Thankfully pictures tell a thousand words, and the memories in the images are still in my palate as I experienced one of the great nights of beer drinking I have ever experienced. I am indepted to the great couple that run Kulminator in Antwerp and it truely is one of the great places on earth to drink.
The hotel I chose was only a five minute walk away, as long as you followed the right streets, for which of course I didn’t. But there is a large sign that says Kulminator that lets you know you have arrived. Its in quite a residential area of Antwerp but 10 minutes walk from the Groenplaats.
The ambiance of the bar is quite unique as they have classical music playing and you sit at wooden tables, and often you share your table with a few others. There are always these locals that I have seen on two trips to Antwerpe that had said the previous trip, that I only take pictures of Beers, not Temples, or churches. I said yup! He was there again making fun of me. Apparently he’s an architect with a wicked sense of humor.
It is very common to feel out of place in such a bar, due to the immense beer list that literally is 100 pages, given special back vintages. You can pretty much only buy aged, older beer here, and this is what a local said is why most people expect to pay more for beers in the Kulminator.
The Bar has a few taps, but its really an aged bottle bar is what you go there for. On the blurry image here you can see that there is a few rare selection beers that seemed to all be 2-3 old minimum. This at the incredible price of only about 2-3euro a glass. One of the great parts about the choices is they will help you decide if you are lost, as one American couple who walked in were. They hadn’t realised they had stumbled into one of the best bars in the world. Its a bar where
even someone with a bit of beer knowledge, feels helpless due to the size and enormity of the beer selection choices.
There was a whole page of back vintage Christmas Ales that I absolutely adore, and I got help choosing some of those, as well as some older Lambics that I would not have ever had the chance to try before.
You can see from the decor that the bar is filled from head to toe with beer, and there are crates of the Westvleteren that sit in front of you. Apparently the owner drives out to the abbey every monday to pick up their allocated 1 case of the beer. I had the Westv 12 and thought its a nice rich beer, but its not to my taste, but glad I retried it.
One of the great parts with Kulminator is that there are so many beer styles that you do not have to stick to one variety, or brand, you can ask for help in choosing something different that you wouldn’t have. I was lucky to have t
he owner being friendly last night instead of the wonderful wife who is always serving and taking orders. She told him to dig into the cellar and find some interesting beers for me. I was extremely lucky to have tried something that is rare, and only available in this bar. I had the 1979 St Sixtus / St Bernardus 8. This beer is the same age as my little brother, and I was 5 when it was made. It was truthfully one of those special moments in life where you think “I AM NOT WORTHY”.
Based on my enjoyment the owner then went back to the cellar again and found some bottles of 1987 OERBIER Christmas. This was likely once in a lifetime experience and I am grateful for having some help with choosing the beers, or in a way, letting them choose all the beers for me. I am after all in their house, and I will follow their directions.
The whole night cost me about 100 Euro for the bottles and experience, but when you consider its expensive for drinking in Europe, but its a cheap night out if you go to dinner, the movies and have nice wine.
Somehow I ended up befriending guys near some street who wanted me to come with them to a bar on the other side of Antwerp, I was in a happy mood and thought hey why not, I’m on holidays.. then when we passed a mobile Frite Stand I then bid them farewell and had my frites, and apparently I do not remember buying it, but I woke up having had a Magnum Ice cream. For which I dont ever eat desert but the things you do on your travels.
The Kulminator is definitely one of the most special beer experiences in the world, and I can only hope the couple don’t retire as it wouldn’t be the same if they did. Rumour has it they keep saying this year will be their last. I want to come back next year and the year after.