Although it was not the main focus of our trip to Brussels, the opportunity to visit some of the best beer bars on the world was something that we could not pass up on. We arrived in Brussels on 26 December and after doing some site seeing and museum walking, we decided it was time to get a drink or two.
Mort Subite - Out of all the possible choices, we decided to find Mort Subite for a drink. Paula and I had been wanting to visit this bar since we saw it featured on a show, Three Sheets, which we watched all the time on Mojo HD back in the U.S. In this show, the host Zane Lampry would visit a city somewhere in the world and go to the local bars and watering holes to drink what the locals drink. His first bar stop was Mort Subite so we figured we should try it as well. We got there at maybe 5pm or so and it was packed. The bar is narrow but very long so we walked to the back and finally settled on a table at the very back of the bar, right outside the bathroom. Although the location near the bathroom was not a lot of fun with people walking by our tight corner every few minutes, we did get to sit right next to the bars cat, which was sleeping on a little bed on top of some game boards. This cat was also in the Three Sheets episode in Brussels so we felt special to sight right near it. After awhile the cat woke up and walked onto my lap and then to Paula’s lap. It was hanging out near me for awhile and rubbing its little face on the side of my cargo pants. In between playing with the cat and doing some people watching, we ordered a few beers including a Mort Subite Gueuze, Mort Subite Faro and a Bush de Noel for me and a Mort Subite White Lambic and a Kriek for Paula. We also got a nice little cheese plate to go along with our beers and to hold us over before our dinner plans at 8pm. Although the beer selection at Mort Subite it not nearly as extensive as some of the other bars in Brussels, it has a very classy quality to it and social aspect that you don’t get in all bars as a lot of the tables are very close together and they make for close conversations and making new friends. Overall there were about 17 beers in bottle and another 16 on draft and the prices were a little high for some of the trappist and other beers but the Mort Subite prices seemed reasonable. Mort Subite is definitely worth a visit while in Brussels and it is very close to some of the other bars that are worth a visit as well.
Delirium Café – This was the bar that I was most interested in visiting in Brussels as I had read so much about their extensive bottle selection, some 2,000 or more beers. Delirium was also featured in the Three Sheets episode so we really wanted to check it out. The bar is down a somewhat shady looking alley that was filled with a lot of guys and girls just hanging out but it was safe. Delirium is right across the alley from the Floris Bar which is related to the owners of Delirium. We entered the front door of Delirium and were greeting with a choice to either go to the upstairs bar or downstairs. I seemed to remember that downstairs is where all the good beers were located from watching Three Sheets so we headed down there.
We later found out that the downstairs is called the Delirium Café and the upstairs based in the Delirium Taphouse. The Café was very busy but there was still room to walk around and we found a little table in the elevated section of the Café which is no smoking but since there is no wall between the smoking and non-smoking sections, we were basically sitting in the smoking section. I also quickly found out that there was no waitress service here, you had to go up to the bar to get your drafts or bottles. I wasn’t able to get a beer menu right away so I went to the bar and ordered 2 drafts so that we would have time to look through the menu, while drinking a beer, to figure out what to get for our next beer and our next beer, etc. The two drafts I got were a Bush Ambree for me and a Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux for Paula. Both were very tasty treats and helped to give us time to look through the 2,000 beers listed in the menu. I don’t think there were enough menus to go around for everyone that wanted to look at them but I did my best to hoard a menu long enough to look through all of the pages and to try to pick out hard to find and rare treats that we would want to try.
For our next beers I got a Gertrude for Paula which was a nice little hoppy Belgian ale and for me I got a De Koninck Kriek which I hadn’t had in awhile and I really enjoyed. Some of the other bottled treats that I saw in the menu were Pannepot, Cuvee de Ranke, De Koninck Gueuze, Struisse Rosse, Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel, Pannepot Reserva and too many more to list all here. I wrote down some names to try to either buy to take away or have later in the night or later in the trip. I finished the night with a bottle of the Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel which was excellent and although it was not Belgian, I had to try as it is highly rated and hard to find.
Although the Delirium Café has the largest beer selection I have ever seen and probably in the world from what their menu claims, there is a bit of a college bar feel here and it also feels a little like a tourist destination, rather than a beer destination. I guess a place with this large of a beer selection can’t be a secret so you have to take it all when you go here. The bar walks and ceiling are loaded with brewery serving trays which is really cool. I tried to read a lot of them but you get dizzy from leaning back too much.
