Belgium

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atomeyes
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Belgium

Postby atomeyes » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:10 pm

I'm making my 2nd trip to Belgium.
going in May and this is what I'm looking at:

Brussels x 2 days
Antwerp x 2 days
Bruges x 2 days
Gent x 2 days
Chimay x 1 day

Breweries to visit:

Cantillon
3 Fonteinin
Chimay
Fantome
Rodenbach (i'll be in the area)
De Dolle (not looking overly likely since they're only open for tours on Sundays)
De Struise
Westvleteren/In De Vrede

Festivals: Festival of Spontaneous Fermentation

are there any towns/breweries I'm missing out on?
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Postby Kekumba » Sat Feb 09, 2013 7:14 pm

Interested in this as well as I'll be there March 16th - 21st. Lots of info kicking around as is, but I seem to find more and more things each time I do a little research.

Your brewery list looks much the same as mine, though I don't think I'm going to make it out to Westvleteren. Hoping to try some truly aged stuff at Kulminator in Antwerp. That seems to be the consensus "must visit" place.
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Postby El Pinguino » Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:35 pm

Two days max at each spot seems tight, how are you getting around? I'd hate to only have 1 day to relax in each spot before having to drive on somewhere new...
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Postby icemachine » Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:15 pm

El Pinguino wrote:Two days max at each spot seems tight, how are you getting around? I'd hate to only have 1 day to relax in each spot before having to drive on somewhere new...


Most of these are no more than a 2 hour drive, can leave a place after lunch and be in the next town for dinner
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Postby JerCraigs » Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:50 pm

That seems like a lot to do in a short amount of time. 2 days in Antwerp is lots, especially if you are sticking to the city itself rather than the outskirts.

My favorite place in Belgium was De Heeren van de Liedekerke. Any place that serves "meatloaf" with a little creamer sized pitcher of Orval to pour over it is pretty awesome. :)
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Postby atomeyes » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:59 pm

JerCraigs wrote:That seems like a lot to do in a short amount of time. 2 days in Antwerp is lots, especially if you are sticking to the city itself rather than the outskirts.

My favorite place in Belgium was De Heeren van de Liedekerke. Any place that serves "meatloaf" with a little creamer sized pitcher of Orval to pour over it is pretty awesome. :)


trying to figure out how to get to that restaurant and then 3 Fonteinin in the same day, since that kind of seems to make sense. think the best thing to do is rent a car (sigh!) and drive it. otherwise, i'm looking at 3 hrs of train time and switching stations and stuff.
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Postby atomeyes » Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:48 pm

El Pinguino wrote:Two days max at each spot seems tight, how are you getting around? I'd hate to only have 1 day to relax in each spot before having to drive on somewhere new...


i was in Belgium 2 years ago. already been to Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, Gent and the Vleterens.

Chimay and the Festival will be new places for me.

Bruges and Gent are a toss-up. Gent is an amazing city. feels real vs the Disneyland that is Bruges. it is less touristy. i also liked the canals and architecture more. food options are much better in Gent. bars aren't as good as Bruges, though. Bruges has Bertje, which is kind of cozy and nice. but for 2 nights in Bruges, we couldn't find a place that looked good to eat at that wasn't a rip off. we ended up eating at Bertje (spaghetti) and found a place near the Grot Markt that sold sausage, pate and Bruges and Damme cheese (both amazing)

Antwerp is a very neat city. to be honest, though, the main attraction for me is Kulminator and a day of shopping. their Grot Markt is ok and pales in comparison to Brussels. so I am likely cutting Antwerp down to 1 day so i can spend a full day in Gent.
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JerCraigs
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Postby JerCraigs » Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:35 pm

atomeyes wrote:
JerCraigs wrote:That seems like a lot to do in a short amount of time. 2 days in Antwerp is lots, especially if you are sticking to the city itself rather than the outskirts.

My favorite place in Belgium was De Heeren van de Liedekerke. Any place that serves "meatloaf" with a little creamer sized pitcher of Orval to pour over it is pretty awesome. :)


trying to figure out how to get to that restaurant and then 3 Fonteinin in the same day, since that kind of seems to make sense. think the best thing to do is rent a car (sigh!) and drive it. otherwise, i'm looking at 3 hrs of train time and switching stations and stuff.


Bring some beer on the train ;) DHVL is pretty easy to get to by train, and there is a nice walk along the river (check google maps) to get there.

