Like many of our cultural icons, Belgian beer is a leader, and an advocate for beer’s very existence. Those who waste no time telling you it’s the best are people who take their beer seriously. The best way to get to know this magical craft is to try them all, and the best way to try them all is – you guessed it – by visiting Belgium!
It should come as no surprise that it is common for cities in Belgium to have an official city beer. With your thirst for beer and appetite for adventure in mind, we’ve designed this delicious trip around Belgium for you. With this tour, you can take on the best of Belgium’s major attractions and irresistible brews in one trip! Enjoy the perfect combination of historical significance and entertainment as you take on Belgium’s coolest cities and stop to have an authentic Belgian beer from the past in between at our favorite abbeys.
Some of the key places we recommend that you should try to include in your trip are:
Brussels – blanche des bruxelles (Brasserie Lefèbvre)
Antwerp – CuveeAntwerpen ’93, the De Koninck brewery
Bruges – Brugse Zot and Brugse Straffe Hendrik (still locally brewed at the Halve Maan Brewery.
Ghent – Gentse Strop, or the local Gruut Brewery
So what are you waiting for? Start tasting and planning your trip!
Sunset in the historic city of Bruges, Belgium
View of Brussels city centre in the evening
Old town in Antwerp, Belgium
Belgian beer has as rich a history as it does a taste. Thousands of years ago, Belgium was included in the European “Beer Belt,” when civilization was brewing beer for both pleasure and precaution; before water filters, alcohol such as beer was the most sanitary beverage humans could consume.
During the Middle Ages, Christian monasteries lived in a commune style, housing and nourishing travelers, pilgrims, and the needy. Because of their societal role, monasteries became major beer producers, which is why you see many beers named after them and even after particular saints still to this day. Some notable monastic breweries include:
Chimay Brewery, Chimay (Chimay Blue)
Abbey of Saint Sixtus Brewery, Westvlenteren (Westvlenteren 12)
Affligem Brewery, Affligen (Afligem Dubbel)
Brewery of St. Bernard, Watou (St. Bernardus Abt 12)
Westmalle, nearby Antwerp (Westmalle Tripel)
Orval, nearby Dinant (Get the Orval!)
Fun fact! A select few abbey breweries today get to boast the “Trappist” label, which means their profits from beer sales are strictly spent on the maintenance of these self-sustaining monasteries. Don’t you just love drinking for a cause?
Types of Belgian Beer
“But why does this Belgian beer taste so GOOD,” you may be wondering! Well, Roughly five hundred years ago in nearby Bavaria, a beer purification law was passed which required almost all beer around Europe to be made with a select few ingredients, including hops. Belgium was among the first to rebel against this strict regulation and expand their sphere of ingredients to various flavors, colors, and consistencies. Be sure to check out this variety of Belgian beer styles:
Lambic / Gueuze (Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze)
Witbier / Wheat Beer (Hoegaarden)
Flemish Red and Brown Sour Beer (Rodenbach Grand Cru, or Liefmans Oud Bruin)
Blond Pale Ale (Stella Artois)
Brun Brown Ale (Leffe Brun)
Golden Ale, often called Tripels (Golden Carolus)
Belgian-style Saison (Saison Dupont)
Remember as you’re making your way around Belgium, and quite literally drinking in your surroundings, that it is custom for brewers to design a signature glass for each and every kind of beer as well as to drink your beer out of its designated glass. All around the country you will see the bar walls lined with seemingly hazardous amounts of glass, wondering just what world of flavor the glass will bring to your lips.
The most notable beer vessel in Belgium is less a glass and more a work of art, and it’s called The Kwak, named after the beer which you drink from it. With a tall voluptuous body and a long wooden handle, you’ll never want to put it down – but you’ll have to eventually! In some parts of the country, the bars take your shoes before letting you drink from The Kwak, and you won’t get them back until you give up the cup.
Visit the “Brouwerij Bosteels” (The Bosteels Brewery) to try it yourself!
The Kwak Glass
So if you mange to survive this Belgian beer drinking episode, let us know – we want to hear all about your favorite beers and quaint Belgian towns!