Beer post: Lier rhymes with beer!

Just 10-15 minutes by train from Antwerp, Lier is not only a picture-perfect Belgian town, but is also known for its beer. With a reputation like that, how could David and I resist going? Short answer: We couldn’t.

We chose a sunny Saturday for our day trip so we could check out the Saturday market in Lier’s main square and take a boat tour on the River Nete in addition to scouting out the local brews. [Check out my previous post for a travelogue of our day in Lier.] At casual market-side café ‘t Gomerke, I chose a Caves (pronounced, more or less, like “cah fess”) for my first beer of the day and David opted for a Sint Gummarus Tripel.

Lier beers with a market day lunch

Caves (5.8% alc) is a high-fermentation beer brewed without artificial coloring or preservatives and without adding sugar. It was the most widely sold beer in Lier in the 1700’s. According to the Visit Lier website, beer has been brewed in the town since the 14th century and although there have been numerous breweries in the town over the years, the last one closed in 1967. This ended the production of Caves until 1976 when a guild called De Heren van Lier (“The Gentlemen of Lier”) arranged to have Caves brewed again using the original recipe.

My Caves poured a dark copper color with a white head that laced thickly and persistently. The smell was green apples and molasses with a hint of funk. My first sip was predominantly caramel and a sweet and sour cherry tartness that reminded me of a Rodenbach Grand Cru. I was surprised there was no added sugar because my initial impression was of too much sweetness. Drinking more, I got caramel and brown sugar, Granny Smith apples, dark bread and sour cherries. Medium body, soft carbonation. I really was afraid Caves was going to be too sweet for me, but the sweetness stopped just short of being a problem and I found myself enjoying this beer. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it was served nicely cold on a gorgeous October day overlooking the Saturday market in Lier’s historic Grote Markt (main square).

St. Gummarus is the patron saint of Lier and two beers–a dubbel and a tripel–bear his name. The Sint Gummarus tripel (8.3% alc) is a golden color with a long-lasting 1/4″ white head. The barnyard nose carries through to the flavor along with caramel, bread, a crisp-to-the-point-of-sharp spiciness, peach and coriander. David noted a slight bitter/metallic trace as well. All in all an enjoyable tripel and distinctive, if not the best we’ve had.

Check out that head on the Kempisch Vuur tripel!

Later in the afternoon at Den Moment yet another outdoor café on the main square (now emptied of the market stalls), I ordered a De liter van Pallieter or simply “Pallieter”, a local tripel. Since we found no Bierke Plezierke beers on offer (Lier beers we’ve sadly yet to try), David decided to venture a bit further afield and ordered a Kempisch Vuur tripel from the nearby town of Pirlot.

The Pallieter (8%) was my favorite beer of the day, a classic Belgian tripel with all the barny “banana” goodness that implies in both the nose and taste. The flavor also has a floral/herbal quality. The beer is a not-quite-clear gold with a white head and lacing that dissipates. Pallieter has a smooth, velvety mouthfeel that buffers the alcohol. This beer is a pleasure to drink.

The Kempisch Vuur tripel (7.5%) had, like David’s earlier Sint Gummarus tripel, a spicy sharpness. An opaque golden hue, it poured a large and sustained meringue-like head. (see photo above) The nose was barny and spicy, the taste coriander and spicy clove. It had a thin, effervescent mouthfeel.

Sint Gummarus dubbel and the Zimmertoren

Our final drink opportunity came with a light dinner at Café Refuge where we sat outside just in front of the icon astronomical clock in Lier’s Zimmer Tower. Once again thwarted in our search for Bierke Plezierke beers, I ordered the Sint Gummarus dubbel. This beer poured a cola brown with a 3/4″ head that quickly receded. Classic prunes and dark bread nose. The taste was also prunes, dark bread, figs, caramel, and smooth spice. Medium body. A tasty dubbel.

In sum, we enjoyed all the Lier beers we tried even if they didn’t make our All-Time Favorites list. I’ve seen some mixed reviews online of some of these beers. The most negative seem so off as to make we wonder at the portability of these beers. Some criticisms were so far removed from what we tasted–and even described very different colors than what we saw–that I have to think these reviews simply got a bad and/or poorly stored bottle of beer. We’d definitely visit Lier again, both for its absolutely stunning architecture and setting and for its beer. Besides, we still need to track down Den Strooien Hoed and Den Blèèèter (yes, I got all those è’s right) from Bierke Plezierke.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 

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Kuala Lumpur: Best AirBnB pool yet!