3 Fonteinen wasn't that exciting for me. They don't really have anything to buy that you can't get in Brussels, or at least they didnt a few years ago. I didn't really chat with the brewers much though so perhaps I wasted my opportunity. I had a nice lunch at the restaurant though.
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Postby Philip1 » Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:56 pm

With Chimay being the only city in the Francophone south that you are visiting there may be a temptation to stop along the way in Charleroi, the largest city in the Walloon region. Resist that temptation! I was there last year. Charleroi is not only a crime-ridden dump it is also a beer desert where Interbrew products are the order of the day. If you are arriving in Chimay from the north west a stop in Mons on the way to visit La Cervoise would be a good idea:

http://www.bartowel.com/board/viewtopic.php?t=8515
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Postby jmcnally » Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:25 am

Orval is a beautiful place, although you can't really access the brewing (or the cheesemaking) facilities. The abbey has gorgeous ruins and there is a display on the brewing process that is interesting. It might be a bit out of your way, though.

Leuven is nice, too. A university town about half an hour east of Brussels, we found it a quainter place to stay the night before our flight home from Brussels.

We found Bruges pretty quiet in late September, especially on the weekdays and after about 5pm. There's a lovely French bistro called Bistro De Schaar on a side street which had nothing touristy about it. Yes, Bruges can be nuts in the summer and on the weekends, but early in the morning or after dark it is even more magical than usual.
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Postby atomeyes » Sat Jun 01, 2013 3:56 am

Philip1 wrote:With Chimay being the only city in the Francophone south that you are visiting there may be a temptation to stop along the way in Charleroi, the largest city in the Walloon region. Resist that temptation! I was there last year. Charleroi is not only a crime-ridden dump it is also a beer desert where Interbrew products are the order of the day. If you are arriving in Chimay from the north west a stop in Mons on the way to visit La Cervoise would be a good idea:

http://www.bartowel.com/board/viewtopic.php?t=8515


funny that you mention that....
no one was at chimay when we pulled up. no resto, no cars in the parking lot. not a soul. so we waited in the rain. and waited. it was 6:30 so we realized we were kind of screwed. decided to stay where we knew there would be a hotel and parking: Charleroi airport. yeah, the city is forgettable.
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Postby atomeyes » Sat Jun 01, 2013 4:18 am

A Belgium update:

Bruges: I've been there twice and i walk away feeling the same: Bruges Bertje is incredibly overrated. crowded and has really grumpy staff. they've gotten lazy with their bottle list. still some good choices but it is not the best bar in Bruges.

I was introduced to De Kelk. slightly grundgy, but it is perfect. no tourists go there. picks up late at night. Do Mollen and De Struise dominate their bottle list, but there are some lambics. he has some hidden treats. also sells Westy 12, but only after 6 years of aging and it is a once-a-year release. so screw Bertje and try de Kelk.

Struise has a bottle shop right in the middle of the old town area. they have draught and apparently put some cool stuff on tap. wouldn't know because they're closed on Sunday and Monday.

Antwerp: went to Kulminator both nights. couldn't force myself to go elsewhere. too many beer on their cellar list that need consuming. going to see the nutso owner is worth the price of admission. he had knee surgery but instead of hiring part-time help, he just spends the entire day/night occupying the biggest table in the tiny bar. half the table's covered with a mountain of junk mail. he slowly reads one piece of junk mail every, oh, 20 minutes. sometimes he cuts out a little square of the mail. other times, he writes on is. he only gets up to go into his cellar. no one but him is allowed in the beer cellar. imagine if Doc from Back to the Future owned a bar. this is what you would see. literally. drank some total gems from them. 1987 Westvleteren/Saint Sixtus Prior 8? yes please!

Brussels: went to Moeder Lambic (the new one). such a nice bar. also really nice to get Cantillon Gueuze on draught. yep, on draught. they have 4 or so Cantillon on cask as well. The older Moeder Lambic features bottles, the new one features draught. that should help you make a decision. vibe is great, everything there is great. I had a bottle of special release gueuze i bought at the spontaneous fermentation beer festival and was afraid i was over my luggage weight. brought it into Moeder Lambic to share with the staff. so i drank half of the bomber, talked to the bartender about beer, he refused a tip and i went home happy. so strange.

the second night, we went to Nuetnigenough. it was recommended by the Cantillon guys and by some americans we met. It is a Belgian restaurant that is near the tourist area but is still cheaper than the other restaurants. really nice space, great staff, very good food. beer list is great. they have some Cantillon bottles (not a huge selection) plus other lambics. i was really happy to find a bomber of Fantome Saison on their bottle list. yes please! totally worth visiting/eating.

