As far as passwords go, the one required to enter Kulminator is far from indecipherable. You ring the bell, and when either Leen Boudewijn or Dirk Van Dyke—the elderly husband-and-wife team behind the bar—cracks open the door, you declare that you’ve come “to taste beer.” Only then will they step aside and grant you entrance.
Kulminator is equal parts beer-lover’s paradise and eccentric grandparents’ basement. Across from a shockingly impressive library of brews is a table cluttered with papers. You might find Van Dyke settled in there, reading the newspaper with a magnifying glass. Cuckoo clocks, piggy banks, and wreaths made from bottle caps and corks poke out among the many boxes covering the small space. Here, there is no attempt at the shiny, gastro-pub chic that’s overtaken other Antwerp bars. It’s all about the beer.
On any given night, the felt letter-board might list drafts ranging from a vintage Chimay Grande Reserve aged in rum barrels to Copenhagen’s rare Mikkeller Black imperial stout. While they showcase beers from around the world, it’s the Belgian brews, especially the Trappist varieties, that truly shine here: rich, creamy dubbels; bubbly, spicy tripels; tart krieken lambics; and more. If you visit around the Christmas season, you’ll also find bières de Noël, delightful winter warmers flavored with holiday spices. (Visiting in the summer months has its own perks, such as being able to use the courtyard in the back.)
In addition to the drafts, there are also thick tomes listing the hundreds of bottled options that range from new releases to precious aged varieties. Can’t find one of the beer-list binders? Just head to the giant book, displayed Bible-style, propped open and surrounded by candles on the bar.
A word of warning: Many of these beers pack a wallop. Take it slow and don’t come on an empty stomach. While Kulminator doesn’t serve full meals, they do offer meats and cheeses to pair with your brews.
Know Before You Go
Kulminator is closed on Sundays and holidays. They’re also cash only.