I’d really just planned a peek at Kuala Lumpur en route to Cambodia, but we ended up loving this city and packing in more than I’d dreamed. I can’t start this travelogue without a nod to our spectacular AirBnB apartment. Located in central Kuala Lumpur, near 2 light rail stations and a monorail station, this brand new building is ultramodern, staffed with lots of helpful people, sporting a great view from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the 2-bedroom/2-bath apartment, a spectacular rooftop pool and more. All this for $65, all-in. We loved it!

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Our building’s lobby
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The Petronas Towers from our building’s rooftop pool

We found the city to be super-cheap and public transportation easy to navigate. We opted for a street food dinner the first night, and were blown away by our 16 ringgit ($3.84) dinner-for-two. David “splurged” on an additional 24 cent pound cake dessert. Choosing our spot by the size of the crowd and the friendliness of the owner, we pointed to the dishes we wanted, then sat outside at communal tables. It was hot and humid (and we did spot a rat at an adjacent patch of dirt and weeds), but the food was good, very plentiful and we felt like we’d dined like locals.

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16 ringgit dinner-for-two

The next morning, we hopped the subway for Central Market, browsing the stalls and pausing for a quick Malaysian lunch in the market, before wandering the market streets of Chinatown and a Chinese Buddhist temple

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Chinatown market
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Buddhist temple in Chinatown

We realized early on that there’s some sort of glitch in Google Maps when it comes to KL local trains. Google claims that every ride, no matter how short or how few stops will take “55 minutes.” We learned to ignore the travel estimates. For example, the ride from the Central Market stop to KL Sentral station for our 1:15pm appointment to go up the Petronas towers took less than 10 minutes.

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City of contrasts: the monorail at twilight

The change from grubby, bustling China Town to the ultra-modern downtown area and the swank Petronas Towers was startling. The difference in pricing was also jarring. It cost 80myr ($19.17) to visit the skybridge and top observation floor, not horrible by home standards, but a fortune in light of the cost of our local meal, transport, the markets, etc. KL is a city of huge contrasts. It was fun to visit the beautiful towers and something not to miss in KL. [If you don’t buy tickets online, you can be stuck in a long line. Although the online website claims you can’t buy tickets online less than 24 hours before, we found that not to be the case. Just create an account and proceed, and you can buy a ticket if there’s an open time slot.]

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Skybridge between the Petronas Towers
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View of the 2nd tower from the observation floor

Discounting Google Map’s grossly exaggerated travel time estimate, we set out for the sleeper hit of Kuala Lumpur: Batu Caves, a 25 minute, 2.60 ringgit ($.64), air-conditioned commuter train ride out of the city. [Note: the trains for Batu Caves only leave every 45 minutes during the middle of the day (every 15 minutes later on, and maybe earlier). Check the schedule before you pass the styles or you’re in for a hot wait by the tracks.] The caves are the site of numerous Hindu shrines and are a unique and exotic locale, offering free admittance. The main two caves lie at the top of a steep flight of stairs over which a huge golden statue of the Hindu god Murugan stands. Unfortunately, restoration is going on, so some of the beauty (and silence) was marred by construction work. It was still fascinating, with ongoing services, open to the public.

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This guy made anyone complaining about the stairs look like a weenie!

Loud drums and clanging cymbals in the upper cave signaled the beginning of a ceremony. A curtain was pulled back to reveal monks, tossing flowers and waving oil-fed candelabra. David joined a blessing ceremony, receiving a white mark on his forehead with the blessing (after making a small donation).

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Macaques roam the caves and surrounding areas, on the lookout for treats. Tiny babies clung to their mothers as they darted across the floor, snatching food offerings from the shrines and following visitors. They’ll steal, if you don’t keep belongings close. We found them pushy, but not particularly aggressive.

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The main cave at the top of the outer flight of stairs
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Looking up toward the smaller of the two main caves from the larger cave
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Macaque at Batu Caves with KL in the distance

Batu Caves was a highlight of our stay in Kuala Lumpur. It’s an easy trip and fun to see the contrast with the city. The commuter train lets you off very near the entrance to the sight. Go!