A wonderful traditional "brown café" with a terrific beer menu. As well as the beers on the printed menus, there are always a lot of guest beers on the blackboards. As with most Dutch beer cafés, the menu tends to be dominated by Belgian beers, but de Paas also carries an excellent range of beers from Dutch craft brewers.
It's only a few minutes walk from Den Haag Centraal Station so is a perfect place to kill time before your train arrives. Though you might get too settled and miss it.
Dunne Bierkade 16A
(070) 360 0019
A nice beer cafe tucked under Rotterdam's famous 'cubewonings' (cubic houses). One of the best selections of beer in the city in a comfortable, friendly bar. Food is also available. Although I didn't eat here myself, they were serving plenty of it.
The only down-side is that it's too dimly lit if you like to read a book while quaffing the Netherlands' finest ales.
Blaak 4, Rotterdam, directly opposite Blaak railway and metro station.
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.
As its name suggests, this cafe specialises mainly in Belgian beers, but it also has a respectable number of Dutch ones for you to sample as well. If you can't find something you fancy in its list of 10 draught beers and nearly 200 bottled ones you probably don't like beer. Good food with imaginative vegetarian options in the dagschotel (daily menu). A great place to relax.
Oudegracht 196.Telephone 030 231 2666
Organised every year in late June by Bier Passion magazine, this is a celebration of Belgian beer and brewing, where it's possible to enjoy a choice of several hundred beers.
You'll meet beer-lovers from all over the world at this event which has out-grown two venues since it was first organised in 1999. It is now held on the Groenplaats in the heart of the city. It IS a commercially-organised event, so there are some beers from the mass-produced, not-very-interesting end of the market, but even so there are more craft-brewed beers than any one person can sample in a weekend.
On the Groenplaats. Bier Passion magazine's website is www.beerpassion.com
After its beer, Belgium is most famous for chocolates. If you're a chocoholic visiting Antwerpen, you'll want to try the city's own chocolate speciality; Antwerpse Handjes (little Antwerp hands). Some are chocolate all-through, others have various fillings, but all are in the shape of the familiar hand that's the symbol of the city.
The reason for the hand is a legend that a giant called Druoon Antigoon lived on the banks of the River Schelde on the site of what's now Antwerpen and he used to extract a toll, punishing anybody who refused to pay by cutting off one of their hands. He was finally defeated by a Roman soldier, Silvius Brabo (often claimed to be a nephew of Julius Caesar) who symbolically cut off Antigoon's hand and threw it into the river. Thus, according to the legend, the city was named after Brabo's throwing of Antigoon's hand into the Schelde, from the Dutch hand (as in English) and werpen (English: throw).
Available in shops all over the city.
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.
Claims to be the oldest brew-pub in the world, founded in 1499. I don't think the building's quite that old, but it's a wonderfully atmospheric pub with intricate murals and a comfortable beer garden. The beer brewed on the premises is a dark lager in the style brewed before light lagers were developed in Plzeň and is delicious. Unfortunately, U Fleků has, since the outbreak of un-fettered capitalism in the Czech Republic, turned into a "see how much we can rip off the tourists" type venue, but despite this, it's worth a visit to see the fantastic interior and to taste the gorgeous beer. Beware if your waiter brings a glass of schnapps or similar with your beer; apparently this is done in such a way as to make you think it's on the house, but actually you're going to get charged a lot for it, so you should make it clear you don't want it.
Křemencova 11, Prague Tel: +420 224 934 019-20 Website: www.ufleku.cz/
A ridiculously tiny pub that's the home of the Kemptown Brewery. The walls are covered with old newspapers and the beer's terrific. Not only their own beers but other great stuff too; this is where I first sampled Tanglefoot, and I'll never forget it.
33 Upper St James's Street, Kemptown, Brighton Tel: (01273) 693070
A small museum showing the history of the city. One particularly interesting exhibit is an interactive map which shows how the city grew from the original settlement around what's now Dam Square. It's surprising how recent most of the city is.
