The Kulminator: Perhaps the Greatest Beer Cafe on Planet Earth


The Place

The Kulminator isn't exactly in Antwerp's bustling, touristy city center. Nor is it that easy to spot at night once you get close (the street signage has no lighting). There's not much space to sit once you step inside and there's hardly any room to actually approach the bar unobstructed due to the random, dusty clutter. Many of the tables inside the bar seem to be reserved as record keeping office desks with loose papers and office supplies messily strewn across them, and many of the corners of the cafe having accumulations of over-sized, spent, novelty Belgian beer bottles collecting dust. There's at least one cat who wanders the cafe as if it's her own and the service is quite remarkably slow. By the time you sit down it becomes quite obvious that the proprietors of the establishment aren't spending too much energy on what you might call 'aesthetic upkeep'.

With that said, wandering into this setting was one of the most memorable and cherished experiences that I've ever had the fortune of having!



Leen and Dirk, proprietors of The Kulminator (you can say it, his hair is badass)

Once sat, my friend and I were cheerfully greeted by Leen, who provided us with menu consisting of what seemed like hundreds of small-print pages of beers sorted not only by variety but also by year. Once we made our selection Leen smiled then disappeared for what seemed like 15 or 20 minutes, eventually returning with a very carefully placed 750ml bottle in what seemed like a specially-made wooden box for holding the bottle in just the right angle so not to disturb the settlement built up over the last decade. The bottle's label was presented outward and next to it the cork and muselet, giving a very nice presentation and really emphasizing the Kulminator's core experience.

As with Belgian tradition the beer is properly paired with brewery glassware however with miniature versions of each of them. This beer and experience is meant to be savored.

The Beer

With 800+ beers to choose from in the bible of a menu, there are simply too many varieties for one visit. The Kulminator is known worldwide as having perhaps the best selection of cellar-aged Belgian ales, closely resembling that of a vintage wine shop.

The menu has pretty much any quality beer that you can think of (sans any lagers whatsoever) with a variety of different years and adjusted price for each one. The 750ml bottles are served in handmade wooden baskets (pictured) and secured in place with a rubber band around the neck connecting it to the fancy apparatus, with a goal of [at a guess] keeping sediment contamination to a minimum.

Here's a tiny sample that we did manage to get in a single sitting.

2005 Cellar-aged Chimay Blue Grande Reserve
I normally am not crazy about Chimay's beers. Some critics say that the quality has fallen off in recent years. To put that theory to the test we ordered a 2005 version of the Blue, and it was quite amazing. Tasting nothing like what I'm accustomed to, this had a very deep taste of caramel and fig. I savored every sip!

2007 Westmalle Tripel
About what you'd expect from the world's original tripel. While tasty, I'm not sure that tripels benefit from aging the same way that dark doubles and quads do.

2005 La Trappe Quadrupal
Clocking in at a stout 10%, the La Trappe Quad was our night cap. The only trappist brewer from Netherlands did not disappoint. Another absolutely fantastic beer.

Summary

Damage for all three of these aged Trappist ales was just 40 Euros total. Where else in the world can you do this?? It's no surprise that the purists at BeerAdvocate give The Kulminator a 100/100 perfect, world-class score.

Any beer nerds coming to Antwerp would be foolish not to visit The Kulminator. Don't let the decor scare you away from this gem!

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