Brugge

I often get asked about Bruges, or to be more correct, Brugge. It’d be hard to say which my favourite bars are in the city or which I think the best, but here are a few that are in close proximity to each other and should give the first time visitor a taster. There’s a bit of a problem in so much as some of the better bars only open in the evening, although there’s still plenty to go to. Many places serve a small (free!) snack of peanuts, small biscuits or even cheese!

To get to the city centre from the station (the P&O shuttle bus drops off here too) catch a bus. Buy your ticket from the kiosk (and the return trip too) as you’ll pay €1,40 per journey as opposed to €2,00 from the driver.

De Garre

De Garre 1, Brugge
(just off Breidelstraat down a very little alleyway – tread very carefully! )
Each day 11:00/12:00 – 00:00/01:00

Once you’ve found this tiny watering hole and managed to get a table, perhaps with a ‘stranger’, a must try is their house beer at a very deceiving 13%!!! A great way to start a mini tour of the town!

 

Brasserie Strijdershuis

Hallestraat 14, Brugge – just the other side of the town hall.
Open from 10:30

‘Only’ about 50 beers but the food’s good. The midweek cheap lunch menu is supposed to be excellent value.


Cambrinus

Philipstockstraat 19, Brugge – opposite corner of square to the road where Strijdershuis is
Open from 11:00

Lots of good beers and what looks to be excellent food too. Quite a decent size bowl of peanutty snack things too!

 

Brugs Beertje

Kemelstraat 5, Brugge
Mon, Tue, Thu 16-01; Fri – Sun 16-02
** Usually closed Tuesdays Jan – April

Tucked into a side street, Daisy and her crew will expertly guide you through the 300 or so beers. The only slight downside is everyone knows this is one of the best beer cafes in Brugge and probably also Belgium and so attracts beer tourists, ranging from the loud mouth typical tourist to the ones who can appreciate the cafe. It can’t be all bad as it attracts a few locals, including Black Beasty – he’ll be at the end of the bar drinking De Koninck!

Want to try a few more? Try these less touristy places…

Rose Red

Cordoeaniersstraat 16
Mon-Thu 10-11; Fri, Sat 10-00, Sun 10-22

It’s rare to find a bar in Brugge with decent beer and a beer garden. This place has both! Well, it’s more of a terrace surrounded by buildings, but it’s still nice on a sunny day!

 

Comptoir des Arts

Vlamingstraat 53, Brugge
Mon, Wed-Sun 18-03

Run by Bram, formerly at ‘t Brugs Beertje, this cellar bar has 90 beers, a selection of whiskies, funky music and art on the walls. Mind your head as you descend the steps (I’ve forgotten several times!)

 

Poatersgat

Vlamingstraat 82, Brugge (over the road from Comptoir des Arts)
Open from 17
Not sure why I like this bar – I just do! It can get quite busy later on at weekends, but there’s usually a table somewhere.

Kortrijk

Kortrijk doesn’t really have that many beery places. When you walk from the station towards the centre, there are quite a few bars that just serve rubbishy beers.

On the main square, Klokke used to have an excellent selection of beer, but they changed owner who decided less was best.

There’s probably half a dozen reasonable bars, although only two of them are near the centre

Eirekedeire

Sint Janstraat 31, Kortrijk
Hours: from 17; Thu – closed

They used to have 80+ beers. On this visit, they had 54 with anything remarkably exciting omitted. The barman said they didn’t sell. Still, it’s not bad to visit – it’s a nice little bar that’s cosy and welcoming.

 

Gainsbar

 
Vlasmarkt1, Kortrijk.
Hours: Mon – closed; Tue-Fri – 12-01; Fri 12-03; Sat 14-03; Sun + Bank Holidays – 14-01

Wow. My kind of bar. Very good selection of beers including some rarer ones (the beer list’s on their website) , including a few from the nearby Alvinne brewery and also De Molen. The night I was in it was quite lively but not in an overpowering kind of way.

Trappistenfest, Niel

Having first heard about the Trappistenfest in Niel on Belgian Beer Board last year, a visit to the festival in the small town just outside Antwerp was definitely one to be done!

Fortunately, on the same weekend of the festival, the first Modeste Bierfestival was due to be held, so this would pack in a bit of ‘added value’ to the trip. More about the Modeste Bierfestival here.

