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Thursday, January 31, 2013

La Mort Subite - Maybe the Best Beer Bistro in the World

Step Back into 1928

Even the entry is original

What you come for....


But, there's always a quiet spot


In the heart of Brussels, you take a turn down a small street.  Not an alley, but not a thoroughfare either.  Light lingers on the sidewalk in front of a tucked away bistro that looks like something off a Woody Allen set.  La Mort Subite glares in comfortable neon and hangs like a banner over a 1920s building, bursting with people in animated conversation.  “Hey, waiter!  Another beer and some cheese and sausage!”  But, it’s said in French so it sounds like a seduction.  Maybe it is.  The beer is that good.

You walk inside and the nearly century old d├ęcor amazes.  You’ve crossed the time barrier and stepped back into Brussels’ glory days, when beer flowed from the fountains of a hundred breweries, when men dressed in stiff collared shirts and women traipsed about in ankle length furs.

Sadly, that’s no longer true, but we live in hope and dreams.  Still, the old wooden tables are there, the high ceilings, tall, square columns, and soft, cream colored overheads that deck the room in graceful light.  The beer still flows and it’s still brewed by the folks who sell it.

These are the good old days, after the First World War and before the Great Depression.  1928.  You can feel it in the air.  Enjoy the evening.  This is the place to forget cares, savor the flavors, and pretend you know what you’re talking about.  Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald would have loved it.

La Mort Subite really began about 1910, in an establishment called La Cour Royale.  As the story goes, tellers from the National Bank of Belgium came to drink and play a game called 421.  Before they left to ease back into the monotony of work, they’d rush through just one more game, la mort subite, or sudden death.  The name took to the streets.

When in 1928, the owner and proprietor, Mr. Theophile Vossen moved his business to the current location, he changed the name to match what everyone already called it, La Mort Subite.  Mr. Vossen’s progeny have carried on and today the fourth generation continues to serve those Gueuze beers that have slaked the thirst of locals and visitors for almost a hundred years.

What is a Gueuze beer?  Catch my next blog and I’ll take you to the last old style brewery in Brussels.  Until then, here are a few teasers:  Top fermentation, from naturally occurring yeast.  Years of aging that blur the line between wine and beer.

Hey, that’s enough.  If you get to Brussels, go in and sip a cool one.  As well as beer and atmosphere, there’s got to be a novel brewing in a one-of-a-kind bistro like La Mort Subite.

1 comment:

  1. Damn good note, Bill. You should be putting together a book about all over the place stuff. Saludos.