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Taps: 8 / Bottles: 600
Cask: N / Beer-to-Go: Y
$$ - reasonable
[ Bar, Eatery ]
phone: +32 3 232 45 38
Known for their vast selection of cellared beers.
(Place added by: BeerAdvocate)
Ratings & Reviews
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| Reviews: 92 | Show All Ratings:
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5
Kulminator, even the name of the bar is named after a beer, albeit German. I have been to Belgium every Easter since 1994, in 1996 & 2001 base camp was Antwerp. This bar was always the first port of call, and often revisited many, many times during my stays.
A pleasurable, but not short, walk from the centrum, well worth the shoe leather if you want to stretch your legs. If memory serves me right, a Tram does go nearby. I think the beer range is in excess of 550, its hard to say or confirm or deny, but its bloody huge anyways. Aged beers and some unadvertised specials are always available, at least if you demonstrate sufficient interest and knowledge, and the owners think you deserve them. Quiet during the days, which is the best time to visit for a serious session and the only time I have ever got chance to talk to the two owners Dirk van Dijk and his wife. Often packed at night when it can be hard to get served, or even prize one of the Goliath menus from the hands of other drinkers. For me - it has got a little expensive I think over the years, but what teh hell, you do have a choice of price ranges here, as well as beers, so drink to your Budget. Again - No Food, after all this is one of the Worlds Best Beer Cafes, and you don't want "foodies" taking up good beer drinking space and permeating the atmosphere with smells do you?. Fill out the slips on the tables while here, drop them in the box near the door on the way out - and you will get a Birthday Card from the Kulminator.
Without equal, this is Probably the Best Beer Bar in the World.
08-17-2002 01:25:49 |
More by TheLongBeachBum
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 5 | $
Belgian businesses seem to like taking Monday off, as I failed to find several Antwerp beer bars which were open. Doubt cast into my mind about the Kulminator, as I only planned to visit the city for one day. I made it to the door, oh good, there's a crowd. Walk in, ok, where do I sit? Seating in limited to a handful of tables inside, and in back is a small area to drink and sit.There's nowhere to sit at the bar, but behind it are hundreds upon hundreds of cellared beers which are waiting to be opened from the shelf. The beer menu reflects that, as I felt like I was flipping through the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
About 8 beers are listed on-tap (Buffalo Stout, Avec Les Bons Vieux, Bush Noel, Kaastel Cuvee), but that's not the main reason to visit. Its long bottle list not only features hundreds of hundreds of different beers, but a vast majority of them have been aged for at least one year, and in some cases more than 10 years old. With such a vast collection, I chose to drink classics with some age; Round 1 featured 2005 Orval (great!), Round 2 was a still lovely 1998 Chimay Blue, and Round 3 was 2010 3 Fonteinen, poured from a traditional handbasket. All three beers were excellent, served cool, and with matching glassware. One additional bonus are the prices for the aged beer; the "fresh" beers are priced right in line, but compared to other places with a few cellared beers, the prices are excellent. My 1998 Chimay way only €9!
Unfortunately, time may not be on the Kulminator's side. According to one regular patron, Dyrk was working with a bum knee and had planned to retire within the next month. This leaves the duties to his hard working wife (who took, delivered, and poured the orders during the night), but after her there's no heir. If you're a beer lover and anywhere in Benelux, a visit to Kulminator is obligatory, even more so with its future in the air.
05-18-2013 03:02:55 |
More by DoubleJ
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | $$
I stopped here twice while I was in Antwerp in early 2006. Barring early and unexpected death, I will definitely be back in the future.
It was hard to find at first due to the strange angles the streets take in Antwerp, but once I located it there was no problem finding it again. In any case it's worth the effort to find, especially if you've made it all the way to Antwerp anyway.
The atmosphere was nice, albeit small. There was very limited seating, with maybe 6 stools at the bar, 3 tables on the main floor, and 2 more tables on the higher floor. Each time I visited there was classical music playing at low volume. The first time there was a horrible smell (possibly of cat poop) which marred the experience for me, but that was cleaned up nicely before my second visit.