Cantillon: worth the visit/tour. been once before but i still love it. talked to Jean for a while and if he realizes that you aren't part of a tour and know something about beer, he will take the time and talk to you. same with the rest of the staff. but they get so much tourism business, it is almost overwhelming. ordered a bottle of Zwanze 2012 to drink in the brewery. really nice. the rhubarb's starting to fade, though. mouthfeel of orange fizz. yum!

Soy (pronounced "swah"). where? Soy is in the southern Luxumbough region (not the country, the region). beautiful area, but not much to do. went to visit Fantome. got there, not realizing that the cafe is only open on Saturdays. i have Dany (the brewer) on facebook and recognized him as his car pulled up. in broken english, he invited us in for a tour and to drink. poured us some draugh and we talked. handed me 3 bottles and 1 glass for free. refused money. incredibly nice and comical man. the brewery is pretty funny. more fermentors at Get Well then at Fantome.

Finally, I stayed in Lebekke. why? To go to the annual Festival of Spontaneous Fermentation. it really isn't a festival per se. imagine a community centre serving beer for 2 days. but this is all crazy beer. huge Cantillon bottle list, including the 50 North. some unblended lambics on cask. lots and lots and lots of bottles. some crazy stuff was consumed that day.
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Postby Kekumba » Sat Feb 15, 2014 9:24 pm

Quick thoughts after my second trip to Belgium.

Antwerp - Kulminator is Kulminator. I'm sure everyone knows about it whether they've been to Belgium or not. I don't think I saw the owner sit down once the entire 4 hours we were there. Lots of running around for him. His wife, while nice, seemed rather annoyed all night. I drank a few Pannepot's, a couple Oud Beersel beers, and enjoyed some nice meat. Prices are good. I found it rather amusing how many people would walk in and quickly bail on the place because of the lack of seating. Maybe I was just lucky to quickly get a seat the two times I've been there. ’t Antwaerps Bierhuyske was the other place I went and it was also very good. Lots of good Cantillon bottles and not for completely outrageous prices. I didn't buy any since I was headed to the brewery, but they did have Cantillon bag-in-box lambik, kriek, and framboise. That was awesome. Very nice people there.

Brussels - I spent a part of all four days I was in the city at Cantillon. The bottle list right now for drink-in is crazy. All the regulars, Gueuze '06, Iris, Lam, Vig, Fou, all the LP's, Zwanze 12/13, Grand Cru. The second day I was there I was fly solo and at times the only person in the brewery at all (eerily quiet day there). I wanted to thank Jean for Zwanze day in Toronto, but they were brewing and he was quite busy. Out of nowhere, he came over with a bottle of St. Gilloise that he took straight off the bottling line and gave me a pour of it. It was surprisingly very good, with a massive hop bite to it and little to no tartness at all. Thanks to another guy I met there I got to know Alberto, a tour guide, fairly well over the few days. Well enough that he somehow convinced Jean to dig into his cellar and get us a bottle of Soleil de Minuit (and fuck, he gave us a choice that included basically all of the rarest Cantillons you could ever think of). So that was incredible...though I still never got to talk to Jean personally.

Otherwise, Moeder Lambic is good, but people really seem to go crazy over it. Cask Cantillon is the reason to go. Though I had some De La Senne stuff and some house beer on tap that was pretty good. Oh and they have wi-fi, easy to spend a ton of time there if you're just looking to hang out for a while. Becasse is fun, just for the Timmermans served in a ceramic jug. Otherwise, it turns out to be rather touristy. I went to Delirium Hoppy Loft, mostly out of curiosity since the other Delirium's....well, kinda suck. Some decent rotating American taps, fairly impressive bottle menu for breweries outside Belgium. Dead quiet at 6pm, compared to the madhouses on the floors beneath it. I didn't get to any bottle shops thanks to Cantillon's selection.

I had a lot more planned for Brussels, but Cantillon had too many good bottles, and too many nice people to not visit every day...and then I would end up spending the entire afternoon there.
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Postby atomeyes » Thu Feb 27, 2014 7:25 pm

Kekumba wrote:Quick thoughts after my second trip to Belgium.

