Pepingen is a collection of villages in the heart of the Payottenland, in Belgium’s lambic country, to the south and west of Brussels. The municipality of Pepingen is comprised of the villages of Beert, Bellingen, Bogaarden, Elingen, Heikruis, and Pepingen.
This area is full of beer cafes, breweries, and distilleries. These include Brouwerij Sako in Boogarden; Brouwerij VAN’T Pajottenland in Pepingen, with De Cort Distillery on the same site; ‘t Dravershof cafe in Pepingen; and other places.
De Bascule is a beer-focused cafe in the village of Bellingen, which opened in September 2016. The owner is beer aficionado Jef Koolen. Jef worked at a nearby bar for 15 years, as well as several other cafes in Leuven, before deciding it was time to open a bar of his own.
De Bascule stocks about 110 bottled beers, and six brews on draft. “We have about 30 lambic and geuze beers on offer,” Jef says.
The cafe also has quite a few Trappist beers, 14 in total, and has been serving Chimay Blue on tap since 2017, along with five bottled Chimay brews. De Bascule carries a range of six La Trappe beers, as they have been a Gouverneur of La Trappe since 2018. Jef also stocks Trappist beers from Orval, Rochefort, and Westmalle. The focus of the cafe is lambic and Trappist brews, as well as other Belgian artisanal beers, which you can see listed on the menu images above.
Jef is a warm and friendly owner, who is very knowledgeable about lambic beers and other Belgian brews.
When Patrick Van der Spiegel of The Land of Geuze and Lambic Beer Tours told me he had a special visit planned for us on the last Sunday in August, I was intrigued. Note that, without Patrick’s assistance, this lambic beer adventure would not have been possible.
Somehow, I had never been to De Bascule during my many visits to the Payottenland and Zenne Valley. This visit would be very special, as owner Jef Koolen had not one, but two lambics aging in barrels for 2.5 years, and neither barrel had been opened in over a year.
We first tasted an excellent cider and lambiek blend, Wild Adam, from Distillery De Cort and Brouwerij VAN ‘T Payottenland, also both in Pepingen. This distillery and brewery will officially open to the public on September 18, 2022.
Then, it was time for a walk into the cellar of the bar, which is one of my favorite places to visit in cafes, lambic breweries, and lambic blenderies. The first barrel that Jef opened was a former Jim Beam bourbon whiskey barrel. As you can see in the video above, he remarked that the lambic had been in the barrel for two and a half years. “It’s not very acidic at all, and it’s really perfect.” I agreed: a very soft lambic, refreshing and delicious. The wort was brewed at Brouwerij Sako, which I wrote about in this previous article here.
After we savored the first samples, Jef opened a former wine barrel, and remarked that the last person he allowed to taste this lambic was Frank Boon of Brouwerij Boon. I knew Patrick and I were in for a treat, and the lambic did not disappoint. Like the first barrel, the wort was also brewed at Brouwerij Sako, and had been put into the barrel at the same time. It was soft and refreshing.
So I do have good news for you lambic lovers out there! De Bascule will be having their own Oude Geuze bottled, from these two barrels, in December, once the lambics are three years old. Young wort from Brouwerij VAN ‘T Payottenland will be brought to the cafe, and blended with the older lambics, and then bottled. “We have not yet decided about whether we will use 37.5 cl or 75 cl bottles, or both,” Jef remarked. “Also, we are not yet sure of how many bottles will be filled. But it will be a limited number,” he added. “I do have an idea for a name for my geuze, which will be revealed at a later date,” Jef commented.
Jef then suggested we taste some one year old Brouwerij Boon lambic from draft, and so we did. It was great, as always. We then took a tour to the back of the cafe, where Jef has an event space that can accommodate up to 100 customers.
Note that Bascule is the French name for a type of scale. “This one we have was made around 1935,” Jef says. The bar building itself dates to 1920.
De Bascule is located at Hondzochtstraat 3, Pepingen, Belgium. The telephone number is 32 477 45 67 37. The cafe is open from 11 am to 1 am on Mondays, and Wednesday through Saturday; and 10 am to 1 am on Sundays. It is closed on Tuesdays.
De Bascule, like so many of the great breweries, cafes, and distilleries in the Payottenland and Zenne Valley, is not easy to reach by public transport. Belgium’s drunk driving laws are very strict, so I recommend visiting the area with a local, or with a group.
Patrick Van der Spiegel and his Lambic Beer Tours are a good option if you do want to visit with a driver who is also a local lambic expert, who also knows many of the cafe, brewery, and blendery owners in the lambic beer world. Many thanks to Patrick for his assistance on the adventure to De Bascule.
For information about tourism in the Province of Flemish Brabant, see their website here.
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