This has got to be one of my favourite bars of all time, even though it takes some time to get to the village of Eizeringen. ‘In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst (In the Insurance against Great Thirst) is a traditional Payot cafe, with one of the largest gueuze and kriek selections in the world.
Some 250 are on the menu. The bar is owned by Kurt Panneels, who took it over in January 2000 and it is run by himself and brother Yves. You can find most of the family, including parents Maurice and Lydia, behind the bar on many a Sunday and on church holidays to cater for those who attend St. Ursula Church opposite or claim they are going to church and don’t quite make it.
Yves founded the House of Gueuze in 2006 and also organises the annual The Night of Great Thirst, along with the yearly Day of the Lambic and the Day of the Kriek. In 2011 and 2012 Ratebeer awarded the pub a Gold Award in the category ‘Best Beer Bars in the World’. In 2015 and 2016 it was named ‘Best Beer Bar in Belgium’ and ‘Best Beer Bar in the World’.
The church (see pics below) was built in 1840 and the house containing In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst followed in 1842. Part of the pub was a candy store before, according to the blurb on the bar’s website.
Kurt took over the pub after the 85-year old Marguerite, who owned it, said that on Christmas eve of 1999 she would uncork her last bottle of beer. She had kept the local pub open for more than 51 years. A Payot cafe refers to Pajottenland, the fertile agricultural region in Belgium where most lambics are traditionally made. A Payot is the Walloon word for a soldier from Pajottenland.
The pub was restored over the next five years (2001-2005), with Kurt and his father Maurice doing most of the work. They kept the Art Déco counter and installed the Westminster clock on the wall. Hops are strung along the walls and wooden beams. You are stepping back in time.
Grab a seat at one of the wooden tables. Don’t be afraid to ask to share a seat with someone else, or share your table with someone in need. There is room in the place for 90 people. You become part of the family of visitors and lambic pilgrims. Order the 5-6 on tap lambics/gueuzes (listed on a chalkboard) before you start off on the bottle list on the menu. There are some expensive ones, but some good deals too if you hunt right.
Order a whole cheese and a gueuze or kriek pate to eat during what should be a long Sunday afternoon before catching the bus back to Brussels or Antwerp. The pub is open from 10-20h on Sundays, church holidays and when there is a funeral. You can also buy beers from the bottle shop in the same building. You could order ahead online and pick up when you get there.
People from the village and a good mix of tourists and regular beer nerds tend to fill up the place until 4 pm and that is a good thing. I have shared many a table with a local and it is good to talk and be friendly. In keeping with the beer culture I love, people also tend to share their bottles in a very friendly way.
The Day of the Lambic occurs on 8 December 2018 and is organised by the Gueuze Society. ‘In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst, which exceptionally opens on a Saturday to host the 11th edition of this paean to spontaneous fermentation in Belgium from 15-20h. Admission is free. Frans Baetensstraat 45, 1750 Lennik – Eizeringen, Belgium.