by Jamie Day 16 February 2020
Right in the heart of both French and Flemish-speaking Belgium lies Brussels, the perfect location for a cultural weekend getaway that would usually involve plenty of fries, waffles and chocolate… but you’ll also need to find time for something much more important – beer.
When it comes to beer, Belgium has an extensive and rich history that could fill a thousand books, and comfortably holds a top spot on the list of countries that played an important role in the evolution and popularity of dozens of beer styles. But zone in on the city of Brussels, and it’s no exaggeration that the same could be said for this historical centre, and with some of the beery highlights dating back over 100 years and others less than just 10, the city of Brussels has a glass filled with some kind of beer for everyone.
Lambic, Gueuze and Kriek: Sour beer in Brussels
The process of spontaneous fermentation has been around for thousands of years, and as sour beer lovers from all over the world are all desperate to get their hands on any kind of genuine Lambic brewed within the Payottenland region, we also see plenty of breweries on all corners of the globe concocting inspired wild ales including BrewDog OverWorks and Wild Beer Co.
A lot of the Lambic breweries within the Brussels and Payottenland region aren’t all that easy to get to, but fortunately located just a 10 minute stroll from the city centre you can find one of the most important and sought after Lambic breweries in the world, Brasserie Cantillon. Cantillon is a small family-owned brewery dating back to 1900 solely focused on the production of Lambic, blended Gueuze and fruited-Lambics, and a visit to Brussels isn’t complete without a stop by the brewery, also known as ‘Brussels Gueuze Museum’. Take a guided or self-guided tour around Cantillon and see for yourself the barrels, cobwebs and coolship that all contribute to the signature sour and complex character you get from a true Cantillon Gueuze or Lambic.
Take a 10 minute train ride out of the city to the small quiet village of Lot and you’ll find another legend of the Lambic world - Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen. Book yourself into a 90-minute tour and walk amongst a farm of foeders and hear the story of a Lambic brewery and blender that’s faced bankruptcy, exploding bottles and a hell of a lot more. As you walk around the sea of barrels you’ll see the fascias of them coded with all kinds of signs and symbols, some of which mean the fermenting and ageing wort contained inside them is actually from other local Lambic heroes such as Boon and Lindemans, which will later be used for blending when the time is right. And of course, any type of brewery tour wouldn’t be complete without a tasting or 2, so you can expect to taste through some of their most important produce throughout your visit.
Craft and Belgian beer in Brussels
It may come as no surprise that you can find Brussels Beer Project within walking distance of the city centre, a brewery we’ve been fans of for years, and if you want to hear their full story you can check out their Brewery of the Month feature right here. Their location in the city is home to a few dozen barrels and stainless tanks that house their most experimental beers, but you can also pick from an extensive tap list of their freshest draught beers and fan favourites including Wunder Lager, Delta IPA and Jungle Joy - their incredible mango and passion fruit Dubbel.
It may come as no surprise that international crusaders of craft beer BrewDog have a dedicated space within the city, and although their roots lie many miles away from Brussels within the Grampian region of Scotland, you can still find a solid pint of Punk IPA or a crafty half of Clockwork Tangerine if you wanted something a bit more familiar during your trip. But if you still want to keep it local you can also expect to find a handful of taps dedicated to a whole host of Belgian breweries that are always in rotation, plus the bar is the perfect pitstop if you’re looking for a bite to eat.
Whether you’re familiar with the Belgian beer scene or not, you may recognise the almost iconic beer bottle that is Delirium Tremens. It’s slight off-white bottle, blue foil cap and pink elephant will go head-to-head with even the most colourful of craft beer branding on any supermarket shelf. And although it isn’t brewed in Brussels, buried in the heart of the city you can find what is known as Delirium Village, a small area of 8 bars all with something different to offer. Including ‘Delirium Café’ with its dark and dingey personality but home to over 2000 different beers available to drink in, or check out ‘Delirium Taphouse’ which has more of a European local boozer feel about it and with 27 taps you’re bound to find a few Delirium classics available.
And if you have time for one more…
Our final recommendation is Poechenellekelder, situated just 10 metres from a whole host of waffle shops and Brussels' biggest tourist trap, Mannekin Pis. In the summer months you’ll have no issue finding the place with its outdoor seating area absolutely heaving, but it’s the inside of this bar that’s the real draw. Every inch of wall and ceiling is plastered in picture frames and hanging puppets, and the bottle list is a never-ending list of traditional and modern Belgian classics. And if you really fancy treating yourself, you can find Trappist cheeses from the likes of Rochefort and Chimay on the menu, and even Orval cheese which may come as no surprise to hear that it pairs like a dream with a cellared bottle of Orval that they also have available.