Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bravo Beer Restaurant, Great Food & Drink! - Belgian Beer; Leuven, Belgium; Flemish; Lambic Beer; Banqiao, Taiwan; Hookah.




In one of my previous blogs, I mentioned Belgian beer and the variety of glassware designed to optimize the taste and enjoyment of each specific beer produced by the brew masters.  Please see my blog link as follows:


In my career, I worked for a Belgian High Technology years ago and I had the luxury of traveling to Belgium many times, up to 4 times a year or more.  I flew into Brussels and rented a car to drive to a beautiful old town called Leuven in the Flemish region (North) of Belgium.   

Belgium Map - Courtesy of ezilon.com


As a side note, when driving in the northern Flemish half of Belgium, all street and interstate signs are in Flemish language.  However, as soon as you cross into the Southern portion of the country which speaks French, all the signs are in French.  So, if you do not know how to write both the Flemish version and French version of the cities, towns, streets, and sites, you will have a little difficulty navigating in Belgium.  By the way, Flemish is a Belgian Dutch language of Flanders, the Northern part of Belgium.  In this Region, their are multiple Flemish dialects. For Example the Flemish Region City of Brussels is Brussel in Belgian Dutch and Bruxelles in French.  And the French city of Arlon in southern Belgium is Aarlen in Belgian Dutch and Arlon in French.

Leuven, Belgium Town Hall and Central Square - Courtesy of Wikipedia


According to Wikipedia, “the earliest mention of Leuven ("Loven") is from 891, when a Viking army was defeated by the Frankish King Arnulf of Carinthia. According to city legend, its red-white-red colors depict the blood-stained shores of the river Dijle after this battle.  Situated beside this river, and near to the stronghold of the Dukes of Brabant, Leuven became, between the 11th and 14th centuries, the most important center of trade in the duchy."

 


"A token of its former importance as a center of cloth manufacture is reflected in the typical Leuven linen cloth, and even today, many shops sell high quality linen cloth items” especially lace doilies.


Example of a Lace Doily which Leuven, Belgium is famous for - Photo Courtesy of the internet

"In the 15th century, a new golden era began with the founding of the by-now largest and oldest university in the Low Countries, the Catholic University of Leuven, in 1425.  In the 18th century, Leuven became even more important as a result of the flourishing of its brewery, now named AB InBev, whose flagship beer, Stella Artois, is brewed in Leuven and sold in many countries throughout the world.  Leuven is the worldwide headquarters of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the largest beer company in the world. InBev's Stella Artois brewery and main offices dominate the entire north-eastern part of the town, between the railway station and the canal to Mechelen."  

"Nowadays Leuven is a real "student city", as during the academic year most citizens in its center are students.  The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven; University of Leuven) is the oldest Catholic university still in existence in the world, and the largest university in Belgium.  Leuven sports one of the liveliest bar scenes in Belgium. It boasts the "longest bar" in Europe, the Old Market, and dozens of bars and caf├ęs crammed into a central square in Leuven."

Now I hope  you can understand the connection to Belgian Beer and Leuven!  I drank beer in almost all of these pubs surrounding the central square in Leuven where I acquired my real taste for and enjoyment of Belgian Beer.

In the US, you can find some Belgian Beer, (like the brand Stella Artois), in stores and bars.  There are also specialty bars/restaurants that carry a handful (maybe 10 to 15 different) of different Belgian beers, but the selection is limited.  One such restaurant is BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, a definte favorite of mine.

Well, to my surprise, I found a restaurant/pub in Taiwan called Bravo Beer that only sells Belgian Beer!!  Not just a few varieties, but at any given time, they sell almost 130 to 200 different Belgian beers (both bottle and draft) in each of their locations!!

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I arranged a lunch with a large group of friends at Bravo Beer’s Banqiao, Taiwan restaurant located in the HSR/MRT train station in Banqiao.   

Night view of Banqiao Station - Photo is Courtesy of Wikipedia






Front Entrance of Bravo Beer's 2nd floor restaurant


A Display at Bravo Beer showing some of the brands they sell.  These empty bottles are displayedall around their restaurant.



More empty beers on display


They actually have two restaurants here, one in the main station, bottom floor outside area, and another in the Global Building, second floor.  We ate at the second floor location and visited the other just for pictures before we headed home on the MRT.  Bravo Beer started at this location with only 3 employees and has been successful since their inception 6 years ago.  They now have five (5) restaurants/pubs and one beer hall.

