When you walk into De Cam Geuzestekerij in Gooik, the first thing that you see is a well-worn print of The Peasant Wedding, a 16th Century painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted just before his death.
The painting depicts a party with revellers eating and drinking along tables and bowls of food being distributed. On the bottom left of the painting, a man is pouring beer into jugs. Karel Godeau is certain that this would have been lambic beer, common around the Brussels area where Bruegel moved to five years previously.
Karel is fiercely proud of his lambic and the style in general. And he is committed to retaining its provenance and isn’t too impressed with some producers’ more modern takes on the beer style.
I’d wholeheartedly recommend this lovely little festival. You will bump into old friends and undoubtedly make new ones. Halle is also a great base with a number of high end B&Bs in the town such as Kaai 16 where I have stayed before and the impressive Flemish Home five bedroom house.
We stayed at the always classy Les Eleveurs with its comfortable rooms, hearty breakfast and fantastic restaurant where we enjoyed an historic beer tasting menu hosted by Andy De Brouwer on the Saturday evening.
We also had a full day visiting Brouwerij Boon, Den Herberg for lunch and Lambrikdroom at Drie Fonteinen. Boon had organised a schedule of brewery and foeder tours to launch their new shop at the brewery.
While I always love to visit a brewery, the treat here is the barrel room where drinking fresh lambic from a foeder is a delight. Our guide joined us in a toast of lambic from Vat 83 and I was delighted to locate Vat 31, winner of World’s Best Geuze at World Beer Awards that year when I was on the judging panel for that category.
I had a peak at the new tasting room that was due to be launched in a couple of weeks, a date that I couldn’t make, due to judging commitments. It was also great to catch up with Frank Boon and take a look around his workshop where he is busy as a cooper these days repairing foeders.
Frank even gave us some staves from a 115 year old barrel, made from wood that was 200 years old at the time. Some glasses of Oude Geuze in the garden was the perfect way to end a morning at the brewery.
So it was off to Den Herberg for lunch and after a few beers and a tasty meat and cheese platter it was onwards to Lambik-o-Droom. We were a very lucky group to visit the tasting room when a batch of Jerez y Frontera was launched, both the Oloroso and PX versions.
And they didn’t disappoint. Midway through tasting these delights we were also offered a tour of the barrel store. One of the highlights was the foeder featuring a hand-carved relief of Armand and Gaston on the wood. It is difficult to comprehend that Armand de Belder would tragicaly pass away less than five months later. The world of beer is diminished by his absence.
Sunday saw us make our way to Gooik and a visit to Karel Godeau’s De Cam Geuzestekerij. Founded in 1997 by Willem van Herreweghen, Karel took over in 2000 combining his day job at Brouwerij Slaghmuylder in Ninove.
He devoted himself full time to De Cam in 2019. I’d won a tour of De Cam at the virtual Toer de Geuze earlier in the year. After a detour to the excellent Cafe Den Haas, Karel welcomed us into his blendery. Immediately we were tasting a fresh jug of his lambic straight from the foeder.
Karel was so generous and took us around the blendery, answered our questions and gave his honest opinions on the lambic world in Pajottenland. More lambic followed, some Framboise, a new unnamed and young fruit blend and his delicious Oude Geuze.
Supplemented with local cheeses and warm weather this made for a wonderful afternoon in the company of Karel and his friends. I also picked up some five year lambic that was bottled in 2019. One of the beers of the year for me. Karel even arranged for a friend to collect us and take us to Eizeringen and In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst.
Regularly voted the best beer cafe in Belgium and worldwide In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst dates from the mid nineteenth century. For more than 51 years it was run by Marguerite who at 85 years old poured her last bottle of lambic at Christmas 1999.
The Paneels brothers took over the pub and after a 5 year restoration the bar re-opened. It is an essential visit. Not only is it a perfect representation of a traditional Pajottenland cafe, it also boasts one of the best lambic cellars in the world.
Apart from certain events and church holidays, the pub is open only on Sundays between 10 am and 8 pm. If you in the area this place is unmissable. If you are not, make the effort to visit. Bus 128 between Brussels and Ninove will drop you/pick you up 200 metres away.