Antwerp - Kulminator is Kulminator. I'm sure everyone knows about it whether they've been to Belgium or not. I don't think I saw the owner sit down once the entire 4 hours we were there. Lots of running around for him. His wife, while nice, seemed rather annoyed all night. I drank a few Pannepot's, a couple Oud Beersel beers, and enjoyed some nice meat. Prices are good. I found it rather amusing how many people would walk in and quickly bail on the place because of the lack of seating. Maybe I was just lucky to quickly get a seat the two times I've been there. ’t Antwaerps Bierhuyske was the other place I went and it was also very good. Lots of good Cantillon bottles and not for completely outrageous prices. I didn't buy any since I was headed to the brewery, but they did have Cantillon bag-in-box lambik, kriek, and framboise. That was awesome. Very nice people there.

Brussels - I spent a part of all four days I was in the city at Cantillon. The bottle list right now for drink-in is crazy. All the regulars, Gueuze '06, Iris, Lam, Vig, Fou, all the LP's, Zwanze 12/13, Grand Cru. The second day I was there I was fly solo and at times the only person in the brewery at all (eerily quiet day there). I wanted to thank Jean for Zwanze day in Toronto, but they were brewing and he was quite busy. Out of nowhere, he came over with a bottle of St. Gilloise that he took straight off the bottling line and gave me a pour of it. It was surprisingly very good, with a massive hop bite to it and little to no tartness at all. Thanks to another guy I met there I got to know Alberto, a tour guide, fairly well over the few days. Well enough that he somehow convinced Jean to dig into his cellar and get us a bottle of Soleil de Minuit (and fuck, he gave us a choice that included basically all of the rarest Cantillons you could ever think of). So that was incredible...though I still never got to talk to Jean personally.

Otherwise, Moeder Lambic is good, but people really seem to go crazy over it. Cask Cantillon is the reason to go. Though I had some De La Senne stuff and some house beer on tap that was pretty good. Oh and they have wi-fi, easy to spend a ton of time there if you're just looking to hang out for a while. Becasse is fun, just for the Timmermans served in a ceramic jug. Otherwise, it turns out to be rather touristy. I went to Delirium Hoppy Loft, mostly out of curiosity since the other Delirium's....well, kinda suck. Some decent rotating American taps, fairly impressive bottle menu for breweries outside Belgium. Dead quiet at 6pm, compared to the madhouses on the floors beneath it. I didn't get to any bottle shops thanks to Cantillon's selection.

I had a lot more planned for Brussels, but Cantillon had too many good bottles, and too many nice people to not visit every day...and then I would end up spending the entire afternoon there.


nice story.
i've never been offered any Cantillon niceties while there (admittedly, always full of tourist groups) but the gent with the weird glasses and Jean were always supernice. Jean always took the time to talk to me, but i think he knows who the beer geeks are vs tourists.

Kulminator - first visit, totally got that vibe. i think the owners don't love tourists and they may have issues with people leaving without paying the bill. The husband was down with post-surgery knee issues and only went to the cellar. the wife was running the show. she was very sweet to me (as sweet as she probably can be). brought me her own choice of beer for me. always nice and smiley. so i guess it depends on the timing.

Moedr Lambic has a nice tap list and the newer location is really pretty with a good, chill vibe. staff is also nice. zero desire to go drink anywhere in Brussels other than ML or Cantillon. no desire to go to Delirium.
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Postby Kekumba » Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:49 pm

The tour groups at Cantillon always cracked me up. They always showed up about an hour before closing, typically a school group of 13-14 year olds. Most of them appeared to be disgusted with the beer, and sat around rolling their own cigarettes instead. The supervisors/teachers destroyed 3-4 750's amongst each other. One of the only times I saw a group of adults in for a tour, they had catering. However, they didn't really eat any of it, so the employees brought the leftovers over to the few of us sharing bottles. They also brought a bottle of 2010 LP Gueuze, free of charge. Fuck, I miss sitting around Cantillon. It's such a fun place to hang around. They seriously do get so many tourists that most of the employees can pick out the beer nerds quite easily. It felt like they were so relieved to see us rather than the endless amount of tourists.

By the way, Jean's dog is so awesome. Dude just chilled with me while I drank my Fou and gave his belly a good scratch. :D

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