Trains to Niel don’t run on a weekend, so last Sunday, we took the bus from Antwerp for the short walk to the ‘Kapel van de Jongenschiro’. Once again, the weather was unseasonably hot so we took a seat outside.

First beer up was Chimay Doree – part of the Chimay ‘family’ of beers but not available anywhere except Auberge de Poteaupré or inside the Scourmont Abbey if you happen to be a monk there! Definitely the hardest to get hold of beer on the list. There’s none currently on eBay and a website in the USA is asking $69!!! I ought to have got a few to take with me…

Next was the Petit Orval, again only available if you’re a monk or at the cafe next to the abbey. There’s none of this on eBay or any other site I could see.

Shortly following this was the new Mont des Cats beer. Mont des Cats is a Trappist abbey just over the border in France, but their beer is brewed at the Scourmont Abbey, along with Chimay. On one hand I’ve heard that they’ll be getting their Trappist accreditation in the next month or so. Another source says that for it to qualify, they must brew it themselves at their abbey. So, it’s brewed by Trappist monks at a Trappist abbey, the labels say ‘bière trappiste’, but it’s not an ‘Authentic Trappist Product’. Once again, it’s rather a good beer, but you won’t find it in shops near you as it’s only currently available in the Abbey shop and cafe. This may change soon though.

Even though I’d tried it before, it seemed a shame not to sample to Westmalle Extra. Again, only generally available at the abbey, this beer seems to be a bit more easily available than the others (at least one bar in Antwerpen seems to have it much of the time). It’s a light, golden beer, very easy drinking and at 4.8%, just right for a late summers’ (ish!) day.

So – the festival? Well run, in a most pleasant location, good table service and not too busy. The only downside is that it’s well out of the way! Looking forward to another visit in the near future…

Leuven Beer Festival 2011

Jemma and myself were stopping in Brussels as it was ideally placed to get to Lille to see the Paris-Roubaix cycle race and also to be able to pop to Leuven for their beer festival, organised by de Leuvense Biertherapeuten.

It was not the easiest festival to get to – a short train ride from Brussels, an extremely cramped bus ride with a dog licking my foot then a 15 minute walk through the park to the festival venue.

An outside table was soon commandeered overlooking the lake and park, resulting in what must have been one of the best beer festival venues I’ve ever attended.

The range of beers was okish, although a number of them were starting to sell out by mid afternoon. Another problem was that a number of the ones I wanted to try were only available in 750ml bottles!

Antwerp and Sint-Niklaas – day 2

Zythos Beer Festival 2011

Stadsfeestzaal, Sint-Niklaas

Big.

Belgium’s biggest beer festival, held for the last time this year at the Stadsfeestzaal is Belgium’s biggest. Featuring more than 60 brewers and 200 beers, there was plenty to go at! I joined a number of UK beer tickers and sampled a range of beers. I won’t go into all the beers I tried, but a couple were worthy of mentioning –

De Dolle Brouwers Verse Vis (Fresh Fish)
A most strange beer indeed! It was brewed with no hops, had a Belgian lactic sour flavour and was made with cider yeast! There’s a quite a bit more about it on the Belgian Beer Board.

Smisje Smiske R-Ale
A dry hopped version of the Smisje Blonde, except that the beer is pumped through a pile of hops, effectively dry hopping the beer on the fly. Again, more details on the Belgian Beer Board.

Roll on next year’s festival in Leuven!

Antwerp and Sint-Niklaas – day 1

It’s my plan to visit a few more Belgian beer festivals this year. First on the list – Zythos Bier Festival in Sint-Niklaas. I stopped overnight in Antwerp and visited a few places there.

Kulminator, Antwerpen

Vleminckveld 32, Antwerpen
Mon 20.15-24, Tue-Fri 12-24, Sat 17-24, Sun closed
03 – 232 4538

Kulminator is one of those must visit places. It’s like the Eiffel Tower or Louvre if you are a ‘normal’ tourist in Paris. Or at least, that’s what I thought…

I’ve visited quite a few times now and generally, it’s been ok. The beer choice is excellent and the range of aged beers (some going back 20 and 30 years) is the best you’ll ever see. We even celebrated Jemma’s 30th birthday there a few years ago with a 30 year old beer.

