Belgian Beer Weekend takes place in September, with a special ceremony on Friday 2 September, followed by the opening of the Bar National behind the Stock Exchange (soon to become the Beer Museum) followed by the full festival on the Grand Place. The weekend continues on Saturday and Sunday. The participants represent a wide range of large, medium and small breweries from across the country. Nearby on 4 September, on Place De Brouckère at 18.00, you can see the arrival of the Balloons Day Parade, consisting of giant balloons in the shape of cartoon characters, which set off from Place des Palais at 14.00 to cross the centre of the city. And on 16-18 September, enjoy the traditional festivities of the Ilot Sacré, the restaurant quarter close to the Grand Place.
Brussels counts three fully-fledged breweries, but Cantillon is the biggest, the best known and the most unusual. The brewery in Anderlecht makes lambic, the sour beer produced with wild yeasts found only in the air of Brussels and the adjacent Pajottenland. Lambic is blended to make gueuze, and this brewery is also a museum, which conserves and demonstrates the special way lambic is made. And of course, there's a tasting after the tour.
56 Rue Gheude, Anderlecht
Brasserie de la Senne was started in 2003, and arrived at its present home in Molenbeek in 2010. The two founders have a simple philosophy: they brew the beers they would like to drink themselves. That means fresh, hoppy and relatively low in alcohol. They now have an impressive range, including experimental brews and the occasional collaboration with visiting brewers. They don't do tours, but you can find their beers in any decent wholesaler, beer shop and favoured bars (list on website).
565 Chaussée de Gand, Molenbeek
Best beer tour
Organised beer tours are available, but Brussels city centre is so compact it's easy to do it yourself. And if you get tired or footsore, you can stop whenever you like and have another beer. Begin at Délices et Caprices, a beer shop on the Rue des Bouchers run by Pierre Zuber and his wife Ann. Pierre sells bottles of the best of Belgian beers, which you can take away or consume on the premises. He's also a fount of knowledge, so if you don't know what you like, he'll advise you. Then move on to Delirium Café, which boasts the widest range of beers in the world (more than 3,000), and put your new-found knowledge to good use. From there, move on to A la Bécasse, a former staging post, which is one of the few cafes to serve pure lambic (rather than the blended gueuze). From there you can head to Le Coq and Monk on the other side of the pedestrian zone. Both are city-centre local pubs with an interesting selection of beers. The tour ends at Chez Moeder Lambic, famous for its range of taps, its guest beers from around the world, and its expert staff.
Seasonal beers for summer
Brewers are ready when the sun shines. The saison beer from Hainaut province (Saison Dupont) was originally brewed to quench the thirst of farm workers, and it's fresh, low in alcohol and a perfect session beer. White or wheat beer (such as Sint-Bernardus Wit) is another perfect drink for warmer weather. Further up the alcohol scale is Chimay Triple in the white-capped bottle, a lively and complex beer made to be savoured. Other beers perfect for a summer afternoon on a terrace or in the garden include St-Feuillien Grand Cru, Duvel Tripel Hop and, if you like the tartness of lambic, any Oud Gueuze/Gueuze à l'ancienne from Drie Fonteinen, Boon or Tilquin. Pro tip, from Duvel Moortgat beer ambassador Nicolas Soenen: don't chill your beer so much you lose all flavour. The ideal temperature for a blond beer is around 6-10 degrees, with darker beers served at cellar temperature – 10 to 14 degrees.
Brewdog pub opened in Brussels last autumn, in what used to be the Sabena passenger terminal for Brussels Airport, and is the latest addition to the worldwide empire of two crazy Scottish brewers. The place is enormous by Belgian standards, but it's the beers that are most impressive, with the full range of Brewdog products, and an excellent selection of guest Belgian beers. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and there's food available all day.
20 Putterie (Centre)
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