Towards the end of my trip to Belgium last year, i spent about three days in Eupen which sits about 14 miles from the border of Germany. Mike and i started our foray by going to a bar which had La Chouffe on draught, and after about 13 of those, meeting two belgian indie-rock kids and talking about whether or not the hot bartender was making eyes at me, i realized that there's more to belgian beer than simply taste. Yeah, you can get properly ass-hatted on this stuff, which i did with the decorum of a drunken american pig dog. The two belgian boys kept insisting that the bartender was eyeing me, but i kept insisting that the bathroom had moved since i last used it.
at any rate, on the hike home (over a veritable alpine terrain of suburban homes built on a hill and then down a steep hill lined with handrails) i decided to fall into a holly bush. the bush decided to hold on and i then decided to wage an all out war by flailing myself back and forth, punching deeper into my new arch-enemy. mike just laughed...but i think he may have fallen down at one point and was simply unable to help me. at least that better be his excuse.
the next day, despite the look of fighting eight cats bare-knuckled, we walked across the street (a very level and non-hillocked stroll) and ate a wonderful dinner at a restaurant the name of which escapes me.
the proprietor was one of those rare examples of the service-industry breed who either absolutely loves what he is doing, or has a cocaine IV strapped to his sinus. he zoomed around, took orders, filled wine glasses, made us taste different genever vintages and when it came time for dessert, offered up his wares. i chose a cake made with a Rochefort 12 sauce. when i asked him to pair a beer with that, he looked at me like he was about to lecture a child and simply said "weeellllllll?" getting his drift, i let him order for me. Rochefort 12. duh.
at one point in the meal as we were winding down, he told a story. he asks how i would order a rare steak, to which i reply "rare". he goes on about a british tourist the previous week who demanded "a bloody rare steak" and was adamant in that british naval officer kind of way about it. all he could think to say in response was "you want f*cking potatos?"
the point of all of this (except for the fighting bush bit) is that i realized, as i was being professionally served by this enigmatic juggernaut of energy, that by experiencing beer and investigating its qualities, we all close the cultural gap between source and supply chain. he was impressed by my knowledge of belgium's beers and i was duly impressed with his passion for something he undoubtedly grew up taking for granted. between raleigh and belgium, then, there is a cable that tunnels beneath the sea. it is imaginary and it is obviously not there, but it carries the warm feelings of two quite disparate beer cultures. and the conversations are becoming clearer and clearer.