Everyone likes something different when it comes to beer. For some, it’s no beer at all. For Germans, it’s beer made only with water, hops, yeast, and barley. But for me, it’s variety and flavor. And, as I like-a the sweets, Belgian beer fits the bill perfectly: cherry beer, forest fruits, coconut, dark, light, strong, sour… every combination is possible.
In August 2007 I visited Brussels with my buddy Pete for a Belgian beer festival called the “Belgian Beer Weekend.” This is a yearly event in the main square, where almost all the craft brewers in Belgium come to exhibit their wares. We tried 27 beers each over a (4?) day weekend, at various restaurants, alley pubs, and beer stands.
We took a tour of the Halve Maan brewery in Bruges. This was one of my favorite photos of the weekend, with a nice, short depth of field:
Notable moments: we wrote down all the beers we tried on Pete’s expired TAN list because it’s the only paper we had. (Except one, which was written on his arm after forgetting the TAN list.) One dude had a bachelor party at the festival – it was 5c to paint a stripe of baby blue paint anywhere on his body. We saw him later on, and he was completely blue. Best quote from an old-time beer poster in French: a mother holds a beer while her baby nurses. “Beer is nourishment! She buys her beer at the brewery, but makes her baby’s drink herself.”
The beers we tried, in order of consumption:
- Mort Subite Kriek
- Petrus Tripel
- Kasteelbier Donker (CRAZY SWEET!)
- Duvel / Belle-Vue Gueuze
- De Silly Abbaye de Forest
- Deus Brut des Flandres
- Hoegaarden Rose
- Lindemans Old Gueuze
- Leffe Blonde / Jupiler
- Maredsous Donker 8*
- Affligem Christmas
- Moeder Overste (Mother Superior)
- Blanche de Brugs
- Timmermans Woudvruchten (Fruits de la Foret) WINNER – tied as best beer of the weekend
- Black Hole
- Chimay Blue
- Bon Secours Brune Perle
- Mort Subite Gueuze
- Leffe Blonde
- Brugse Zot Blonde
- Mystic Kriek
- De Garre Tripel WINNER – tied as best beer of the weekend
- Brugse Zot Blonde (should’ve been Brown, but they gave us a free Blonde after the tour, so we drank this one twice)
- Stella Artois
Getting to the Belgian Beer Weekend:
- Here’s the website for the festival, Weekend de la Biere.
- Look here for a Google map view of the Grand Place, where the festival takes place.
- What to do while you’re there besides drink at the festival? There are MANY museums around Brussels, even a sewer museum. I’ve visited a brewery, the comic museum (which is mostly older European comics, NO DC or Marvel superheroes!), Atomium (which was a bit disappointing for the price), and many other sights. But honestly, I was not overly impressed by anything, so don’t get too excited about the city itself. The small city of Bruges was much more charming – and made a very nice side trip for one day.
- Food: eat some mussels with fries, “Moules Frites,” one of the signature dishes of Belgium. I think they eat more mussels per capita than anywhere else? Once when I was there, I was lucky that a mussel festival coincided with the beer weekend – SOO tasty. And of course, you have to try a Belgian waffle with your choice of toppings. I also highly recommend a stew made with dark beer; this common dish always has a fantastic flavor.
Enjoy Belgium and their wonderful beers. There is something for everyone: even those who normally don’t favor beer might enjoy a mild Lindemans peach lambic! Have fun, and don’t drink TOO much…