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1996 Antwerp


Paul, Mick and Trev.


Visit the 24-Hour Beer Festival.


Billard Palace, Hoegaarden café, Graan Markt, Stadswaag, Paters’ Vaetje, bolleke.


The closest Belgium has to the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) is the 24 Hour Festival in Antwerp. Held each year since 1988 over a November weekend it is organised by De Objectieve Bierproevers, (OBP) the Belgium version of CAMRA. Travel was made easier this time thanks to the Channel Tunnel- Waterloo direct to Brussels. So much simpler than the old journey by snail to Dover and ferry to Ostende before you get onto the continental railway system.


It is always worthwhile travelling to Antwerp by train as you arrive in the magnificent central station with its vast vaulted ceiling. The station was also very handy for our hotel, which was just across the square. The Billard Palace (Koningin Astridplein 40) was not the most salubrious of places but the room was adequate even if one of us had to use a camp bed! And it was cheap. The hotel gets its name from the billiard hall, which took up the whole of the first floor.

We ventured into town and quickly found the many bars grouped around the Cathedral, Grote Markt and Stadhuis. It was in this area that we found the Hoegaarden cafe (Suikerrui). If you ordered 6 glasses of beer you got one large (2-lt.) beer free, an offer readily accepted by the stag party who lined up 36 beers along the rail specially designed just for this eventuality. Just around the corner in Ern. Van Dijckkaai (which borders the Schelde) there was a bar, which, whilst not serving any notable beer, had a tremendous barrel organ.

Other areas with bars we liked were Graan Markt and Stadswaag.


With the festival taking place on Saturday and Sunday we did the sightseeing bit on Friday including a trip on the road train. Still, we did manage to fit in a visit to

Paters’ Vaetje: (Blauwmoezelstraat 1). Situated near the Cathedral this was the best beer café in the square. A beer list of over 100, five were on draught including Liefmans Kriek (6.5% ABV). An old fashioned bar, well worth the visit.

The evening’s bar tour generally followed that of the previous day with the exception that Paul got picked up by two boys instead of the previous evening’s solitary male. They introduced us to the Genever bar, located somewhere around Hoog Straat.


The Ninth Annual De 24 Uur Van Het Belgische Speciaal-Bier was held in Stadsfeestzaal, which was centrally located on Meir. On Saturday it was open from 11.00 to 23.00 and by the time we arrived around midday was already packed.

The programme offered over 120 different beers to try and our choice is attached. The 15-ml beer tasters were served in small bolleke glasses in exchange for tokens. At the previous GBBF the OBP had been promoting the 24-Hour and had given out vouchers that could be exchanged for beer tokens. We had quite a few vouchers and enjoyed several drinks on OBP. Very nice of them too.

After a few hours of fighting our way around the hall we gave up for the day and headed off to our favourite bars for the rest of the day.


A repeat of the previous day except the 24-Hour opened from 10.00 to 22.00 on the Sabbath. Still very crowded and much more costly (as we had now run out of vouchers), in our shorter second visit we still managed to meet a few acquaintances from the GLC Real Ale Society. Then off to our now familiar favourite bars and, of course, to lose Trev as he embarks on a circumnavigation of the city trying to find the Billard Palace.


Return home.

Created on 01/22/2006 10:02 AM by drinking
Updated on 01/22/2006 10:05 AM by drinking
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