The selection is the best I've ever seen, over 800 beers in a phone book-sized menu. Many of the beers were retired, but Kulminator still has aged samples ready for anyone to try. It was so difficult to choose. All the trappists are available, with multiple years to choose from. I tried the Westvleteren red cap because I don't expect to ever see it again.
There were also 9 taps to choose from, including La Chouffe, Kasteel, Carolous Bok, Bush Noel, Excelsior, and more I can't remember. I chose La Chouffe on the second visit just because it was fresh, and was very happy.
How can you not recommend this place? If you're within 100km of Antwerp, home in on this place.
03-19-2006 01:08:37 |
More by TurdFurgison
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4 | $$$
On the afternoon of our visit, the Kulminator had a very nice quaint atmosphere that was much like that of a coffee shop or small cafe. The place was very cool inside on a hot September day, with cushions and music in the background - at first. After a short while the power cut off which rendered the place dark and made it difficult for the owners to find beers off the beer listings. Once the power returned the beers were retrieved and the place seemed to come back to life.
The beer list was massive and was quite overwhelming. Most of the standard prices seemed good but the bottles can run up quite a tab. Be sure to bring cash since they do not take credit cards. The service was very good, quick and attentive. The owner, Dirk, either did not speak English or did not want to speak with us. His wife, Leen, did all the talking.
We didn't sit outside, but it seemed serene and peaceful and a few cats mulled around both inside and outside. The food was more of a pub fare, but was substantial and certainly hit the spot. The cats didn't seem to interested in some of the items however.
They said that in the spring the beer listings will be updated with all the beers they brought over from Bodega. I must return!
Visited on September 12, 2006.
10-16-2006 22:03:10 |
More by GCBrewingCo
United Kingdom (England)
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 2 | selection: 5 | $$$
The Friday before the Zythos fest is not the best time to visit this place.
At 18.00 it was full and I mean full, we did get served, but it took 20 minutes, the next two times it took 30 minutes. I know they have to hunt down some strange and old beers, but only having the two of them with the required knowledge on such a busy period doesn't work.
We found a seat in the end, with some other Brits, when they left another party of Brits took their place. Everyone knows their beers in here, it is not a bar you just stumble into. On the next table to us, 4 Swedish lads (mid 20's) were spending a fortune on some huge aged bottles, but didn't care and were having a ball.
All our beers were great apart from an aged one, anywhere else and you would take it back, but here, you don't.
I will go back, but not on a fest weekend.
03-05-2007 21:48:52 |
More by BlackHaddock
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5
First off, let me say that half the fun of the Kulminator is finding the damn place, and going there when they are open!
Hidden on a small street called Vleminckveld, which is about 10-15 blocks off of the main Ruebens square, and down the royal streets a bit. When we first visited here we found out that it opened on 8pm on Mondays, so we waited, and than we were let in by the nice old Dutch lady who works here with her husband. We were greeted, sat down, and the "tomes" were placed in front of us. This place had so many beers, it was not even funny. You want it, they got it. Vintages going back to the 70's and prior, stuff from dead breweries, dead beers, imports, even some aged Unibroue from Quebec! The prices were right, and the service was always fast and friendly. The worst thing about coming to the Kulminator, is when you have to leave! Oh, and come with deep pockets, as it is impossible to have "a beer or two" at the Kulminator!
11-06-2003 18:34:22 |
More by francisweizen
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | $$
I made several visits to Kulminator during my visit to Antwerp in Nov. 2005. It is located a bit away from the main tourist area near the Cathedral, but it is not a far walk from the Ibis hotel where I was staying. The big yellow Kulminator sign is easy to find during the day, but at night it is not lit as I expected. Apparently the sign has not been lit since 1989 when the city began taxing lighted signs.
Entering the Kulminator you find a small bar on the left. This bar seats ~8 people. There are tables for seating on the right (seating ~30+). There is a small area in the rear with a few more tables, with seating for maybe 8-12. There are candles on the tables, and many hanging plants and vines in the windows. The whole place looks rather cluttered, giving the feeling that you are in someone's living room. There is an old cuckoo clock, and soft music plays in the background. Several cats roam freely through the Kulminator, including an orange Tabby named St. Arnoldus and a black cat that was often drunk and bumping into things.
