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Ultimate Belgian beer trip

Discussion in 'Benelux' started by Goosey, Feb 5, 2013.

  1. Goosey

    Goosey Aficionado (240) Missouri Jan 18, 2012

    So this summer I am staying in Slovenia for a study abroad trip, and we get our 3 day weekends to do whatever we want. So naturally, I am going to Belgium for the beer trip of a lifetime. First, I should ask what the best means of travel from Ljubljana to Brussels is (I can drive stick if that helps). Second, when I get into Brussels I am going to Cantillon and 3 Fontienen. So I have 2 days left to do whatever, which I'm thinking of skipping one day of classes for an xtra day in Belgium. Of course, I want to visit at least one Trappist brewery, and I would appreciate any suggestions in the form of an actual route around Belgium, not a cluster of random locations if you please. Also suggestions for safe places to stay (I will be alone) would be much appreciated. Here is a loose list of places I am considering... Westvleteren, chimay, Orval, Achel, Fantome, De Dolle, DuPont, De Rank, Chouffe, and Kuluminator for some vintages. I am open to new suggestions as well. Thanks!
  2. Read the messages on this forum my friend. Belgium is THE place to be for beer. Westvleteren is a must but be sure to go there when Cafe In de Vrede is open. When you go there on a saturday you can also visit the guys from the Struise Brouwers....

    Antwerps/Kulminator is a must, the same with Brussels if you are into sours!

    Most places are hard to get to besides Antwerps and Brussels off course.

    Thijs
  3. Jwale73

    Jwale73 Advocate (670) Rhode Island Aug 15, 2007

    I'm doing a similar trip in April: Sat - Mon. in Belgium; Mon-Wed in Bamberg, Wed-Sat. in Dusseldorf. Not sure what days you will be in Belgium.

    The biggest challenge for me with Sat. through Monday is not being able to hit everything because of hours of operation. For example, I really wanted to hit Struise, but it is only open on Saturday and Kulminator is not open Sunday. I'm hitting Kulminator Saturday and on Sunday heading to De Dolle (english tour is at 2pm) then to De Heeren van Liedekercke and Chez Moeder Lambic Fontainas. Monday I'm going to hit Cantillon. Also wanted to hit 3 Fonteinen - the restaurant is open, but I think the brewery/tasting room is only open on Friday or something like that. Brasserie Het Anker (Gouden Carolus) has a restaurant and hotel and is in the Brussels/Antwerp area. If I had more time, I'd do that as well. Have a great trip!
    Goosey likes this.
  4. Tut

    Tut Savant (390) New York Sep 23, 2004

    I've traveled extensively in both Slovenia and Belgium. Given you only have 3-4 days, don't even think of driving. It's way too far and you'd waste precious time just getting there. Check the smaller, discount airlines. Direct flights from Ljubljana to Brussels are limited and not very cheap, but you may find a good one if you do a change in another city in transit.
  5. LambicKing

    LambicKing Advocate (650) Florida Apr 13, 2011

    Dude, forget the beer...Slovenian women are ridiculous.

    But if you must have beer...you are going to the right places. Follow what the others said above me. They are doing you right.
  6. swank

    swank Initiate (20) Feb 11, 2013

    Hey Goosey,
    Congratulations in getting a study abroad trip to Slovenia! It's rare to hear a student making this a top designation for studying abroad. Anyways, I can only speak for Belgium since I am a former resident there. Definitely visit Westvlevern FIRST! They like to play hard to catch-I'm serious. Call or email ahead of time. Those are their rules-and they stink. You can't go wrong visiting a Brasserie in the city of Brussels-they make their own beers too and they are phenomenal. For a safe place to stay, look up Best Western Hotels--reasonable prices and a friendly staff. It sounds like you will be traveling by car. Because I relied on public transportation there, I don't have any specific routes to recommend. How is your French anyway? It will come in handy if you ask around in a city or town but choose wisely because they notice right away that you are a foreigner. I haven't been to Cantillon or Fontienen but I recommend visiting Orval and Achel. I hope this post helps. Good luck with your studies and have a safe and sound journey.
    Goosey likes this.
  7. Goosey

