Jonathan Di Blasi travels out of the city for a Sunday to remember...
It may sound crazy to get up early on a Sunday morning, just to get on a bus heading out of town to go drink beer. It is, but when the place is ‘In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst’ and is only open Sunday mornings from 10am until just after church lets out at 1.30pm, you don’t have much choice.
Unless you’re attending a funeral at the church in Eizeringen’s small square where the pub is also located, the pub is having a special event, or you book a group in advance, you’ll need to visit on a Sunday morning.
That schedule is the same one the ‘Insurance Against the Great Thirst’, as its name translates to, had been running for 51 years when two brothers took it over from the 85 year old Marguerite upon her retirement at 85 years old, serving her last beer on Christmas Eve 1999.
Maybe you’re still wondering why it’s so special, and you still need a bit of convincing?
Eizeringen locals, brothers Yves and Kurt Paneels restored the pub to its former glory after taking it over from Marguerite; the brothers decided they needed to continue the pub’s tradition in this small village, insuring the locals and guests travelling here from around the world against the great thirst.
The history of the pub and the building it’s housed in is not only what makes it so special, it’s also the beer they serve, as local as the two brothers, lambic, (spontaneously fermented) and lambic-based beers such as geuze and kriek.
It’s native to the areas of the Senne Valley (Brussels), and Pajottenland, the beautiful, fertile and somewhat hilly area encompassing Brussels from the South to the West, the region you’ll find the pub.
This special beer has earned an international respect and following, as has this thirst-quenching lambic and geuze pub that breathes history, a sense of place, all steeped in tradition.
Top beer websites rate the pub highly, even though it has few weekly opening hours and this being a hobby-job for the Paneels. It’s not only the brothers that are doing their part to keep their historical, museum-like pub and this oh-so-special beer alive, it’s their parents, who also help them out as needed. This is the sort of place that makes you feel right at home, wishing you had it closer to where you live.
If all else fails, at least you can have them send you some beer from The House of Geuze, located just next door. This secondary business the Paneels brothers also run insures this special, world renowned beer style will continue to be enjoyed, wherever you are. But if you do visit, be sure to order in advance from their site so you can pick up your bottles when you visit.
After you’ve quenched your thirst, your appetite will probably be quite built up - and you’ll be ready for a nice lunch.
Head back to the main road, where you’ll find Bistro Jitho just set back from it, down a graveled driveway leading to an old, well-restored, two-storey country house.
Maitre d’ Jimmy will be there to welcome you warmly upon arrival, seating you promptly even without a reservation, (though I always recommend making one to be sure you’ll be seated), and at a time when most restaurants are closed, between lunch and dinner, they remain in service.
Chef Thomas uses fresh, quality ingredients from the area when possible, improving upon local specialty dishes, and creating variations on classics.
Service is attentive, professional, and you won’t wait long for your lunch. Portions are also surprisingly abundant, so a late lunch at Jitho after visiting the Paneels pub won’t have you wondering what’s for dinner back in Brussels...
If Bistro Jitho was in Brussels, you’d probably be spending 30% more, giving you another reason to enjoy lunch before heading back to the city.
A worthwhile Sunday visit to peaceful Eizeringen, first ‘In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst’, followed by lunch in the peaceful atmosphere of Bistro Jitho’s country home, all surrounded by the beautiful Pajottenland countryside, makes for a relaxing, truly exceptional Sunday getaway.