The thing letting Kulminator down though is the service. If there’s only a few people in, service is not a problem. Lena will amble from bar to table to take your order, pass it to Dirk who will go into the cellar, get the beer and pass it back to Lena. Not on ZBF weekend though! The place was rammed and the only place I could find to sit was out in the smoking area. After 10 minutes of not being served, I went back inside and queued at the bar. After something like another 10 minutes, Lena took my order. The best part of 10 minutes later I left.

Ok, bars can be busy, but you have to be on top of things you’re starting to get too busy! Dirk didn’t serve – he just visited the cellar and grumbled. Anyway – things might have been a bit smarter if it wasn’t for the people looking at, sniffing at and writing an essay about their beer! Yes, you might want to have a close inspect of what you’re going to drink, but don’t write a full page of text about it! Evidently, this is very common amongst Scandinavian beer fans…

On the subject of Dirk, on my last visit back in July 2010, the place wasn’t too busy and he seemed to be stumbling around – something that he’s rather good at. All of a sudden he had a go at a customer. This customer had made the mistake of sitting at the table with the piles of magazines, newspapers and general bits of piffle and Dirk thought this customer had taken something, so we were all treated to a tirade of “you have taken something”, “get out of my bar” for about 10 minutes, all the while the customer was protesting his innocence and offering to show the contents of his bag.

After looking on Google for the bar and chatting to other beery types, it appears that these episodes are not uncommon. It’s just a shame that I’ve had lots of good visits.

After giving up, I moved back towards the main square to a street just off it and visited

‘t Antwaerps Bierhuiske, Antwerp

Hoogstraat 14, 2000 Antwerpen
Mon-Sun 12-02

Antwaerps Bierhuiske is a new place, having been open for less than a year. I first visited just after they first opened last summer. It’s a pretty average sort of bar with around 150 beers, including a good selection of slightly rarer microbrewery beers.

It’s out of the way just enough to avoid being too touristy – well worth a visit!

A few doors up, I spotted a bar I’d not heard of before…

Cafe Den Billekletser

Hoogstraat 22, 2000 Antwerpen
+32 32 31 34 48

Sign outside advertising 280 beers, so entered to find a basic tiled floor with plain tables and chairs and around 60 empty bottles in the windows. The menu only contained around 30 beers so when I asked for the rest, the young lass said they didn’t have a printed list and she would bring me what I wanted. When I said that I wanted something that was a tick, she was confused… Further probing found out that they have around 280 beers, but with 100 available at anyone time.

Prices reasonable but once again, very smoky. Might be worth another look at if they actually tell folk what they sell!

And to finish up that evening…

Biercentral

de Keyserlei 25, 2018 Antwerpen

2 minutes from Centraal Station, providing you use the right door.

Large pub, seeming to cater for all sorts during the day and yoof at night. Loud dj wouldn’t be out of place on a UK high street pub at a weekend, but with several hundred beers. They at 20 draught and more than 300 bottles. Lots of bog standard beers, but lots of rarer ones too in the custom printed catalogue.

Good to see that it’s somewhere away from the normal darkened, smoky front rooms and might have a bit of appeal to the younger drinker.

Driving round Belgium looking for beer

Between October and April, P&O Ferries have a special price starting at £74 for a car + 2 people for the overnight sailing between Hull and Zeebrugge and return. As this gives a full day in Belgium, many beer places can be visited…

Drankencentraal Rotsaert, Zedelgem

Remi Claeysstraat 28, Zedelgem
Mon-Fri 9-12, 13-18; Sat 9-12, 13-17; Sun Closed
050 20 94 98

A well established beer warehouse in the area that I’d not visited before. With perhaps around 500 beers on offer (although there didn’t seem anywhere near that number in the warehouse), 50 or so of them were new for me. My excitement for being able to get a couple of crates of ‘winners’ soon waned when I saw that most of them were only available in 4 packs that they’d assembled themselves. Sorry Mr Rotsaert – that meant I bought less, not more.

Half an hour or so along the motorway is the tiny brewery of

Alvinne, Heule

 

Brewery and shop have relocated to Moen

Mellestraat 138, Heule
Open alternate Saturdays 10:30-16, or by appointment
0486 555314

Firstly, the opening hours may seem at first a bit sparse, but in reality, I’ve never found them closed! All it takes is a quick email to the address on their website or a message on Facebook and there’s someone there.

