Couttenye has succeeded in his task. Beer menus in Gasthof ’t Hommelhof Brasserie change seasonally, and the restaurant is warm and inviting, presenting meals in several different rooms.
During the early spring, a special menu features the pride and joy of nearby Poperinge—hops. Not mature hops, which won’t be ready for harvest until the end of the summer, but tender young hop shoots are the bill of fare on the Hopsheutenmenu (Hop Shoots Menu), which may include:
• Blanquette of lamb’s tongue, skrei (Norwegian cod) and fried hop shoots with Poperings Hommelbier (brewed by Brouwerij Van Eecke).
• Smoked Scheld eel bavarois with an espuma and a hop shoots salad; Geuze Boon (brewed by Brouwerij Boon) jelly scented with smoked eel.
• Guinea fowl fillet from Zillebeke and a drumstick confit with St. Bernardus Tripel (brewed by Brouwerij St. Bernard), creamy hop shoots and spring vegetables.
The house beer is Cuvée ’t Hommelhof (7.0 percent ABV), a blend of Kapittel Abt and Watou’s Witbier (5.0 percent), both brewed by Brouwerij Van Eecke. This beer is recommended with all of Couttenye’s meals. It has the aroma of a classic witbier, sharp and clean with a hint of orange and coriander. The flavor is malty and rich with the witbier characteristics tempered by the strong, malty and sweet Abt.
For those who arrive after the hops shoots are gone, Couttenye changes his menu seasonally. The three-course beer-tasting menu in early May featured choices of:
• Grevelingen special oysters, or beer and cheese soup, or beef carpaccio in a Cuvée ’t Hommelhof Marinade with goose liver cream and Parmesan slivers, or salad of shrimp scampi with a yogurt dressing of raspberry beer and balsamic vinegar.
• Rabbit stew in Kapittel Blond (Brouwerij Van Eecke), or fried monkfish infused with tomatoes, bacon and shallots in Watou’s Witbier, or leg of Ham in St. Bernardus Tripel.