From the outside, it has to be said, this grey- fronted bar with its forbidding doorman does not promise much. During the day people fill up on steak and carbonnades, soaking up beer with chips and just sit, placidly. But on Friday and Saturday nights groups start crowding in, and at a quarter to midnight, as if by some tacit agreement, everyone gets up on top of the tables to dance, to an infectious mix which could keep you going until 4am, providing you have the energy – and your wits – about you! Leave bulky bags and coats behind, and give up reaching the bar through the mass of bodies. It’s probably for the best anyway. A student favourite, and an exhilarating end to a day spent in chocolate, waffles and vin chaud.
18, rue St-Michel, 1000 Brussels
+32 2 219 52 46
Google map: bit.ly/AdUAUQ
* Bec is our Been there local for Brussels. You can view her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/brussels-local-rebecca.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/Becinbrussels
The Cantillon Brewery is the last of what were once plentiful Gueuze Breweries in Belgium. The family brewery makes Gueuze, a unique beer that depends entirely on windborn yeast to complete the beermaking process, introducing an element of luck that most brewmasters wouldn't dream of accepting. To use the wild yeast the brewery has a number of unique features that cannot be found in any other brewery.
The location is also ideal. Just a fifteen minute walk from Brussels' Grand Place, there is no problem with imbibing as much of this wonderful beer as you would like and then wondering how to get home. The metro public transport system makes this a wonderfully tasty and safe experience.
Only 10 minutes walk from the Gare du Midi, down a (frankly rather unprepossessing) street, is the Cantillon Brewery. This is an independent family-owned brewery producing lambic, one of Belgium's most authentic and original beers. You get a short and enthusiastic introduction, and can then follow the brewing process on your own.
What makes lambic beer unique is that it ferments spontaneously. The wort cools down in a shallow copper tray in the attic where it comes into contact with airborne wild yeasts.
You can wander through the barrel store, with its heady and musty aromas, where it will ferment for up to three years. Tasting is an education. You will be offered the slightly tart Gueuze, a blend of old and new lambics, and the sweeter Kriek beers, blended with fruit.
This is a fascinating and evocative museum, offering a rare insight into traditional brewing methods.
A really fun - and tasty - tour of a unique brewery can be found in the gritty working class Brussels district of Anderlecht, where some of Brussels' best kept secrets are also hidden!
The Musee Bruxellois de la Geuze offers a great tour around the Cantillon Brewery, the last working brewer of Lambic, a strange spontaneously-fermenting beer, that has to be tasted to be believed and once tasted will be craved ever after! It takes Lambic brews from three different years to make a Geuze beer, so it's something pretty special and well worth waiting for!
The Cantillon Brewery opened in 1900 and little has changed since then. It is a great retreat from the modern world to an age when people had more time to sit back and enjoy a glass of beer.
We loved the tour but got a little confused, after tasting and sampling, about all the processes and spontaneous fermentation, so we might have to go again to refresh the memory - hic.
Musee Bruxellois de la Geuze
Admission: 5euros (includes a cold glass of beer)
56 rue Gheude
Metro: Gare du Midi or Clemenceau
Tel: +32 (0)2 521 4928
Open Mon-Fri 08.30--17.00, Sat 10.00--17.00
Google map: tinyurl.com/l6jal2
Belgium Beer Tour is a tour operator specializing in tours of Belgium breweries. It offers a great way for beer lovers to visit their favorite breweries and discover new ones. The tours cover a wide range of beers and appeals to connoisseurs and amateurs alike.
Aux Armes De Bruxelles is a long-established restaurant near the Grand Place with an excellent menu and good beer and wine list. The moules are to die for. I ate there every evening on my last trip.
Thanks indeed to the Two Hairy Bikers for their suggestion to try this fantastic restaurant. The food was gorgeous and the staff were obviously selected for their efficiency as much as their looks. We dined like kings and yet the meal came to about 100 euros, a bargain. I'd love to go back and try the steak & chips and some more wonderful Belgian beer. Try it, you will not be disappointed.
A unique museum, ten minutes walk from Brussels Midi, is the Cantillon Brewery, which is a museum dedicated to Brussels' unique beer style of gueze. There are self-guided tours and the chance to try the products. But the highlight is the public brewings in November and March - a must for all beer lovers and fans of the Belgian way of life.
Visit the Cantillon Brewery, near the Midi train station. This fine brewery produces gueuze, a sour and even sulphurous beer which is allowed to ferment spontaneously by contact with wild yeasts in the air. It's a love-it-or-hate-it thing - and you won't find out which it is for you unless you visit the brewery!
The Cantillon Brewery doesn't just do self-guided tours (in English) - you can also buy the produce and sample it in the small tasting room. Try the excellent, very rare lambic beer that tastes even better once you know how it's made!
For all lovers of ale and beer, a visit to Le Musée de la Bière à Schaerbeek (33-35 Avenue Louis Bertrand: 1000) is a must. Here you can see beer being treated with true reverence and sample some of the specialities of the area.