The brewery and beer shop are very easy to miss. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve screeched to a halt after I’ve gone past, only to reverse back to it!

Climbing into the upstairs part of the brewery reveals what is perhaps one of the regions best beer shops. They leave all the others in the area to stock the common (and not so common) beers – Alvinne stock the excellent and rare to find beers, not just from Belgium, but Denmark, Norway, Germany, France, USA and a few others as well as their own range of beers.

To be honest, their own range of beers are out of this world and range from the inky black (but not ‘burnt’) Balthazar to the hop fests of Gaspar and the Hoptrilogy range.

Give them a call and pop in – you won’t be disappointed.

Next on the list to visit were

Brasserie Vanuxeem

Rue d’Armentières 150, Ploegsteert
Mon-Sat 08-18:50; Sun closed
056 58 89 23

Firstly, Brasserie Vanuxeem is not a brewery – it’s a warehouse! It’s situated in an enclave of the Hainaut province. Even though it’s surrounded by Flemish speaking Belgium and the nearest part of Hainaut is miles away, this collection of 4 or 5 small towns speak French. The town name – Ploegsteert is a Flemish name, but don’t let that fool you. Speak Flemish and you’ll be treated like a weirdo.

Anyhow, Brasserie Vanuxeem have a house brand beer- ‘Queue de Charrue’. Until recently, they had 3 beers – Blonde (9%), Brune and Ambree. These were brewed by three different breweries (Van Steenberge, Verhaeghe-Vichte and Du Bocq respectively). Then, the Blonde was renamed ‘Triple’. More recently, in 2008, a new Blonde was launched at 6.6% and brewed by Du Bocq also. The three original beers came in 250ml bottles, but this new Blonde arrives in a 330ml bottle. Finally, the Ambree now is in a 330ml bottle with the new style label – I’m not sure if this is just part of their rebranding or if it’s brewed elsewhere. Phew!

To summarise –
Blonde 9% – brewed by Van Steenberge and now known as Triple in 250ml bottles
Brune – brewed by Verhaeghe-Vichte in 250ml bottles
Ambee – brewed by Du Bocq originally in 250ml bottles, but now in 330ml and probably still brewed by Du Bocq
Triple 6.6% – brewed by Du Bocq in 330ml bottles.

As well as this quartet, they have around 500 other beers to choose from, as well as spirits, wine, soft drinks and anything else you might want need to run a cafe in Belgium, ranging from cup a soups to little biscuity snacks. I’ve always enjoyed visiting but sadly now, most of their beers I’ve tried before. I’ll still keep going as prices are very competitive and the wife likes the Queue de Charrue Blonde. Or is it Triple?

Following a trip to the supermarket, we headed north along the motorway back in the direction of Zeebrugge and called in at …

Bierboom, Brugge

Langestraat 73, Brugge
Mon-Tue 10-19, Wed closed, Thu-Sat 10-19, Sun closed (although website says it’s open)
050 34 99 36

I’d heard a lot about this cafe / shop and to be honest, it’s interesting. There’s a good selection of beers – not the biggest but reasonable, and always a tick or two for me! You can take the bottles away or enjoy them with one or two Jupiler drinking locals at the rear of the shop for no extra charge! Probably the cheapest place in Brugge to drink beer.

Getting hold of Westvletern

Article copied from my other blog

4 simple steps to buying Westvleteren beer:

1) Visit http://www.sintsixtus.be/eng/brouwerijactueel.htm and see when the beer is available. It’s now shown in a coloured chart! Call the (+32 (0)70/21.00.45 at the time shown on the chart, but be prepared to wait and be persistent – I often try probably 30 or 40 times over a 2 1/2 hour period.

2) Drive to Westvleteren at the allotted time (usually in the week after the reservation day).

3) Collect the beer, pay the man and jump with joy.

4) Go across the road to In de Vrede and sample a glass of the beer you have just bought (not the actual ones you’ve bought but one of theirs!). Watch how it’s poured and take note of the temperature for when you get yours home. You might also be able to get the other beers in the shop, but this is limited to 6 bottles per person and is not always available. Be sensible if you’re driving – the beers are quite strong so I wouldn’t suggest doing both. The cheese they sell is also rather nice.

