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Even in a city the size of Antwerp some beer cafés stand apart from the the rest, and Kulminator is one of those. Two levels hold a half-dozen tables while the small bar accommodates another 10 stools. Wicker chairs are paired with untreated wood tables that look as rugged as their dark wood walls, ceiling, and floor. Street-side windows support the inside plant life and candles at each table make for a cozy setting. Three rows of glassware stand on display above the bar, surrounded by beer mirrors and signs. Shelves behind the Z-shaped bar display the bottled beer selection while a guest book lies open nearby where visitors can see who else has stopped by recently. Plan to sit and stay a while, since the beer menu is over a half-inch thick and contains some rarities not found elsewhere.

The Echte Kriek is opaque with an intense fruity/estery aroma. The flavor starts cherry-sweet, goes cherry-tart, and then finishes sharply puckering. This impressive brew has a light body that supports a thick tan head but only a slight mouthfeel along with a dry finish. The bottle-conditioned St. Benoit Blond from da Bocq comes in at 6.5% and appears a hazy gold with a wheaty aroma, thin body, and sweet wort-like flavor. Unfortunately most of the mouthfeel seems the result of the carbonation. The Timmermans Kriek arrives in a dusty 75 cl bottle that heightens anticipation. Pouring a clear red, the ample carbonation generates a continuous stream of bubbles. The flavor seems balanced toward sweet cherry with all the requisite lambic yeast characteristics along with a slightly tartness and smooth finish. Don't miss this one! The 1998 Stille Nacht from De Dolle Browers is an 8% brew "Met Honig en Kandij" (with honey and candy sugar). Red in color, the aroma begins the taste experience with esters and a deep rich malty character. Medium-bodied but with a full mouthfeel, the flavor consists of a very mellow maltiness, some fuitiness, and noticeable alcohol. The 9 year old Bockor Oude Burin (33 cl) is a dark brown with a rich malty aroma, thin body, very dry malty flavor that borders on cherry-like before finishing dryly. The Liefmans Goudenband (75 cl), at 8%, is a clear ruby color with a rich malty and yeasty aroma. With an effervescent mouthfeel, its tartness dominates the malt in both the flavor and aftertaste. The 6.2% Paranoia has a freshness date of 12/99 on its neon green and pink label. The grassy, chlorophyll-like aroma is matched with a gripping seaweed flavor with a distinctly non-malt sweetness. Remaining behind in the glass after the beer is consumed is a similarly colored residue of questionable origin. The '87 Frambozen bier Van der Linden (75 cl) is a 7% brew costing 300 BEF (~$9 USD). Clear red in color, it has little carbonation, a strong raspberry aroma along with an even flavor balance that is neither sweet nor tart but offering an incredible synergy of of smooth raspberry and malt flavors. The Kriek de Neve is a dark amber with complex flavors moving between dry, sweet and estery.

The Kulminator is clearly a world class beer experience. The two very attentive servers are experts at the pour and offer all the 75 cl bottles in angled wicker baskets designed to leave behind yeast sediment from the bottle-conditioning process. Unbelievably, it is not even crowded on a Saturday night and chain-smokers are are actually in the minority. Prices range from 65 to 600 BEF, about $1.75 to $17 USD, and credit cards are not accepted. Snacks include cheese and salami. Hours are posted as Mo 8:30 - 11:30, Tu-Th 12 - 11:30, Fr 12 - 1, Sa 5 - 1, and closed Su. With hundreds of beers on hand, some more than 15 years old, it is easy to loose one's self in the classical music and continue a tasting journey of incredible beers throughout the night.

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - March 1998

32 Vleminckveld
Antwerp, Belgium
Tel. 03 232 4538

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