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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.