That is if you like smaller medieval European towns, good food and good beer. Herentals has an older section on the street Grote Markt (Grande Place) which was probably the town center 300 years ago.
Each end of the street has an old gatehouse, that was probably part of a wall. On weekends there is often an open-air market in the town around the church in the center; in fact if you look on Google Maps you see the tents.
When we go there, we stay at the Hotel Zalm. The owner is a great host, and over the year have shared some great stories. One year we sampled some beer from his private collection. The next, he was brought a Sam Adams American Kriek beer; smuggled through Customs; however it was not surprising to hear that it was not good a Kriek.
Anyway, on Sunday we were able to try some food at the market; then head over to a favorite bar - the Brigand.
Here one can sit on the streets and enjoy a Belgian beer or 3.
We also did some live blogging, which brought some stares from passers-by, what with the tiny folding BlueTooth keyboard and the iPhone perched atop it.
The Brigand is a great classic family bar, where everyone comes there socialize, even kids.
The owner of the Brigand appears to be a beer fan, as he had some from a new brewery in Herentals - Dijk Waert - available. We shared the McThals with the owner - he has tried it already of course - but that is more of a custom in Belgium. The beers tried that afternoon/evening were:
Hertalse Poorter - Slaghmuylder [#3,249]
Boerken - Den Ouden Advokaat [#3,250]
Waterloo Double 8 Dark - Brasserie du Bocq [#3,251] (love the "glass")
Pannepot Old Fisherman's Ale - De Struise [#3,252]
Witte Lambic - Mort Subite [#3,253]
Straffe Hendrik - Brouwerij de Halve [#3,254]
Eeuwige Liefde - Dijk Waert [#3,255]
Mc Thals - Dijk Waert [#3,256]
Now the last two were quite good; brewed locally and the Mc Thals - being aged in whiskey barrels - had an amazing smokey/phenolic flavour reminiscent of a Speyside Distillery scotch. I emailed the brewery, to see if they could accommodate us Tuesday afternoon.
As we had an early morning on Monday, it was not too long a night. Dinner and a couple of beers were at the Zalm. Their restaurant is at least a 4-star, and the stofles (Flemish stew) was great, as were the eels simmered in a mint cream sauce. At the bar, only tried a
Oude Geuze - Geuze-Stekerij De Cam [#3,257]
Kriek Retro - John Martin & Brewery Timmermans [#3,258]
Monday night was a bit of a shocker, as apparently bars and restaurants close in Belgium (think of the anguished cries from the Hindenburg disaster - "Oh the humanity!").
So before we went out, a couple of "imported beers" were consumed:
Cock n Bull - Concrete Cow [#3,259]
Pumpking Evil Pumpkin Beer - Wychwood Marsdens [#3,260]
Although there was a curious observation: many of the bars with a very clear "closed on Mondays" sign, were lit up with people inside.
We went into the Bridge, at the south end of the square, near one of the gates. This was what one would term a "local" bar for really drinking only. No one initially spoke English, but we made-do with French. Although once we professed that Belgian beer is the best, apparently the folks opened up.
We did not try the "ceiling sausages" as we called them,
nor the oddly-named apple juice.
Grimbergen Double Ale - Alkens-Maes [#3,261]
Chimay Blue and a Tripel - Chimay [#3,262 & 3,263]
Cristal - Alken Maes [#3,264]
Kriek - Lindemans [#3,265]
Although these were nothing special, it was nice to see these were served properly, the "Belgian way". We did meet a one-eyed Frenchman who allegedly served time "comme Papillion, vous connaissez 'Papillion'?" in French Guyana like Dustin Hoffman's character. I also can't imagine my high school French teacher - the late Mme DeNood - would ever envision I'd be carrying on a conversation in a Belgian dive bar in Herentals. Posted on FaceBook "See you all someday soon unless these folks in the bar are werewolves... "
Although not in the mood for a full dinner, one must never, ever leave Belgium without having - WAFFLES! In Herentals, try De Waterlelie.
We made it back to the Hotel Zalm, after stopping into the PostOffice restaurant (also closed/open apparently, but now at this late hour really closing) and had an Amber Ale from Palm.
At the Zalm bar, we found we were a bit more peckish than originally thought, and ordered some cheese and sausage and olives, this picture does not do it justice.
We had several good beers that night, from the Zalm's extensive menu.
Ingelmunster Kasteel - Van Honsebrouck [#3,267]
Abbey Brown Ale - Corsendonk [#3,268]
Dubbel - Tongerlo [#3,269]
Brugge Tripel - Brouwerij de Gouden Boom [#3,270]
Duchesse de Burgoyne - Brouwerij Verhaeghe [#3,271]
Of course, it was not extensive enough, but a quick call from the waiter to the owner produced one of the best beers of the trip
Brew No 3 - Hof Ten Dormal [#3,272]
Next morning it was a quick breakfast, and off to work.