Bruges is not only one of my favorite medieval towns in Belgium but also one of my favorite cities in Europe.
I crossed over the canal and started down the narrow cobblestone streets into the tiny old town, admiring the rustic houses and shops along the way. I soon found my destination, the beautiful city center, lined with bars, restaurants and cafés. The pleasant chatter of locals and tourists filled the square as they sat around tables sharing beer, french fries and Belgian waffles.
It’s easy to fall in love with Bruges.
Belgium has quite the reputation as the place to be for beer and waffles. They are internationally renowned and I had already heard rumors of a pub, ’t Brugs Beertje, which had more than 300 beers on offer. My mission was clear: find this pub and drink the best beer in Belgium!
The bar is tucked down one of Bruges’ many alleyways and is tricky to find. But, while searching, I ran into three people I met on the bus and invited them to join my quest. They eagerly accepted the challenge and we took off in search of the best Belgian beer.
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After what seemed like hours of wandering through the complex, georgic streets of Bruges, we found the alleyway and the pub we had been searching for. A group of older men sat crowded around tables drinking pints, laughing and playing cards. This didn’t feel like a bar–I felt like I was hanging out at a friend’s house or a quiet hostel common room! The bartender greeted us as she pointed towards an empty table. We sat down and she handed us the biggest beer menu any of us had ever seen.
This was beer heaven.
We all made a deal that none of us would get the same beer and that we would each get to try everybody else’s. It was on: we were going to find the best beer in Belgium or drink ourselves into a stupor trying.
Now, in case you want to try this for yourself, allow me to give you fair warning: most of the beers in Belgium have an alcohol content that sits between 9 and 12 percent. They are not for the faint of heart, and they will put you on the floor very quickly if you are not watching how strong your beer is!
You can trust me on that.
But the real danger lies in how rich the beer is! It’s strong, but it’s also very smooth, and it definitely doesn’t taste like 12 percent.
Among our samples was Brouwerij De Leite, a light amber beer that has a smooth and hoppy flavor. It’s exactly what you want to be drinking on a hot, sunny day in Bruges. Another star that afternoon was Bush, with a mixed taste of barley and ale, giving it both bitter and sweet flavors, making it the perfect after dinner beverage. Breweries in Belgium take beer seriously, and it really comes through in their final product.
We polished off the first round and then, in what seemed like an instant, we were on our fifth. Having tried 15 beers each, things started to get a little hazy, so in an effort to document our quest, we began a beer list and took off in search of treats!
We spent the rest of the evening with a belly full of beer, exploring the city and experiencing the glorious food. Belgian waffles usually come topped with fruit and sugar, so I smothered mine in bananas and Nutella. Biting through the chocolate-hazelnut and into the warm Belgian waffle, the sweet fluffy pastry seemed to dissolve in my mouth.
But still not yet fully satiated, we (of course) shared a bag of traditional dark caramel chocolates. Belgian caramels are smooth, creamy and buttery and, when they are bathed in Belgian chocolate, they are totally irresistible.
Nice job, Bruges. You’re a captivating city full of friendly locals, full-bodied beer and luscious deserts.
I fall more in love with this city every time I visit, and it has become one of my favorite places to visit in Europe. What I’ve realized, though, is that there isn’t one beer that’s better than the rest of them. They’re all so tasty and, with my love of this tiny European country, I’ll keep coming back to experience all of the incredible beer that Belgium has to offer.
I just hope my liver can keep up.
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- Finding the Best Belgian Beer in the Medieval City of Bruges - April 8, 2014