We discovered this unusual drinking spot on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Ghent, while passing through the Vrijdagmarkt, a large open square surrounded by beautiful medieval houses and lined with cafes and restaruants.
The Vrijdagmarkt, or “Friday markets” in English, is home to De Dulle Griet, a pub serving more than 250 beers, the largest range of any bar in Ghent. Specialising in trappist beers and beers by lesser-known brewers, Dulle Griet is serious about beer. But it is also a lot of fun.
An eclectic mix of decoration/clutter line the walls, from beer advertisements to taxidermy animal heads. Also on display are the pub’s ten commandments, a set of rules for patrons to abide by including some questionable restrictions for a place designed for drinking: no parties, no yelling, no alcohol during working hours (!) and my personal favorite, “don’t get wasted”. But perhaps the most noteworthy of these is the “Drink Max, Shoe Off” rule. If you want to order a ‘maxi’ (1.5 litres of beer in a coachman glass complete with its own wooden stand) you’ll first have to surrender your left shoe as a deposit for the impressive glass. And it’s quite a ritual – at the ring of a bell a large wire basket is lowered from the ceiling and the shoe placed inside before quickly being yanked back up for all to see until the beer has been drunk and the glass returned. Surprisingly, no one seemed in a hurry to retrieve their shoes, instead taking their time to fully appreciate every mouthful of the excellent Belgian beer.
The staff here are friendly and knowledgable about the beer they serve, which is just as well given the extensive beer menu that is basically an alphabetical list with no information about the type or strength of beer. A great option for those like me who wouldn’t know the difference between a Dupont and a Duvel is the pub’s featured beer of the month, which has the added bonus of a second free glass for every order.
It turns out the name of this quirky pub is taken from a figure of Flemish folklore called Dulle Griet, also known as “Mad Meg”. How fitting!
You can walk up quite a thirst gallivanting around Ghent’s old town, so when I saw the large picture of what looked like a yard glass on the front window of this pub, I didn’t need any convincing to walk inside.
Bar De Dulle Griet’s interior looks really old, the floors are made of large stone blocks and the place is littered with number plates, beer advertisements, wagons wheels and a basket with shoes inside it. No longer a stranger to Belgian quirkiness, I quickly forgot about the basket and proceeded to order an Archel trappist beer – delicious!
They have a great selection of Belgian beers but you must not leave this place until you try the cherry beer (kriek) they have on tap. I’m not fond of cherries, but cherry beer I can drink till the sun comes up. I was expecting it to taste like cough medicine but it actually had a nice fruity taste with very little bitterness.
I was enjoying the view outside when suddenly I heard a bell ring. I turned and saw the two gentlemen sitting next to us take their shoes off and give them to the bartender. The basket was lowered from the ceiling and their shoes were placed inside. A quick nod from the bartender and out came two half yard glasses filled to the brim from behind the bar. The shoes are left as a deposit for the yard glass, I guess they got sick of tourists taking them as souvenirs!
In Australia it’s not uncommon for young lads to be challenged on their 21st birthday to drink a full yard glass in one shot as quickly as they can. So I was taken aback when the two guys beside us took their sweet time drinking – taking selfies, eating finger foods and generally ignoring the challenge in front of them. With a little encouragement from their girlfriends they finally finished. The empty yard glasses were raised like trophies above their heads and they high-fived each other while their shoes were lowered from the ceiling. Great effort boys, I never doubted you for a second!
De Dulle Griet
Vrijdagmarkt 50, 9000 Ghent