A word of advice if you plan travelling from Holland to Belgium by train. Get on at Amsterdam Centraal. You've no chance of a seat otherwise. Yes, I felt a little sorry for the pensioners on crutches, but it was their own fault for catching the train in Den Haag. They only had to stand for an hour. Or so.
We changed trains in Mechelen.Not been there in yonks. As we'd 40 minutes, Mike was keen on finding a shoarma place. Once he'd found one, I disappeared into the pub next door. My lunchtime sandwich was more liquid.
A beer and jenever sandwich. Admiring a rather nice old Whitbread sign, while sipping my Leffe Bruin. Quite spicy. Nothing like as bad as I'd feared. The jenever was a paint-strippery delight.
Leuven is another place I haven't been for ages. The square in front of the station has changed quite a bit. Not for the better. Most of the station has been demolished. The poshest stone parts remain, but not in use. Good one Leuven. You can get some idea of the horror here.
A bloke in an upper window of the building opposite seemed to be filming the crowds outside the station. Weird. He definitely didn't like me taking photos of him back, dodging inside.
Once in Leuven, we lacked just two pieces of information. Where the festival was and how to get there. It only took us half an hour to work out. I say us. Mike worked it out. We sat outside a pub with wifi and Mike went ticky-ticky-tack on his phone. Smart phones - the Barcelona of the digital world. Lots of ticking and tacking with no visible result.
I took the opportunity of being on licensed premises to have my second jenever of the day. The pub's wifi, wittily, blocked all beer-related sites. I had chance to savour my jenever while Mike handled the technical issues.
The transport arrangements were so confusing. The shuttle bus went from . . . . the bus station. Who could have guessed that?
Apart from being in the middle of nowhere, the ZBF's new location, Brabanthallen is great. Lots and lots of room. The main hall must be at least double the size of the one in Sint Niklaas. So much room. It made me quite dizzy. Though possibly that could have been the spinning around in circles
Every festival demands special tactics. At ZBF, I have a particular routine. Pick a type of beer, have all the examples that look worthwhile. With a trou lambic in the middle. Then finish off with four or five of the nicest beer.
It didn't quite work out like that this year. I blame the organisers. With all that space and more breweries, there were just too many tempting lambics. I began in the hole. In all honesty, after the journey's refreshments, I thought it best to avoid the super-strong stuff.
It's the best collection of flat lambic I've seen at ZBF. Girardin, 3 Fonteinen, Boon, Oud Beersel and a new one (can't remember their name*, tasted like a Boon base) all had at least one.
Only in Opstal have I seen a better collection of Lambic. I thought my Lambic days were behind me. Plat rekindled my love. Such damn drinakable stuff.
I bought 15 tokens. Plus two free ones for being in CAMRA. Just three hours to drink. "Do you think I'll get through them all, Mike? Remember that I often interpret simple comments as a challenge."
"Yes. And yes, I do."
Sort of cheating. That's how I got through them. I filled up a small water bottle for the return journey.
"That reminds me of the special drink I took with me on the nightmare blizzard journey. A blend of St Bernardus Abt and Lagavullin. There was so much whisky it changed a funny grey-brown colour."
"You have such wonderful stories, Ron. Are there any that don't involve drinking?"
Can't remember its name. The beer I put in the water bottle. I mislaid my programme. (Probably just as well. I've piles of old festival programmes clogging valuable living space.) It was in a big wooden barrel connected to a beer engine. Not proper cask, as there was a CO2 cylinder linked up. Very naughty. I felt dirty drinking it.
The train back was packed after Mechelen. Where Mike had another shoarma. Me, too, this time. Alcohol weakens my will. We couldn't get seats together. Never mind. I had my whisky beer to keep me company. If not awake.
I got home early. Surprisingly early. Time for a couple of Abts before bedtime.
* Tilquin, that was it.