Directly opposite the Mannekin Pis, you'd naturally expect this to be a bar that's just aimed at selling as much Old Wife Beater as possible to the tourists. But don't let this and the fact that the decor is themed on the piddling boy fool you, in fact this is a must-visit bar for beer-lovers visiting Brussels.
There are roughly 80 regular beers on the menu as well as monthly specials, some of them unusual (for example, Het Anker's Gouden Carolus Triple on tap - what a night that was!).
Service is efficient and friendly.
Poechenellkelder means "mannekin cellar" in the local Brussels dialect and you'll find that your bill is also in that dialect, which is similar to Dutch.
5 Rue du Chêne. Tel 02 511 92 62
Opening hours: Tue-Thu: 1000-2400, Fri-Sun: 1000-0200, closed Mon.
It's right on the Grand Place and serves up the ultimate beer experience with a three-course menu cooked in three different beers and served with a glass of the same with each dish! It's pretty reasonably priced and has lots of other delicious dishes and is well-positioned to get a great view of any events that are held in the square. I had the pleasure of a son et lumiere show.
This is a traditional bar with a 19th-century interior. Wood panelling, leather being very much in abundance. They do simple food such as croque monsieur and croque bruxellois.
They also have a good varied range of beers that are (of course) served in their correct glasses. It is the sort of place where you can sit down and have a nice drink in a nice old fashioned kind of place.
Le Cirio, Rou de la Bourse, 18-20
1000 Brussels; Tel (02) 512 13 95; nearest Station: Bourse
Gueuze is the beer style unique to Brussels and the area around it in the valley of the River Zenne. There are now only about a dozen producers of this beer, which is brewed without the addition of yeast, but using the natural micro-organisms that are native to the area.
Every two years, HORAL, the trade organisation for the producers of this beer, organises the Toer de Gueuze. On one sunday in April, virtually every producer opens its doors to visitors so they can see how this wonderful beer is made. You can make your own way around the producers or you can take a seat on one of a number of coaches that tour around (each coach visiting a different selection of brewers and blenders).
You can sample the beer at every producer and many of them also put on food and entertainment. The day isn't well-publicised outside Belgium, but judging from the number of people I saw when I went on it this year (2005) it's pretty well-known in Belgium. Guided tours round the various producers are only in Dutch, since there isn't really time for multi-lingual commentaries. However, even if you don't understand the language, you'll find the whole experience fascinating (and you'll love the beer.)
Coaches start out from various places around Brussels, depending on the itinerary. Have a look at HORAL's website:
to see when the tour's happening; the next one should be in April 2007.
The last remaining Lambic brewery in Brussels, Cantillon produces some of the most distinctive examples of this beer style. The brewery is open to visitors every day except Sunday. There are no fixed times for tours, you just turn up and they give you a leaflet describing what you'll see then leave you to it. The EUR 3.50 price includes a couple of beers at the end. No matter how many breweries you've visited, you'll never have seen anything like Cantillon. The beer is produced using malted barley, a large amount of malted wheat and prodigious quantities of hops which have been stored for several years so they have lost nearly all of their bitterness. After boiling up the ingredients in water, the wort is pumped into a large flat vessel (known as a koelschip) directly under the roof of the brewery. The roof has many gaps in it to allow micro-organisms (wild yeasts, bacteria, etc.) to land in the wort. It is these micro-organisms which actually ferment the beer, in the way that beer was brewed for thousands of years before Louis Pasteur, working in Lille, discovered yeast. The mix of micro-organisms is unique to the valley of the River Zenne, which is why Lambic is only brewed in and around Brussels. After the wort has been innoculated, it's pumped into huge oak barrels, where it initially ferments vigorously. Then, when the fermentation has slowed down, the barrels are sealed. The beer is left in the barrels for anything up to five years to mature, then it's expertly blended with some younger brews and either sent to a few select bars to sell on draught (as Lambic) or bottled (as Gueuze.) The beer is intensely sour and can come as a shock to first time tasters, but once you get the taste, like I have, you just want more.
56 rue Gheude, Brussels (10 minutes from the Eurostar terminal) Tel: 02 521.49.28 Web: www.cantillon.be/
An average Belgian bar might have a couple of dozen beers available. A good Belgian bar might have a couple of hundred. The Delirium Cafe has over TWO THOUSAND beers available at any one time. Not only a terrific range of Belgian beers but also beers from over 60 other countries. The menu actually lists about 2500 beers, but they restrict their claimed selection to "over 2000" as not all are available 100% of the time, though I've never ordered anything they couldn't find. One thing to be aware of, the beer price goes up during live music gigs, which happen twice a week. It's in the maze of alleyways that make up the Ilot Sacre, so can be hard to find at first.
Impasse de la Fidélité, 4A, Brussels. About 100m from the Grand Place and not far from Brussels Central Station. Website: www.deliriumcafe.be/ Tel: 32/2.514.44.34
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