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Beer is to Belgium, what espresso is to Italy, or cigars are to Cuba. The keepers of the ancient beer brewing techniques, Belgians continue to inspire brewers across the globe. Yes, many a craft beer has found its form, through Belgium’s beer brewing traditions. This brew even changed the course of history for Belgium and the Netherlands. Here is a list of our favourite beers to be had in Brussels, some popular brands and where to have them too.
The Trappist order of beer
One cannot talk about Belgian beer without mentioning Trappist beers. Belgium is home to the surviving six of the thirteen certified Trappist monasteries in Europe that brew beer.
Made in the Trappist style by Saint-Sixte Abbey in Westvleteren, the Westvleteren XII (12) rose to fame when RateBeer rated it as the best beer in the world, in 2005 and in 2013. Westvleteren XII is unique in that it is the only Trappist brewery where all the work is done by the monks alone and allows very little contact with the outside world. It is possible to find bottles of Westvleteren XII for 12€ to 18€. At the Biertempel for example, a bottle of 33cl is sold for 12€. The XII is sold 14€ at Beer Mania and 18€ at 250 Beers and Beer Planet.
At bars and restaurants, the Westvleteren has made itself discrete. If it isn’t on the menu, don’t hesitate to ask at the bar. Especially at Moeder Lambic and at the very touristy temple of beer Délirium. It is also possible to order the famous beer online- biere-speciale.be sells the 33cl bottle for 15€.
Unravelog Tip: Get this Belgian delight for 10€. Go to The Monk on Rue St. Catherine and ask them for it specifically, since it isn’t mentioned in the menu.
Commercial Trappist ales
Dubbel is a rich and well-balanced Trappist beer that originated in Belgium and whose modern version is often associated with Henrik Verlinden who created the prototype at Westmalle brewery in 1926. This version was named Dubbel Bruin, and soon after its invention, the style was copied by many Belgian breweries. Typical Belgian Dubbel range from amber to copper, and they usually have complex aromas and flavours. Reminiscent of toffee, raisins, malt, and dark fruit. Popular brands of Dubbel include Brugse Zot Dubbel, Chimay Red and Corsendonk Pater.
Belgian-style Tripel is for easy drinking since they are the strongest of the Trappist ales. With their spicy, fruity, and subtly sweet malt character, these yellow-golden beers were first produced as abbey beers. The Westmalle Tripel is known as the “mother of all Tripels”. Other good Tripels include Chimay White and Straffe Hendrik Tripel.
Traditionally produced in Brussels and Pajottenland (in the Flemish Brabant region), these beers owe their frutiness to cherries. Kriek Lambics may differ in character, but they are usually refreshing and crisp, with a typical dry and tart finish. It should be noted that several less authentic varieties exist which add cherry juice, cherry essence, or cherry syrup to filtered lambics. Belgian breweries like Cantillon, Boon, and Drie Fonteinen follow the Kriek style. Some good brands of the Kriek Lambic include: Lindeman’s Kriek, Cantillon Kriek and Oud Beersel Oude Kriek.
Unravelog Tip: If you want to try a traditional Kriek, try St. Louis Kriek Lambic. And if you aren’t into cherries, try a Framboise. Prepared the same way that Kriek Lambics are, except with raspberries!
Extraordinarily effervescent, Gueuze is known as the ‘champagne of Belgium’. Created using a centuries-old farmhouse brewing and blending recipe from the Brussels-Senne Valley area, it is a Lambic-style beer. While other sour styles smack you in the face with lip-puckering sourness, Gueuze is far more reserved and subtle. Oude Geuze Boon from Boon Breweries is a classic example of a good Gueuze beer that you can try in Brussels.
Unravelog Tip: Gueuze is recommended as an ingredient in dishes (following the tradition of “cuisine à la bière”) such as in lamb liver, mussels, chicken, sauces, bread and even sorbets! If you cook, take a bottle back home to add to your favourite dishes!
Brussels Beer Project
For centuries, Belgium brewing has influenced the world but in recent years the U.S. has been leading the charge, which has, in turn, influenced the birth of the Brussels Beer Project in the Dansaert area – a prime example of new young breweries that blend tradition and innovation. The crowd-funded BBP has expanded its taproom from a small single storefront to the clean inviting space it is today. Stop here to sample one of the dozen or more craft beers on tap. On a lucky day, you may catch one of their collabs, with breweries around the world.
Their evening tasting room has 12.5 cl glasses that allow you to taste a whole batch of their 10 beers on tap – without falling off of your stool. Their numerous international collaborations, crowd-funding projects and love for a good hashtag, makes BBP a mandatory visit!
Unravelog Tip: The Brussels Beer Project organises a Craft Beer Festival every year called WANDERLUST (September/October). Plan your trip at this time, to discover local breweries from different countries.
Theatre Royal de Toone
With a 200-year-old history, Toone is the last standing puppet theatre in Brussels, and they serve up some great beers. It’s hidden down a small pedestrian alley marked with easy-to-miss signage, so keep your eyes open. When you first walk into the Theatre Royal de Toone, you might feel slightly unsettled as you stare into the faces of shrunken heads mounted on the walls and puppets hanging from the rafters. However, if you look a bit closer it becomes clear these small hand-carved pieces are all part of the Toone marionette theatre. The bustling atmosphere is brimming with history, complete with a beer selection that will have you ready to regale friends with a story about your time drinking with the puppets. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet are some of the shows that you can enjoy at Toone.
Unravelog Tip: If you want to get done with the theatre early so that you can enjoy the nightlife in Brussels (or turn in early), they do afternoon shows on Saturdays (and the bar is open too)
A beer lover’s dream. This homegrown store is owned and run by a true beer lover, Michael Eftekhari. Beer Mania has been around since the early 1980s and claims to be the first beer shop in the world. Specializing in rare and hard-to-find Belgian beers, stacked on shelves from floor to ceiling, this cosy shop is a place for the explorers at heart. Having trouble making a decision? Not a problem! The owner will be more than happy to answer all your questions or help you narrow down your selection. If you can’t wait until you get home, feel free to sample a few beers at the café at the back of the shop.
Though bang on the tourist trail, the Delirium Café features 2,000-plus beers, including 500 from Belgium, the largest selection anywhere, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The café’s taphouse, one floor above, offers 24 Belgian beers on tap, including some rarely seen in the kegged form. It’s a popular spot, located in a small alley off an area of restaurants, and is best to visit in the afternoon or early evening unless you’d like to swing with the crowds that pack Delirium every night. Upstairs on the second floor of this three-level establishment lies the Hoppy Loft, where happy hopheads often get a chance to discover several draughts from a visiting brewer on tap.
If you have had your fill of Belgian brewskies and are now seeking to explore this wonderful city further, we have a detailed itinerary for you that will help you unravel Belgium in 3 days.