Glasses – make sure you buy a couple of glasses. A standard trappist glass will do, but I’m sure that the beer tastes better still from the right glass. The monastery sell them in boxes of 6 and In de Vrede individually.

Old beer

Some beers are promoted to taste better ‘fresh’. These tend to be the bland, tasteless factory produced rubbish.

On the other hand, some beers are better with age. My stash of Westvleteren is aging well at the moment with a case of 8 being just over 3 years old now.

Some bars feature aged beers – Kulminator in Antwerp have a fantastic list. Not so well advertised is the famous Delirium Cafe in Bruxelles – they have a number of older beers on their menu but are not advertised so – you just have to pick a beer that isn’t that common and hope it’s an older one.

This leads me on to a ‘find’ that Filip Geerts from Belgian Beer Board discovered. He was visiting the abbey at Westvleteren to collect some beer and stumbled across a case of really old Westvleteren 12. He managed to procure a couple of bottles.

After drinking one, he presented the other to a Vintage Tasting Event at Brugge Bier Festival the other week – more details here.

I was at the festival – if only I’d seen the info on his blog in enough time! *cry*!

Euro beer trip day 8 – Back to Cantillon

Is 15 minutes enough time to get from Bruxelles Midi to the Cantillon Brewery, buy beer and get back to the station? Yes if you’re mad.

Cantillon, Bruxelles / Brussel

Rue Gheude / Gheudestraat 56, Bruxelles / Brussel
Mon-Fri 08:30-17; Sat 10-17
025 21 49 28

Having heard of two new brews – Fou’Foune – which is not really new, but just doesn’t get brewed very often and because of the availability of the particular variety of apricots used, only a small batch is made. As well as this, a one off ‘Zwanze’ had been bottled – Mamouche. I’d already got some of the earlier batch of white beer Zwanze, but this one was brewed with elderflowers – and according to the label, all picked by hand.

As well as being able to buy beer, you can take a tour of the brewery, or ‘Museum of Gueuze’ as it’s also known.

Euro beer trip day 7 – 4de Brugs Bier Festival and a few bars in Brugge

After lunch at Eetcafe Leopold in ‘t Zand, we headed back to the Festival for our second shift. Both of us were allocated to security duties, so the drinking had to wait! As soon as our stint was over though, we had a good selection of beers to try before the festival closed.

Once again, we both enjoyed working. The guys from BAB (Brugse Autonome Bierproevers) made us more than welcome and hopefully will be back next year (if they’ll have us).

There were three bars I wanted to try before we went back to the hotel – @the Pub, old favourite ‘t Brugse Beertje and the spanking new Comptoir des Arts.

@the Pub

Hallenstraat 4, Brugge
Daily 17-03 (or later!)
0477 26 07 40

It’s quite a nice bar, with a ‘lounge bar’ feel to it with comfy settees and leather sofas etc. The beer list numbers around 100, although everyone seemed to be persuaded to have Malheur! Looking by the amount of Malheur tat around the place (beer mats, beer mat holders, signs…), he must have had rather a large job lot of the stuff!

Last time I visited, I had what could be probably classed more or less as home brew – there wasn’t any other name given for it! The owner brewed the beer at home and brought it to sell at the bar. Sadly, he’s not brewing at the current time.

I’ve heard a few reports about the rudeness of the staff. Indeed, I’ve encountered it, but there were no problems this time.

‘t Brugs Beertje

Kemelstraat 5, Brugge
Mon-Tue 16-01, Wed closed, Thu-Sun 16-02
050 33 96 16

At the top of their website, it says ”t Brugs Beertje, een speciaal bierhuis in het hart van Brugge !’ – which translates as ‘t Brugs Beertje, a special beerhouse in the centre of Brugge !’ – and they’re not wrong.

I’ll go into more detail on their next visit, but the excellent customer service from Daisy and her staff, the superb beer choice and the general ambience make this a ‘must do’ if you’re in Brugge, or even just Belgium – make a special trip!

I find it a little strange though that every time I go into ‘tBB, I’m greeted by name! I think I’ve been there a few too many times!

Comptoir des Arts

Vlamingstraat 53, Brugge
Daily 18-03, closed Tuesday
0494 38 79 61

You won’t find this bar in any of the guidebooks yet as it’s only been open barely a month! Situated just over the road from Poatersgat, this underground bar seems to just have that little ‘something’ that makes it special.

