Out there in the fields, or a visit to De Plukker Hop Farm Brewery outside Poperinge.


Previously: Time for remembrance at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery outside Poperinge.

It was Tuesday, our final day in Poperinge, where we had remained following the end of the hop festival in order to have some quality time with Luc.

There was a provisional plan to meet Luc at his house and borrow bicycles for a short mid-afternoon ride into the countryside around Poperinge, but with sporadic rain occurring throughout the morning, we recalibrated, and in the end, Luc drove us.

After a breakfast of bread with butter and delicious onion jam …

… we dodged the patchy rain and walked around town. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to see a thatched roof.

It must have been a Brit who stayed behind after the Great War.

Poperinge has more than a few examples of public art. To me, this piece is one of the finest public art installations anywhere on the planet, because where else can you find a steroidal hop cone in the middle of the roundabout?

It’s hard to say which would offend ordinary Americans the most, the traffic circle or the bitter flower of the hop plant.

Of course, it might be an aroma hop.

At lunchtime, a misty drizzle continued falling. Just as on Monday, we found quite a few eateries were closed, but the Oud Vlaenderen restaurant on the Grote Markt was open.

Perhaps on previous visits I may have enjoyed a beer outside on the terrace, but I can’t recall ever going inside.

Oud Vlaenderen proved to be a solid, traditional pub eatery with a few good beers. What struck me was the interior — neither ancient nor plastic, just warm and inviting. Notice that behind the bar are glasses, not bottles of liquor (they’re off to the side). The beer list wasn’t huge, and yet the custom in Belgium is to use the signature glass.

Just once in my life, I’d like to do business in a comfortable place like this. Maybe it isn’t too late.

By the time we were nearing the time of our rendezvous with Luc, the sun had finally broken through.

(The) Statue Ghybe, which satirises Poperinge’s long-standing ‘cloth wars’ with Ypres, Ghent and Brugge (Bruges). Those three adversarial cities are represented by a donkey, with the mythical fool – Meester Ghybe – riding it back-to-front, in an obviously fruitless attempt to crush the stubborn Poperinge spirit. There are more statuesque references to that ancient feud too (maybe the Poperingians are still a little bitter about it .. pun fully intended).

Nearby, recycling bins were tastefully arranged below a World War I remembrance. If I’m not mistaken, it commemorates townspeople killed during the time 1914-1918.

This one is the primary memorial to the troops.

I enjoy these old/new photographic mashups. 

The nearby Hotel Recour has a statue of its own facing the Paardenmarkt. Is it a horse?

Often we find ourselves surveying real estate listings abroad. It’s a quirk capable of bringing one’s dreams down to earth very quickly.

Luc had decided that with the weather as yet variable, he’d use the car, and so off we went for an inspection of De Plukker, an organic hop farm and brewery.

The harvest almost had finished, with the mechanized picking of remaining trellised rows delayed by the rains. I believe some of these were to be used for the De Plukker brewery’s annual “green” or “wet” hopped beer, which was slated for brewing a day or two following our departure.

Although I didn’t photograph them, we saw two tractors parked at the edge of a trellis zone, with cables leading to the poles. Luc explained that there had been high winds earlier in September; these naturally can be devastating near the end of the growing season when the trellises are packed with vines acting as sails.

Read more about De Plukker here.

The previous link also tells the story of the regulatory hassles experienced in trying to operate both an organic hop farm and a brewery. The current De Plukker brewing system is located inside a former hop shed, and I was impressed that when we found the door locked, former tourism impresario Luc produced a key and let us inside.

Needless to say, everyone knows and trusts him.

Luc looks right at home behind the bar.

It means a lot to me for De Plukker to exist.

Given Poperinge’s well-deserved reputation for all things beer, it was slightly odd all those years to be using the city as a base for the many nearby beer-related attractions when there wasn’t a brewery in Poperinge itself.

And what better place for a brewery than a hop yard or a barley field? In truth, we could have easily walked the distance from the center to De Plukker had the weather not been so quirky.

Bicycles surely remain the best option. I look forward to returning to Poperinge one year in summer and reprising some of the finest cycling times I ever had.

Meanwhile, a necessary closing culinary note, because our final day in Poperinge ended with a meal at a previously unknown spot called Markt 38. It is located on the Grote Markt, with outstanding meals (stew, frites and seafood-topped salad) and service.

Next: Back to Haarlem and a meeting with old friends.