Author Topic: One Week in Belgium  (Read 2296 times)

Offline jimmywags

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One Week in Belgium
« on: August 09, 2010, 07:36:55 AM »
My wife and I are headed to Belgium (and Ireland) for our honeymoon at the beginning of September. She a beer nerd too and wants to do a brewery tour, hit the beer cafés, and visit one of the Trappist monasteries/cafés. However, she doesn't want all of our sightseeing to revolve around beer and brewing. So, my question to those who have visited multiple Trappist locales: Which is the one to see for travelers who can only see one?

We'd love to hear any other suggestions for things to see or do in Belgium, especially the lesser known ones that don't make it into the travel books.

Thanks in advance.

Offline MDixon

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2010, 08:21:38 AM »
If ya want spooky and cool head to Velootje in Ghent. Take her to Brugges, she'll love you forever and you can beer it up in all sorts of places - de Garre, Vlissinghe, Brugs Beertje, Cambrinus, etc. She may also love Antwerpen. Personally I would not spend much time in Brussels, just a kinda nasty big city.

I doubt you can get in, but a tour of Rodenbach in Roeselare would certainly make you both happy.

I've not visited the monasteries, so no help there.
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Offline gordonstrong

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2010, 08:27:49 AM »
Orval had the best tour. Rochefort hard to get into. Westvletern impossible.

+1 on Brugge. Go to 't Brugs Beertje to drink. Best dinner in Belgium at Den Dyver. Trust me.
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Offline MDixon

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2010, 08:43:42 AM »
We missed Den Dyver by not having a reservation. Ended up at Erasmus which had great food and horrible service and they were not truthful. If I wanted bad service I would go to Dulle Griet in Ghent. As far as good food, if you go to Antwerpen there is a place extremely close to the train station and around the corner from Hotel Florida which has great food for an inexpensive price. Eetkaffee Monico is the name http://www.monicohotel.be/restaurant.php.

In Brussels a great place for food is In't Spinnopke (reservations needed)
http://www.spinnekopke.be/baseAN.html

EDIT:
You may find this interesting and helpful
http://www.belgiumking.com/top10s.html
« Last Edit: August 09, 2010, 09:17:20 AM by MDixon »
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2010, 07:27:40 PM »
Bruges/Brugge is a real gem.  The only thing that rivals the beer drinking is the food.  Maybe the sights too.

Get a travel guide and follow it for the sites.  We used Rick Steves back in the day.  The Bassilica of the Holy Blood is worth it, as are the Catherderal with the Michaelangelo statue, and the Bell Tower (try and get up there at just before noon for a good show of rods, cables, cranks and such doing their job).

Den Diver, Vlisshinge, de Garre, and t' Brugs Beertje are all worth a long visit.
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Offline glitterbug

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2010, 09:07:46 AM »
I would go to Poperinge (Westvleteren). Although there is no brewery tour, it was one of our best experiences. My wife constantly talks about going back. There were no tourists, and the journey to the cafe was picturesque (leisurely riding bikes through the belgian countryside, passing the hop fields and being sprinkled by a light shower).
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Offline theabbot

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2010, 09:53:07 AM »
If your wife is a true beer knurd, take her to Beersel, BE.  Try the Oud Beersel brewery or a stop at the 3 Fountain Brewery and restaurant.

This are two of the finest Lambic breweries in the world.  The menu's at Fontainen is quite extensive and the country is quite unique.
If she is both a history nerd and beer nerd, Waterloo is just down the road.

I will have to agree with the rest of the poster's here that a trip to Brugge is one she will remember and want to relive.  Charming town, nice people and plenty of local wonderful beer establishments.

Just my $0.02 or Euro 0.015
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Offline joelambic

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2010, 01:12:25 PM »
I've "been" to several of the Trappist breweries: Westmalle, Rochefort, Orval, Westvleteren, and Achel.  I, however, didn't get a tour at all of them so had to make do with a visit to the cafe and perhaps (in the case of Westmalle) a video tour.  Of the ones I had an actual tour of, I think Orval may be the most interesting.  In addition to the brewery one can tour the ruins of the monastery.  Achel, by contrast, is closer to a brewpub with the small, modern brewery behind glass and the cafe service similar to cafeteria style.  Achel does/did have a great shop adjacent though where most/all of the other Trappist beers, glasses, etc. could be purchased.

I'll second the recommendation for 3 Fonteinen.  Not only do they serve one of my favorite beers, they also have an excellent menu with several authentic regional dishes.  They are open for lunch & dinner (closed in between) and  I believe they are closed on Tuesdays & Wednesdays.

The Centrum Hotel across the street from 3 Fonteinen has a cafe that served quite a few of the other (Boon & Girardin are what I remember) lambics.  I wouldn't recommend staying at the hotel during a honeymoon though; it's good but very bare-bones.

