group, including myself, were eager for another and another on both visits. Other drinks include: Jus de Pommes Fermier(Farmhouse Apple Juice) at €2 (25cl); an Aperitif - Picon Bière Maison (House Beer with Picon Bitters added) at €3; Café (Coffee) at €1; and Chocolat Chaud (Hot Chocolate) at €2. It is also possible to eat, the following being August, 2006 prices: Assiette Garnie du Brasseur (Garnished Brewer's Plate - Ham, Bacon and Paté with Carrot, Boiled Eggs, Gherkins and Country Bread) at €10.50; Assiette Enfant (Child's Plate) at €6.20; Beignets aux Pommes (Apples with Pancake Batter) at €4; Profiteroles and various Coupes (Dishes), including a number of varieties of Glace (Ice Cream) at €3.50; Pain Perdu à la Cassonade (a superb Bread and Butter Pudding with Brown Sugar), Flan au Caramel, and Tarte Maison (House Tart), all at €3. The latter was a Rhubarb Tart and was absolutely excellent, which is what people found for all the dishes served, their presentation on the plate being really mouth-watering.

The Becks have a daughter and two sons. Both the sons live and work on the farm. One of them, Dany, the youngest of them, came to speak with us in the bar on the first visit, and as can be seen above, was the guide on the second. He is a most pleasant, young man. I asked him for his e-mail address so that I could send him some of the photos that I had taken. He said that there was no computer on the farm and the TV was only used to provide weather forecasts; TV could not compare with the natural life provided by his surroundings.

The farm has two Gîtes, which are typically occupied by school children, who come to learn about rural life. Alezan-drawn carts are used to transport them to related neighbouring facilities such as beekeepers, apple juice producers, etc. Products from such neighbours are also sold in the brewery's shop (apple juice, honey, etc), along with miniature Hop Sacks, beer and glasses, their own eggs, a particularly nice set of postcards of the place, etc. Unfortunately, all bottles of L'Alezane had gone, so I will have to visit the place again, in order to report on it. And, indeed I will visit the place again and again.

Typical prices in the shop (July, 2003) are as follows: Bottles of Hommelpap and the Hommelpap glasses are both €3.50; presentation packs containing three bottles or two bottles and a glass are €10; Beurre Fermier ([Beck] Farmhouse Butter is €1.80 for 250 grams; 500 gram jars of Pâté de Lapin à la Bière d'Esquelbecq (Rabbit Pâté prepared using Beer from the Thiriez Brewery, in Esquelbecq (brasseriethiriez.ifrance.com)) are €5.80; and jars of Potje Vleesch, from the same source are €7 for 500 grams and €10 for a kilo. Potje Vleesch means "Little Pot of Meat" in Flemish. This is a coarse Terrine made from pieces of white meat: Pork, Rabbit and Chicken (Veal is sometimes included in them instead of or in addition to Chicken). The Rabbit Pâté and the Potje Vleesch are produced by Bernard and Marie-Christine's "Les Terrines West-Cappeloises", at 1476, route de Rattekot, 59380 West-Cappel, France (tel 03 28 68 36 46). The Thiriez Brewery was visited by White Beer Travels Beer Hunters, on the 1998, Three Country Beer Hunt based in Middelburg, Lille and Antwerp, see the Past Beer Hunts page.

Your cursor is on a photo of the shop adjacent to the Brewery of the Ferme-Brasserie Beck (Beck Farm-Brewery), in Bailleul, in France. Click on the photo to go to the place's website

The photo to the left in the shop alongside the brewery was taken by Joyce White, in June, 2002. Denis Beck is on the left, with his wife Christiane on the right. I need to confirm whether the girl in the middle is their daughter. It is the girl who was labelling bottles at one time during the visit. Note that Denis is holding one of the Hop Sacks that one can buy in the shop. They have the legend "Houblon des Flandres" (Flanders Hops).

The bar is open from 7pm on Saturdays and from 5pm on Sundays. The Beers of France states that it does not open in December, January and February, but this is not stated on the place's literature. Group visits can be arranged at other times

.Ferme-Brasserie Beck (Beck Farm-Brewery) is less than three kilometres (two miles) to the East of the French town of Bailleul, which is just off the A25 (E42) motorway between Dunkirk and Lille, in France. Less than two kilometres (1½ miles) East of the Beck Farm-Brewery is the Belgian border.

