Sunday, July 20, 2008

A TRIP TO LA TRAPPE

Last year there were three major arrivals in the San Francisco Bay Area for lovers of fine beer: THE TRAPPIST in Oakland, easily one of my favorite bars going; THE MONK'S KETTLE in San Francisco's Mission District, a place I'm sorta on the fence about due to their high prices & limited seating; and LA TRAPPE, in the famous olde-world San Francisco Italian neighborhood of North Beach. I've made it to the former two a couple times or more, but I'd never set foot in LA TRAPPE. La Trappe's a Belgian restaurant, see, but it's also a bar featuring over 180 bottles beers and a Belgian tap list that's nothing short of amazing. Me & DP checked this place out a couple of weeks ago, and over much shuckin' and jivin', hijinks & shennanigans and even a little bit of chicanery, we got a fantastic meal and maybe the best triple-punch of beers I've had in many a moon.

To start with, I fear for LA TRAPPE's future. Sure, we were there on a Wednesday night, but to have only 2 tables full at 7:30pm during the height of tourist season was a total bummer in the summer. This pain and fear of impending loss was made all the more acute by how wonderful this place is. Terrifically friendly (if a little "green") staff, nice layout, happening location, cool secret downstairs beer bar, and best of all, an outstanding plate of grub. We both ordered this very fresh, "very artisanal" plate of Belgian chicken and vegetable strew - it has some sort of Belgian name that I neglected to jot down, and is native to the city of Ghent. Hey! We know a guy from Ghent! I asked the Belgian waitress if she knew Ton Arnaert, and she slapped my face. Serves me right, I guess. Anyway, the menu is split between Belgian specialties (sadly, no fondue) and - uh - burgers & pub food. I'm telling you, go Belgian all the way here, because they've got a superstar chef workin' the sauces back there. Great meal.

The three beers I had were, like I said, maybe the finest triple threat I've put together since my last visit to the Russian River brewpub. Would you believe me if I said WESTMALLE TRIPEL was the worst beer I had of the night? And that it still ruled? Here's what went down:

WESTMALLE TRIPEL - I know this is supposed to be the tripel to end all tripels, and pretty much the standard-bearer for the Trappist style. I admit my shortcomings when I say that the one I had this evening was only my second. This one gives you an immediate zing, a very big, strong and complex herbal zing at that. Very spicy and peppery, and it wears its very high 9.5% alcohol content well. I may have called this a 7.5/10 in the past, but now I think it's grown in stature to a big 8/10. (I recognize that there are those who believe this to be the finest beer in the world - I'll keep trying it out to see when I agree).

DE PROEF ZOETZUUR FLEMISH ALE - Whoa. I was in the mood to try something a little more sour, and this Flanders Red Ale was a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Only have tried one other beer from De Proef, and that was their team-up with PORT BREWING to make "Signature Ale". This one's quite a bit better than that fine ale. It's a burgundy/red ale, a fantastic mix of tart and sweet, with the predominant taste being not-quite-ripened cherries. Smooth as all get-out, and retains all the "musty" character you'd want in a sour while still being very drinkable. Grab this with extreme prejudice should you ever come across it. 9/10.

GOUDEN CAROLUS AMBRIO - After that "Zoetzuur" I was definitely in the mood for drinkin' if you know what I mean. What else could this place throw at me? Can you believe they upped their game even more? GOUDEN CAROLUS AMBRIO was even better! It's a thin-bodied, Belgian-style amber/pale ale, and it's nothing short of one of the most flavorful beers I've ever had. Everything was going right with this one - fruit and caramel, some woody/barrel tastes, and this off-the-charts drinkability that would make this veeeery dangerous at Tom Arnaert's next kegger/beer bongathon in Ghent. I saw someone who wrote that it reminded him/her of UNIBROUE's MAUDITE, and given how much I love that beer, that's high praise indeed. This one might be even better. I totally showed this beer my O face. 9.5/10.

I'm going to patronize this place as much as my wallet and schedule will allow; it far exceeded my expectations, and any San Francisco pilgrims would be well-advised to check it out. Don't worry, it looks like you'll get a table.

5 comments:

Matt Walker (mwsf) said...

Still haven't checked it out. I plan to in the next couple weeks though.

Was the dish Chicken Waterzooi?

Jay said...

Yes! Chicken Waterzooi. That was it.

kaicevy said...

DE PROEF ZOETZUUR FLEMISH ALE - Whoa

Tannhauser said...

My wife and I spent a wonderful evening at La Trappe back in March. We also enjoyed Alembic. Wish we could get back more often!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hinman, U.S. citizens: visit Ghent! Book now and receive an invigorating 25 minute waterzooiboarding session upon arrival at your hotel - completely free of charge!