Belgium: The best Belgian beer experiences in Brussels

Brussels beer festival, Belgium

My partner is half Belgian and wherever we travel, it’s pretty certain he will never allow me to find a beer that is better than those brewed in this tiny central European country. Fortunately so far I agree with him: Belgian beers are in every way superb.

There are so many varieties it would be foolish to try and survey them but I think my favourite Belgian beers for sheer romantic appeal (as well as the taste) will always be those from the Trappiste breweries, especially after visiting some of them in the Belgian Ardennes a few summers ago. Those monks really know what they’re doing. And they also make good cheese.

Lambic beers are another style I can never go past. Of course the Belgian fruit lambics such as Kriek and Framboise are famous but it is Gueuze that has me obsessed. Lambic beer is brewed from wheat by spontaneous fermentation and gueuze blends a mixture of young and old to set off a second fermentation. Lambic beers can have an aging period from three months to three years. Gueuze is sometimes called Brussels Champagne.

But when visiting Brussels (as we do whenever possible) I’d like to share a few tips about the best ways to enjoy Belgian beer:

Brussels Beer Festival

On the first weekend of September the Belgian capital of Brussels throws its annual tribute to beer. The Belgian Beer Weekend is organised by the Brewer’s association and features a good selection of Belgium’s 125 breweries serving their best from tents set up in the beautiful Grand Place.

Brussels beer festival, Belgium
From the big players to tiny artisinal breweries, its a chance to sample the pride of a country that produces the largest choice of regional, authentic and colourful beers in the world.

It’s a great time to be in Brussels with music, parades and interesting rituals performed by unique brewing associations, and of course plenty of convivial people propping up tall tables that wobble on the cobblestones.

Brussels beer festival, Belgium

Top 5 bars in Brussels

La Becasse
This little charmer benefits from being down a very narrow alleyway, more of a passage really, near the Grand Place. Here they serve gueuze beer from stoneware flagons into stoneware cups – it doesn’t taste any better.

Morte Subite

A very friendly bar with long wooden tables and a huge selection of the famous house brand. Morte Subite is also well known for its gueuze.

La Morte Subite, Belgian beer in Brussels Photo by Natasha von Geldern

Le Papier Fleur d’or
This tiny bar has loads of authentic charm and is popular with young people. You half feel like you’re sitting in someone’s kitchen where people are playing board games at the table and gossiping. The spaghetti bolognaise sets you up for a good night.

Top Brussels bars, Belgium
Falstaff
Popular with tourists but this beautifully decorated bar is all stained glass, frosted globe lights and wood panelling. The staff are friendly and the beer selection wide.

A l’Imaige Nostre-Dame

Another favourite with locals with a wonderful atmosphere (Rue Marche-aux-Herbes 8). A good selection of beers and sometimes even singing as the night draws on.

Historic brewery in Brussels

Cantillon Brewery crates Brussels

The Cantillon brewery should be high on any beer lovers list when visiting Brussels. You can read the full account of my visit to Cantillon in my post but suffice to say this is one of the two remaining traditional breweries in Brussels dating back to 1900 and they are still using a lot of the original machinery to create their authentic lambic beer. Stumbling up the rickety steps through the brewery is like stepping back in time. The wooden rafters are thick with mould and crates of dusty bottles lie in odd corners. The beer itself tastes fresh and natural and there is a generous tasting at the end. You won’t be able to resist buying some to take home.

By Natasha von Geldern

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About Natasha von Geldern

Natasha von Geldern is the World Wandering Kiwi, a freelance travel writer, editor and inveterate traveller who is passionate about making the pages of the atlas real one trip at a time.

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