Should you be looking for accommodation in the area, then the farm's own Gîtes are an option. The nearest hotel is two miles (just over 3 kilometres) away in Belgium, the In De Wulf, in Heuvelland-Dranouter, which can be highly recommended; it has a good selection of beers, beer cuisine in its restaurant, and seven bedrooms; amazingly, in the 2004 Michelin guide, it did not even have a listing, but in the 2006 edition, its restaurant has a coveted star, see www.viamichelin.com. The contact details and the directions for getting to it from Ieper (Ypres) and for getting to the Beck Farm-Brewery from it are given below. Just slightly further away, the Belle Hôtel, in Bailleul (19, rue de Lille, tel 03 28 49 17 90, www.bellehotel.fr) is a nice hotel with thirty-one rooms. It is right in the centre of the town, very close to the "Office de tourisme de Bailleul et des Monts de Flandre" (Bailleul and the Flanders Hills Tourist Office) (3, Grand Place, tel 03 28 43 81 00, www.montsdeflandre.fr) and an excellent restaurant, La Pomme d'Or (27, rue d'Ypres, tel 03 28 49 11 01). This restaurant, like a number of the bars on the main square (Grand Place), has local brews, such as 3 Monts, see below, and some Beer Cuisine dishes. Lille (www.lille.cci.fr), with its major tourist attractions, Specialty Beer bars, etc, etc, is only thirty kilometres (nineteen miles) away. Bailleul is a pleasant town, which has been completely rebuilt after total destruction in WW1. There is an excellent view from the top of its Belfry. The official tourist website for the Nord (North) Département of France, in which Bailleul is situated, is www.cdt-nord.fr. Because of its beer connection, I have included a note on the Flanders Hills, following this article on the Ferme-Brasserie Beck. Note that in Flemish, Bailleul is Belle, which also means Bell (of the ringing variety) in Flemish, but nice or beautiful in French! Hence the "nice" Belle Hotel's real "Bell" sign and logo.

To get to the Ferme-Brasserie Beck from France, if travelling South on the A25 (E42) motorway, leave it at its junction 10. After leaving the motorway on the right, turn left at the Tee to cross it in the signed direction of Bailleul. Turn right at the T-junction reached in the outskirts of Bailleul, in the signed direction of Nieppe and Armentières, the left being signed "Centre Ville" (Town Centre [of Bailleul]). Take the very soon reached, very sharp left, onto Hoegstraete, which is a very minor road, with grass growing in the middle. The turn is signed "Gîte-Ferme Beck, Bière Hommelpap", the required destination. The place's hop poles can be seen on the right at this point. Take the next right, and the building housing the place's brewery/bar is soon reached on the right.

From Belgium, the following travel instructions are based on travelling from Ieper (Ypres), via De Kauwackers (Kauwakkerstraat 1, Heuvelland-Dranouter, tel 057 44 74 90), one of a number of marvellous pubs in the area owned by De Bie Brewery, this one being very close to the Ferme-Brasserie Beck, click here for details of a visit to this place. Note that De Bie Brewery (www.brijdebie.be) is no longer in Watou. The new brewery and its tap, the Hellekapelle is at Loker (Dikkebusstraat 171, tel 0475 23 47 95 (brewery) and 057 44 85 44 (bar)). De Bie and its tap were featured in a White Beer Travels Beer Hunt, in 2003; click here for further details.

Leave Ieper (Ypres) on the N365 signed to Rijsel (Lille) and Armentières. Soon after leaving Ieper, turn right onto the N331, signed to Kemmel. After passing rights for Kemmel and Kemmelberg and Dranouter, turn right at the T-junction in the centre of Nieuw-Kerke (Neuve-Eglise), which is Ieperstraat. Leave this small town by carrying on straight, the street name changing to Bellestraat. Note that Bailleul is often signed Belle in this area. When this street takes a sharp turn to the right, take the smaller road straight on, which is Kauwakkerstraat. De Kauwackers is soon reached on the left.

On going further down Kauwakkerstraat and taking the first right onto Wulvestraat, on the corner, at number 1, is the In De Wulf Hotel (tel 057 44 55 67, www.indewulf.be).

Continuing down Kauwakkerstraat, one soon rejoins Bellestraat, which soon gets one to the French border, where the street is named Chemin de Neuve Eglise. The first left off this is Lynde Straete. The first right off this is Eeckelstraete, there being a sign on the corner, with the legend "Gîte-Ferme Beck, Bière Hommelpap", which is on the left hand side of this road, between the farm's Hop Fields.

Flanders Hills (Monts de Flandre)

As noted above, on the label for the Ferme-Brasserie Beck's Hommelpap, it states that the Farm-Brewery is "at the foot of the Hills". These hills are the Flemish Hills (Monts de Flandre), which extend across the border into Belgium.