    Goosey Aficionado (240) Missouri Jan 18, 2012

    Was thinking of flying, but when i get there I guess I should just rent a car, or is public transit better?
  8. SStein

    SStein Savant (340) Belgium Dec 26, 2012

    The public transportation is good, however renting the car allows you to get closer to the breweries themselves. About half the breweries you listed aren't all that close to the trains.
  9. Tut

    Tut Savant (390) New York Sep 23, 2004

    That depends on where you want to go. The trains are excellent but like all public transit, they eat up time other than just getting from one place to another. Given you only have a few days, don't try to overdo it. You could easily spend three days or more in Brussels alone, and still not see all it offers. I'll post a list of my favorite beer cafes and restaurants when I have more time. I'm using a tablet w/wifi and am in Dunedin, New Zealand right now. Have to wait until I'm on a desktop.
  10. Goosey

    Goosey Aficionado (240) Missouri Jan 18, 2012

    Sorry I am relying on those well traveled souls so much, but tell me if you think this is a do-able Inten. Wednesday- fly into Brussels and hit Cantillon and or 3 Fontienen and stay in Brussels (is there any small towns outside of Brussels you recomend, as I am trying to get the authentic experience as far as beer food and culture, but am by myself and also want to be safe) (I don't speak French, but do speak Spanish if that helps at all). Thursday, hit Kulminator followed by DeProef and stay in Gent. Hit Struise and Westvletern on Friday since they are both close (is Vleteren a good place to stay that night?) Then, on Saturday, Chimay and Orval, and I guess stay in Florenville? Finally, on Sunday, Achouffe or Fantome, and then head back to Brussels to fly back home. Let me know what you think as soon as you get on a desktop, and anybody else is welcome to comment on this. Also, please feel free to throw out some recomendations for places to stay following that route.
  11. Jwale73

    Jwale73 Advocate (670) Rhode Island Aug 15, 2007

    I believe Struise is only open on Sat. and I think Drie Fonteinen is only open Thu-Mon (restaurant) and not sure about the brewery - I believe it is next to the restaurant and is not open as much (maybe Friday/Sat.) - this is all information I've try to glean in planning my itinerary in April.
  12. Goosey

    Goosey Aficionado (240) Missouri Jan 18, 2012

    Damn these Belgians and their leisurely work schedules. I looked at De Struise and they are closed Sunday and have limited hours on Sat, and 3F is the same, so if this info is correct I hope I should be fine. I can't find their normal hours of op tho.
  13. Jwale73

    Jwale73 Advocate (670) Rhode Island Aug 15, 2007

    Yeah - I know. Damn them for not catering to our schedules :) I ended up prioritizing my stops based on my days (Sat. - Mon.) because it became pretty clear that I couldn't do it all. I'm also fortuntate to have a good friend from Dusseldorf who will be driving my ass around. That said, I really wanted to hit Kulminator, Cantillon and De Dolle. With Kulminator and Cantillon not open on Sunday, and the English tour at De Dolle at 2pm on Sunday, that left Sat. for Kulimiator and early Monday (driving to Bamberg from Belgium on Monday) for Cantillon. I'd say rank your top two or three places and check their hours and things will better fall into place. With 3F, my understanding is that the restaurant is quite good, the brewery is pretty small and not much to see, although they have a bottle shop. Please share your itineary once you figure it out. On another note, the other site has a mapping feature that might help you in terms of relating distances from place to place. That was a big challenge for me as I don't know the lay of Belgium all that well, particularly with some of the smaller towns. Cheers.
  14. You guys are quite ambitious. My advice would be to trim the schedule down a bit. I have found that the biggest mistake people make in traveling to Europe is trying to pack everything into 3-4 days. You end up spending more time traveling from place to place then actually experiencing things. Also I would not recommend renting a car. The trains are good. You can get most places fine. You want to drink right? No body needs to spend a night on the Flemish clink.
    thepeter and Tut like this.
  15. Goosey