Kalverstraat 92; Tel: 020 523 1822; www.ahm.nl/
This is the brewery-tap of the excellent 't Ij brewery. Spit & sawdust would probably be a step up for the place, but the beers brewed on the premises make it well worth a visit. I particularly recommend trying the Columbus and the Struis, both of which score 5/5 on my personal beer scale. Unfortunately opening hours are restricted - it's only open Wednesday to Sunday, 1500-2000.
Funenkade 7; Tel: 020-3201786; www.brouwerijhetij.nl
Without doubt the best beer bar in Amsterdam, this is a traditional brown cafe with a tremendous range of beer and staff who know about that beer. I understand the barrels at the back of the main room are from the Genever distillery that the building used to house. Unusually for a Dutch bar, there's even a non-smoking room. It can be quite hard to find, being down an alleyway, but there's a map on their website.
Kolksteeg 3; only a short walk from Amsterdam Centraal Station; tel: 020 427 86 60; www.indewildeman.nl
Even with a city as beautiful as Prague, it's sometimes nice to get out for a while. On the north-west border of the city is the spectacular Divoká Šárka, where you can wander through forests and gaze at spectacular rock formations surrounded by streams, waterfalls and lakes.
At the north-west terminus of the number 26 tram. Map at: tinyurl.com/2byaf4
You can buy travel cards for various numbers of days in the major Metro stations (such as Mustek, at the bottom of Wenceslas Square.) These entitle you to unlimited travel on any bus, tram or metro line in the city and represent an economic and convenient way to get about. At the time of writing, a 24-hour pass costs KCs80 (less than £2), a 3-day pass costs KCs220 (£5) and a 7-day pass costs KCs280 (£6.50)
Major Metro stations. Prague Transport Authority website: www.dp-praha.cz/en/
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/
One of the world's classic beer bars, Kulminator's beer list runs to over 400 beers including a lot of vintage beers, some as much as 20 years old. The five-year-old bottle of Gueuze de Neve I bought here was the most delicious beer I've ever tasted (and I've tasted quite a few). The one down-side is that the last couple of times I've visited, the place has been infested with clouds of irritating flying insects, so I'd suggest only visiting in the winter, when with luck they won't be there.
Vleminckveld 32, Antwerpen Tel: 03/232.45.38
Chips were invented in Belgium and this is the best place I've found in the country to get them.
It isn't somewhere to go if you're in a hurry; in true Belgian fashion the chips are part-cooked first, then refried when you order them for that perfect "soft inside, crisp outside" texture.
As you'd expect in Belgium, mayonnaise is the usual dressing for your chips, but they have a wide range of other sauces, some with "interesting" names, like "mammoth". Personally I don't like sauce on my chips so I just sprinkle some of the tasty salt/paprika mixture on them.
If only the suckers buying junkfood from the nearby McDonald's knew what they were missing.
A small bar popular with the locals, between the main shopping area and the market. The Oud Arsenaal specialises in Lambic and Trappist beers; it's probably your best bet in the city if you want to try the rare Westvleteren Abt (deservedly voted the world's greatest beer in 2005.) This is a very friendly bar, the couple who run it have amazing memories for faces; the first time I visited Antwerpen I spent an evening there, then when I came back six months later they recognised me at the Beer Passion Weekend and came over to say "hello". Guest beers change frequently and there are often special offers (I had a wonderful evening here drinking bottles of Hercule at only EUR2.20 each.) They also have a special beer, Arsenaaltje, brewed for them by the local De Koninck brewery. The only downside to the Oud Arsenaal is its opening hours. It closes early in the evening (about 7:30 or 8:00) but it's worth a visit while it's open.
Maria Pijpelincxstraat 4, Antwerpen Tel: 03/231.84.76
My favourite bar in Antwerpen, 't Waagstuk may not have the most extensive beer menu in the city, but what's on the menu never disappoints. There's always a good selection of Lambics and Trappist beers and a regularly changing guest beer on tap. Decent food too, with a reasonable selection suitable for vegetarians.
Stadswaag 20, Antwerpen, about 5 minutes' walk from Meir, the main shopping street. Telephone: 03/225.02.19 Website: www.proximedia.com/web/waagstuk.html
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
Send your feedback or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org