Bewitched by beer in Bruges

24 Feb

I stare at the menu longingly but with confusion. I want them all…every single bottle of beer on the menu at De Kuppe bar on Kupperstraat in Bruges looks appealing. But, given most sit around the 8% or 10% ABV mark, I have to concede: I will only get through a few.

The boy and I had arrived with our friends in Bruges earlier that afternoon. It was colder than cold and we had to trudge through slippery snow if we wanted to see the town.

So instead of freezing ourselves in the cultural endeavour of sight-seeing, we opted to hole up in one of the many bars the petite Belgian town has to offer, which worked perfectly for me.

You see, I am a massive fan of Belgian beer – it is almost always my go-to beer as standard. It’s generally richer (without being gut-filling like a stout), has more subtle flavours and is crisp, despite being very strong.

Straffe Hendrick beer

The history of beer from this region is equally enticing. The famous Trappist beers, for instance, began being brewed in the late 19th century by monks in monasteries. In order to be called a Trappist, the beer must still be made in the same fashion. There are six beer-producing monasteries that meet such distinction in Belgium, making brands such as Chimay, Westmalle and (my all time favourite) Rochefort.

As such, when faced with a veritable book of beers, it was hard to know where to start. I opted away from ones I knew and started with a Straffe Hendrik, which is brewed in Bruges. This dark brown tripel beer comes in at 9% and is made from six kinds of malt. It has notes of toffee and brown sugar, and lots of hop. A delicious way to begin.

I followed this with a Bush AmbrĂ©e, a hefty corker of a beer that has a wine-strength 12% ABV. The boy and a couple others joined in, swayed by the idea of drinking such a strong brew. Made in 1933, this beer is the strongest Belgian variety. But you wouldn’t know it – until you stand up of course. It is balanced between sweet and bitter, but doesn’t have the same “oomph” as the other Belgian beers I tried, despite being stronger.

Next came Judas and La Trappe Quadrupel, which I only realised later is actually from the Netherlands.

By the time I had sipped my way through those beers, it was time for bed. But with three more days in the winter wonderland of Bruges, I knew there was still time to work my way through a few more.

The pink Delerium elephant watches over the coconut beer.

As luck would have it, the Bruges beer fest was going on at the same time we arrived – a fantastic and welcome surprise. Featuring more than 250 beers, it only added to the beer odyssey.

There we managed to get through nearly 30 beers – only a drop in the ocean, but a good attempt I think. We tried the Troubadour Blond and Troubadour Obscura, two I had never heard of, along with the beautiful Val-Dieu Blonde and the super hoppy Martin’s IPA. There were hoards of intriguing fruit beers, such as the Floris Fraise and Peach, or the Banana, Coconut or Mango varieties from Mongozo. Interestingly, there was also a beer aged in whisky casks – the Bravoure, which was slightly sweet and stunk of smoked cheese. Despite this, it was intriguingly pleasant.

And so the list goes on. After the beer festival, we continued on to the quaint De Garre bar, where beers such as Kwak and their 11% house beer. Maybe not the best choice after a few hours of beer drinking, but delicious and highly recommended.

Kwak served up in a quacky wooden holder.

By the time we departed from Bruges, I was satisfied. I may have only tried 25 or 30 beers out of hundreds, but it was a great first stab at the books of beers in Bruges. I left with taste buds satiated, utterly bewitched by the Bruges beer scene.

9 Responses to “Bewitched by beer in Bruges”

  1. Jason B. Standing February 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    You lucky, lucky folk. I don’t think there’s a better sentence in the English language than “As luck would have it, the Bruges beer fest was going on at the same time we arrived”.

  2. littletipple February 27, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    I’m deeply impressed by what you consider just a drop in the ocean – i don’t think i could (even with help) have tried so many – did there come a point where they all started tasting the same, or does that just happen to me? And truely perfect timing for the festival too!

  3. G-LO February 27, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    This sounds fantastic! I had but one opportunity to visit Bruge (in 1990), but due to one of those infamous one day rail strikes, I couldn’t get there and opted instead to head for Paris. Not a bad trade off, but I still wish I would have made it to Bruge.

    Thankfully, Philly is loaded with excellent bars (the famous Monk’s Cafe and Eulogy are stand outs) that serve a mulitude of Belgian Beers, so getting my Belgian Beer fix is not difficult. But I still hope to one day experience these beers in their native home.


    • gwiltypleasures February 29, 2012 at 10:28 am #

      It’s a great little town. I saw very little of it as it was too cold (!) but definitely worth seeing and you can’t beat the beer!

      • G-LO February 29, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

        Have you seen “In Bruges”? Fabulous film!

      • gwiltypleasures March 1, 2012 at 10:34 am #

        I have. The boy hasn’t so we bought it so we can reminisce!

      • G-LO March 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

        Excellent! Great great film. Funny and sad all at the same time. Brendan Gleeson was wonderful, and it was the first time that I actually liked Colin Farrel. Bruge looked spooky and stunning throughout the entire film. Hope he likes it!


  1. A Frozen Foot Solution « gwiltypleasures - February 27, 2012

    […] Luckily we weren’t alone – our four other friends along for the journey were also lacking sufficient layers or protective shoes to fight the freeze. So, instead of sight-seeing, we spent much of our time holed up in the bars of Bruges, drinking beer (which I discuss in this post, here). […]

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