    Goosey Aficionado (240) Missouri Jan 18, 2012

    Ya I wanna take a train, but I cant find trains to some of the smaller towns I want to visit, and thus, I am left without options as far as I know. Luckily I have till July to work this out, but to me it seems like since the places are so close together, two breweries a day isn't impossible, but I could be completely and utterly wrong. The things I am worried about are the places to stay.
  16. To give you an example... I usually plan for 2-3 nights in the same city when I travel in Belgium. One afternoon at the Kulminator would only give a visiting tourist a small sample of the wonderful city of Antwerp. There is so much more to these cities than beer tickin. I spent 2 nights 3 days there a few years ago. I got a chance to go to the Kulminator 3 times and check out all sorts of stuff in town. Got a horse steak, checked out the diamond district, hot boozed up at a local bar with some off duty cop and checked out the Belgian colonial museum. I have had similar 2-3 day trips to Ghent Brugge and Brussels over the last few years.
    thepeter likes this.
  17. thepeter likes this.
  18. Tut

    Tut Savant (390) New York Sep 23, 2004

    I couldn't agree more with tendermorsel. You sound pretty young. You'll have plenty of other opportunities to return, and believe me, you will. Give yourself time to actually get a feel for Belgium, rather than rushing from one bucket list place to another. All too often American BA's do exactly what you're planning. They can then say they've been to all those "ticker" spots, but they don't know squat about Belgium. With only four days, go to Brussels and one other place, either Brugge or Antwerp. Trains are easy. Two days isn't much for each, but way better than what you're trying to do. You could easily spend it all in Brussels. There's MUCH more to do there than just the typical beer tourist visit to Cantillion, Moeder Lambic, Delirium Cafe, Grand Place, and Mannekin Pis.

    Here are some of my favorite cafes and restaurants in Brussels. There are numerous others and the best thing you can do is buy a copy of Around Brussels in 80 Beers, by Joe Stange and Yvan De Baets. It's indispensible if you'll be spending time there. It's expensive on Amazon, but the Waterstone's bookstore in the city center shopping district has it for 13 euros. Google map the cafes and locate on a good street map. Check opening hours - many places close early part of week. Have fun and explore. While finding your way to these places, you'll see areas of the city and cafes that most BA visitors are unaware of.

    Cafes:

    le Bier Circus
    57 Rue de l'Enseignement
    One of the best beer lists at 200+. Spend an evening at the small bar in the back and ask owner Patrick for recommendations. Check hours, closed Sun., Mon.

    Monk
    42 Rue Sainte-Catherine
    Classic old brown cafe near city center but away from tourists. Great at night but pm good too.

    la Fleur en Papier Dore
    55 Rue des Alexiens
    old, historic small cafe that is only place in city with Oud Beersel Lambic. Amazing interior.

    Brocante
    170 Rue Blaes
    Great cafe in Marolles area that specializes in lambics. Great atmosphere.

    l'Ultime Atome
    14 Rue Saint Boniface(Ixelles district)
    See my review. Ignore review before mine. go in late pm or evening.

    Cafe Belga
    Place Eugene Flagey(Ixelles)

    Restaurants with beer cuisine:

    le Brassins
    36 Rue Keyenveld(Ixelles)
    Amazing, reasonably priced, food and good beer list. Can walk to/from l'Ultime Atome.

    Restobieres
    32 Rue des Renards
    Great funky atmosphere and fantastic food. Deserts are excellent. Afterward you can walk down street a couple blocks to Brocante.
    thepeter, Jwale73 and Rocket80 like this.
  19. "don't sweat the ticks... Let them come to you."

