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Beer focused trip to Belgium

My husband and I will be in Brussels from October 5-October 9th. He is a big beer aficionado. I know that you cannot go on tour of most Belgian breweries, with the exception of the DeHalve Maan tour in Bruges. I don't think we want to rent a car to visit some of the more far-flung breweries (though will likely do so to pick up an order of the Westvletern beer - any tips for that would also be greatly appreciated) though want to make sure we get a good feel for the local beer scene and don't miss any sort of beer/brewery "must sees." Please let me know if you have any thoughts or suggestions!

Thanks in advance.

Posted by
1464 posts

The brewer of Gouden Carolus “Het Anker” in Mechelen offers tours. Easy train connection from Brussels. http://www.hetanker.be/en/brouwerij

In Antwerp also city brewery “De Coninck”. http://www.dekoninck.be/en

You can visit in Gent city brewery “Gentse Gruut”. http://www.gruut.be/en
Near Gent in Melle producer of Delirium Tremens brewery L.Huyghe: http://www.delirium.be/en/world-of-delirium

With public transport Westvleteren is hard to get to, unless somebody says......

Posted by
203 posts

Melissa,

When in Brussels, no trip is complete without visiting the Cantillon Brewery. Cantillon is considered possibly the best brewer's of geuze style brews. You basically pay a couple of euro's and they point you where to begin your own self paced tour. You can see their modern brewing but also see some of their original equipment and supplies. You also have full access to their attic where they still wild ferment as they have for over a hundred years. You can buy the highly desirable beer for take away and have a beer (or two) on site.

If you are planning on going to Ghent, they have a brewery called Gruut. We took a tour there a couple of years ago. I suggest going on their website and check in on tours with them as it appears they just changed locations. If you do end up going to Ghent, do not miss gong to a bar called Dulle Griet (Vrijdagmarkt 50).

Lastly, if you have time and think you may day trip to Antwerp, head over to Cafe Kulminator. You can google this place once and you will soon notice it is as close to a beer pilgrimage as you can get. It is a must stop if in Antwerp. Cheers.

Posted by
1464 posts

Jay – (Gentse) Gruut + website is already mentioned in my other post. Think too they moved to another place..

Posted by
183 posts

What your guy wants to visit depends a lot on the sorts of beers he favors. There is so much variety in Belgium!

Slightly off the beaten track suggestion: You might investigate Leuven. It's home to Stella Artois and they do brewery tours. It's a big industrial brewery of course.
But there are lots of other smaller breweries in town and nearby. Leuven is an interesting place in its own right. Very nice smaller Flemish city with some small but interesting historical sites, a lovely center, good cafes, and park spaces (two Begijnhofs, old city walls, and a castle grounds). It's a short train ride from Brussels so you could easily make a day trip of it.

I've not been there in a while, but they are doing some organized things around the brewing culture including a cycling tour of breweries. Link to the local tourism site:
http://www.leuven.be/en/beercapital/Activities/brewery-visits/

Posted by
849 posts

I'd second Leuven as well. It's only 15min by train from the airport (makes it a great night before a flight out place to stay). And for probably the best selection of beer (Belgian or otherwise), a stop at The Capital is a must.

DJ

Posted by
185 posts

Melissa: I don't have much to offer in terms of breweries to visit; however, as another beer aficionado, I very strongly recommend that you try Tripel Karmeliet while in Belgium. It is very similar to Duvel and is a true pleasure to enjoy with a nice dinner. Enjoy!

Posted by
565 posts

Cafe Kulminator in Antwerp is one of the most serious beer bars I've ever been to, and I've been to a lot of beer bars. They have a draft list of about 6-7 hard-to-find beers, and a bottle list of hundreds more. Almost intimidating! Keep an eye out for the kittycat that runs under people's feet at the bar.

Posted by
61 posts

I'm not sure if this is what you are after, but my husband and sons spent a very enjoyable couple of hours sampling some amazing (so they tell me) Belgium beers in Delirium, Brussels. They really liked the atmosphere. I don't drink beer and preferred to spend time sampling hot chocolate and waffles. Delirium has over 2,000 types of beer from all around the world.

Posted by
134 posts

We found a tour that I even think Rick recommends, Belgian Beer Me tour is for around a week or so and they have many different ones going during the year, they have one that goes out Oct 1 and One going out Oct 8, they take small groups around the country and include hotels and a few meals together, tastings of course. check out www.belgiumbeerme.com if you can do a week of beer!

Posted by
1464 posts

I would leave the beaten path and just step in a local “staminee” too, take what they have and talk with one of the locals about beer, for an original experience.

Posted by
5 posts

Here's another place in Brugge that you can check out with regular tours.
http://www.bourgognedesflandres.be/en/brewery-visit
If you happen to rent a car and drive to Westvleteren on Saturday, you can stop close by at Struise which is open from 14:00 to 18:00. https://struise.com/
I'd have to agree with what was previously said, that unless there's a brewery that is convenient like Halve Maan, or one that really excites the two of you, you might just be better off stopping in cafes.

Posted by
139 posts

Enjoyed a place a little less touristy in Brussels, with lots of good beers, La Porte Noire.

Posted by
1 posts

For Westvleteren I strongly recommend a satnav or smart phone with google maps. The monastery is down a number of small roads and although it is signposted you'll find GPS very useful.

If your husband is a Belgian beer aficionado he probably knows this, but the only way to get beer direct from Westvleteren monastery is by booking in advance by phone and buying a crate (or two) of 24. You can only get the type they have that day. If he is after a crate then good luck, I've never succeeded in booking despite many attempts.

Assuming you don't want a crate what you need to do is go to the monastery visitor centre 'In de Vrede' where you can buy all three beers for consumption on site. The gift shop sells boxes of six bottles of whatever they have in stock, maximum two packs per person, and they might not have any at all - it's a matter of luck, That said I've been three times and never left empty handed. I have managed to buy all three but the 12 (which is the one most people want) is all they had on my last visit a couple of months ago. Nice light lunches too. Be careful as In de Vrede isn't open every day especially in the autumn - check their website,

Again he may well know this, but St Bernadus 12 is made to the same recipe as Westvletern and easily found across Belgium at a much lower price.

If you're driving to Westvleteren I would also recommend a visit to Ypres nearby and to one or more of the WW1 war graves in the area - absolutely worthwhile. Back on the subject of beer if he wants to see a decent range then I recommend Beer Vanuxeem in Ploegsteert near the French border - many hundreds of beers at low prices available singly or by the case.

All easy quiet back roads, a nice drive.

Www.vanuxeem.com
Www.indevrede.be
http://sintsixtus.be

Posted by
12040 posts

One addition to what the above poster wrote concerning Westvleteren...

You can purchase beer from the drive-up window without a reservation, but you'll be limited to a three pack, one bottle of each variety. The double and triple are as good as their reputation, but I found the blonde undrinkable. I'm not sure if this was just a bad batch or if it always tastes like that.

And yes, the abbey is surprisingly hard to find.

Posted by
414 posts

I did this with a friend a couple of years ago and highly recommend emailing and/or phoning in advance. There was one brewery on my friend's must see list where you could only do a tour by calling in advance. Fortunately we did so and were able to arrange a tour. They did not accept "walk ins". It turned out it was a private tour which is why you needed to call in advance. Also this was important so they could arrange an English speaking guide. Upon finding out that this was a 50th birthday celebration trip for my friend, the brewery sent him home with a magnum size bottle of beer as a gift.

I always recommend contacting the brewery in advance.

We even did this for De Halve Maan tour just to confirm availability and opening times.