I was talking to my wife last night and we were discussing our upcoming trip to Brugge this summer, probably one of our favourite places in the world, couldn’t recommend it more. We both agreed that it’s a very laid back place and it’s best not to have a strict plan but just go with the flow. However there were a few things that we both agreed are musts.
The canal boat ride, a very touristy thing to do yes, but it’s a very relaxing way to see Brugge from a side you really don’t get to appreciate on foot.
The beer wall, this is a long alley and on the wall, behind glass, is a bottle of every beer made in Belgium (or so they say) and it’s coresponding glass. This is my wife’s favourite spot, not because she has any interest in bottles or glassware, but because at the end of the wall is a little bar and beer garden. On a good day you can spend hours there sampling their beers with your feet up on the canal wall watching the boats go by.
De Halve Maan brewery, or the half moon in English. If it’s your first time in Brugge then the brewery tour is a must. It’s actually the only remaining brewery in Brugge itself. Not only is it a great little brewery, little is actually very accurate, some of the doors a passageways were not built for tall people, some were even a struggle for the shorter ones. But the best thing about the tour is that it ends on the brewery roof and offers an amazing view of Brugge. A better view and a much more pleasant assent than the famous belfry tower, which I did once and swore never again!
If you’ve done the tour before it’s still nice to sit in the courtyard and enjoy the atmosphere and sample the brewery’s four main beers on tap.
There’s also a lovely little tavern attached that does some great food. It’s open for lunch only I believe for a couple of hours in the afternoon.
I’ll now give a quick overview of their four main beers, the Bruges Zot which comes in blond and bruin and the Straffe Hendrik which comes in a tripel and a quadrupel, but I’ll point out that the tasting notes I wrote for these were ones I made at the brewery where I had the beer on tap. Most of you, unless you visit there, are more likely to get the beer bottled. The beer goes through a second fermentation in the bottle and ages to give a different taste, I’ll not say better/worse as I enjoy both, though I found the bottles to be a bit more complex.
- Style: Blond
- ABV: 6%
A very straight forward easy drunk Belgian blond. It’s made with 4 different malts which give a subtle amount of depth to it. It has a strong aroma of yeast and some floral notes, hints of coriander too. The taste is simple but pleasant, a sweet malt on the tongue with a touch of citrus and definitely some banana there too. My wife’s favourite of the four and my least favourite.
- Style: Dubbel
- ABV: 7.5%
It usually follows that where you have a blond you have a bruin, often the bruin seems like an afterthought, something they just had to make to fill a quota. This little dubbel isn’t like that at all, a great beer in it’s on right. Made with the same yeast as it’s brother it has many of the same tastes including that strange hint of banana. It’s made with 6 malts which add a deep malty flavour to the beer, a slight taste of coffee and chocolate with a subtle bitter and hoppy aftertaste. This isn’t the most complex Dubbel you’ll ever drink but sitting in the sun in that courtyard I could easily put away 2 or 3 and really enjoy myself.
- Style: Tripel
- ABV: 9%
Where to start with this one? Whilst the Zots were very simple, this one had a lot going on in it. Again there’s that banana flavour and yeasty aroma same as the others, but then you’ve got coriander, cardamon, lemon zest, orange, traces of honey and cinnamon and finished with a malty sweetness. Throughout the whole beer you can definitely taste the alcohol, which at 9% maybe shouldn’t have surprised me but with all the other flavours going on I expected it to be more hidden. Quite a heavy little beer, one to savour over time.
- Style: Quadrupel
- ABV: 11%
Finally we come to my personal favourite. This is a great example of a quadrupel, or at least it’s what I look for in a quad. Again the aroma has a distinct hit of yeast, followed by malt and red berries. The taste once again has that hint of banana as seems to be the common trait of this brewery. You also get sweet malt notes, caramel, dried fruit, cherry and a bit of liquorice. The mouthfeel is surprisingly clean and dry and unlike the tripel this one hides its strong alcohol deceptively well, watch yourself with this one.
I bring home a suitcase full off beer every visit to Brugge and these four always feature. I like to store them away in a dark cupboard and let them mature over some time. The Straffe Hendriks especially benefit from this treatment and can be stored for up to 2 years when they’ll be almost unrecognisable from the beer I drink in that brewery courtyard.
All this reminiscing has made me itching to get away, July can’t come soon enough!