't Waagstuk


Located on the corner of a 450 year old town square named Stadswaag, where a pub anchors each corner, this is the epitome of a "neighborhood bar." The atmosphere is relaxed and inviting throughout. Three connected rooms offer high ceilings with old wooden beams where a wagonwheel chandelier provides both light and character. A more intimate back bar with red tiled floors and beer specials listed on the chalkboard presents a low-key setting for sampling. Nearby, a "collectors room" features classic Belgian bottles and glasses from times past. Throughout the establishment framed prints of historic Antwerp add to the sense of local brewing tradition. Support is shown for the OBP (De Objective Bierproevers), a Belgian organization similar to CAMRA, the British Campaign for Real Ale. The biggest annual attraction is the OBP's "24 Hours of Beer", a world class beer event.

Opened in 1994, this specialty bar offers private label beers in .33 and .75 liter sizes. One notable effort was the Zepplin, custom brewed for the eight businesses on the square to celebrate the anniversary of the German Zepplin bombing of this same square in 1914. By special arrangement, the microbewer produces his three test batches and the buyers select their favorite. The 750 ml Zepplin offers a malty aroma and medium body along with a creamy, smooth mouthfeel. The slightly malty-sweet flavor balance is clean and impressive. The house-beer Waagstuk is a clear gold color with a very smooth mouthfeel. The honey-like sweetness is matched to a medium body and yields a potent 11%, At 80 Belgian Francs (BEF), $2 USD, for a .25 liter glass, this one could alter your course. The De Konnick Cuvée arrives in a green bottle and a wicker basket and tilts the alcohol scale at 8%. The dark amber liquid provides a rich malty flavor with hints of almond. The mouthfeel is smooth throughout but there is significant yet complementary alcohol well into the finish. The Kriek from Frank Boon features a light body, along with an even flavor balance of cherries and malt that combine with the smooth mouthfeel to make a very good flavor impression. This beer comes in at 5% and runs 120 BEF. The 8% Augustijn from Van Steenberge in Ertvelde is a clear amber color with a pleasant light malty-sweet flavor, great mouthfeel and clean finish. The 750 ml Troi Mont from Brasserie de Saint Sylvestre comes in at 8.5% and is a clear straw color. This evenly balanced brew is clean yet features a subtle Belgian yeast character and finishes on a slightly spicy (coriander?) note. The rest of the beer menu consists of 23 Lambics (70-300 BEF), 14 Trappistes (80-150 BEF), 33 other bottled beers, and five draughts.

Visitors today have no hint of the changes that led to the business as it exists today. Placards on the wall refer to "Hef stuk van de Waag" and "Les Ries Riskee", both phrases connect with "stadswaag", the name of the square itself, and "waagstuk" or "risky business." The risk coming from the fact that this business was the original pub to open to the general public at this location in 1984 when the "punk menace" was plaguing businesses across Europe. Attention to quality is everywhere as the expert pours fill custom glassware with the beer label is always presented to the customer facing outward. From the kitchen, soups, cheeses, egg dishes and light pastas are available for 150 to 250 BEF. A wood stove and red-brick fireplace create the ambiance along with the classical and 40's French music. A CD sound system plays English, Dutch and French tunes. The outdoor patio is a great spot when the weather is accommodating. Hours are Monday through Thursday 10 pm to 2 am, Friday 10 am to 4 am, Saturday 2 pm to 4 am and Sunday 2 pm to 2 am. Ask for co-owner Hans to find out about the boor-of-the-month and attractions around town.

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - April, 1998

't Waagstuk
20 Stadswaag
Antwerp, Belgium

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