A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to take a quick weekend trip to Bruges. Did you know Belgium is a scant 2 hour train journey from London? This is quicker than getting to Plymouth – a monstrous 4 hours in a trundling train to the coast.
It turns out that when you book a Eurostar ticket to Belgium they give you one free transfer. You can actually just wander onto a train to any destination in the country and they will accept your Eurostar ticket. Not bad!
Naturally I went to Brugges – the fairytale city that plays the backdrop to the shoot-up (comedy?) movie In Bruges.
And naturally the thing to do when in Belgium is drink beer. I’m not normally a beer drinker (weirdly, that’s failed New Year’s resolution in 2010). But this changed – albiet temporarily – when I got to taste the beer in Belgium! I guess it has its reputation for greatness with good cause.
The thing is the beer in Brugges is not like any other beer I’ve ever tasted.
Rather than a lager which is sort of bitter and watery and boring (OK, that’s my take), beer in Belgium is a drink like wine. There are loads of different kinds, and each one is presented in its own special way.
In fact, every single beer has its own special glass to drink it out of. Which is impressive considering there are over 350 beers available.
When in Paris, eat baguettes. When in Brugges – drink beer.
There are two places I went in Brugges that I thought were just right for experiencing the beers:
1. De Halve Maan
The last brewery in the city boundaries, De Halve Maan (The Half Moon) offers tours and a lovely sunny courtyard to relax in. The price of a scant €5 includes one free beer (which costs about €4 without the tour), plus a tour of the historic parts of the brewery.
Just be sure to book your tour a few hours in advance – especially if you are trying to visit on the weekend.
While you wait, be sure to ample the beer on tap. It’s unfiltered and fresh straight from the brewery. Even the 10% dark beer is delicious!
2. Cafe Rose Red
As quaint and tacky as can be, Cafe Rose Red is an amazing little bar that offers over 300 beers. Its beer menu is a small book unto itself.
Not to mention that it has easily the best, most beer-crazy staff you could ever wish for. All the tasting notes are clearly explained when you ask – and in English which is helpful after staring blankly at a menu of 300 beers. . .
On top of that, the recommendations are expert! Their staff seem to have tried every single beer on the menu, and know about each individual one. From my end, I would especially recommend a dark cherry cuvee brut beer…or maybe the raspberry beer which arrives in its own small wicker basket. But you can always ask them. I suspect they will have just the something you are after.
This little bar was so good that I went back both nights for further samplings and recommendations. Not noisy place, but pleasantly full throughout the evening with a mix of tourists and locals (and locals are hard to find in this town).