It was early morning when I woke up in my Amsterdam Airbnb, and I had a train to catch. Sleep deprived (and maybe having drank one too many beers the night before), I strolled through the quiet streets on my way to central station as the sun rose. From my booth of the bullet train, I watched the fields of tulips and windmills fly by. Almost unfortunately, it was only a two-hour ride to Brussels, the capital of Belgium and the European Union, my destination for the day.
As I stepped onto the platform, I was determined and excited to experience both the city and some great, unique beers. It was raining however, and still fairly early, so I sat at a Moroccan café, had a few cappuccinos, and watched the city come to life. Once the rain stopped, I walked through the city and was drawn to the mixture of ornate and modest historic architecture, sometimes riddled with street art. I soon found myself at the Grand Place, a magnificent square in the heart of the city containing Town Hall, City of Brussels Museum (Breadhouse), and golden guildhalls. I marvelled at the elaborate and intricate buildings and found an open table for my first taste of one of Belgium’s most famous exports; my beer of choice was the lager, Primus. Its crisp, clean taste was a perfect way to kick start the day.
I made my way into a busy labyrinth of tiny medieval streets jam-packed with bars, restaurants, and food vendors. I squeezed between patio tables and eventually found myself at the holy grail of beer halls, Delirium Café. This bar isn’t the hidden hotspot it once was, but is popular with locals and tourists for all the right reasons. It received the Guinness World Record for having the widest selection of beer in 2004 with just over 2000 beers available, and today offers nearly 2500 Belgian and foreign beers! Anyone can find something tasty with this number of choices available, and as you can imagine there are some mind boggling options to make up the numbers. You can even find beers infused with cookies or coconut! I was overwhelmed by the extensive list and numerous taps, and finally ordered a smooth and refreshing blonde ale. For those that aren’t beer drinkers, the historic beer signs and other memorabilia (like a giant copper kettle that doubles as a booth) are a must see!
I ventured further into the city and came across a friendly looking burger bar. The food here was fantastic; thick, crisp Belgian frites with mayonnaise and a perfectly cooked burger but the beer was, in my opinion, even better! I ordered myself a Westmalle Trappist Beer that contained 9.5% alcohol, however the fruity aroma and taste of this beer overcame the sometimes-heavy feeling that other strong beers have. Trappist monasteries brew Trappist beers and only twelve beers from around the world are allowed to use the Trappist name, making it an extremely exclusive type of beer. Of those twelve beers, a whopping six are brewed in Belgium. only adding to the rich beer culture in the country. Traveling to Brussels is a sort of pilgrimage for beer lovers around the world.
Before catching the train back to Amsterdam that evening I made sure that I sampled some Belgian food staples, i.e.: waffles and chocolate. They are indeed all they’re cracked up to be. The streets of Brussels are dotted with chocolatier shops, each with their own unique recipes and styles, but all of high quality like nowhere else. Waffles originated in Belgium and as a result consuming waffles is a little more complicated than it is in North America. The Brussels waffle and Liege waffle are two equally delicious but very different waffle variants. The Brussels waffle, which I personally enjoyed more than the Liege waffle, is light and fluffy. Brussels waffles are usually perfectly rectangular and have larger indents compared to the Liege waffle. The difference is all in the dough. The Liege waffle is much thicker and contains chunks of caramelized sugar.
After filling up on too many sugary treats I made my way back to Amsterdam for another couple of days before heading back home to Canada. What did you think of your trip to Belgium, or what would you most like to experience there? What country or beers would you like to read about in the future? Let me know in the comments!