I went to Belgium yesterday. And I only drank two beers. What was going on?
You may be able to guess the reason for by moderate beer-consumption, if I tell you that this weekend the annual Hasselt Jenever Festival takes place.
I've been to dozens of beer festival but this was my first jenever festival. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Would there be a hall with a stall for each distillery? Would they be selling jenever at all?
I needn't have worried. Dotted around the old town were dozens of stalls selling a variety of jenevers (most luridly-coloured fruit concoctions). Luckily, they did have some of the nicer straight versions for for hardened pissheads like me.
My son Andrew (always handy to have along at events like this to guide me back to the train station) took some short films of me knocking back shots. But, true Stalinist that I am, I eschew all representations of my physical likeness. If you want to see me sinking jenever, you'll need to drop by Olofspoort one Friday night.
As well as al fresco drinking, the festival also involves qiuite a bit of dressing up and eating. Many of the town's restaurants offer a special jenever menu. (That's food cooked with jenever, if you were wondering). Ours was very nice indeed, but it was Belgium, after all.
The National Jenever Museum had on sale a special jenever they had produced by traditional methods. Along with the 150-odd jenevers its bar usually stocks. It wasn't bad, but the version that's aged 5 years in oak must be exceptional. But that was only on sale by the bottle and 35 euros was a bit rich for me. I made do with a bottle of 1990 vintages Filliers, a snip at just 20 euros. It certainly made the three and a half hour return train journey pass more quickly.