The Bravo Beer restaurant menu is both interesting and many dishes are quite authentic Belgian.  While in Brussels and Leuven, many pubs sold Belgian Pizza.  All are smaller personal pizza’s in the 6” to 10” range with crisp thin crust, and delicious sauces, cheeses, meats and other ingredients, including a raw egg cooked in the center.  Bravo Beer pizzas are quite similar in quality, taste and ingredients to real Belgian pizza.  We tried three of their pizzas varieties.   
 

 

 

We also had dishes including, appetizers, mussels, beef, lamb, two pasta dishes, European sausage, shrimp, chicken, shish kabob, and more!  The photos below are certain to “wet” your appetite to visit a Bravo Beer restaurant.  Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
















We were very fortunate to meet the owners Cherry Yu and Simon Lee at the restaurant, and to have them sit down and have a beer with us during our lunch. 


The Owners of Bravo Beer, Cherry Yu and Simon Lee
 
Now the Beer……  Below are pictures of just some of the great beers we drank with some very special glasses designed just for the beers we drank.  Please note: Belgian beer has a high alcohol content of 4% to 8% or more.  

This location has about 130 different beers available to their customers, mostly in bottles, and a few great ones on draft.  I was pleasantly surprised that they carry many abbey and Trapist monk beers in their selection as well as an incredible selection of fruit beers.   Below are just two of their main coolers for their beer.




Close up of some of the beers they sell

Close up of some of the beers they sell

Close up of some of the beers they sell


Most Belgian fruit beers are the lambic style with almost no “head”.     

A berry flavored lambic style beer.  One of many flavors and brands offered at Bravo Beer.


They also sell large bottles of beer, in the “wine bottle and magnum bottle” sizes.  These range up to $1000TWD per bottle (~$30 USD) .  For our group, we decided to try a Gulden Draak beer, 



..........and a “sour” beer , Liefmans Gounenband Beer.  Now this is a very different beer and one I have never tried before.




Liefmans Gounenband Beer 8% Alcohol by Volume (ABV) Flanders Old Brown Beer
is also known as a “Provision Beer” or an aged Strong Belgian Brown Ale.
This beer is a balance of oak and sour to create one of the world’s most complex beers,
& has been brewed over 330 years, since 1679.

I started out with a unique Satan Red Ale.  Please note that some of these beers I only had a small glass or taste, while others I enjoyed the entire bottle!!!!



I next tried a Chimay Red and Chimay Blue.   



Then I had a Dorval Amber and a then a draft Hoegaarden Blond Ale.   





One of my favorites when I visited Belgium was the Leffe Blond Ale.  So, I then sampled the Leffe Blond.  (They also sell a very comparable Afflingem Blond Ale.  I'll try that one next time)  



Needless to say, I was in Belgian Beer HEAVEN!!!!

 
Belgian Beers we drank with special glasses for different beers

Some of the different beers we tasted



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Their second location in Banqiao offers an area to enjoy their offerings inside and out. 


Bravo's Beer's second location at Banqiao Station.  Customers ordering on the spacious patio.

Their patio on a nice spring day in Banqiao

A view of the Banqiao District's, New Taipei City Hall from Bravo Beer's patio


 A street level view of the Banqiao District's, New Taipei City Hall - Courtesy of Wikipedia


One special experience that they offer at this Bravo Beer restaurant location is to use a non-tobacco/nicotine Hookah.  (I think they may even use beer instead of water! Please do not take my word as I did not have time to try this.)  If you are interested in trying their Hookah, just ask.

Bravo Beer's Hookah ------> COOL!

The Hookah originated somewhere in the 16th century or so in the India or Persian Empire.  I am told it was designed to “filter” tobacco smoke through water to “purify” the tobacco smoke. 

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Well if you like delicious European style food (some with a Taiwan twist), and great tasting Belgian Beer, this is certainly a place I would recommend as a must visit restaurant.   Bravo Beer certainly brought back special memories of my many trips to Belgium and if you have not been to Belgium before, Bravo Beer will certainly create some special food and beer tasting memories for you two!

Enjoy, and as always, “Drink in Moderation” and if you do drink, be safe, and take the Taipei MRT or a taxi home or back to your hotel.


Edward C.

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