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  • Writer's pictureDearbhla

Booze 'n' Brews: A Tour Of Brussels

Much of the socialising in Brussels is centered around Apéro hour at markets, drinking cups of coffee or glasses of wine under heated canopies, and cosying up inside a bar snug. Of course, most people who visit Brussels are here to sample the beer. And there are lots to sample - 1,500 to be exact! Beer is such a huge part of the heritage in Belgium, dating back to the 12th century and continues to remain part of the collective culture of both Flanders and Wallonia. Belgians drink beer as leisurely as the Irish drink tea, but tend to be more measured in their consumption. It is not unusual to see locals sitting outside cafés at 11am nursing a sip of the amber stuff with their Sunday newspaper. All other beers pale (ho ho) in comparision once you have spent time sampling the incredible beer selection on offer in Brussels. Bars are filled with beers brewed by reclusive Trappist monks (Chimay, Rochefort, Orval, Westvleteren and Achel), Abbey ales, 'light' pils/lager (5%), amber and Flemish red ales (6.5%), lambic/sour beers (4-6%) and tripel (Belgian ale made with three-times the malt- 8-10%) to name a few. Bars don’t serve beer in pint glasses but in 25cl or 33cl glasses. Trust me though, with the strength of the beers, you wouldn't want to be lacing back the pints.


Uniquely, Belgian beers also have their own custom-made glasses, which is considered just as important as the beer itself. The shape of each glass is specially designed to bring out the specific characteristics of the beer, from aroma to effervescence. For example, La Chouffe is served in a curved tulip glass emblazoned with its emblematic gnome. These types of glasses are designed to hold the essential frothy head. There is definitely an art form to pouring them too. Conversely, most Trappist beers are served in goblets, which are thicker and take longer to warm up. To find out more about Brussels and its beer culture, check out 'Brussels Beer City', a brilliant blog discussing all things beer in the city!


My top tips:

  1. Carry water. They don't give you tap water in most restaurants or bars. The reason given is it’s not safe to drink but it’s actually so they can charge you 4 Euros a pop to buy it. Most Irish bars will scoop you a pint of water if you ask.

  2. Carry cash. Lots of bars, particularly around the centre, don’t take card. This isn’t so much to do with a reluctance to join the 21st century but about the costs involved with transactions.

  3. Coffee: Belgians love a good dose of UHT milk. If you drink normal milk and are in dire need of a decent cup of coffee a great place to go is 'Parlor’ on Chausee Charleroi – a bit out of the centre, just off Avenue Louise. You can also take a venture up to Lulu – it is a cute furniture store near Chatelain. They have dairy alternatives too.

Central Brussels:


MIM – the Instrument Museum close to Place Royal. It is situated in one of the most beautiful buildings in Brussels. If you are a music lover with time on your hands, this is a wonderful museum to explore. You can see some of it if you go to the top floor.

Go to the terrace at the top. It has a beautiful view of Brussels where you can find a café to have a coffee between 2 and 4.30. I wouldn’t advise eating there, as it’s extremely busy, overpriced and the staff walk around with an air of superiority at the same time as looking constantly harassed by your very presence. The service is appalling but they can get away with because of its fabulous location on a sunny day. http://www.mim.be/the-restaurant



Right next door to the Instrument Museum is ‘La Pharmacie Anglaise’ a very cool apothecary-turned- cocktail bar also situated in a stunning building. The décor is eclectic with quirky mid-century portraits, aged leather chairs, and various types of mammals and insects in pickling jars. A definite Mary Shelley vibe. You may need to take out a small loan to afford the drinks but it is probably worth it.



Comic Book Museum:

If you are fond of comics the museum is worth visiting, even so, you should have a coffee or a beer in the old cafe and look at the building, it was considered very chichi in the 20’s and it is spectacular! https://www.comicscenter.net/en/home.



Photo: Lymonada

Goupil le fol: Have a beer in this absolutely mad little bar consisting of about three-ish carpeted floors atop creaky floorboards, random mismatched items of furniture and paraphernalia amidst old photographs and paintings adorning the walls and ceilings. No two couches or chairs are the same, the lampshades are made from all different fabrics gathered from various basement dwellings, and each floor has so many sub floors, nooks and crannies that you could easily get lost. It is like a maze. Rumour has it that it used to be a brothel. Very atmospheric and unlike any other bar you will have ventured into.


Similarly, another interesting bar to check out is Poechenellekelder, near Manneken Pis. It’s another weird café/bar with puppet figurines dangling menacingly from the ceiling and other quirky decorations throughout.


There's also Delirium, which is in the Guinness Book of Records for the most beers in the world on offer. It is of course extremely touristy. A bit like the Hotel California, You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.


Au Bon Vieux Temps: This is a tiny bar near “Bourse” on the way from Gallerie Saint Hubert on a little side street that sells Westvletteren beer, a Belgian Trappist beer, voted the best in the world.


St Catherine:



This is a lovely area in the centre with an abundance of bars and restaurants. The Christmas market is held here every year and it’s well worth going to see from the end of November through to the start of January. Although the Christmas stalls are sprinkled across the centre, this is the main market. Grab a mulled wine and take a wander past the giant Christmas tree, covered in twinkling lights standing in front of the ice-skating rink and giant Ferris wheel. Stalls with items from all across Europe sell handmade soaps, woollen gloves and Christmas jumpers to corkscrews, olive wood chopping boards and knife sharpeners. There is something for everyone.


