Diet and Exercise

Belgian Jokes


Philadelphia, PA

November 2009

Filed by: Lewis Dribblin

Monk’s Cafe was packed.  And I was a little pissed.  More so disappointed.  I had been looking forward to going to Monk’s since it had become a minor legend for its sizeable and thoughtful selection of Belgian beer as well as for its cozy atmosphere.  Earlier that day, I was online examining the menu, and it took me a good half-hour to choose which appetizer and entrée I would have, paired with what beers.  But the place was packed—no place to eat, no place even to stand—and the thick wall of people surrounding the bars (there are two, as far as I could tell) meant that only a contortionist, a very tall contortionist with a long reach, could have gotten to the beer.  I’m just barely tall enough to get on a ride at Disneyland, and I have trouble putting my socks on.

Un-solitary Monks
Un-solitary Monk’s

So my friend Stephen and I improvised a Plan B: the Nodding Head Brewery and Restaurant, which sits on Sansom Street somewhere between 10th and 20th.  I didn’t mind walking around until we found it because I was wearing comfortable shoes.  But I had been there before, I knew the beer was good, and I knew that it was fairly close to my final destination: Chris’ Jazz Café to see Mike Stern.

The menu at the Nodding Head was extensive but fairly ordinary, unlike the more creative and Euro-tinged menu at Monk’s.  However, everything on the menu at Monk’s seemed to be inspired by recipes devised during the Middle Ages, when folks were less sensitive than we are today to issues such as heart disease and obesity.  Yes, I had been in the mood for an authentic-style Belgian combination of sweet (the beer) and savory (the food), but I figured I could make things work at the Nodding Head.  As it happens, they serve a pretty good French Dip, and since France is close to Belgium, I thought this would be a good substitute for the Belgian steak sandwich I had intended to have at Monk’s.  Yes, I know that the French Dip wasn’t invented in France, but by same token Belgium isn’t a real country.

As for what to do about that Belgian beer I had been looking forward to, it so happened that the Nodding Head was serving up its own take on a Belgian beer, the Egress Quatro. (I’m not sure I’ve spelled this correctly.  “Quatro” may have had two “t’s.”  I’m sure I saw two “t’s” at some point, but by the time I left the bar I was seeing double, which means there were four “s’s” in “egress,” so I’m dividing by two.)  It was advertised as a Belgian beer that was distinctly hoppy in flavor.  A hoppy Belgian beer?  I’m not a beer technician, so I don’t know much about the use of hops in Belgian-beer brewing.  But I do know that Belgian beer tastes sweet to me, and I also know that hops are bitter.  I wondered how this combo would taste, and I wondered briefly whether Egress Quatro could actually be called a Belgian beer—before remembering, again, that Belgium isn’t an actual country.  Still, I didn’t know what to make of the idea of a hoppy Belgian beer.  I acknowledge that I might be revealing an embarrassing lack of beer knowledge, but so be it.  I couldn’t ever remember tasting a Belgian beer that was not predominantly sweet; certainly I had never tasted one that prominently featured the piney bitterness of hops.  But I was in the mood for something Belgian–something other than waffles–so I kept an open mind.

As it turned out, the Egress Quatro was really good.  Really, really good.  The hops took away the sweetness that sometimes overpowers even the best of Belgian beers, and the Belgian-style sweetness moderated the bitterness of the hops.  I don’t want to get carried away here, but I think it was one of the best beers I’ve ever had.  As I drank glass-after-glass, I became lost in a dream world, in a Belgian candy forest populated by pine and citrus trees.  That’s a silly description, I know, but keep in mind that I had been drinking—and the beer’s flavor was really too complex to describe, much like Belgium itself.  And while I may joke around about Belgium, I never joke about beer.  It was excellent, and it really did put me in a dream world.  There was also a gnome in my dream, and he was eating a French dip off of my plate.  The gnome looked a lot like Stephen, now that I think about it.

I eventually arrived at Chris’.  I don’t remember how, but I did.  I remember thinking to myself only two things: “Man, are my shoes comfortable” and “Should I have enjoyed the Egress Quatro as much as I did?”  Yes, it was a delicious concoction, but was it an assault on the integrity of Belgian-style brewing?  The fact that Belgium is not really a country was of little comfort.  I was desperately trying—and failing—to make sense of the meaning of a hoppy Belgian beer.

Mike Stern, as expected, was awesome.  He’s one of greatest guitarists ever.  There’s also a sort of crazy-guru quality about him, and since I was still in a piney-Belgian-candy-forest haze, I somehow came to believe that he could help me make sense of my beer quandary.  So I caught up with him during the set break and explained my issue.  And he said, “Hoppy Belgian beer—why not!”  In five words, Stern had explained to me the meaning of Egress Quatro.  I would rest peacefully that night.

I left Chris’ and somehow found my way to my hotel room.  And as I drifted off to sleep, I remembered a Belgian joke that a Dutchman had told me a long time ago: Why does a Belgian take a brick and a match to bed with him?  He throws the brick at the light bulb then lights the match to make sure he hit it.

Belgian jokes—why not?

Battered Belgium