In beer circles, the most famous of these French Monts are the Three (Trois) which are shown on the label of Trois (3) Monts, a beer brewed by the Brasserie (Brewery) Saint Sylvestre, in Saint Sylvestre-Cappel (www.brasserie-st-sylvestre.com), in the Nord Dépatrement. The three Hills are Mont Cassel, the Mont des Recollets, and the Mont des Cats (Catsberg or Katsberg in Flemish).

The route up to the top of Mont Cassel (175 metres, 574 feet) is the same as the one taken by the Grand Old Duke of York when he marched his 10,000 men up and down in it, in 1793! However, for beer lovers, in the very pleasant town of Cassel on the top of the hill, there is one of the very best Speciality Beer Bars in France, the one with the best selection of French Specialty Beers: 'T Kasteel Hof. This was visited on a White Beer Travels Beer Hunt in 1996, en route to Bamberg, in Germany, click here for more details. Its address is 8, rue St Nicholas (face au Moulin - just below the Mill), 59670 Cassel (tel 03 28 40 59 29). The contact is Jean-Luc Lacante or Emmanuel de Quillacq, although I understand that one of these has subsequently left to set up a place in Lille, Le Rijsel (25, rue de Gand, tel 03 20 15 01 59). The bar - decor Flemish Blue - is indeed opposite or rather just below the [wind]mill. Cassel is a few kilometres/miles south of Dunkirk, just off the D916. A visit to 'T Kasteel Hof is an absolute must. It is the most elevated bar in Flanders, including the Belgian bit. 'T Kasteel Hof is open on Thursday to Sunday from 11am to 10pm (Midnight on Saturday). It does not open on the last three weeks of January and the first "weeks" of October.

There is an excellent shop below 'T Kasteel Hof, La Maison du Pays. It sells beer to take away, other regional drinks, local cheese, including the Trappist one from the nearby Mont des Cats (see below), and high quality regional souvenirs (almost exclusively from French Flanders, as is the background music in the bar), and books. Their house beer, Kassels Bier (8%), is brewed by the Brasserie Saint Sylvestre, see above.

There is also a really good, atmospheric estaminet or bar, Le Kerelshof (www.kerelshof.fr.fm), in Cassel's main square, the Grand'Place. It has a very good selection of both French and Belgian Beers. It does not open on Tuesday and Wednesday. On other days, it opens at 11am, closing at Midnight (1am on Friday and Sunday, 2am on Saturday). Aux Trois Moulins, 50, Grand'Place, by the Porte de Dunkerque, is an atmospheric place, with a few beers and freshly cut Chips and an excellent Carbonnade, according to Cassel regular, Jim Cornish, who, most kindly, keeps me up to date with the beer scene in the town. He also swears by À l'Hôtel de Ville, 21, Grand'Place (tel 03 28 42 41 38), which is clearly very close to Cassel's impressive Town Hall. "The Town Hall" is run by a most welcoming couple; it has a beer list of around thirty beers, with some highlights; the three course menu of the day is €11.50 (August, 2005); it is closed on Mondays. There is an hotel in the Grand'Place, at number 41, the Hôtel Foch (www.hotel-foch.net). "Cassel Horizons" (www.ot-cassel.fr), the Cassel Tourist Office (which covers the town and the surrounding area (Le Pays de Cassel), is in the Grand'Place. This has details of other accommodation options, including a Chambre d'hôte (i.e. a B&B), called Les Sources, a little way down the hill, through the Porte d'Aire, at 326, rue d'Aire.

In 2000, a microbrewery commenced operation in Cassel, La Brasserie Zannekin (1643, route de Dunkerque, tel 03 28 48 43 22). There are photos of it on the Web page www.lachope.com/zanneki.html. The root website for this has already been referred to, see above. Its beers were both unfiltered and unpasteurised. Note that, following a White Beer Travels recce visit, in February, 2003, that it has closed, but is for sale as a going concern. At the foot of Mont Cassel, in the village of Bavinchove, which is served by the Cassel-Bavinchove Railway Station, there is a marvellous bar with a well chosen selection of beers, including the great Angelus on draught/tap: In den Goedendag, 1, place de l'Église (tel 03 28 48 49 18), which is open from 4pm every day (Noon on Sunday), except Monday. Also at the foot of Mont Cassel, in the village of Sainte-Marie-Cappel, Le Festival International de la Bière Artisanale (The International Artisanal Beer Festival) is held on the last Saturday and Sunday of September, each year.

