Posted in Beer Culture, Breweries

Belgium: the recap

I was in Belgium for a couple weeks in the middle of February. Where do I even start? Do I lead in with the fact that my 91-year-old grandma has a six-pack of Chimay Bleue in her room at the nursing home?

Chimay Bleue with my grandma

Yeah I think that almost sums up the state of beer in Belgium. You really have to go out of your way to drink bad beer. I may be biased because I was born and raised there, but Belgium has the strongest beer game of all. That being said, I will spend some time on here talking about some of the drawbacks, pitfalls, etc. This post will be a longer recap of some of my beer moments in Belgium. In future posts, I will dive into more specific aspects of the (craft) beer scene with great photos, etc. Don’t be disappointed in the lack of details and photos when you read this piece. There will be much more to come, but it was simply too much to condense everything into one post.

I got to Belgium on Tuesday, Feb. 7, and briefly visited my grandma right from the airport. I hadn’t been back home in three years because of Covid so it was about time I’d make my rounds. I had an appointment at the dentist in the afternoon and stayed home with my mom in the evening. She introduced me to an AB InBev beer called Victoria that has now become her go-to beer. It probably will make you cringe knowing it’s an AB InBev beer, but in Belgium, no one really cares that much about the whole AB InBev thing not being independent, etc. There are so many great brews that are now owned by them that we could not possibly nix them all! The Victoria beer is a strong blonde ale that even has a whole bar dedicated to it at Tour & Taxis in Brussels! Of course the bar serves many other beers and beverages but still…

The next day, I went to the museum with my my mom and my nephew but managed to squeeze in a quick visit to La Ferme de Mont-Sait-Jean, home of Brasserie de Waterloo. I had tried all three of the beers that are available at the store on a previous trip but finally got to try their Farm Pils (non-filtrée) this time around. This one is only available at the brewery.

Maredsous Abbey

On Thursday, I dragged my mom all the way to Abbaye de Maredsous based on recommendations received from a guy at Brasserie Lefebvre. My original intention was to visit that brewery instead, but it seems most of those so-called breweries have now turned their business to distribution and no longer brew onsite. The guy told me about a microbrewery that opened at the abbey just a couple weeks prior. As you may or may not know, the original Maredsous beers are no longer brewed at the abbey either and are now brewed by Duvel Moortgat. At the new microbrewery, I was able to try all 4 of the original Maredsous beers as well as their new 150 Maredsous, a beer brewed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the abbey.

On Friday, I flew to Switzerland to visit the other half of my mom’s side of the family. I will write about my Swiss beery adventures in a separate post. I came back on a Sunday night, feeling under the weather, and spent most of Monday on the couch at my mom’s place.

Brouwerij De Sint-Sixtusabdij – Westvleteren Blond

On Tuesday, I met up with my dad who still lives in Brussels and dragged him all the way to Vleteren! That’s three and a half hours round trip but so worth it! Not sure he agrees, but it was such a cool experience to be able to finally get my hands on some Westvleteren brews! I bought 8 of the Westvleteren 12 to-go and had the Blond and the 8 on-site at In de Verde. As you may know, the Westvleteren beers are not available anywhere but at the abbey and at the “café” across the street. All other sales of the beer are clandestine. It’s such a rarity that I even gifted one of the bottles to my Belgian friend.

The next day I went to Namur to meet up with a friend and visit some of my dad’s family. There, we had another brewery visit fail. Brasserie Houppe is indeed closed to the public. Fortunately I was able to try the beer at a tavern close by.

No beer on Thursday…

I only had a Maes on Friday. But I’m happy I did. It was my grandpa’s go-to beer when I was growing up. Wait! I lied. I also had a Chimay Bleue with my grandma while playing Scrabble. It’s always a great brew, but beer always tastes better in good company.

Saturday was, however, dedicated to the finest nectar with multiple microbrewery visits with my friend Christophe. What a day!

Yours truly at Brasserie de la Senne -photo by Christophe Dumont

We first went to Brasserie de la Senne near Tour & Taxis. It wasn’t the best neighborhood when I was growing up, but they are really putting a lot of effort into transforming the neighborhood into something really cool. I’d had a few of their beers but had never visited. It has now been corrected. I bought a variety of brews to-go but also had their Zennegash, a collaboration brew with Allagash Brewing out of Maine. A phenomenal wheat beer. Just what you’d expect from two great breweries working together!

We had a little time to kill before the next brewery we were going to visit opened so we went to Cantillon to grab some Gueuze to-go (and a t-shirt because mine had an oil stain). Then we went to La Source Beer Co. I have to say, this may have just become my favorite microbrewery in Brussels. Belgium? They have really embraced the American microbrewery model and have a great variety of beers, including some great IPAs.

Our next stop was Brasserie Surréaliste. Great spot with an awesome vibe and decor, but I thought they didn’t emphasize on the beer enough. Too many guest taps. It’s more of a trendy bar/restaurant that brews its own few beers than an actual brewery.

La Source Beer Co. – 1. Dry Hop January 2023: Italian-style Pilsner (from the tank) 2. Barrage Jalapeños & Pomelo Gose 3. La Meute Hazy IPA (from the tank)

Very last stop of the day: Brussels Beer Project. I had gone there once and din’t find it in me to have another beer, but my friend bought a few bottles to-go. They have expanded the space since my last visit and now have a separate store next door. They have great beer and a very cool taproom. The one drawback: They are super successful… and they know it.

This brings us to Sunday. I spent most of the day with my friends in Nivelles and sipped on an Orval. I got home and made a big dent in my stash from Brasserie de la Senne. That’s all.

My last day in Brussels, I met up with my dad and had non-alcoholic Affligem Blond as well as an Omer. I enjoyed a St Hubertus Triple Amber during my last meal with my brother and my mom.

Bertinchamps Blonde at Brussels Airport

At the airport, just for good measure, I sipped on a Bertinchamps Blonde. I know it was early in the morning, but I had a long flight ahead of me and then another one to follow. Nothing wrong with one last Belgian brew for the road!

Now I guess I’ll just do a photo dump right here… with captions so make sure to click on the. I will also save some (a ton) for future posts so stay tuned!