Friday, January 12, 2007

A blast from the past: Belgo-Gaelic dazzling.


The band is called CeilĂ­ Moss, and it appears to be a folk/rock act from Belgium. Quite by accident, I stumbled across the band's website, and was stunned to see this explanation:

If you're curious where this name comes from: CeilĂ­ (pronounced as Kylie) is a Gaelic word for a party with music, and Moss was the nickname of Alain Mossiat, boss of the pub "L'Eblouissant", where we did our very first gigs.

Moss the Boss!

I don't know where Moss is today. The last any of us heard, circa 1998, he'd retired from pub-keeping in Namur and moved the family to Ireland to work on an organic farm. But when he ran a beer cafe, it was one of the best anywhere.

The following excerpt is from something I wrote back in 1995, and describes a visit to Namur undertaken by myself, David Pierce, Ron Downer and John Dennis. Subsequently, I enjoyed two return trips to L'Eblouissant prior to Moss leaving, and several others, including Ed Parish, also visited. What I remember most vividly is Moss's young son bartending and standing atop a wooden crate in order to pour a pint of Murphy's Stout. Let's hope that Moss, Valerie and all the kids are healthy and prosperous somewhere in the EU - or wherever his muse may have taken them.

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In Namur, which is a clean and scenic city with an old citadel on a hill that provides sweeping views of the surrounding countryside, our first move after settling in was to take Tim Webb’s Good Beer Guide to Belgium and Holland and seek out Eblouissant (The Dazzling), a bar featured in the Namur section therein and one highly praised by the author.

Unfortunately, we had an old edition of the book. We found the address, but it was a different establishment. Because the bartender was kind enough to give us directions to the new location (27 Rue Armee Grouchy) of the bar we were seeking, we drank a round anyway before walking across town. Even then, we almost missed it, as there’s really no sign other than an authentic Irish pub front boasting draft Murphy’s Stout.

Inside were two dozen locals who were gathered to celebrate their return from a tour to Sri Lanka. Owner Alain Mossiat welcomed us -- a bit warily at first, then more enthusiastically as we were able to demonstrate our earnest instincts as beer pilgrims. The bar specializes in ales from the Wallonia region, which Alain feels are poorly represented on beer lists elsewhere in the country. After our first selection, we let him choose for us the remainder of the evening. The pinnacle was an aged, homebrewed mead from his personal cellar, which quite simply was the best that I’ve ever had.

It was an eclectic place that set the tone for most of the specialty beer bars we would visit in the following days. We were seated in an interior room that was piled full of junk, bottles and beer advertisements, this being done to get us out of the way of the party. Having embarked upon our sampling and finished eating our spaghetti, a spirited argument ensued as to the true nature of craft-brewed beer in America, with Alain interrupting occasionally to explain the next selection. Expatriates abroad. Drinking, talking. Very cool.

2 comments:

David R. Pierce said...

Do you remember the 10+ year old still meade Alain served us from his private cellar? It had a beautiful nutty (like Pecans) finish. I don't think I ever told you guys I paid Alain for the evening, including the two bottles we carried back to the hotel. I asked him not to say anything other than "it's taken care of".

He was very generous in his pricing though, a little over 100 USD. Not to bad for four thirsty beer tourists!

And if memory serves, you left us the next day for a birthday party somewhere north. Copenhagen maybe?

The New Albanian said...

From the original article:

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A Quick One to Denmark.

At this juncture, I went on a road trip from Brussels to Copenhagen to participate in a birthday bash for Kim Wiesener. This afforded me the opportunity to take overnight train trips in both directions, drink bland Belgian Jupiler lager from cans with two Norwegians (on the way up) and watch a Chinese girl get arrested at the Danish-German border (on the way back), enjoy the herring buffet at Nyhavn the first day and a traditional Danish "lunch," complete with various herrings and tidbits washed down by Carlsberg and aquavit, on the second, and then actually attend the party itself, where beer ranked second to an incredibly strange, multi-alcoholic jungle juice.

Which is to say, it was an entirely debauched affair and one fully worthy of Kim’s considerable talents in this regard.