Nearby, the Mont des Cats (158 metres, 518 feet) is easy to spot, since it has the Sainte-Marie-du-Mont Abbey (www.abbaye-montdescats.com), established in 1826 as a Trappist Monastery, on the top of it, and, unfortunately a radio mast, or whatever. This is readily visible on the Eurostar (www.eurostar.com) to Lille, Brussels and Paris, ten minutes or so before arriving in Lille, soon after Mont Cassel and the Mont des Recollets, which are together. The abbey is more commonly known as the Mont des Cats Monastery or Catsberg/Katsberg Monastery in Flemish. Its name derives from a Germanic tribe who settled in the area in the 5th Century, the Cattes. It is the Monastery from which monks fled to escape political persecution, in 1881. In the same year, they set up the Koningshoeven Trappist Monastery (www.koningshoeven.nl), in The Netherlands, near Tilburg. This produces the La Trappe range of "Trappist" beers (www.latrappe.nl, White Beer Travels Web page). Unfortunately, although the French Monastery produced beer within a few years of re-establishing itself as a Trappist Monastery, only a few years after the 1881 flight to Tilburg, by the early 1900s, Mont des Cats Monastery had ceased brewing, although its recipes are said to be used in the Het Kapittel range of Abbey-Style Beers, brewed in nearby Watou, in Belgium, which is home to one of the world's most well-known beer cuisine restaurants, 't Hommelhof (www.hommelhof.be). Click here for a White Beer Travels Web page covering Watou.

Earlier, in 1831 the Mont des Cats monks had formed another Monastery close by, but across the Belgian border, in Westvleteren. Belgium, itself had only come into existence in 1830, the year in which it broke away from The Netherlands. The Monastery is called St.-Sixtus. It is one of the most hallowed names in Speciality Beer. The St.-Sixtus Monastery has a superb café opposite, called "In de Vrede" (www.indevrede.be and White Beer Travels Web page), where all the Monastery's superb beers can be sampled. It truly is one of the Meccas of the Specialty Beer world.

The Mont des Cats Monastery produces a cheese of the Port Salut type. This was itself a Trappist cheese, since, until 1959, it was solely produced at an abbey called Trappe-du-Port-du-Salut, just South of Laval in the NW of France (Département Mayenne), which, at one time, brewed. The commercial version is now made at a factory, close to the Monastery, under licence. Most Trappist cheeses are similar to Port Salut. Parts of the Mont des Cats Monastery can be visited; there are videos on monastic life, etc. Close to the Monastery, there is a shop selling its Trappist cheese, and La Trappe beers from De Koningshoeven.

It is worth going up to the top of the Mont des Cats just for the view; there is also a good restaurant, L'Hostellerie du Mont des Cats (3, route de Berthen, tel 03 28 42 51 44). It has one or two interesting beers.

At the foot of the Mont des Cats are two great French Speciality Beer Bars, which have featured in previous White Beer Travels Beer Hunts: Het Blauwershof, in Godewaersvelde, (9, rue d'Eecke - Eeckestraat, tel 03 28 49 45 11, contact Kris Mercier); and De Vierpot, in Boeschèpe, right on the Belgian border (125, rue du Moulin (125, Complexe Joseph Decanter), tel 03 28 49 46 37). En route to the top of the Mont des Cats from Godewaersvelde, half way up the hill, just off to the left, is a restaurant, La Sapinière (Fir Plantation) (1671, route du Mont des Cats, tel 03 28 42 50 89), which is the restaurant that the Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson (1942-) (www.beerhunter.com) refers to in one of his books vis-à-vis a visit to the St Sylvestre brewery. They have beer cuisine dishes based on the brewery's beers, such as Gratiné de poires confites au sabayon de Trois Monts (Gratin of Preserved Pears with a Zabaglione of 3 Monts).