    Tendermorsel
    thepeter and Tut like this.
  20. Another tip..... Plan on spending a while at Cantillon. The brewery tour is cool don't get me wrong but the key to me is buying bottles and consuming them on site. Bottles are dirt cheap and I doubt any other bar is going to have the selection of Cantillon that they have at the brewery. I spent 5± hours there on my last trip. Hang out drink a few bottles chat with others that are there and hang with Jean. I brought a few beers with me to share with the guys there. A full afternoon at Cantillon is one of my favorite things to do in Belgium. A quick stop doesn't do the place justice.
    thepeter, Tut and drtth like this.
  21. yinzer

    yinzer Savant (385) Pennsylvania Nov 24, 2006

    I know that this might sound a bit snarky, but it's not directed at anyone.

    But I think that it's better to be looked at as "wanting to be here" as apposed to "wanted to be here". People can tell the difference.
    drtth likes this.
  22. Tut

    Tut Savant (390) New York Sep 23, 2004

    I've had a real long day traveling in New Zealand, and it's late and I've had a bottle of great NZ wine, but I don't know what the hell you're saying. The potential snarkiness escapes me.
    DStoked likes this.
  23. Goosey

    Goosey Aficionado (240) Missouri Jan 18, 2012

    I am young (22), but certainly not beyond taking advice from those older and wiser than me. I really want to see all of these places, but I do only have 5 days, and I would like the trip to be relaxing as I am currently stressed out of my mind being a tax accounting sr. as well as studying for the LSAT and CPA. Anyways I get out of class in Slovenia in the morning and will take the earliest flight to Brussels on Wed. So first night I will stay in Brussels and hit either Cantillon or 3F. Then I want to hit Kulmimator in Antwerpen which I have found a train that runs there. I know that Struise and Westvleteren are both in Vleteren so I guess I can choose one though that'll be hard. Can't find any quick public transit from Antwerp to Vleteren. Then on SatI want to stop at either Chimay or Orval, but probably Orval. Again I can't find trains to those places from Vleteren. Finally on Sunday hit Fantome or Achouffe on my way back up to Brussels for my night flight back to Ljubljana. Does that seem better? Also, ideas for transit between these places, or places to stay? Please feel free to chime in Tut or anyone else. And... Cantillon or 3F?
    BelgianBeerMan7 likes this.
  24. Tut

    Tut Savant (390) New York Sep 23, 2004

    It's your trip, but my advice stands. I'd never do all that in the time you have. Westvleteren is in West Flanders, the opposite side of Belgium from Antwerp. All you'll be able to do there is sit in the cafe across from the abbey and drink their beer - which is worth it, I guess. It's winter, so biking out from Poperinge isn't an option. You'll need a car and getting to the area and dealing with everything is going to eat up much time. There's much more to Antwerp than Kulminator. I've always been much more interested in experiencing Belgian beer culture and meeting people than visiting all the big ticket places like Orval. I've certainly done that too, but I'd rather mix with Belgians in good beer cafes that are off the tourist radar anytime.

    How long were you in Slovenia? I've been there many times and love it. It's the unknown gem of Europe. Hope you had a chance to explore it. Going back to see friends this summer as part of a larger trip.
  25. Goosey

