Bite Me, Brussels.

Reviewing food for the foreigners, without all the fluff.

Piss up in a brewery

Posted by rachelinbxl on April 27, 2011

I love Belgian beers. Not to the exclusion of other country’s beers, but as a thing to savour and enjoy here in Belgium. I have visited only 2 breweries in my 8 years here, however, one of which is also counted as a museum, and the other is a tiny micro-brwery in Leuven. My dad coming to visit for 4 days had me worrying about what on earth to do with him – since we have slowly visited all the musea we wanted to and he doesn’t want to shop. So I started investigating which of the Belgian breweries one can visit.
The answer is not many. I compiled an Excel sheet of those with websites stating they accept visitors, but most need a group of at least 20 to open their doors. Some have organised tours at weekends that you can sign up to be a part of…. or of course you can pay to do a Belgian beer tour that just does pretty much the same – but is only once a month and not the weekend he was visiting.

So, I made up a programme of those we could see, and on Saturday found enough friends to organise a private visit at my top pick – Bosteels where they make Kwak, Tripel Karmeliet and Deus – the only Belgian beer that is taken to Eparnay in the Champagne region and treated like champagne – it’s a rare, hard to find beer that I love.
I enclose a collage of a few of the beers we tried in one weekend. My favourite was Kwak on tap, though Tripel Karmeliet is also excellent. The Blanche de Namur was a discovery for my dad who dislikes white beers, and the Brasseries de la Senne is a place to visit again when they are a bit more set up. I’ll focus on reviewing the breweries as places to visit however, and let you form your own opinions on their beers.
Beer anyone?

Cantillon – Or the museum of Gueze was the first place. It has now gone up to 6 euros for a visit, but this includes a tasting of 2 of their beers. It is a small, family run museum and the last in Belgium that makes traditional lambics (where they leave the wort open to the air of Brussels for it to collect natural yeast from the air). The process is thus uncontrolled, random and takes ages. The resultant beer, mixed to gueze, or kriek, or a raspberry lambic, is nothing like any other lambic beer you will have tasted. It is extremely sour as the yeast uses all the sugar in the cereals to make the alcohol and the fix. It is refreshing, but not my preference for a style of beer. The museum is an excellent place to visit, however. They speak lots of languages, let you wander around unattended, and now and again brew publicly, where you can really see their process.
I recommend a visit – and its just near South station, so its easy to do!!

Bosteels is rather harder to get to, being in buggenhout which is rather in the middle of nowhere. I still managed to collect 30 people, however! The website said visits were only possible in the week, but they were willing to accommodate me on a Saturday morning. 3.5 euros covers Kwak and Karmeliet. If you want to test Deus too, it’s 4.5 euros. I assumed most people would want to taste all 3. The tour starts with an explanation of the old horse-drawn coaches that the founder of the brewery collected and that are all beautifully decorated with logos of the beers. She also explained the origin of the hourglass shaped Kwak glass – but wasn’t sure if it’s a myth. We could also see the large tons where they heat the hops and top ferment. The bottling plant was in use and a mess, so we didn’t go in there, but we did visit the lagering and second fermentation rooms with their polish piping. The tour was in English, but the woman was very friendly to us since we had so many Flemish speakers with us. They have a lovely cafe for the beer tasting and we were all very surprised that the 3.5 euros covers a FULL glass of Kwak and Karmeliet. Quite enough to get you drunk on a Saturday at midday. They had run out of Deus, but I managed to persuade the lady to open a bottle that had been on display in the sun, despite it not being top quality, to allow everyone to taste a tiny bit. She didn’t charge us for this. If you can find a few beer enthusiasts and get yourself out to this place, I really recommend doing it!

Sunday I drove Dad to the Ardennes. We went to Purnode to Du Bocq and then to Leffe to see the Abbey, where they no longer brew. We drove on through Dinant to Faelaen, where we tested a the local brew and bought local cheese. We stopped off, on a whim, at Maredsous abbey on the way back and regretted not going there earlier – the site is incredibly well set up for tourists and I’d love to go back.

The only official visit was the Du Bocq brewery. They have a visit at 14:00 and 17:00 on Sundays and we joined the first one. We stopped for lunch in Spontin at the Comptoir de Famille. The food was excellent – a recommendation. Du Bocq is a much larger brewery – the largest we visited. It’s much more commercial and more set up to receive visits. It makes a lot of different beers in a small place. The tour was in French, Dutch and English and not that informative after having visited 2 other places. The tour costs 5.5 euros and only includes 1 of their beers. You can have another at cost, or buy a bottle to take away (cheap!) but the visit was less worthy of the price than other visits we had done.

Monday we visited Brasseries de la Senne, another Brussels brew where they make Zinnebir, amongst others. This is run by just 2 gentlemen, and when we visited, they were bottling one of the first batches made on the new site. The site is not yet well established, but will include a tasting cafe with view onto the production line. They’re not really ready to receive guests yet, so we got a free short explanation and a free beer (Brussels Calling)… once they’re up on their feet I’d recommend supporting these young beer enthusiasts though. St Jan Molenbeek isn’t hard to get to…!


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