But of course the main selling point of the Kulminator is the beer. The beer list comes in a binder, and lists 600+ different bottled beers. Many of these beers are of older vintages, and some are stored off-site at another cellar, in which case you will not be able to order them for that day. I had the pleasure of drinking a 1982 De Dolle Stille Nacht, and it was simply amazing (and for a very reasonable price of EUR 14.00 as well). There are also some taps for fresh beers, and certain tap beers can be on "special". Every beer is served in either a branded glass or the proper glass for the style, if no branded glass is available. If you want to drink vintage, cellared beers in Belgium, this is the place to go, I think.
The proprietors and owners (Dirk and Leen) are also the bartenders and staff. The service was good and friendly, though not exactly rushed. In other words, you might have to ask for your next beer as they will probably not notice that your glass is empty. This just adds to the ambience and feeling that you are in someone's living room.
There is some food on the menu, but mainly snack items such as bags of potato chips, nuts, cheese, etc. Eat before you go.
The customers seem to be a mix of locals and beer afficianados from around the world. I met some serious beer fans from the USA and Finland one Saturday night and had a great time. Non-weekend nights were a bit quieter.
I highly recommend the Kulminator. It might not be the place for everyone, but I really, really liked it. NOTE: They are CLOSED Sunday, and do not open until 8 PM on Monday. Plan your trip to Antwerp accordingly, as you will be sad not to be able to go to Kulminator every day you are there.
Most recent visit: 5/28/08.
04-23-2006 21:18:41 |
More by UncleJimbo
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 2 | selection: 4.5 | $$
A visit to Kulminator was almost a religious pilgrimage for me. I had been dreaming about drinking at this bar since I saw it featured in a Rick Steve's travel show years prior. Reading about it on this and other sites as well as in travel and beer books made me almost burst with anticipation on the long walk there. In fact, my strong yearning nearly overwhelmed me at a visit Elaina and I made to the Royal Museum of the Arts that morning. We may have been staring at hundreds of fine paintings but I knew that the real Dutch Masters were down the Vleminckveld at Kulminator.
After drooling all over the glass that separates the beer cellar from the bar I took a seat on the back patio and began drooling all over the beer menu. Our server was quite busy discussing the latest Belgian version of the Oprah book of the month with a few other elderly ladies so we waited. A glance at the bar revealed to us that the terse looking old bartender was equally occupied arguing with two mulleted geezers. We waited. Eventually, the mature barmaid looked up from her novel and with a glance of mild annoyance took our order. A dozen or so minutes later a wicker basket containing a dust covered bottle of unfiltered 1995 De Neve Geuze was delivered complete with a dead spider on the bottle. It was so worth the wait! We set about relaxing with our delicious sour beer and took in the ambiance of the place and committed the beer list to memory.
For me, Kulminator was most exciting because of the sheer number of vintages available. If one wants, they can do a vertical of Chimay Blue going back nearly 30 years but if vintage beer isn't your thing, Kulminator also offers some of the most exciting beers available in Belgium today. For instance, beers from De Struisse were hot when I visited and Kulminator featured the full lineup.
Despite lagging service, Kulminator was a pleasant drinking experience and absolutely worth the visit. There beer list is truly unique making this historic beer bar a must for any true beerthusiast.
11-15-2009 16:05:32 |
More by DaPeculierDane
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | $$
What's left to be said about this magical place...Not too many bars on our side of the pond can pull off an ambiance like this one. Candles, classical music and an overall serene feeling, like visiting your grandma's house, but with awesome Beer! Even my girlfriend, who is starting to show signs of Beer saturation, was able to spend several hours there with no complaints. Other fun extras include the Johnny Cash poster in the bathroom - I think some local band was doing a tribute soon - and the view of one of their many stock rooms is enough to make you drool.
