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Other Letters From America

"BELGIUM" WANDERINGS one of Daren Nightingale's letters from America

Part 6. Brasserie D'Oleye - Belgium

Visit of : Monday 18th April 2002.

Yet again 'Petite' John had done a crap job in getting us all hopelessly lost. So much so, that we arrived early at the first visit of the day,

Brasserie d'Oleye. It is in the Liège province, beautiful countryside spoilt only by the occasional farm. Although the Brewery was basking in the early morning sunshine, see picture , was I the only one who noticed an eerie similarity to the Bates Motel?!.

The Brewery, housed in a renovated Mental Institution, now has a new roof, fresh pointing and recently bricked-up windows. But that's where the 'new' bit ends, "We have worked very hard to keep the original filth ", "tourists are no longer impressed, and are fed up of sparkly clean places like Orval", the Brewer went onto explain in detail. "We have proper muck in our Brewery, it's been tested in a laboratory and we have a Certificate to prove it" he proudly boasted.

Brasserie d'Oleye is one of a handful of the new so-called Agricultural Micro-Breweries (AMB's) that have recently sprung up in Belgium. "The idea is to get away from the sterile clean beers that punters are used to ", explained the Brewer. People need more dirt and filth in their diets - it's good for them", he explained.

Whilst the Brewery is located in the new buildings, it is closely allied to a nearby Farmyard, which houses an interesting collection of animals, some human. After the brief tour, nearly all conducted in some strange local dialect (bloody Johnny Foreigners - can't they speak English round here, or what?), the Brewer then invited us for a morning coffee, before the beer samples, to be taken in the new Multi-Million Euro Oleye Visitor Centre, literally just a 30 second walk around the corner.

We were welcomed by René and Renata, known locally as the Two Ronnie's. They worked with Igor, all of whom had been institutionalized since birth, and lived with the other animals in the farmyard. As we arrived, they were busy scraping the cobwebs and dirt off of some cream coloured (but originally white) cups, which had been hastily assembled for the Coffee. This was not Nescafé, but a local specialty; Café Oleye. It is made by using four litres of concentrated washing-up liquid, one granule of instant coffee and a hand full of local farmyard dirt, all mashed in 64 litres of luke-warm water. It's good to have at least one cup of some Café Oleye" the Brewer explained - It lines the stomach before drinking". He wasn't kidding!, the oily film, only found in this type of coffee, really does help the beer `slip' down easily. "The broken cup handles and cracks in the glazing on the Cups are intentional", one of the Two Ronnie's explained. "They aid the growth of the microorganisms like streptococcal legionellae and cryptosporidium in the Coffee,' it's just like Lambic brewing. In fact, when it gets really warm - we even get Anthrax if we are lucky", Igor explained as he twiddled with his webbed fingers. So we moved on to the first house beer. A Brown Amber Beer (?!). A very, Very, brown Amber beer. The Two Ronnies had carefully rolled a fresh cask of the beer all the way down the road to the Visitor Centre just before we arrived. Infusion of all the shitty bits gives it flavours not found in filtered beer", one of them was heard to mumble. I want you all to get some yeasty bits in your beer; can you taste the hops malt and farmyard.?". "Yes" we all choked enthusiastically.

We sat and literally soaked-in the surroundings of the Barn through our trousers, as we ate our first Beer. To be a true Agricultural Brewer, "the appellation controlée is the fact that you can, Taste the Beer in the farm, and the Farm in the Beer. And you can certainly taste the farmyard in my beer!!” the Brewer bellowed. The unique Visitor Centre is not from the mind of an idealist Architect. Lots of thought have been put into it.

"The straw is soaked for at least two weeks in stale horse urine, and the shit on the walls is also real". "We decided to keep the animal feeding troughs on the walls and have just started to put the pigeon droppings in and around, the roof trusses for added atmosphere". "The cow's placenta in the corner - covered in the fruit flies - is just our little internal joke!" he laughed.

They also have a First Class Lounge. It’s just like a traditional English pub, a Snug and a Lounge". Our resident fumiture expert, Richard "Marigold" Allsop, tried out this facility. Marigold stated “If you sit down really, really, really slowly, hardly any dust comes up at all. I’m hungry, Are we leaving soon ?"

Unfortunately later, the Brown "Earth" Amber Beer had taken its effect on Marigold, and emergency surgery was deemed necessary to save his life. Steve and Jim, see picture left, two First Aiders from Wakefield CAMRA are always on hand at times of need, and were called upon to help out. One of the Brewery Drays was used as an operating Table, as well as a local bandsaw. It was close, but with clinical precision we cut him open and removed the lump of hair-ball that he had accidentally swallowed whilst eating his first beer." Apparently, it was that close. I haven't been so scared since I farted, and almost shit myself after the legendary Beeersel Gueu:e Session a few years ago", First-Aider Steve added.

To me, To you, To me, To you......."

By now, nearly all of us had plenty of time to leave, hide, lose or throw away our first beer. Unfortunately, the second beer was not far behind the first.

But this second beer had to be delivered, as supplies had been exhausted. Running out of the draught brown beer, meant that the Brewer had shouted at the two Ronnie's to immediately replenish supplies, and quite literally within almost 15 minutes, the rumble of the two Oleye Brewery Drays could be heard traversing the tight country lanes. They were literally packed high with at least 3 crates each of the blonde beer. They were a sight to behold, and the brewer proudly showed us round his two Brewery Drays, "the Wheel Barrows are originals from the long gone Belgium De-Schmaerskee factory, one is from 1923 and the other a rare 1932 model. They have never been cleaned, or oiled. Occasionally we have to put new rubber handles on - but that's it".

The Brewery Dray Fleet

Bitterly disappointed with the clean looking filtered Blonde Beer; we valiantly forced it down, made our excuses and decided to leave as soon as possible. Thank God - It was soon time to go on our way to Verviers anyway. How we were all looking forward to not being to able to find a place to eat, or wait 5 hours for a boiled egg sandwich in Boule Rouge. Again !!

The Brewer and his entourage bade us farewell. “Safe trip back to the Big Town" they all shouted as they waved at us. I left the village once in 1980, and I’ll never do it again", he boasted to the friendly gathering of all of his Uncles, Brothers, Sisters, Wives and Nephews. Oh, how they laughed as they played their banjos.

If you have never tried Brasserie d'Oleye Beers - you are lucky!. Don't bother! They're Shite! .

Surfs up Dude !

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