If you like saison, I would recommend a visit to the Dupont brewery tap.  No matter how good the Saison Dupont I've had anywhere else, it pales in comparison when consumed across the street from where it's made.  They usually have the full product line available given enough time to bring something up from the cellar and chill in the cooler.  A modest knowledge of French will come in handy as I don't recall how well the lady that runs the place speaks English.

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2010, 07:53:47 PM »
I agree with several of these suggestions.

The cafe across the street from Dupont is great.  If you don't speak French, pointing at the tap usually works.

Poperinge is a good stop, if for no other reason than to go to Watou and have the Hommelbier at its freshest.  And if you're there, you should go to the Hommelhof which was Michael Jackson's favorite Belgian restaurant.  I think that was the place that amused me because they served their sparkling water in logo glasses of the sparkling water company (at a proper Belgian bar, apparently it's common for them to ask you if you still want the beer you ordered if they don't currently have the correct glass available--that happened to me several times).

Poperinge is also where they do the hop festival, once every three years. It was a hoot.

I didn't think Westvleteren was in Poperinge, but in West Vleteren. Out in the country and very pretty, for sure. You have to satisfy yourself with having the beer at the nearby cafe (which is usually the case with most of the Trappist breweries).  I found the beers there fairly young and hot, which was disappointing.  Same was the case for Rochefort.  Needed some age.  But the Orval was wonderful.  And they have the Orval Vert as well.  My avatar picture was taken in the cafe outside Orval. Note the proper way of holding the glass so the logo shows...

Oh, and a bonus about going to Orval is that they also sell their cheese there.  Great stuff.  Cute Orval bottle-shaped bottle opener available in the gift shop but they didn't speak English so you had to ask for a "decapsuleur".
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2010, 05:39:32 AM »
We went to the hop festival in Poperinge in '99, and it was big fun.

Orval's brasserie was closed the day we were there.  Did tour the ruins and the gift shop.

The food in Belgium is excellent.  Our German friends would smile and say "French preperation and German portions".

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Offline passlaku

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2010, 05:42:49 AM »
For more ideas try watching Three Sheets in Belgium [http://www.hulu.com/watch/12651/three-sheets-belgium].  If you haven't seen the movie In Bruge (with Colin Ferrel) you should, the movie really shows off the beauty of the city.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2010, 05:52:57 AM by passlaku »

Offline theoman

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2010, 07:37:29 AM »
Definitely some good tips here, except the one about not spending time in Brussels. If you take some time to get to know the city, you could be pleasantly surprised. I've said this before - for Brussels, get "Around Brussels in 80 Beers". As for other books, "The Good Beer Guide to Belgium" is a must. I live in Belgium and I carry the book with me anytime I go anywhere. Make sure you get the 6th edition.

A note on the Trappists. Westvleteren is in a beautiful location. People rave about the Westvleteren 12 beer, but I think their 6 (blond) is fantastic and underrecognized. 

Offline glitterbug

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2010, 10:14:47 AM »
I didn't think Westvleteren was in Poperinge, but in West Vleteren. Out in the country and very pretty, for sure.

We are splitting hairs here. The brewery\cafe is literally a few miles outside of town  ;D
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Offline kramerog

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2010, 11:00:17 AM »
You could drink beer at a cyclocross race.  Historically, cyclocross race would make several laps through beer tents.  Perhaps, they still do.  I wouldn't call this a must do unless you were a cycling fanatic.
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Offline Dan

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2010, 11:55:33 AM »
Just finished up a vacation in Belgium. Some thought if I had to do it again:

Brugges - Skip the Halve Maan brewery tour. It's nothing you haven't seen and the beers were good but not great. de Garre was excellent atmosphere and my fiance loved the house beer they were serving. Brugs Beertje is closed Wednesday (which happened to be the day we were there) so plan ahead. There was another cool beer bar but I'll have to update the post when I get home.

Brussels - Reminded me of D.C. or San Fran in that kind of gritty way but there were still some good gems. For the largest selection of beer with a college feel head to the Delirium cafe. Just south of the city center is the Cantillon brewery that produces some excellent lambic beers with a tour that includes 2 samples when finished. Skip the beer museum in the Grand Place (horrible tasting afterwards) but hit up the Brewery on the NW corner if you want to sample at the oldest brewery in Brussels. In September the EU starts session so you could head towards the EU buildings at night to take in the spectacle that is government.

Silly - Yeah, it's a silly name but this small town brewery makes a darn good Saison. They don't get many tourists and not many people speak English so you may want to plan ahead. We just happened to stop in and had the good fortune of walking into the town tourism office on a day when a college student from Brussels was working. Though our interpreter, they arranged a private tour of the brewery and face time with the brew master plus lots of samples.