Cabardouche: A new microbrewery in Antwerp opens to the public

Happily, David’s been working on several beer posts. Here’s his latest:

Cabardouche is a new microbrewery in Antwerp located at Engelselei 258 in the Centers van Borgerhout area, just under some railway arches amid a strip of other shops in newly renovated spaces. It joins much larger and well-established local favorites De Koninck (owned by Duvel Moortgat) and Seef as one of the few breweries in Antwerp. The name Cabardouche derives from “Cabaret douze” and harkens to Napoleon’s system of numbering cabarets in Antwerp, with the number 12 (or “douze”) reserved for brothels.

The Cabardouche team began home brewing in 2012, turning out 20-liter batches in the kitchen and living room. By 2014, they were brewing their recipes in the facilities of other established breweries such as Pirlot in Zandhoven. After several years of gypsy brewing, they crowdfunded their way into their own brewery in the Centers.

The new Cabardouche location is nice on a sunny day.

We went to their opening party on September 21, 2019. It was a beautiful day and the party was in full swing when we arrived. The sliding glass doors spanning the brewery were wide open, and about 70 people were mingling around picnic tables set up on the sidewalk, including some kids drinking lemonade from Bruis, a shop next door with coffee and craft sodas. We tried five of their beers, one on tap and the others bottled, and they were priced at one Euro each, a special price for that day’s opening.

Blonde Bump (5% ABV) was served on tap. It is a blonde ale: crisp, clear gold with a fine white head. The aroma evoked Citra hops, with floral, citrusy and mild clover notes. The taste was bland, nondescript and mostly bitter, which could be more a comment on this style of beer than on this specific rendition. Not bad, just not “wow.” It got a little better as it warmed (sadly, as a blonde ale should be drunk cold).

Tasting all Cabardouche beers on offer on opening day. Note the only head; must be the Stout Mokke.

Next up was Escort Deluxe 2018 (13% ABV), billed as a creamy caramel stout with seven malts and one bitter (undisclosed) hop. It poured very dark, almost black, with no head – I couldn’t even generate a head by swirling it.  Nose and taste were of molasses, caramel and gingerbread, rather sweet. The alcohol was noticeable, as expected, but in a good way, as you’d prefer for an after-dinner brew. The texture was heavy and unpleasantly flat.

Stout Mokke (9.0% ABV) is an imperial stout that poured almost black with a tan head that lasted longer than any of the others we tried. As the name suggests, it has a rich malty chocolate taste with some coffee, molasses and plum. It had a nice lingering bitterness, too (54 IBU).

The REUS (6.8%) is a pale ale that Cabardouche developed for the Reuzenstoet (“Giant Procession”), a 300-year old parade featuring giant puppet-like figures in the Borgerhout district of Antwerp.  This beer has a clear amber color with not much head.  Rootbeer, banana, herbs and grass dominated the nose and taste. A mild bitterness finished things off. Slightly reminiscent of Triple Karmeliet, if not as good, it was the best of the Cabardouche beers we tried.

We also tried a beer called Don’t Cry Over Spilled Malts, a home brew that came in an unlabeled bottle and is not commercially available. A cloudy, creamy medium brown, it was yeasty and soft, with a spicy (cardamom) nose and taste.

The opening event at Carbadouche was fun and celebratory, and a good experience. The outdoor seating is especially appealing in good weather. But the beers, while good, were not remarkable and we’ll give them a little more time to settle in before trying again.

Practical info:

Cabardouche will be open at their new location at Engelselei 258 in the Centers van Borgerhout on Fridays and Saturdays. Bottles and glasses are available in their on-site shop. They also offer private events and can provide brew space for independent brewers. Contact them at info@cabardouche.be or call Elise on 0484 672636. Find out more on the Cabardouche website.

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