Nine must-visit places in Brussels for beer lovers – and two to avoid

Brussels and beer go hand-in-hand and it’s very easy to get a good beer at a decent price in the city. We recently spent a long weekend in the city and during that time we explored a variety of the breweries, bars and bottle shops on offer – some great, some less so. I’ve come up with a (by no means definitive!) list of places to visit in Brussels for beer lovers, and two that aren’t worth the hype.

Cantillon

Brasserie Cantillon (Cantillon Brewery) tour

A real slice of brewing history, Cantillon should be one of your first ports of call in Brussels. It’s an absolute gem of a brewery dating back to 1900. Their self-guided tours mean you can explore on your own time – and then you get beer at the end. Perfect. See my other post for more on our visit to Cantillon.

Brussels Beer Project

Beers at Brussels Beer Project

From the old to the new! During our visit, Brussels Beer Project’s taproom had been open mere weeks but it was definitely one of my favourite places for a drink. They are firmly bringing Belgian beer into the future and every single one of their beers I tried was fantastic. See my post on Brussels Beer Project for more.

Moeder Lambic Fontainas

Moeder Lambic Fontainas Moeder Lambic Fontainas

As it was only a short walk from where we were staying, we spent quite a lot of time in Moeder Lambic Fontainas. Luckily, there is a LOT of beer to sample. An extensive draft menu is provided on each table and there’s also a board with guest beers or specials – some of which are brewed in collaboration with the bar itself. You can also request a bottle menu and there are bar snacks are on offer; my French isn’t too great so the only ones I could pick out were cheese and bread but I think there were also some meat options too. It’s also all table service, so the beer comes to you. One more things to mention: if you’re based in Manchester, the upcoming Café Beermoth takes a lot of its inspiration from this bar.

Moeder Lambic Original

Moeder Lambic Original Moeder Lambic Original

Slightly further out of the city centre – we walked it and I probably wouldn’t advise it as my feet were killing me by the time we got back – the original Moeder Lambic bar is much cosier and has more of a local bar feel to it. But the beer choice is good – they had about 12 Belgian beers on draft along with an extensive bottle list. It’s another one that’s table service.

A La Mort Subite

A La Mort Subite A La Mort Subite

After a disappointing experience in Delirium Café (see below in my ‘ones to miss’ section), I was very happy to grab a pew in this lovely bar. Established in 1928, it still has its original décor with ornate wall details and lots of mirrors and a lovely atmosphere – it’s a nice mix of locals and tourists. They serve their own Mort Subite beers on draft and in bottle along with other Belgian beers and some Trappist beers too. Snacks such as sandwiches and omelettes are served at all times, and they also have a mysterious bar snack called ‘kip kap’ on offer. Some Googling on my return home revealed it is some type of lunch meat in gelatine that may or may not be made from pig cheeks. The beer is slightly more expensive than some other bars, but it’s worth it for the venue – and again, it’s table service.

Au Bon Vieux Temps

Au Bon Vieux Temps Au Bon Vieux Temps

A small sign hanging over an alley leads the way to this cosy little pub. From the outside, it doesn’t give much away – but once you walk through the doors you find yourself in a traditional, wooden panelled-filled bar. The beer selection may not be as good as some other bars – it’s all bottles – but the venue is worth taking a look at, especially the large stained glass window. The lady behind the bar came over to us to take our order, but we paid at the bar on our exit so it’s not a full table service.

A La Becasse

A La Becasse A La Becasse

Similar to Au Box Vieux Temps, you’ll find this traditional bar down an alleyway. The speciality here is their lambic beer (by Timmermans) which is served in jugs poured from a large barrel on the bar. It’s been owned by the same family since 1877 and a traditionally-attired waiter will provide you with table service.

Beer Planet

Beer Planet Beer Planet

A well-stocked and organised little shop, Beer Planet is a great place to stock up on beer in Brussels. Everything is arranged into categories and styles, so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for – and if Belgian beer isn’t your thing, there’s also a decent selection of international brews too.

De Bier Tempel

De Bier Tempel De Bier Tempel

It feels slightly more touristy than Beer Planet, but it has a good range of bottled beers from across Belgian and a huge selection of glasses to buy. It does have some odder products though – I spotted a Delirium hat shaped like an elephant for example! It gets busy and be careful if you’ve got large bags with you as it is quite densely packed.

