Brussels Belgian Beer Weekend 2011

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Oct 5th, 2011
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2011 was our sixth trip to the annual Belgian Beer Weekend beer festival in Brussels.

Brussels always delivers, but every year the festival itself gets more and more crowded, and it’s generally more relaxed to go have a drink in a bar than fight through the crowd.

The one good thing about the festival, however, is that there are so many beer lovers in town that you’re bound to meet someone interesting.

I remember one year we were at Cantillon, and the staff was working feverishly to take extra good care of an American guy.  It was hard to complain because they were opening up all kinds of bottles for him to taste, and then bringing the rest of the bottle over to our table afterward.  We ran into the guy later in the weekend at Delirium, and he turned out to be Tom Peters from Monk’s Cafe in Philly.

Brasserie Cantillon

Not much from the outside

The good old prices...

Prepare for overload

After running into David from Brouwerij Huyghe year after year and night after night on these trips, we took him up on his offer of a brewery tour one year.

Delirium Bottling Line

What's Brewing?

Get me a straw

I could go on, but on a typical night out in Brussels any other time of the year,  you’re not as likely to run into such interesting beer lovers.

But hour long queues to buy tokens for the beer festival?  Waiting at the entrance for people to leave so that additional people can be let in?  Drinking at a bar is so much more civilized … and thankfully Brussels has some great places to choose from.  Here is a guide to some of our favorites…

Delirium Cafe

(… and family – Floris Bar, Floris Garden, Floris Tequila, Delirium Tap Room, Delirium Hoppy Loft, and the latest Delirium Monasterium)

Absinthe makes the tart grow fonder

This is the ever expanding bar … every time I visit it seems that they’ve added another bar, or at minimum, another room to an existing bar.

This is still one of the best reasons to visit Brussels.  Any beer you could possibly want, as they’ve got over 2500 of them.  Absinthe, tequila, giant 2 liter mojitos.  Pick your poison, they’ve got it.

Delirium Alley in Quieter Days

I remember my first visit back in 2005 when it was just the original Delirium Cafe in its cellar bar.  I was in town for a few days before a friend came to join me.  When he got to town, I told him that we could go to the second best bar in town first, and then go to the best bar … or we could just go to the best bar.  We got to the Delirium at about 6pm, and we closed it down at 4am.  That was the beginning of our time travel experiments.

These days, Delirium still closes at 4am, but the Floris Bar across the alley is open until 6am.  Those late night hours are some of the best times at the bar.

One of the problems with Belgian Beer Weekend is that during evening hours of that weekend, the Delirium bars are even more crowded and packed than the festival.  This year, we were thankful for the new Delirium Monasterium which always seemed to have a table waiting for us … along with a decent selection of trappist and abbey beers.

Prepare for teleportation

The convenient shortcut portal into the tequila bar is another plus.

I did almost cause an international incident there though.  One night I found myself craving the Westmalle Mixte.

Last year, before the Belgian Beer Weekend we paid a visit to Westmalle, and the Cafe Trappisten, which is across the street from the monastery serves a Westmalle Half and Half which we refer to as the Westmalle Mixte.  It is basically a Belgian black and tan … half Westmalle Dubbel and half Westmalle Tripel.

They’ve been doing it at Cafe Trappisten for  years … I can remember my first visit there, when it was in its old original building, and it was their specialty.

Westmalle Family Photo (Mixte is Center)

So I decided to order a round of Westmalle Mixte at the Delirium Monasterium.  I explained to the bartender to just use a big glass for the Westmalle Dubbel on draft, fill it half way and pour a Westmalle Tripel into it.

My craving was satisfied.

For a bit anyway.

My glass was empty, so I called out for another round.

A different bartender met me at the bar, and simply said “No”.

“What do you mean?”

“Respect the beer.  We won’t allow this.”

“Dude, they’ve been doing this at the Cafe across from the Westmalle monastery forever.  This is a sign of respect.”


Another bartender asks me what I wanted.

“You have to understand.  Our boss always tells us to respect the beer, and we cannot make beer cocktails.”

Pannepot Reserva 2007

Then he looks past me to a shadowy figure that has sat down next to me at the bar.  He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, with his head bent down toward the bar.  I did a double take because at first I thought the hooded sweatshirt was a monk’s habit.

The shadowy figure nods his head.

At this point the bartender tells me that he’ll fill the Westmalle Dubbel draft half full in a large glass, and bring bottles of the Tripel, but that I would have to do the actual mixing.

The shadowy figure mysteriously disappears.

When the bartender returns with the drinks, he explains that was one of the head bartenders, and he had given the ok for the mixte.

Later that evening, without the hood off, the apparition reappeared, introduced himself as David, and pulled me back into the bar to share a Pannepot Reserva and some other special beers.  Good times.

The Pokemon (a.k.a., Poechenellekelder)

We just say "The Pokemon"

Mobile Manekin Pis

This is another of the great bars of Brussels.  At least 100 different beers, and the incredible restorative power of the spag boll (spaghetti bolognese).


Located across the street from the Manekin Pis.

Moeder Lambic

Located at Place Fontainas, this newer bar makes for a great afternoon diversion.  The focus is more on draft instead of bottled beer, with the selection focused on microbrews instead of the more well known Belgian brews.

I have to say that I’ve not been particularly impressed by most of the drafts that I have tried there … but it’s the Cantillon that keeps me coming back.  St. Lamvinus (red grapes), Fou Foune (apricot), Pamplemousse (grapefruit) … this is a place that always seems to have a great selection from Cantillon.

Bier Circus

The Old Bier Circus Location

I remember the days back when Bier Circus was the legendary beer bar in Brussels.  They were down the street from their current location, a nice little hole in the wall.

Reviewers used to complain about the bartenders, but I always thought they were real helpful in introducing you to beers that you might not have had.  The biggest problem with it was that they seemed to have strange hours and they weren’t located in the main part of town.  So you’d trek your way past the cathedral, only to find out that they were closed.

It had been a few years since I’d been back, but this year we made the trek for dinner one night, figuring that it was impossible to get a table for a large group anywhere near Grand Place.  It was a good call … the fish waterzooi was excellent and the beer selection more than respectable.

I need to make a point of returning more frequently.

A la Mort Subite

A la Mort Subite = Instant Death

Great old Art Deco bar.  Nothing better than washing down cubed salami and cheese with a good beer.

A required stop on any Brussels visit.  Read this review from the Grey Town Gazette.

La Porte Noire (The Black Door)

This year was our first visit to this cellar bar.  Decent beer selection, good vibe, a little on the warm side that particular evening.  Only about a block and a half away from the Pokemon and worth an evening visit.  (Only open during the evening hours.)

Hotel Ibis Lobby Bar

We probably spend almost as much time here as at Delirium.  The beer selection could be a little better, but how can you complain when one of the choices is Westmalle Tripel.  In fact, come to think of it, next time I have a craving for a Westmalle Mixte I’ll be ordering it here.  Read this review from the Grey Town Gazette.

Other Bars

We didn’t make it there this year, but Au Bon Vieux Temps is another old standby that is worth a visit.  You can read more about it in this Grey Town Gazette review.

Toone is also worth visiting at least once.  Limited beer selection, but uniquely Brussels.


Brussels Travel Guide Summary