We are staying in Belgium for 5 days (Wednesday night and leaving early on a Monday). We are trying to nail down how to split our time between Bruges and Brussels. We will be renting a car for one day, with the plan of picking it up in one of these cities and doing the beer pilgrimage that day and then dropping it off that night in the other city. The monasteries/breweries that we are thinking of visiting are St. Sixtus, Bosteel’s, and La Trappe. It would have to be the Saturday based on open times. They are just in a straight line running between Brussels and Bruges, so what town would be better to pick up (early) and which to drop off a rental (late) at? Thank you for any/all info!
“The monasteries/breweries that we are thinking of visiting are St. Sixtus, Bosteel’s, and La Trappe. It would have to be the Saturday based on open times. They are just in a straight line running between Brussels and Bruges”
Of the 3 breweries you mention, only Bosteel’s is located (somewhat) between Brussels and Bruges. The other 2 breweries are located somewhere else entirely. La Trappe is located in the Netherlands, 100 km’s north of Brussels. St. Sixtus/Westvleteren is located 55 km’s south of Bruges. On top of that, you can’t visit the abbey/brewery of St. Sixtus/Westvleteren as it isn’t open to the public.
Renting a car to visit several breweries in 1 day isn’t such a great idea because you wouldn’t be able to do the most important thing; taste the beer. You don’t want to get caught driving under the influence or worse, cause an accident while under the influence.
Why not visit one of the many breweries in Belgium that can easily be reached by public transport?
Rome-in, I haven't pulled up info on Bosteel's or La Trappe yet but it doesn't look to me like St. Sixtus offers access to their brewery or has a tap room for sampling. It also looks like just trying to acquire some of their beer is a somewhat complicated process! ????
My husband (more of a connoisseur of higher alcohol beers than I am) will 2nd the advice that Trappist beer and driving don't mix! He was mighty happy that our beer o'clocks in Belgium involved just our feet or a hop on a train. There are lots of great beers available all over without having to go to the breweries.
Thank you for the advice. To be honest I won’t be partaking a lot. Maybe one throughout the entire day. I’m mostly going for my wife who is all about beer and we will be coming right after she’s done running the London Marathon next year. So this is more of a gift to her than for me.
I realize that you can’t visit St. Sixtus, but buying some to take home and visiting the cafe for that one would be fine for her fulfillment.
Belgium definitely has the best and widest variety of beer in Europe! Trying as many different kinds was a goal of mine when I was there in 2019. A couple of thoughts:
The beer drinking culture in Belgium is different than in the United States. Here, it's popular to go directly to a brewery to drink beers, however that's not as much of a thing in Belgium. Going to a cozy, atmospheric pub/beer bar is the preferred way of enjoying drinking. Both Bruges and Brussels have plenty of these, some offering hundreds of local beers, including all of the trappist beers.
If you do visit one, make it St. Sixtus/Westvleteren, as their beers are harder to find and is in high demand since they feature on several "best beers" lists. Keep in mind though that you will be going there to essentially drink in their local bar, In de Vrede, not see a pretty old monastery as this is closed to visitors.
If you or the person that you are travelling with is a real beer connoisseur, maybe look into some of the more unique Belgium beer experiences such as visiting Cantillon in Brussels to try their lambics or going to De Garre in Bruges for their famous tripel, because while the trappist beers are delicious, they are also pretty easily found in the United States. My local bottle shop has them all except for Westvleteren. Nevertheless, if you love trappist beers, then nothing wrong with a pilgrimage!
The good thing about Cantillon is still being a traditional family run brewery like you had so many decades ago in Belgium. As Belgian beers has become more popular worldwide many breweries are modernised and more focused on production, but Cantillon is still old school.
Near Ghent in Melle, so halfway between Brussels and Bruges you can visit Brewery Huyghe which brews the Delirium “Pink Elephant” beers. Visits have to be booked ahead, easy detour from the E40 freeway between Brussels and Bruges to get there. https://www.delirium.be/en
Actually like kblur9 already notes the best place to experience is in a local café or stamineeke like the Flemish say. Indeed you can find them everywhere, in cities, villages, countryside, you name it.
Ghent has loads of interesting pubs/bars and one that stands out is ‘t Velootje. The weirdest place you can imagine, have to say the keeper has the reputation overcharging the drinks as soon as he knows you are a tourist, nevertheless worth a visit. The smallest pub by far is ‘t Galgenhuis. To my opinion Ghent is a better place for pub crawling as it has a better atmosphere and is more lively in the evening than Bruges. However like alrerady mentioned De Garre is in Bruges over 500 years old Café Vlissinghe not to miss too.
Wow, thank you so much everyone for all the help! I was wondering, considering what others have said, does anyone know what the situation is with hiring private drivers from Brussels for such a trip? Pricing the rental car and potential parking might not be that far off from what I’m seeing/hoping.