Belgium is a real paradise for any beer lover. Naturally, our vacation in Belgium quickly turned into beercation. From pubs to beer shops and breweries — we wanted to visit everything. Everything! However, time was not on our side, so we made do with ‘less is more’. As it turned out, this rang very true in Bruges and in one particular spot in Brussels.
What not to do in Bruges
The answer — don’t go blindly without checking opening hours beforehand. We did this rooky mistake and visited 2be Beer wall after it has closed down for the night. Then again, what kind of bar closes up before 8 p.m.? Gah. After this little mishap we turned to ‘t Brugs Beertje, only to find it packed full. Literally — there was a note on the door that said ‘Full’. This left us quite stumped. We didn’t want to go to an Irish pub. We wanted a nice proper Belgian pub… and were left without this experience. Our one evening in Bruges was spent drinking De Halve Maan‘s Straffe Hendrik Wild and Fort Lapin 8 and lounging on the windowsill of our hotel room.
It was cool. And romantic. And this is the perfect time to appreciate Belgium’s shops, since even the smallest and dingiest had great beers. Those shops saved us more than once during our beercation. Thanks, tireless immigrants who work non-stop so that locals could close their shops early!
Aside from the bar fiasco, Bruges was more than welcoming. It’s a quaint old town with its own charms, definitely worth a visit. Brewery De Halve Maan does tours, plus there is a beer museum not far from the famous belfry. Not to mention 2be Beer Wall, a pub and beer shop in one. The food is good, the beer is good, the views are great — Bruges has everything for a perfect vacation.
Brussels: from finesse to craziness in one minute
What we couldn’t experienced in Burges, we made up for it in Brussels. First stop — Moeder Lambic Fontainas. It’s the second location of a famous Brussels bar which we chose simply because it was the closest to our hotel, it was 11 p.m. and raining and we were just after a delayed flight (i.e. grumpy and tired). Moeder Lambic with its vast selection of bottled and draught beers, excellent staff and tasty cheese platters gave us strength and hope. Everything was so good (including crazy good Italian Montegiocco‘s Open Mind) that we didn’t really want to leave. It’s a great spot, especially if you’re in the area.
Another great place is called Le Bier Circus. It’s a bit off the beaten path, in a quiet neighbourhood and this makes it even more awesome. Although clowns inside and outside ar down right scary, a couple of Belgian beers quickly put you into this magical haze where everything is fiiiine, juuust fiiiiine. Seriously, though, the beer selection in Le Bier Circus is amazing and neatly organized according to styles. They also have some aged beers raging from affordable to ‘it calls for a special occasion’.
Plus, Le Bier Circus offers delicious food. We recommend beef stew with Westmalle Trappist beer — it’s very rich and filling.
No story about beer in Brussels would be complete without mentioning Delirium Cafe, or should we say, Delirium Land. Everyone is bound to end up there at least once. One random girl on the street put it the best, saying, ‘Every night I end up in Delirium Cafe and I don’t even know where it is!’ You see, it’s sort of like a black hole, sucks you in without you even noticing. One minute you’re admiring the Grand Place, the next you’re crushed between drunk people, sipping a beer. How did that happen? Magic, maybe? The thing is, what once was one bar boasting the largest selection of beers in the world now is a roudy mecca of drunkenness. It’s got rum, tequila, cocktails and, sure, beer. There are places that are supposed to be ‘quiet corners for beer connoisseurs’ but in the evening they all become one big party venue. And it sucks. Sure, it’s fun seeing terrified naive tourists passing by and the selection of beer is crazy good. However, it’s not a pub anymore, unless you come early in the day. Do that. Go early. Skip the craziness.
Don’t be alarmed — Brussels has a lot of nice bars. Even if the place is small, chances are you will find decent beer. Think about all the small shops run by immigrants — even they have decent Belgian beer. For example, we had great fun (and drank good beer) in this strange place we stumbled upon while escaping Delirium
Hell Land. We don’t know what it was, except that it had loud music and served cocktails. But we bought a couple of blondes (beers, not women), sat down outside and had a wonderful time watching the locals have fun on a Saturday night.
In terms of beer and food, Belgium has a lot to give. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to beer or you’ve already tried it all — this land will surely have something special to offer. If you’re sick of pubs and touristy beer shops, escape Brussels and launch on a beer tour. Visit small breweries, say hello to brewmasters. We’re pretty sure you’ll have a blast doing that. As far as we’re concerned, with this trip to Belgium came another wave of respect to beer and its diversity. We were inspired, amazed, delighted and sometimes, sure, disappointed. And we loved every minute of it.