21 Draughts, still talked about to this day.
A nondescript ferry from Hull to Zebrugge on a December Saturday evening in 2014 probably isn’t the start point for too many Belgian beer related tales. However this one starts on the vessel locals affectionately call “The Party Boat” offering super cheap weekend trips abroad to Amsterdam and Brugge.
It was £35 return including cabin and coach transfer and isn’t much more expensive now. The cabins are best described as snug. My Brother in Law who is a submariner uttered the words “Bloody hell, its tight in here” when we went in to claim our bunks.
I had a pre determined reason to go to Brugge that weekend. It was partially Christmas shopping and partially recce for my trip to the Ronde Cyclo for the following spring. What followed was something quite special!
We left the ferry and took the coach into Brugge before meeting up with a friend of mine (another cycling nut) from Amsterdam. The train and coach station converged so it was easy to meet up before sauntering across the cobbles into town.
I know that people criticise Brugge for being commercialised and more expensive than other towns in Flanders but there is a magic and ambience to the place that I think is unique.
After getting a breakfast we looked for somewhere to quench the sort of thirst only a night bobbing about in the North Sea can give you. 21 Draughts was the destination we found.
The service and expertise were amazing and it was there I took my first sips of delights such as Brugge Trippel and Bornhem, drinks that remain on my list to this day.
As opposed to getting out and sightseeing for the day, we didn’t leave until we needed to catch the last shuttle to the boat back to Hull, only pausing for a cone of frites and mayo… naturally.
When I went back for the RVV cyclo the bar was still there and the wife enjoyed one too many before driving to Oudenaarde to meet me the next day after the sportive. However the next time we went back to the town the bar was closed and gone.
21 Draughts is still loved and talked about in our family and much missed. A lovely spot just back from the square and reasonably stocked and priced.
It’s trips and experiences like these that make my love for Flanders and its ale so strong, and despite my favourite bar no longer being there, I hope one day to take the foam off one in the the town.