After a considerable delay, I recently celebrated a significant birthday in Bruges. The first visit since 2019. A Eurostar deal gave us with an excellent ‘room with a view’ – top floor at Martin’s Bruges, a few hundred metres from the Belfort, a short walk from both Brugs Beertje and De Garre.
The main focus of the weekend was the 16th Bruges Beer Festival. Located at the recently completed, Meeting & Convention Centre, this saw some 80 breweries providing over 500 beers. Included were 16 breweries new to this festival, including the, perhaps inappropriately named, Misery Co. – a reference to the Stephen King book. Their New England IPA (6.9%) was one of several beers sampled from the 12.5 cl customised glass. Among many highlights was the first appearance of Terrest with their 8% Golden Triple, brewed with both grain and hops from the family farm at Houthulst. Also available was, the rarely seen, Westvleteren 12 (10.2%).
We had many conversations with other visitors – one memorable exchange was with the reserve mascot for Charleroi FC (‘the Zebras’). Sheffield, ‘the home of football’ was a common topic of conversation, a theme which has world-wide resonance, a theme which Sheffield should extensively utilise.
We also visited several bars, some return visits, but also new experiences: Halve Mann provided the (almost) obligatory Bruges Zot (the only bar which serves this 6% beer unfiltered from the tap), Bauhaus gave us Brussels Beer Project Juice Junkie (5.4%) while old favourite, St. Bernardus 12 (10%), was sampled at Yesterday’s World. The latter is a quirky bar, or, more accurately, a two-floor antiques shop which serves a selection of beers: well worth a visit.
After sampling the excellent camerise sour, Cantillon Sang Bleu (6%), we were about to leave Brugs Beertje when De Struise Black Damnation XXVI (‘Freddy’), an excellent, but rarely seen barrel-aged Belgian Royal Stout, appeared on the bar. This 13% beer is an epic, not to be missed. Suffice to say, our visit to De Garre, and their 11% house tripel, was slightly delayed.
Fort Lapin Brewery was also visited on their Saturday tap day. Since my last visit, the brewery has expanded (four new fermentation vessels). In November, they are relocating to a nearby industrial estate in order to gain more space. Their 8% Triple was a good start to the day. Good to hear that the elder son of the owners, Tristan Vandenbussche, is now a sprint canoe European Champion.
In short, Bruges provided a much-needed break, good company, good bars and good beer.