I will be in Brussels in two weeks and the wife and I are huge beer snobs. Any recommendations for bars or anything beer related would be great!
Ha, Tom--I still don't know what's in it...but it doesn't really matter--it's good...
I could write for hours on this topic... For starters, I'll assume you're aware that many Belgian beers have a much higher alcohol content than US varieties. Why do I mention this straight-up? Because it puts a limit on how much beer you can reasonably sample in a given day. Therefore, don't waste your time on stuff that isn't that great or is widely available at home. Although I love Chimay, Leffe and Hoegaarden Wit, you can find them easily enough in the US. You'll also see Jupiler, Kristal, Stella Artois, Maas and Primus sold everywhere. These are standard, unexciting lagers. Beyond that... nearly everything is worth trying! In particular, try Hoegaarden Grand Cru if you see it. Tastes much like a combination between Leffe and Hoegaarden Wit, with a walloping 9% ABV. And if you don't want to embarass yourself, it's pronounced "WHO-garden", with the "g" being that particularly gutteral Dutch rendering.
Best non-touristy place to get a drink? There's probably plenty I don't know of within the city, but if you have the time some evening, take the quick train ride to the nearby university town of Leuven (infamous in St. Louis as the world headquarters of AB-devouring Inbev). Sit down at one of the outdoor cafes lining the Oude Markt and enjoy the ambience. The nearby Grote Markt, flanked by the late Gothic Stadthuis and cathedral, is also a good place for a drink, but there's fewer cafes here. If you want a bite to eat, there's a pedestrian-only street lined by one delicious restaurant after another, similar to Brussels' Rue de Boucher but without the tourist-only menus.
While possibly touristy, I don't think you can beat the menu at Delirium Cafe - around 2000 beers. We found the bartenders to be friendly and willing to recommend new beers based on taste and preferences.
The Domus Restaurant and Brewery in Leuven is nice for a lunch and beer. You can also schedule a tour through the Stella Artois brewery if you wish.
The spring bocks (lente boks) brews are available now in the grocery stores and are nice to take back to your hotel room or on a picnic - especially because you can buy them in singles. They are also available in some bars.
I won't get into the virtues of Jupiler, because Tom will laugh at me again, but it is my favorite. But yes, it's standard.
One of the things I really enjoyed in Beligum was all the varieties of fruit beer (although, not so popular among those I've made try it here...but you're going to be in Brussels, you should at least try a few)
Some of my favorites are:
kriek (cherry, Bellevue was my favorite brand, but it's not that hard to find here, not sure about the US--they also make a few others, all of which were good)
gueuze (not entirely sure what it's made of, and mix it with a shot of grenadine) but Mort Subite was my fave brand--they also make framboise (raspberry)
pecheresse (peach)--can't think of what brand I drank most, but I think Mort Subite also makes one
But, in general, most of them are worth trying at least once...the darker trappist ales are not particularly my taste, but worth a try
ETA: Leuven is a good suggestion, but be careful you don't end up in the university town of Louvain-la-Neuve...last time I was there (could be different now), both the French and Flemish names for Leuven (Louvain) were on the train schedules. Louvain-la-Neuve was built in the 70's when the Walloons and Flemish decided that they could no longer co-exist and needed 2 separate universities. I had fun there for a semester, but it's pretty ugly.
"gueuze (not entirely sure what it's made of, and mix it with a shot of grenadine) but Mort Subite was my fave brand--they also make framboise (raspberry)"
This comment sent me to Michael Jackson's (the late, great beer reviewer, not the pop signer) "Beer Companion" to find the answer to what qualifies as Gueuze, as I also enjoy the style, but that no idea what was in it. Here's what MJ wrote: "Gueuze is a blend of young and old lambic beers. It undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle and, like champagne, has a sparkle, a toasty aroma, and enduring length."
Better than Jupiler...
From what I understand, gueuze is a lambic but without any fruit added. It goes through the second fermentation in the bottle like a lambic. I would compare it to soda water in the soda world.
I am also a huge fan of fruit beers. Fruli (a blonde strawberry beer) is my favorite. They make wonderful ice cream floats - many beer cafe will make them for you if you ask.
Speaking of fruit beers, Hoegaarden recently released a raspberry and lemon beer, neither of which is available in the US. Very refreshing. Both would make great lawn-mower beers... not that you'll be mowing any lawns on your trip.
You people are confusing me. Are those things really beers? Don't they have Miller Lite? Is Coors available east of the Atlantic?
Coors Beer should be available on NO side of the Atlantic;)
I'm no fan of Coors, either. I love a good beer and hope to go to Belgium some day. But I do have to say, that for me, the best beer is always...free beer!
Thankfully, Miller Lite and Coors are nowhere to be found in Belgium, although Budweiser makes an occassional unwelcome appearance. The Belgian equivalents would be Stella Artois, Primus, Jupiler, Cristal or Maes, with Heineken and Becks widely available. However, unlike in the US, where a century of heavy advertising has conditioned us to think that "beer" only equals "light pilsner", these beers are thought of as "table beers". Meaning, light and low in alcohol, they're what you would drink with your lunch before returning to work, or something you would drink after doing yardwork on a hot summer day. Unless you were a university student, or you really wanted to make a bad impression, you would never serve these at a social gathering... well, you might get away with offering Stella...
Tom - I think that's precisely it. When I was in Belgium, I was a university student. And I will admit my attachment to Jupiler now is mostly nostalgic. But agree with your sentiment that North American beers are, thankfully, rare over there. Although, while I was there, Labatt was bought out by then-Interbrew and there was a bit of a Labatt Ice blitz at one point.
For the record, lest my patriotism be questioned again based on my beer preferences (yes, that has happened, once when I indicated I would rather pay for a Paulaner than take free Miller, and another time when I refused to sign a particularly xenophobic signature campaign opposing the sale of Anheuser-Busch to Inbev)... I do think we actually do make some pretty good beer in North America. Unfortunately, I also think that our largest brands, and hence, the stuff we're most known for, are rather bland and uninspiring.
Hoegaarden Rose (or raspberry) is one of my favorites and has been a around for about a year. Now, the Hoegaarden Citron, well, I'm not sure that is any better than Miller Chill or bad lemon soda...
Raspberry and Cherry beers were my favorite in Belgium.