 

But although there are plenty of great venues to visit in Brussels, we visited two which I found to be a total disappointment and not really worth a visit. So, I’d recommend giving a miss to:

 

Delirium Café/Delirium Village

Delirium Cafe, Brussels Delirium Cafe, Brussels

Delirium Café’s big selling point is its 2,000 beers – and this is what pulls in the punters. Located in a very touristy area (surrounded by restaurants with waiters stood outside trying to coax you in – a pet hate of mine!), the Delirium Café is part of the ‘Delirium Village’ which features other bars owned by the group including a tequila bar. The village is located in an alleyway, and when we visited on a Saturday night it was absolutely rammed. On entry, we were met by loud chart music and groups of men singing (plus lots of signs warning of pickpockets) downstairs, so we ordered a drink each – there’s no table service here – and headed upstairs. This was much quieter, but was full of tourists including groups of American students and families using selfie sticks. It wasn’t somewhere we wanted to spend much time, despite the beer range, so we moved on fairly quickly and I’d definitely say there are better places to visit in Brussels for your beer. But, if you do fancy the Delirium experience, you could try the Little Delirium Café which is just around the corner from the Grand-Place and much quieter.

Belgian Brewers’ Museum/Belgian Beer Museum

Belgian Brewers Museum Belgian Brewers Museum

Set within one of the stunning buildings of the Grand-Place, this is a museum operated by the industry association ‘Belgian Brewers’. Entry costs €5 and as we had some free time, we thought we might as well go and check it out. Entrance to the museum is down a flight of stairs where find yourself in a room of tables and chairs and traditional brewing equipment. Hand over your €5 to a barman and you’ll be presented with a brochure and a token for a beer after you’ve finished exploring the museum. But there is minimal exploring to do – this first room is half of the museum, the rest is a small, modern brewery which features a video about brewing in Belgian. Get yourself to Cantillon instead, it’ll be much more enjoyable.

See more on Belgium: Belgium 101: Beer, chocolate and castles

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Cantillon Brewery, Brussels

From the new to the old! My last post featured a visit to Brussels Beer Project which started brewing in 2013 – but now we’re going back more than a hundred years to Cantillon.

Established in 1900, this brewery focuses very much on its heritage and producing beers in the same way they always have done – including spontaneous fermentation of their beers.

We wandered over from our apartment near the Bourse along a main road, before turning into what appeared to be a residential area – it didn’t seem an obvious location for a brewery! But then we spotted it; a large building with a huge wooden door and no hint of what was beyond. Could we go in? Was it open? We didn’t know, so we just took the plunge and opened the door.

Brasserie Cantillon (Cantillon Brewery) exterior

What we found was a very welcoming place indeed – a working brewery with a bar right at the front and a very jovial chap welcoming us in and introducing to how the tour would run. Costing just €7 – which includes two beers at the end – they offer a self-guided tour around their premises. Starting at the front desk (which also sells beers to take away and some merch), you’re given an in-depth booklet with numbered sections to correspond to the parts of the brewery.

Brasserie Cantillon (Cantillon Brewery) bar area

And it truly is a working brewery – there’s staff milling around doing their day-to-day jobs, spaces chock full of brewing equipment and lots and lots of bottles fermenting away. I can’t imagine any breweries in the UK allowing anything similar!

They say pictures speak a thousand words, so here’s just a few of inside the brewery.

Brasserie Cantillon (Cantillon Brewery) tour Brasserie Cantillon (Cantillon Brewery) tour Brasserie Cantillon (Cantillon Brewery) tour Brasserie Cantillon (Cantillon Brewery) tour Brasserie Cantillon (Cantillon Brewery) tour Brasserie Cantillon (Cantillon Brewery) tour Brasserie Cantillon (Cantillon Brewery) barrels Brasserie Cantillon (Cantillon Brewery) bottles Brasserie Cantillon (Cantillon Brewery) bottling

After we’d finished wandering around, we headed to the bar. We were each given a glass of their gueuze (aged for one year, rather than the mixture of one, two and three year-old drinks that’s in their standard brew) and told to return with our glasses for another. Lambic beers are generally not my thing, but I did find myself enjoying it. I think it’d be hard not to in such a fantastic venue. I followed this with the Kriek while Ross went for the Rose de Gambrinus (same as the Kriek but made with raspberries instead of cherries), before heading off.

