A beer drinkers guide to Northern Belgium

This was the second half of my January 2018– I’d had a few days on my own in Amsterdam and my friends were flying to Brussels and meeting me in Antwerp.  We decided to meet at a bar called Bier Central just down from the magnificent Antwerp station, which set the tone for the weekend.  The place is heaven for a beer-lover, with a bewildering number of beers to choose from, all selected from a menu the size of an Argos catalogue.

There’s more on Antwerp here, but suffice to say we spent the Friday evening drinking world-class beer in the historic centre.

On the Saturday we took the train to Bruges, which is an hour and twenty minutes from Antwerp.  It stops at Ghent on the way and we stopped off there on the way back.

Bruges is every bit the picture-book place you’ve heard about, medieval buildings, narrow cobbles streets and canals everywhere.  Unfortunately the weather was bloody awful, and we spent most of our time sheltering from the rain – obviously a bar is an ideal place to do this.  We did enjoy a visit to De Halve Maan (Half Moon) brewery, where their Bruges Zot beer was our favourite of the trip.

Bruges was obviously cashing in on the large number of tourists – even on a cold, rainy January day there were loads of them.  Souvenir and chocolate shops everywhere.  I think if you could somehow visit on a summers day with no other tourists around it would be simply beautiful.  As it was, the awful weather and the sheer number of tourists left us underwhelmed.

Not so for Ghent – when we arrived in late afternoon the rain had eased and the city seemed much less tourist-centric.  We spend a thoroughly enjoyable few hours here, wandering around the streets around the city hall and castle, and finding some wonderful old pubs to sample even more delicious Belgian beer in.  Our favourite was De Trollekelder – or Troll bar, a wonderfully atmospheric pub on two levels with plenty of troll dolls to amuse you (or freak you out if you’ve had too much beer).  A late train back to Antwerp and that was us for Saturday.

On the Sunday we caught an InterCity to Brussels in the morning, and had a couple of hours to have a look around the city centre before we had to leave.  This culminated in a visit to Delirium bar where I had an 11% beer – the strongest of the trip.

Most of the beers we drunk were between 6-8%, but we only drank halves.  With plenty of wandering about between pubs, drinking slower than usual to savour the taste of the different beers, and the fact that it’s so well brewed – there were no casualties of over-indulgence or crippling hangovers.  A thoroughly enjoyable boozy weekend in some very attractive cities.

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