Sunday, 19 June 2011

Spotted in Belgium: Kwak beer

(para leer este post en español, sigue este enlace)


Actually, I first spotted this beer here in the Netherlands - at the café/restaurant De Belgische Keizer (the Belgian Emperor) in Zwolle, to be more precise. But during our recent mini-vacation in the Ardennes in Belgium, we stopped at the tavern/restaurant Le Miroir (site in French and Dutch only) in Dochamps (province of Luxemburg) for dinner and when I saw that they had Pauwel Kwak beer, I couldn't resist the temptation to order one while we waited for our dinner.

Kwak beer is always served in glasses that have a very distinctive shape: they have a round bottom and look more like an hour-glass than like a traditional beer glass. The "hour-glass" is held upright in a wooden stand and the whole thing looks like a piece of scientific tool more fit to be displayed in a lab than in a bar. It is certainly quite original.


 I have had Kwak many times before but I never got round to finding more about the origin of this beer. This time as  soon as I came back from our holiday and started working on my vacation photos, I thought I would just do some research and see what I could find about it.


Back in Napoleon's times, Pauwel Kwak was a beer brewer and owner of an inn called "De Hoorn" (the horn) in Dendermonde, East Flanders. Every day the stage-coaches passing by would stop at the inn to take a break. In those days, the coachman was not allowed to leave the horses and the coach outside and join his passengers for a drink inside the inn, so Mr. Kwak, the owner of this particular inn came up with an idea.
He had a special Kwak glass made: round-bottomed, which could be hung from a wooden holder to prevent it from spilling the precious liquid. In this way, the thirsty coachman, could safely enjoy his Kwak beer without leaving his coach and the horses unattended.


Kwak beer is still today brewed and served in the traditional way: in the Kwak glass. But what about the taste? I do not know much about beers, but I can tell you that this one is delicious, like many other Belgian beers that I have tasted so far. To the eye it has a deep clear amber colour and a creamy thick foam. It also has a soft  fruity  and a malty aroma with a light herbal character. When you drink it, the taste starts with the fruit - maybe bananas or ananas... and it is sweet: it always makes me think of caramel. After you drink it, there is a light bitterness and spiciness that remains in the back of your tongue.


Pauwel Kwak is a traditional Belgian beer with a story behind it. Original and lekker (delicious) - definitely at the top of my list of favourite beers.

17 comments:

Katie said...

I'm not much of a beer drinker; I never managed to develop a taste for the stuff. I found the story behind the specially-shaped glass to be very interesting though. It really does look like something straight out of a chemistry lab!

Aledys Ver said...

Katie,
I wasn't a beer drinker myself, either. I found the stuff bitter and tasteless.... until I discovered Belgian beer! The dark ale is the best - mostly sweet and, like I say, with an after taste of caramel. This one in particular is very good. And yes, the story behind the glass is interesting - I think I ordered it the first time because it looked so different!

Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane said...

You learn the strangest/most unexpected things when you leave the place of your comfort and venture out into the world. Who'd ever think that I, a Dutchie, would see and learn about how nutmeg grows, or learn how to count in Romanian, and so on.

And here Argentine you, getting all educated about Belgium beer ;) What a fun world!

Aledys Ver said...

Miss Footloose,
It happens all the time, doesn't it. I myself often read about places I'd never heard off or things I didn't know existed or happened in my own country, thanks to the expats or tourists that go to Argentina. A fun world indeed!

buday said...

I used to be such a beer drinker way back when. (We have very good beer here in the Philippines called San Miguel Beer) but I have become more of a wine person nowadays, although like you I'm no connoisseur.
Miss Footloose is right. I read once that the best travel blogs are usually written by expats who are able to look at everything with a fresh eye. Having been a reader of your blog for some time, I have to say I agree 100%.

Aledys Ver said...

Buday,
In my case, it worked the other way round, I think. I grew up watching grown-ups talk, discuss, fuss and yes, drink wine (we're Latin, after all) and I started drinking a bit of wine diluted in water during the meal when I was around 11 or 12 (pretty normal in ITaly, France... where there's so much of it and we somehow, have taken up this habit). As a teenager, I was not attracted to alcohol at all - just went on drinking some wine with the meal. When I met my husband, I turned my nose up at his beer - hello, wine is a lot better, stronger, has taste...! But then I tasted a couple of Belgian beers like Westmalle or Karmeliet - and they didn't taste bad at all!
Thanks a lot for your comment!! And... not feeling too inspired yourself? I miss reading your blog!

Alison said...

What a great history and what a lovely glass! I might have to see if they have it at the Belgian beer bar here in Utrecht. It sounds quite tasty, too.

Anita said...

It is impossible not to fall in love with Belgian beer - and just like Katie I am not a big beer lover. This Kwak glass is indeed hilarious - but actually deserves some respect !

Aledys Ver said...

Alison,
I'm pretty sure they have it - give it a go! Better from the tap, but bottled is also good - more than good! :D It feels weird when you hold it to drink at first, but you'll soon get the hang of it! ;) Cheers!!!

Aledys Ver said...

Anita,
You're right - you can't say you don't like beer once you've tasted Belgian beer! I love this glass, I've evem bought one! :D

Ana said...

The things some people do to be able to drink! ha! It looks like a fun experience. Personally, I don't drink beer because it gives me a headache and I don't think it's worth it. I even tried artisan beer but to no avail :(

Aledys Ver said...

Ana,
Pity that it gives you a headache! On a warm day, a nice cool beer is very refreshing! :D

willemsgodutch said...

One of the 1st belgian beers my hubs intro'ed me to in the US:)

Aledys Ver said...

Mel,
Lucky you! :D I don't know if this beer is available in Argentina... as far as I can tell, only Leffe has made it down there...

Presépio no Canal said...

What an interesting story! Gracias for sharing, Aledys! ;-)

Aledys Ver said...

@Presépio,
Thank you for stopping by!!

Sanket said...

I found your blog interesting. I got the information what I want. I was searching for information on Kwak beer glass and stand significance but couldn't find some reliable source. After looking everywhere, finally I found the correct history behind it. Thanks Aledys.