The first weekend in September marked the 17th annual Belgian Beer Weekend, three days of festivities dedicated to Belgium’s national drink, organised by the association of Belgian Brewers. Taking place in the picturesque Grand Place in Brussels, the event saw the square taken over by over forty of Belgium’s top brewers offering a selection of close to 500 beers to sample. Also featured was an outdoor bar and lounge set up at the nearby Bourse, as well as a daily brewers’ parade that made its way through the streets of Brussels.
With so much beer to sample and so little time, we didn’t make it beyond the beer stands at the Grand Place. Armed with our crown corks (the official currency for the beer stands that could be purchased on site) we made our way around the square to see what was on offer from each of the brewers.
Since arriving in Belgium I’ve grown quite fond of fruit beer so I decided from the outset to stick with this theme for my tastings, focusing on varieties I hadn’t come across before. This turned out to be an excellent strategy that made for some very enjoyable beer sampling, from the first dainty glass of Timmermanns Strawberry Lambiscus, to the refreshing Caracole Mirabelle, a sweet plum beer. But the real find of the weekend was the Het Anker Boscoli, a deep reddish beer made with natural berry juices that was so beautifully rich it was almost smoothie-like in both taste and consistency. I enjoyed it so much I couldn’t stop at just one. These were definitely worthy of my last remaining crown corks!
I didn’t need another excuse to drink beer in Belgium, but somehow one came to me in the form of the Belgian Beer Weekend, taking place right on our doorstep in the centre of Brussels. Seeing all the beer tents on the Grand Place was an amazing sight. Hundreds of people were squeezed in to the perimeter, but were all surprisingly well behaved.
With hundreds of different beers to choose from, it was hard to decide where to use my crown corks but I quickly discovered there really wasn’t a bad choice to be made. With my fondness for dark Belgian ales, I found myself sticking mainly to the darker varieties. I started with a Waterloo Strong Dark followed by a Caracole Nostradumus, and then a caramel-like Adriaen Brouwer Dark Gold Ale, which was excellent.
When we passed the Het Anker stand and its enticing display of Carolus beers (which has become my new favorite beer brand) I knew it would be worth a visit. The beer that caught my attention was the Carolus Christmas beer, a strong dark beer flavoured with aniseed and other herbs. Usually only available during the Christmas season, it packs a punch at 10.5% alcohol, but it’s absolutely delicious. For a hoppy detour, I followed this with a glass of the Carolus Hopsinjoor.
The bartender here was very friendly and gave us a small history lesson about the Het Anker brewery in Mechelen that has its own restaurant and hotel. When our token count became too low for one more beer, I thought I’d ask our new friend what he could give me for just two crown corks. He smiled as he took my remaining tokens and came back with not just one, but two glasses of the Carolus Classic – one for me, and one “for the lady”, he said. I’d not only scored a freebie of my favorite beer, I also scored some points with the missus – a great end to our Belgian beer weekend.
Belgian Brewers – Belgian Beer Weekend
Grand Place, 1000 Brussels