A world apart in different hemispheres are two small countries that have made outsize contributions to pleasures enjoyed by the bon vivant. Cuba and Belgium have made an indelible impact on cigars and beer, respectively. While both cultures certainly have more to offer, a country could do worse than to be known for producing the world’s finest cigars or most delicious beer. The cultures collide in a happy accident on Main Street in Garden Grove, California at Belgian gastropub The Globe. Garden Grove is a patchwork of ethnic neighborhoods that maintains a post-World War II suburban core that is on display on its’ quaint Main Street. It comes to life once a year for the Strawberry Festival, but on any given Saturday evening it makes for an accessible night out. At the median sits The Globe where proprietor Michael Pauwels oversees the finest beer selection in Orange County.
The ruddy brown hues of the bricks and painted cement that make up the old building. The small back patio juts out ringed by wrought iron and plants that do their part in making the parking lot behind fade. Ideally outdoor speakers pumping out music would aid the ambiance but you grow to appreciate the relative silence. Sitting in the makeshift beer garden I select the Westmalle Tripel Trappist Ale from the Beer Bible. This is a fitting place from which to select it as the beer is brewed by monks at the Westmalle Abbey in Belgium where work and prayer are the pillars of monastery life. I will pair this with the Montecristo No. 2 from Cuba. The Westmalle comes in a dark brown glass bottle like the Montecristo wrapper, and just as the Montecristo sports the instantly recognizable band the Westmalle is banded at the neck branded ‘TRAPPISTBIER.’ They come to the party with their credentials burnished; Westmalle Tripel Trappist Ale won the Gold Medal 2012 World Beer Cup and the Montecristo No. 2 is Cigar Aficionado’s 2013 Cigar of the Year. Both received an identical score of 96 from Beer Advocate and Cigar Aficionado.
Upon pouring the aroma is like walking thru an orange grove. Fruit and floral notes coat the air and dance in the sinus. Its color of orange and gold seem to emit an aura that glows in the glass up to a creamy white head. The taste is a complex blend of citrus and herbal spice with understated hops that emerge. It creates a smooth drinkability that belies the ale’s 9.5 % alcohol content, the taste of which becomes apparent on the finish after the first few swigs. Woodworkers come to be nostalgic about the smell of fresh lumber that greets them while plying their craft and tobacco is no different for cigar connoisseurs as aromatic leather and wood come off the foot pre-light. Lighting a Montecristo is always a distinct pleasure. The No. 2 is a 6 1/8” x 52 torpedo with a wrapper that has the soft velvet texture common to Cuban cigars. It is iconically Cuban in both taste and character. The torpedo gives off the pleasant woody aroma but it stops short of being sharp as some of it’s more cedary brethren like Cohiba. Halfway thru the Cuban trademark cream comes to fore blanketing the palette with richness just like the Belgian Westmalle Tripel. The flavor overall becomes more pronounced during the cigar’s last third. Hints of toffee peak thru. A sip & puff, a sip & puff. This is the beauty of the Westmalle; it’s golden orange taste is so crisp that you fully enjoy it’s flavors but it doesn’t intrude upon the tobacco and fully cleanses the palate. As a result, each puff is fresh. It is a cigar that engages you all the way to the nub. At its apex the cigar hits a nicotine-alcohol nirvana that transports one from Garden Grove to an alert haze of pleasure.
While many enjoy smoking after a meal, the full stomach I most enjoy smoking on is one full of beer. But it is best to ground oneself after such an indulgence with… another indulgence. The chefs at The Globe are up to the task. The order I put in earlier of the Beer Beef Stew arrives to a mixture of joy and hunger usually reserved for returning sailors seeing women at port. The Belgian Frites arrive in a wire cone controlled golden explosion. The deep brown of the beer beef stew dish contrasts beautifully with the white glassware with an orange carrot peaking out. The first taste of the stew is rich & sweet, the fruit of slow simmering the beef in Leffe Brune. It bears an uncanny similarity to Cuban carne con papas. Michael is emphatic on dipping the fries in the broth so I throw couple in the stew and the similarity to the Cuban dish becomes all the more striking. The garlic aoli is also delicious and manages to steal away a few frites from the stew. Cuts of beef are tender, yet thick & hearty. The meal is filling but doesn’t leave me feeling over stuffed or slovenly. Like the Westmalle, like the Montecristo, The Globe leaves you feeling as if you have lived.