Brasserie Cantillon (Cantillon Brewery) Gueuze Brasserie Cantillon (Cantillon Brewery) Kriek

Our visit to the Cantillon Brewery was an all-round excellent experience. It really makes you appreciate the beer that much more when you can get a feel for the effort that goes into it and how much dedication the brewers put into it. The guidebook you receive gives some hint to the challenges they face and their tenacity in keeping the brewery going during periods when lambic fell out of favour. Times are much better for Cantillon nowadays but they face a new challenge; the struggle to keep up with demand, especially as moving and expanding are out of the question.

The brewery is open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm and Saturday 10am-5pm – with last entrance at 4pm.

Brussels Beer Project

The city of Brussels is well-known for its historic bars and traditional brewers – such as Cantillon and other lambic producers. But it’s not all just about the old, and one brewery is bringing Brussels’ beer scene firmly into the 21st century – Brussels Beer Project. A crowdfunded collaborative project established in 2013, in summer this year they opened a shiny new brewery in the city and at the end of October, their taproom was launched.

Brussels Beer Project

Tradition plays a huge part in the Belgian beer scene but the team behind Brussels Beer Project are all about the future; ‘Leave the abbey, join the playground’ is one of their slogans and they say they’re proud to ‘be born in 2013 and not in 1492’.

Brussels Beer Project

Although we were already aware of their beer (The Epicurean in Didsbury sells some of their range if you’re in Manchester), it was only days before our visit that we found out the taproom had recently opened up – definitely a good find!

Brussels Beer Project

Located at Antoine Dansaertstraat 188, the brewery is about a ten minute walk away from the Bourse (which is near where we were staying) and very easy to find as it’s on a main road. They open their doors Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 2-10pm, so we popped down on the Saturday afternoon.

Brussels Beer Project

On first impressions, it looks like a fairly small venue. The front room has the bar and a few tables, but if you walk past the bar area, you’ll find yourself in a much larger room which features plenty of tables and seating, stacks and stacks of crates and, more importantly, the brewery itself. The brewery area was divided off so you weren’t able to wander around it (although I think you can if you ask), but you could have a good nosey at it.

Brussels Beer Project brewery

But what about the beer?

Brussels Beer Project

They had ten of their own beers available on draft, along with two guest options. The beer list is projected on the wall and everything is numbered which makes ordering much easier (and a nice opp for me to practice that counting I learnt back in high school French classes – although the lady who served us was fluent in English). Sampling multiple beers is encouraged – everything is either served in 12.5cl or 25cl (which is 250ml, or about half a pint) glasses and they have their own sampler boards available.

Brussels Beer Project

The beer list during our visit offered a huge variety of styles and my particular favourites were Grosse Bertha – a wheat beer – and tonka bean stout Chove Chuva: a well-balanced stout with dark chocolate and vanilla flavours which was delightfully moreish. Overall, we tried all ten of their own beers on between us during the visit (and we weren’t the only ones with that idea!)

Beers at Brussels Beer Project

All of the beer they had on draft was also available in bottles to take away (I think it was something ridiculously cheap like €2 a bottle to take away). along with t-shirts (€15), caps and free posters you could pick up.

The only gripe we had with the venue was a lack of bar staff. There was for most of the time we visited just one person on the bar and as it did get fairly busy, this did mean a bit of a wait. Not ideal, but it didn’t ruin our experience as it did feel more like teething problems. At the moment, they do also have very limited opening hours – again, I assume this is because it’s such a new venue. It’s the type of place that’s definitely worth a visit, and somewhere I would definitely encourage visitors to the city to make a beeline for. Oh, and if you happen to live in Brussels, you can invest in Brussels Beer Project – for €160 you’ll get 12 free beers a year for life and 5% off at the brewery. Unfortunately, you have to pick them up yourself from the brewery, so that’s us out!

More Brussels posts – including our visit to Cantillon – are coming soon!