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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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