Cobra: Absolute gem of a cocktail bar tucked away off Rue des Chartreux (near Fin de Siecle). It has a real speak-easy vibe and their choice of whisky cocktails are to die for. https://www.cobrabar.be/


L'archiduc: I spent many a night in this funky art deco bar dancing to live music and drinking too many cocktails. Absolutely brilliant for a decent night out. Bar staff are very cool. http://www.archiduc.net/en


Madame Moustache: If you want to pump up the volume to nineties tunes underneath a shiny disco ball and flashing lights, then this is place is your woman. This club is so much fun and usually has a good crowd, although can sometimes tend to be on the younger side during university months. Drinks are decently priced and you don’t get kicked out until about 5am.


Via Via Travellers Café: This quirky old market bar has high glass ceilings and is mostly set up for courtyard drinking. They have board games like Jenga and Yahtzee. Great for summer sun downers.



Bar des Amis: Hipstery, edgy vibe with a dark wooden interior. Full of lots of very ‘cool’ glamourous people, drinking, dancing and…being cool. Music is good and you can usually flow from here into Madame Moustache to make a night of it.


De Monk: A Flemish bar on the way to Saint Catherine. It has long benches at the back and high mirrored ceilings. This place is always busy so you can be guaranteed a good atmosphere. At Christmas time they have a moving taxidermy reindeer outside the bar in a grotto setting and Santa chilling on the roof covered in fake snow.



Place St Gery

This little square has some fantastic bars and restaurants- you can’t go wrong! I would recommend any of the bars on the square. The market bar is beautiful inside – a gallery by day, bar by night – so there is usually a nice collection of artworks up around the space. You can sit on one of the sun loungers on the AstroTurf in the centre of the room while sipping a drink of your choice. Once a month they have an amazing vintage market here, all three storeys are filled up with pre-loved clothing, books, shoes and more.


Matongé:

Brussels’ Congolese neighbourhood is a must-see. There are fantastic bars and restaurants scattered all around the area, set amidst the chaotic ambiance of colourful Batiks, exotic food shops, barbershops and hairdressers.


Poolgate: A great bar to while away the evenings drinking beer and shooting pool until you stumble home at 4am.


Au Soleil D’Afrique: This is a usual go-to off a little side street in Matongé, with cheap drinks and you can sample some Congolese chicken dishes from mafe (chicken with peanut sauce) and yassa (chicken with lemon and onion sauce) to chicken wings. The fried plantain is good but it wouldn’t be a great place to go as a veggie or vegan. The interior is bright with hand painted motifs and they have a plastic awning for the winter months outside on the terrasse. Don’t expect haut cuisine but do expect a fun atmosphere and decently priced drinks.


Saint Boniface:


This is just around the corner from Matongé. It’s fantastic in the warmer months to sit and have a drink on the square overlooking the beautiful church, which takes centre stage. Fantastic selection of restaurants from Japanese and Korean to Italian and French.


L’Athenée: Charming little bar behind the church in Boniface. Have an Apero sitting on one of the multicoloured chairs that dot the terrasse in the summer months and tuck yourself into the cosy alcoves inside during the winter months. Great for after-work drinks with a real mix of clientele from local Brusselois to university students, Eurobrats and craft beer hipsters.


Stam: This is just a stone’s throw from L’Athenée and is equally as charming. Typically Belgian, it’s interior is dark and cosy, with wooden seating and a semi-circular bar area serving decent beer and nibbles. The menu isn’t extensive but there is a good selection of Trappist beers and lager. The best bit is a pils (Jupiler/Maes) is around 2 Euros, wine is 3 Euros (but may give you a stonking headache if you have more than a few).


Fernand Coq

Fernand Coq, a small square just up the road from Port de Namur/Matongé also has lots of great bars especially on a Saturday evening for a drink if it’s sunny. It’s a little bit outside the centre.


Amore fou: Yummy cocktails and a selection of different gin flavours.


Cimitiere d’Ixelles is a great place for bars and restaurants. Mainly a younger crowd as it’s right beside Brussels’ biggest university, ULB.

Place du Chatelain and rue du Bailli


These are two great spots to take a stroll down looking at trendy boutiques, an abundance of amazing restaurants and great bars.


Supra Bailly: This is one of my favourite bars in Brussels with decent beers on tap and it’s only 3 Euros for a glass of wine – the dream.


'Apéro'

My favourite post-work ritual in Brussels is the 'Apéro' - happy hour (s). There is a market on just about every square on a different night of the week where you can enjoy an Apéro on the street or outside a bar before heading home for the evening.


Grab an Apéro in Chatelain on Wednesdays evenings at the market, which sells an assortment of wines, fish, meats, veggies and artisan crafts and nibbles. The atmosphere is great, if slightly Eurocratic.


In the summer, there are lots of urban apéro popup events, which change every week. Check them out here:


There is a great place called La Terrasse open in the summer months (Chaussée de la Hulpe, 51-53 à 1180 Uccle). You can get there by taking the 94 Tram: http://www.la-terrasse.be/#1492603372315-067ee6fc-1d15


Updates and info on what’s up in https://agenda.brussels/en/nightlife.html

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