Opposite Het Blauwershof in Godewaersvelde is a famous Charcuterie, M et Mme Claude Duverlie's "Au Roi du Potje Vleesch", at 31, rue du Monts des Cats (tel 03 28 42 52 56), who claim that their Potje Vleesch (defined above) is The King (Le Roi) of such products. However, Claude and Georgette's famed establishment is much more than just a Charcuterie (cooked meats shop). Other local produce is available including: Monts des Cats Trappist Cheese, and the region's only Appellation Contrôlée one, Maroilles; Gaufres Flamandes (Flemish Waffles); Tarte aux Pommes (superb Apple Pie, not needing custard, which in French is Sauce Anglaise, English Sauce); artisanal jams; local liqueurs; and a large selection of interesting local and Belgian Beers! One can sample items such as their Potje Vleesch, along with certain other food products, before committing to a purchase. Note that it is possible, particularly for groups, to have a sit down meal here, hence the Restauration Flamande sign outside. Apart from Mondays, it is open every day, including Sundays, from 8am until 9pm. Note that "Au Roi du Potje Vleesch" has accommodation for four adults and a child, Also in Godewaersvelde, very close to Het Blauwershof, the Café du Centre, 11, rue de Steenvoorde (tel 03 28 42 21 72 ), is well worth a visit, for its atmosphere, food, which includes beer cuisine and its pub games. It is not open on Tuesdays, and is closed for the whole of December.

In Belgium, well known Flemish Hills include Kemmelberg (Kemmel Hill) and Monteberg. The Belgian visitor centre for the hills, aptly called De Bergen (The Hills), is alongside the Heuvelland (Hill Land) Tourist Office, in Kemmel (Reningelststraat 11, tel 057 45 04 55, www.heuvelland.be and www.westtoer.be). Note that in Kemmel there is a world-class bar, Het Labyrint, (Dries 29, tel 057 44 65 81, www.hetlabyrint.be), with has pub games, an archaeology museum and a maze at the back, to augment its fine beers. It has a shop, the Krinkeldewinkel, selling games, toys and local souvenirs. Het Labyrint was featured in the same White Beer Travels Beer Hunt, see the Past Beer Hunts page, as the one that also included the Beck Farm-Brewery, in July, 2003, the main subject of this page.

Kemmelberg had major strategic importance in WW1. On the South slope is an "Ossuaire français", a French Ossuary, where over 5,000 unknown French soldiers are buried.

Monteberg has a vineyard, which can be visited. The grape grower/wine producer is Jean-Pierre Six, at Smijterstraat 4, Dranouter, (tel 057 44 60 61).

A short note on Poperinge, Belgium's Hop Capital

In Poperinge, Belgium's hop capital, there is a very famous Hop Festival (Hoppestoet, Hop Procession) held every three years. The last one was held between Friday, the 16th and Sunday, the 18th of September, 2005. At this festival, at least ten local breweries have their own beer tents, including Van Eecke (www.brouwerijvaneecke.tk), Watou brewers of Poperings Hommelbier (7.5%), the Belgian counterpart to Hommelpap. Sunday is the main day of the festival. Bands from hop towns with which Poperinge is twinned, Žatec in The Czech Republic (Česká republika), and Wolznach in Germany, typically play at the Hop Festival, and there is a parade of floats and the election of an Hop Queen. Žatec produces the most prestigious hop variety in the world, Saaz (German for Žatec).

Poperinge is also home to the Nationaal Hopmuseum (Gasthuisstraat 71, tel 057 33 40 81). A major general tourist attractions is Talbot House (Gasthuisstraat 43, tel 057 33 32 28, www.talbothouse.be) which is the headquarters of the TOC H movement. It was a retreat for all ranks, during WW1, from the fighting in the area, particularly the Ypres Salient.

For Specialty Beer fans, there are two outstanding venues in Poperinge: the Café de la Paix (Grote Markt 20, tel 057 33 95 78, www.cafedelapaix.be); and the Palace Hotel-Restaurant-Bar (Ieperstraat 34, tel 057 33 30 93, hotelpalace.virtualave.net). The Palace is the venue for the Karakterbier Weekend, in October or November of each year. Note, however, that in 2003, there was also a festival with this name, run by HOP (www.hop.be.tf), the local branch of Belgium's National beer consumers' organisation, Zythos, (www.zythos.be and White Beer Travels Web page). This has become an annual event, typically taking place on the first weekend of June. The HOP website is a mine of information and has lots of useful links. HOP's special site for their festival is www.karakterbierweekend.be.

Further information on "Pops", the name given to Poperinge by the British troops in WW1 (c.f. Wipers for Ypres and Plug Street for Ploegsteert) can be found in the town's excellent website, www.poperinge.be, which includes details of the Hop/Beer Festival and other beer-related events.

An excellent Belgian site, in Dutch, covering Hops is www.hopinfo.be. Also excellent coverage of hops is provided by the National Hop Association of England's website, www.hops.co.uk, which, like the Belgian site, has tons of information on the prime, natural bittering and preserving agent used in brewing.

John White (1945-), Your cursor is on an image of John White's e-mail address. Click on it to send an e-mail to John, June, 2002. updated in July, 2007.

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