Dirk and Leen (I think that's how you spell their names) were a bit standoffish at first, but even though the bar was pretty busy they took the time to chat a bit and I was never kept waiting for too long. I guess it helps that we were there for a private tasting and I gave Dirk his first taste of ice cider. Turns out the guy is almost as big a fan of dessert wines as he is of Beer, so we got along swell. At least, swell enough for me to get my hands on a bottle or two that wasn't on the menu but that I spotted in the display case. Like a bottle of Cantillon Druivenlambik that apparently was from the mid-80's, with a really weird label that almost seemed hand-drawn. All he asked was a sample of it to share with his wife, which I was more than happy to supply. What else did we drink that night...Some DeDolle from the 90's, unfiltered Liefmans Kriek on tap, some British barleywine that was at least 15 years old, a Gueuze from a long lost brewery and a bunch of others. Not a bad evening at all! Some of the Beers were a little past thier prime, which is why Quality took a slight hit, but others aged remarkably well. And prices were surprisingly temperate, you could have a Beer almost as old as you are for about the price of a Bud at a strip joint. So start saving up your loose change folks, because this is the bar you need to visit at least once in your life.
09-24-2007 14:12:59 |
More by Goldorak
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | $$$
After a day with a medieval castle and a canal tour in Ghent, we headed to Antwerp to spend the night and drink at the Kulminator, a world class bar with free roam cats--perfect. Or, so we thought. Easy walk from our hotel in the historic heart of Antwerp, which was terribly confusing to drive. I would take a train next time. Entering the bar, it may be the highest density of beer I've ever seen. Taking a seat in the back patio, it was hard to decide what to drink. Just so many beers to chose from that it can be paralyzing.
So I started in familiar territory and ordered a La Trappe Quadruple. This 1995 bottle was poured hard at the table without a decant. Small bottle. Head falls flat quickly and there was only the faintest pop on the cap. Dusty, dirty bottle with a label style that I haven't seen before. Musty, oxidized cherry and port like flavors. The normal oiliness and full flavor has dissipated. Lighter bodied, as if the yeast had thinned it out. Alcohol not apparent either. Interesting but I won't let quad bottles at home go this long.
Then, so I could justify being at the Kulminator, I ordered an Evolution of Chimay bottles: 1992. 2002 and 2012. Very fun side by side tasting, including the oldest aged beer that I've ever had at a 20 year old Chimay. The young Chimay is fresh, but the better than adequate beer that I've always thought it to be. It doesn't match up La Trappe for me. The 10 year version is showing some signs of age with clear cherry and port notes from oxidation and the alcohol is apparent in the nose. The 20 year old is very flat though a small head appeared briefly on the hard pour and the oxidation of the 10 year old is in full bloom in the 20. Comparing similarly aged bottles really made the differences from the cellar clear and apparent; it pulled together years of tastings from my own cellar. On a learning level, very worth the trip. It's an extraordinary experience without having to wait for 20 years in my own cellar.
Kulminator in a fine place with an amazing list. However, I will never return during the summer, particularly to avoid the gnats lurking the plants and the uncomfortable lack of air conditioning. The bar is hot and the beer served at room temperature, which affects the aging process. Today is clearly beyond any recommended temperature for aging. I'm not sure where the bottles are coming from but it seems to be just from the shelf; the bottles are clearly room temp on sweltering day. And, no kittens for most of the stop. They made a late appearance and were not very friendly.
Returning to our hotel the Hilton Antwerp, the AC was not keeping up, so we moved to a colder room. While walking, the desk clerk said it was the hottest weekend since 1994. Talk about hitting a bad day at an open air beer bar. With a beer geek dream of a cellar, I see why it's so revered but it's not my favorite bar. I would happily prefer a day at 't Arendsnest in Amsterdam, the former Brickskeller in DC or Rattle-n-Hum in New York. Another day, another time, especially in winter, I would like to give the famous K another try.
More at http://pintsizedrevelations.blogspot.com/2013/03/kulminator-antwerp-belgium.html
05-19-2013 19:29:02 |
More by FightingEntropy
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Kulminator in Antwerpen, Belgium
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