Moeder Lambic – This bar, that features a lot of Lambic beers, is not in the middle of Brussels but is rather on the outskirts of town and better reached by a taxi or one of the Metro trams that drop you off near here. I had read a lot about this place having a very local feel to it and a nice selection of several hundred beers, including some hard to find Lambics. We decided to get out of the very busy tourist centre of Brussels on our second night in town so we took the Metro here.
After walking around some odd streets trying to find the right way to the bar, we stumbled across it when I saw a big bright Duvel neon sign, always a welcome sight. Moeder Lambic is not big at all with only maybe 8 tables or so and about 6 seats at the bar. We found 2 bar stools at the far corner of the bar, against the wall and backed up against a large table of drinkers but it suited us just fine. The bartender was very friendly and after taking care of a large drink order, he gave us a menu and helped us with our first order. Paula got a bottle of Duchess de Borgougne and I ordered a draft of Cantillon Faro which I had been wanted to try for awhile and heard this was one of the only places to have it. They served the Faro from a little plastic jug that looked like a wooden barrel. After we finished our first round of beers, Paula ordered a draft of the Grisette Lambic that appears to be a mix of blueberry and raspberry. I ordred a draft of Taras Bubla which I had never heard of but enjoyed.
This bar had a really nice cozy feel to it and although we had never been there before, we felt welcomed. They have a large selection of comic books to read if you are so interested. The beer menu is also very extensive and I could have spend awhile looking through it but we were only planning to stay here for a few drinks and then we were off to dinner at about 8pm. Our visit was cut a little shorter than expected as a guy sitting at a table right behind us was smoking unfiltered cigarettes and the smoke was blowing right into our faces and really bothering us and our beers so we used that as excuse to jet off to dinner. The prices at Moeder Lambic were really reasonable and it would be worth another trip here on our next visit to Brussels. It would probably be better to visit during the day or later when seats are easier to obtain. It also looks like they have a little seating area out front for when the weather gets warmer.
The next major stop on our beer bar hunt in Brussels was to be Het Bier Circus but after taking a taxi to the location of the bar, we were greeted with no lights on and the bars down over the windows. I had read that the owners don’t always stick to the published hours of operations and we found that out first hand and after a €20 cab ride. The cab driver ( a minivan) was a little surprised that we wanted him to take us back to the place he picked us up at a few minutes earlier.
After the Bier Circus disappointment, we headed of to the Delirium Taphouse to see what they had to offer. Actually we were first going to head back to the Café but they had a live band there and it was impossible to get a table or any space to have a beer. The Taphouse has a different beer selection than the Café, 25 beers on tap as opposed to about 10 at the Café. I don’t believe there are any bottles available in the Taphouse but you can get the bottles in the Café which is in the basement and just bring them up to the Taphouse. We decided to try a few drafts including a Gouden Carolus Christmas for Paula and an Anchor OSA for me. Yes, a good American beer on tap in a Belgian bar. The prices were reasonable as well and all the drafts were from an overhead tap line system that is similar to what they have at Bridgid’s in Philadelphia for 1 or 2 of their drafts. Although the drafts available were very respectable, this bar really felt like a college campus bar as there were large groups of loud younger looking tourist. I know that makes me sound like an old fart but when you see people drinking 10% beer out of 20 oz boots or 40 oz chalices, you don’t really feel like you are in a good beer bar. If you have the choice of going to either the Delirium Café or the Taphouse, I would stick with the Café and their 2,004 beers and leave the Taphouse for the 18 to 20 year old American tourists that can’t get served back home.
One of our last stops in Brussels was for dinner at the BXL Café which is right off the Grand Place. This was after we could not find room in 2 other dinner choices but the food here was really good and the beer was good as well. I believe this place is owned by a fellow that owns a bar in NYC under the same name, right off of Time Square.
Overall our few days spent in Brussels were definitely enjoyable well worth the drive up from Luxembourg. Although it was very busy when we were there due to being there for the Christmas holiday time, I am sure it is very busy almost anytime you visit as it is a great destination city for both the beer tourist and someone looking for European history.