Brussels has a lot of old charm to it, cobblestone streets and unique shops. I didn’t see any American retail influence here, unlike other Belgian cities we visited. The Grand-Place was under construction, but it didn’t deter from the beauty of the 14th Century buildings. As it’s the home of Tin Tin, we came across comic murals on the sides of various buildings – now that’s the way to spice up boring exterior walls.
After a long day of travel, we arrived in Brussels, changed into clothes from our carry-on (see, husband, putting a change of clothes in your carry-on is a wise thing to do), and took off to find a snack and Délirium Café.
With almost 2,500 beers on the menu, it’s wise to check this out. With three levels, downstairs has the same taps as the main level but they have the large book of bottles. Word to the wise, go to the bar with a few choices of bottles as it’s hard to keep an updated beer listed and many were sold out. The main level is crowded and taps only (but you can bring your bottles to your table). Upstairs, the Hoppy Loft, has a different tap and bottle list. We started on the main floor and migrated upstairs where it was quieter and easier to get bottles. Although many of the bottles were sold out, we happily found a bottle of 2010 Pannepot.
It was also the first time I saw what appeared to be 14 or 15 year olds sitting around drinking beer. Off to google I go – turns out the legal drinking age in Belgium is 16 for beer and wine and rarely enforced. Rough day in math class? Turn up at Delirium for a few pints with your friends. Belgium, you’re my new hero (says my 16 year old self).
After a breakfast waffle, we walked over to Cantillon. Oh Cantillon, how I love thee. I had a sample of the recent Gueuze and then we drank a bottle of the Kriek and 2012 Zwanzee ,which was the rhubarb version. It was utterly delicious.
While at Cantillon, I overheard a guy taking to Jean van Roy about the sour he brewed last year. I bet Jean has excited home brewers wanting to talk about their beers every day and he was gracious and did a lot of head nodding while pouring. When this guy sat down near us, and he’s a loud talker, we found out that he was the head brewer at a Californian brewery. When he was asked for his business card as the people he was talking to were going to be in California, his story changed quickly to being a guest brewer to a home brewer. We googled the brewery and it’s in a small strip mall. We saw this same clown at De Struisse the next day and his story to some new, unsuspecting friendly visitors, was that he had been in Belgium for six weeks in 2013 and returns at least once a year. His wife’s a doctor and he reads CAT scans. For someone that spent six weeks in Belgium last year, I’m surprised he pronounced Fou Foune as fru fru and had no idea about Zwanze Day. Sadly, we didn’t see him day three to find out that he had transformed into Clark Kent.
My only regret from Cantillon was that we didn’t do the self-guided tour through the barrels and we didn’t hide somewhere and never leave. We purchased four bottles, two glasses and two t-shirts for a mere €68. Next time we’re in Brussels, we will make multiple visits to Cantillon.
With two locations in Brussels, we went to the Fontainas location and drank Cantillon Faro on cask and shared a bottle of Cantillon’s 50 Degrees N – 4 Degrees E (2012) with our friend Simon. Their rare bottle list is definitely worth perusing and if you don’t do the currency conversion, it’s a reasonable indulgence.
We returned here for the next day for Zwanze Day September 20, 2014. Yahoo! How awesome to be in Brussels on Zwanzee Day and have Jean two feet away from us giving the toast with the Cuvée Florian. Tickets were €10 and shockingly still available when we arrived on the 19th. This year’s Zwanze was excellent and it was one of the highlights of the trip to experience it in Brussels. To end the night, we shared a Lou Pepe Gueuze (2010), again from the amazing bottle list. Moeder Lambic has a great tap list as well but if you have the opportunity, take some friends and have multiple bottles.
We rarely had a meal in a restaurant our entire trip as we often just had cheese and sausage while at a bar. I’m glad we made the time to visit Neutnigenough as the food was delicious, they had a great beer list and the server was very knowledgeable about beer and food pairings. The restaurant is small so be prepared to wait or hit it at non-peak times like we did.
Brussels is a good central location to stay as the train system is excellent and inexpensive. Thus, instead of moving around too much, we did a day trip to Gent from Brussels. We headed to Midi Station to rent a car to Gent and on the walk to the station, around 9am on Saturday, we came across a gaggle of hungover or still drunk young adults. I use the term adults loosely. As we’re walking towards them, two of the dozen get in a scuffle and start an awkward skinny boy fight in the middle of the street. They were still smacking each other when we passed and I was just hoping they didn’t want to play punch a tourist. Other than that weird incident, I felt very safe in Brussels.
I would return to Brussels and could spend multiple days going back to Cantillon and Moeder Lambic. A bit more time to explore the streets would have been preferred, but off we went to Gent.