A Beer Enthusiast’s Guide to Brussels

The Délirium Café in Brussels, the bar boasting the largest available selection of beers in the world | © Thibaud Cordonnier / Courtesy of Delirium Café
The Délirium Café in Brussels, the bar boasting the largest available selection of beers in the world | © Thibaud Cordonnier / Courtesy of Delirium Café
Photo of Nana Van De Poel
20 March 2017

As the land of 1000-plus beers and an accompanying culture that has only grown in enthusiasm for its Trappists and Senne River Valley specialties, Belgium knows no equal in its passion for the brewing trade. Brussels, accordingly, is bursting with cafés, breweries, and curious little museums that are bound to steal a beer enthusiast’s heart.

Where a million Belgian beers flow

Moeder Lambic Original & Moeder Lambic Fontainas

Bartenders with expertise are what you’ll need for making sense of the sprawling Belgian beer landscape, and there’s nary an establishment with such knowledge of the existing gems as Moeder Lambic. What started as an intimate, one-room space in Ixelles is now an esteemed duo on the capital’s bar scene. The more central and spacious location near La Bourse has 40 beers on tap and is the one you’re most likely to end up visiting. Don’t be shy about telling the friendly staff about your own preferences. Helping you wade your way through their extensive selection of national treasures and obscure artisanal options is what they’re paid to do.

Moeder Lambic Fontainas | © Bernt Rostad / Flickr

Délirium Café

Official world champion with more than 3,000 beers on offer commercially, Délirium Café likes to announce its superiority in numbers loud and proud. Yet, the hunt for obscure treasures isn’t the only reason to walk down its Grand-Place-adjacent alley and dip into its charming cellar across from the peeing girl statue, Jeanneke Pis. Though tourist masses are hard to avoid in this part of town (known as Ilot Sacré), the paraphernalia on the walls and barrel tables set a very pleasant, beer-loving tone. Upstairs on the second floor of this three-level establishment lies the Hoppy Loft, where hopheads often get the chance to discover several draughts from a visiting brewer on tap.

Délirium Café | © Thibaud Cordonnier / Courtesy of Délirium Café

Other great places for enjoying a Belgian pint include A La Mort Subite, A La Bécasse, Au Bon Vieux Temps, Au Daringman, Le Poechenellekelder, and more.

Where the magic is bottled

Brasserie Cantillon

Very few things have changed about Brasserie Cantillon’s brewing methods since the Van Roy-Cantillon family established it in 1900. Still an artisanal family affair that produces region-bound brews like Gueuze and Lambic, the establishment has merely added tours and a museum to highlight its traditional ways. Visitors soon learn that the local Senne River Valley water is key to the production since it contains a particular kind of microbe that, after fermentation in immense oak barrels, lends the beers their unique sour taste. Particularly exciting about their cozy tasting room is the opportunity to try rare Cantillon fare that isn’t available anywhere else. If you time your visit right, you might be able to attend one of the age-old brewing sessions.

Brasserie Cantillon | courtesy of Brasserie Cantillon

Brussels Beer Project

Without a doubt the most democratic brewery around, the innovative Brussels Beer Project in the Dansaert area likes to let the public decide which one of their delightfully named concoctions will endure. Every year, 30 contenders compete for the coveted “classics” slot – a selection to be produced on a regular basis (recent laureates include the fruity Red My Lips and Oktoberfest filly Grosse Bertha). Their evening tasting room has 12.5 cl glasses that allow you to taste a whole batch of their 10 beers on tap without falling off of your stool, and their numerous international collaborations, crowd-funding projects and love for a good hashtag make it clear that the 2013 start-up is adamant about ushering Belgian brewing into the 21st century.

The taproom of the Brussels Beer Project invites one and all to discuss what makes a good beer | Courtesy of the Brussels Beer Project

Where the tasty beer dishes are cooked up

Le Corbeau

Le Corbeau (literally “The Raven”) is one of those traditional, dark wood-paneled Brussels pubs that serve a mean beef stew braised in brown beer. The local haunt is famed even more for its “chevaliers,” their supersize versions of your selected beer, and at night, it turns into an after-hours club where a little tabletop dancing is nothing out of the ordinary.

Le Corbeau | courtesy of Le Corbeau

In ‘t Spinnekopke

A former 18th-century stagecoach with checkered floors and tablecloths, In ‘t Spinnekopke breathes authentic Belgian comfort the moment you open the door. Their sumptuous portions of braised rabbit in Gueuze and mussels in Maredsous abbey beer – ordered off a menu that lists every dish in the Brusseleir dialect – are sure to leave a beer lover contented to his or her core.

Other great places to experience Belgian beer cuisine include L’Escale, Belga Queen, and Au Stekerlapatte.

Where to delve into the history

Belgian Brewers Museum

Underneath one of the ornate guild houses lining the Grand-Place, the Union of Belgian Brewers keeps a watch over its history. The organization moved back into the Brewer’s House in the 50s and installed an educational museum on brewing traditions in its vaulted cellar. Since a lot of beer lovers are waiting with bated breath for the promised Belgian Beer Temple, set to open in the old Brussels stock exchange by 2018, the displays aren’t exactly kept snazzy or up to date. Still, the Brewers Museum remains an underground treasure trove for people fascinated by the evolution of the trade.

Schaerbeek Beer Museum

Another little-known gem of great worth to the beer geek, the Schaerbeek Beer Museum opens on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Small as it is, the place is drowning in colorful posters, glasses, metal signs, and other quirky beer-themed hoardings.

Schaerbeek Beer Museum | Courtesy of Schaerbeek Beer Museum

Where to stock up on Belgian brewskis

Beer Mania

Asking a beer enthusiast to leave Brussels empty-handed is a fool’s errand, but finding a shop with the right price-quality ratio can be a challenge. One such establishment, providing a range of 400 carefully selected national craft beers at reasonable prices is Beer Mania. Their homebrew, Mea Culpa, is a testament to the passion and knowledge of a connoisseur owner, while the terrace and cozily lit café provide ample opportunity to sample before you stock up.

Beer Mania | courtesy of Beer Mania

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