As we entered, I was greeted with a friendly “hello Lee” and a handshake by Bram – formerly of ‘t Brugs Beertje. The bar was busy, but had a sort of a quiet ambiance about it – there was gentle chatter in the air, but not overpowering and not raucous! It was just the right atmosphere to enjoy a 3 year old (although I suspect it was more) St Bernadus 8.

Euro beer trip day 6 – 4de Brugs Bier Festival

Last year, Jerry and myself somehow ended up being volunteers at the rather very good Brugs Bier Festival. Keen to repeat the experience, we ended up there this year.

After ending up helping with the finishing touches to the festival, we both ended up working on a beer stand selling a the rather nice La DJean Triple from the Sainte Hélène brewery. This took us up ’till 2pm and we had the rest of the day to enjoy the festival.

It did get rather hot in the hall, but there was plenty of outside seating – it was just a bit of a trek running up and downstairs for the beer!

Euro beer trip day 5 – A few Flemish bars

Rembrandt, Zedeldgem

Tourhoutsesteenweg 164, Zedelgem
Mon-Wed Closed; Thu, Fri 11 – close; Sat, Sun 10 – close
050/200808

It’s not that easy to find this bar, unless you follow the directions correctly! Leave the station, crossing the line if you’ve arrived from the Brugge direction. Walk along Ruddervoordestraat until you get to the roundabout, then turn left along Tourhoutsesteenweg and you’ll the find the bar. Alternatively, turn left on Sint-Elooistraat, cut across the front of the church, and walk up to the main road, turning left when you do. Either way will take around 15 minutes.

Once inside, you’ll find a cosy bar, covered in knick-knacks, many of which are La Chouffe orientated or from the bar’s branch of Club Brugge KV supports club.

A beer list of 114 beers contains the usual suspects, the main surprise being the De Leeuw Blonde and Bruin. Draught la Chouffe is a speciality, as is Chouffe coffee.

De Zalm, Roeselare

Grote Markt, Roselare
Mon, Thu – Sat 07 – close; Tue 07 – afternoon; Wed closed; Sun 11 – close
051/200081

Situated on the corner of the main square in Roeselare is Rodenbach’s jewel in it’s crown. Normally, Rodenbach beer is a blend of ‘Foederbier’ – (their beer that has been matured in wooden fermenters) with younger beer and caramel for colour and sweetness. De Zalm on the other hand sell draught Rodenbach Foederbier – quite sour and a bit like a lambic. A few other websites say that this is served though British style handpumps, but when I popped my head round the door, I never noticed these. Perhaps they were removed during the refurbishment at the end of 2009. Also available is Palm ‘Ongefilterde’ (Unfiltered).

The other 30 or so beers aren’t particularly exciting, but the two ‘specials’ more than make up for it, especially if you can sit out in the sun and enjoy them like we did!

t Walhalla, Roeselare

Zuidstraat 30, Roeselare
Thu, Fri, Sat 16-2230; Sun 18-22
051/247543

Modern, open looking bar with soft lighting and candles on each table. Didn’t try the food but looks rather interesting. Average beer list numbering 51, although this included 5 De Dolle Brouwers beers and a house beer. It’s only listed on the menu as ‘Walkure’ and the only information they would divulge is that it’s from somewhere in the Ardennes region. Bit on the pricey side too. [Update: from the end of September, they claim to have over 100 beers]

Kroegske, Emelgem

Vijfwegenstraat 35, Emelgem (use Izegem railway station)
Thu-Sun

From the railway station, walk up the ramp to join the road bridge that goes over the railway. Follow the road to the roundabout and take the road facing you – Vijfwegenstraat. Kroegske is a little further along on your left hand side.

Now, this is one of those bars that needs a good few hours to do justice to a visit. Jerry didn’t fancy counting the number of beers in the list, but there’s over 400… Their website, along with other reports mention about the do’s and don’ts in the bar, but we found the owners, Danny and Nadine, to be perfectly agreeable, although service could have been a bit livelier.

Their house beers, brewed at Alvinne but by the Kroegske owners are available too.

It’s not as easy to get to as some other bars, but I just hope it’s far enough off the tourist trail…