Belgium is synonymous with beer and we took advantage of our Christmas/New Year's Eve holiday to look far and wide for the best place to experience this Belgian specialty. Here are ten of our favorite pubs from our two week trip.
1. 't Brugs Bieratelier
't Brugs Bieratelier in Bruges is just my style. They have a wide selection of brews on tap and offer handy sampler platters. The decor is also fabulously kitsch. We even managed to score a La Chouffe hat (complete with jingle bell!) to celebrate the festive season.
2. de Garre
de Garre in Bruges is nestled along a hard-to-find alleyway not far from the Grote Markt. They are famous for their house beer which clocks in at a potent 11+% alcohol. If you don't find a table on the first floor, keep climbing. There is plenty of room upstairs.
3. Cafe Taverne de Dreve in Flanders
We stopped at Cafe Taverne de Dreve for lunch on our Quasimodo day-tour of Flanders Fields. We downed local Loete Poepe with homemade pate while Johan Vandewalle regaled us with stories from World War I and the archaeological finds in the area. The cafe is rich in memories and Johan is an amazing storyteller. This place is definitely worth seeking out if you are in Flanders for the 100th anniversary of the First World War.
4. Fiere Margriet
Fiere Margriet is located in an old step-gabled house not far from the town hall in Leuven. We sipped sour beer while an old stuffed grouse looked on. Classic atmosphere.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Did you know that Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg are often grouped together and referred to as Benelux? Here are some ideas for other places to visit in Benelux:
5. The Capital
The Capital is one of the newest additions to the beer scene in Leuven and claims to stock the largest selection of beers in the world (more than 2000 choices). Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to look over the menu!
6. Moeder Lambic Fontainas Square
A classic place focusing on lambic beers, Moeder Lambic on Fontainas Square within easy walking distance of the Grote Markt and Manneken Pis in Brussels is definitely worth a stop. Our new friend Brett from Our Tasty Travels recommended that we stop here and we're so glad we did. We also really appreciated that Brett is such a beer-o-phile and treated us to a fine bottle of Lou Pepe Kriek from Cantillon. I also loved that Moeder Lambic serves a bowl of barley instead of the usual bar snacks.
7. Moeder Lambic St. Gilles
We liked Moeder Lambic on Fontainas Square so much that we just had to try the original in St. Gilles. This location is much smaller and cozier than the one downtown but an equally good spot to stop for a tipple in Brussels.
L’Egalité in the St. Gilles neighborhood of Brussels is a new place and features a refrigerator packed full of bottles and plaques on the wall describing different beers on offer. It was quiet when we visited mid-afternoon but was still a lovely spot to get inside out of the cold for a short while.
9. Cours St. Georges
We stumbled upon Cours St. Georges (situated on the ground floor of a hotel) in Ghent. Frankly, it looked like something from Medieval times with exposed beams, heavy chandeliers, and lots of stuffed heads looking down upon us. That was part of the charm. This is a place to go for the atmosphere rather than the selection of beer. We had a La Chouffe which went down just fine with a lunch of soup and bread.
10. De Trollekelder
De Trollekelder in Ghent has an extensive Belgian beer selection. We stationed ourselves in the cellar and were delighted when our order of cheese arrived with our beers. De Trollekelder serves their cheese with a shaker of celery salt; a Belgian tradition. I was a bit skeptical at first about how this combination would work but after one bite, I was hooked and gave each bite a little sprinkle. Yum!
I highly recommend "Good Beer Guide Belgium" if you are spending a significant amount of time in the country. It's a beer lovers almanac and gives a star rating to both pubs and individual brews. We found it to be an indispensable resource on our trip - it helped us to find many of the places highlighted above.
If you are interested in re-tracing our steps and visiting some of the pubs mentioned above, here is a handy map to guide you on your way. Cheers!