I’m taking a break from reviews this week to focus on my recent honeymoon in Brussels, Belgium. During the next few days, I’ll be covering my thoughts on the culture, the craft and – of course – the amazing beer and breweries my bride and I enjoyed while on our trip in what many consider to be the mecca of beer.
On Aug. 5, I found myself aboard a plane heading across the ocean. Beside me was my newlywed wife, Whitney. Behind us was Columbia, where the day before we were married. And ahead of us was our honeymoon destination: Brussels, Belgium.
Whitney and I are both big beer geeks, and we both love Europe and have traveled the country extensively with our families. So when I first suggested Brussels as our honeymoon locale, she was quick to second the thought.
“Why, of all the places in the world, did you pick Belgium?” was a question I was constantly asked. The answer was easy enough: Great food, great history, great sights. And of course, great, great beer.
For beer geeks, Belgium is a bucket list location. There are approximately 178 breweries scattered throughout the country and some 450 different kinds of beers produced. It’s the birthplace of lambics, gueuzes, krieks, dubbels, trippels and quads. It’s the place where every restaurant and brasserie has dozens of beers on tap, each served in its own specific glassware. It’s a place where beer is ingrained in its history. It is – in a word – heaven.
So, Brussels is was. After checking in to our hotel on Monday, Aug. 6, we showered and went to explore the city. We were located directly across from the main train station and less than five minutes from the main eating and shopping districts. After exploring for a couple hours and deciding to crash for a bit, we returned to the hotel to find a welcome gift waiting for us, courtesy of my parents.
Along with boxes of chocolates and cookies was a sort of Belgian beer sampler, including two bottles of Stella Artois, two Chimay blues and two Leffes. (I would go on to find out that Stella, Leffe and Hoegaarden are the Bud/Miller/Coors equivalent in Belgium. They’re everywhere.) Nothing too fancy, but a great gift to come back to.
We decided to crack open a bottle of Stella and see how it differed from the stateside version. Suprisingly enough, it was noticeably different. And better. It was still crisp and bubbly, but had a peppery note instead of the sweetness of the one prevalent in the U.S. (I guess that’s because it’s fresher?) Still definitely a Stella, but with a bit more bite.
After napping for a couple hours, we ventured out to find a place to grab dinner. We didn’t have to go far. About 10 minutes from our hotel was A la Mort Subite (translation: “Sudden Death”), a cafe in Brussels named after a series of lambics produced by the Alken-Maes brewery.
The food at A la Mort Subite was good enough, but the beers they had on tap were stellar. There was the gueuze – my first ever on draft – which leaned more to the sweet side than the tart side; the peche and kriek, which were both rich, sweet, incredibly flavorful and just phenomenal; and the witte lambic, a sweeter, fuller version of the traditional lambic.
After dinner, we wandered the streets until we ended up at the Delirium Cafe, which I had heard was a bit touristy, but still a place you want to be if you love Belgian beer. There cafe is divided into three levels: The floor level is a taproom with some 30 different draft Belgian beers; the top floor is the Hop Lounge, which showcases American and European craft beers; and the bottom level is where you can have your pick from a literal phone book of beers.
For a Monday night, the bar was packed and rowdy. There were definitely a lot of younger European tourists on hand and the music was blasting, but it still had a relaxed and chill atmosphere to it. And the bartenders seemed to be enjoying themselves, too, what with the grab ass and flicking bottle caps at each other.
There was so much to choose from and it was getting harder to fight sleep, so I opted to try the Floris Honey from Brouwerij Huyghe, which also makes Delirium, and the Cookie Beer from Brasserie d’Ecaussinnes. Both tasted exactly as you would expect them to and made for a nice dessert.
After those few nightcaps, we were off to bed to recoup and get ready for the rest of the week. And oh, what a week it was, but more on that next time.