Full disclosure: I love beer. No two ways about it. Dark beer, light beer, blonde beer; I don't discriminate. I love beer in Australia and Beer in England, and perhaps most of all, I absolutely love beer in Belgium. It is full of flavor and has life bubbling out of each glass. Beer in Belgium has really been an eye opener to the quality brew that only Europe can provide.
During my 5 days in Bruges, I decided to drink as many different types of beer as possible. A task that would require determination and endurance, but I was up for the challenge.
Just so I don't raise your hopes too high I will tell you up front that I didn't drink every beer available in Bruges. That would be over 300 varieties and while I would love to take that challenge I recently found out that my liver is more valuable than previously thought. As it turns out my Belgium Beer Undertaking in Bruges would have to be an introduction to beer greatness, one that will be finished later in life. I promise.
So, where do we begin? Bruges in March is the best time of year. You have a fraction of the crowds and the chilly air offers more than enough to make the excuse to head in to the nearest pub to "warm up".
This magical golden brew is Straffe Hendrik, a triple strength beer brewed in Bruges. I found Belgium to be all about the strength of the beer. They have regular beer, double, triple and quadruple. It has been known to catch tourists off guard as the brew here is so smooth, you can get thinking that the drink you've got isn't strong, but don't be fooled.
The standard beer is about 4%, double is about 8%, triple about 10% and quadruple about 11%. After a few triples you will be stumbling to the next tourist activity or back to your hotel room to trip over the foot of your bed. Advice: don't be a hero. No one likes watching a drunk tourist. Well, no one except me when I am that drunk tourist.
Now we have the Trappist varieties, which have a wonderful history that will convert even the hardest non-believer.
To be called a Trappist beer, it must be brewed at a monastery, and the profits must be used to support it. The term Trappist simply implies who made it, it is not actually a style of beer.
So basically, the monks needed money and they were allowed to brew beer. That's awesome
No one said it better than Rick Steves on Trappist Beer:
Chimay would almost make celibacy livable.
In Belgium they must have a tradition of washing a lot of glasses because each of the 300+ varieties of beer has its own unique glass. Sounds like a pain in the glass for the bartender, but it does make for each drink to be more interesting than the last.
The most memorable glassware I used was La Corne, a horn shaped glass that, while completely impractical, and awkward to drink out of, this glass was the most memorable.
Other glasses include chalices, flutes and goblets and each makes for an interesting pub experience.
The only brewer in the town of Bruges is De Halve Maan, or the Half Moon. The brewery is walkable from town and I suggest a good walk before getting back on the sauce. Sweat out the beer from the night before.
De Halve Maan brewery tour is a great way to spend an afternoon. The tour guide on our trip was excellent with great stories from brewing back in the good ol' days to today. They also have an excellent view of the city and the tour ends with a pint of their most famous beer, Brugge Zot.
Bruges also holds a beer festival in each year, the website for that can be found online. I can only imagine that this is their version of Oktoberfest. Certainly an event worth checking out.
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