    Goosey Aficionado (240) Missouri Jan 18, 2012

    I'll actually be studying abroad in Lujubljana for most of July, so this will be a summer trip, and Belgium is just an extended weekend trip that I am taking. I've never been to Europe before, but my Prof, Dr. Nowak helped set up the current Slovenian economy. I am also going to Munich and Frieburg on another weekend. Ok so based on you guy's advice, I guess that I am definately flying into and staying in Brussels on Wed, and will spend the better part of that day chillin in Cantillon. The rest of my trip I am open to any suggestions, but keep in mind I do want to see a lot of places, would love to use all public transportation, I know places are closed on random days up there, and I have plenty of energy for travel and have no problem with little sleep. So here are my musts: Kulminator at least one trappist brewery, preferably Orval, but Chimay and Westvleteren are certainly options, and at least one other brewery like Struise or De Dolle ect... Wants in order of most to least: Struise, DeProef, Fantome, Achouffe, and De Dolle. Suggestions? I am currently considering taking the train to Antwerpen on Thursday, taking a train to Ghent on Friday if there is one, and then I would need to find transportation to Florenville, Vleteren, or Chimay, and then transportation back to Brussels to fly out on Sunday. Thats a far cry from my original plan, but I do tend to be overly ambitious. Otherwise does that sound like a do-able route? Anything you would cut out or add in? Truth be told I would rather hit Struise than DeProef but I can't find any trains that run there, and I can't find any trains running to any of the trappist breweries. When I google maps these thing they don't seem far apart, but maybe google maps is skewing my perception. And thanks for all of your help and everyone else's help so far, it is very difficult planning out a trip to a foreign country, but I am a very organized, business-minded person, and like to have my trips well planned. OCD I believe it is called.
  26. Struise schoolhouse and Westvleteren are out in the middle of nowhere and public transportation isn't a reasonable option. I am the biggest Struise fan boy ever and I haven't even been out there for this reason. If you want to get down with some Struise my recommendation would be to plan a night in Brugge. They have a bottle shop right in the center of town and there are countless other great things to do in Brugge. You can also hag with Bart from Struise who works at the bottle shop. You can drink there and get bottles to go. The Brugge Bear is worth the trip to Brugge also.

    Westverlten doesn't get me fired up. I don't think you can get a tour or anything like that and tons of places have Westy's bottles these days. I would skip that personally.
    Goosey and Tut like this.
  27. Also if you are a beer geek and food I would highly recommend this place:
    http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/26992/view=beerfly
    Amazing seafood pared with awesome beers. Christophe and Stephanie are not messing around. It's a 15 minute train ride from Brugge and Oostend is a pretty sweet coastal town worth checking out.
    Tut and doopiedoopiedoo like this.
  28. DStoked

    DStoked Savant (320) Ohio Sep 28, 2011

    I'll throw myself into this fray, as I'm planning a beer trip to Belgium May 8-15. A few days in Brussels, and day in Amsterdam to visit a friend, and some combination of Brugge, Antwerp, and Westvleteren.

    Any local BAs that want to meet up and drink and/or do an IP trade let me know. Can't wait!
  29. Tut

    Tut Savant (390) New York Sep 23, 2004

    I think you're making a real mistake if you are only going to be in Brussels on Wed. and plan on spending most of it at Cantillon. I'd agree with tendermorsel's suggestion if you had several days, but not with just part of a day. By the time you actually get out on the streets, it will likely be well into the afternoon. If you can't spend a second day there, at least do more than Cantillon. I would suggest having a look at the Grand Place afterward and then going to Restobieres for an amazing dinner paired with great beers. Afterward, walk a few blocks to Brocante and enjoy some of their lambics in a cool neighborhood that is virtually tourist free. Brocante is an excellent beer cafe.

    Don't shortchange Brussels.
    Goosey likes this.
  30. Meh... Not a huge fan of Brussels. Personally I prefer the Flemish part of Belgium vs. the French. Brussels is a big bustling city. Yes it is the home of Lambic but if I only had a couple of days in Belgium I would spend them in Antwerp Ghent or Brugge before Brussels. To each his own I guess. I usually take the Eurostar from London to Brussels and Cantillon is 5 minutes from there and Modern Lambic is 15 minutes from there so I typically hit those two up and then double back to the train station to head elsewhere. Could just be me though too.
  31. Tut

    Tut Savant (390) New York Sep 23, 2004

    New York City, Boston, Vienna, Munich, and London are all big, bustling cities too - and they're full of energy, culture, and great things to see and do. I like the smaller Belgian cities you list as well as little villages with only a couple cafes, etc. I like them all equally, but for different reasons. Brussels has much to offer. I've spent over three months there since 1998, and still discover new things each time I visit. I don't neglect the rest of Belgium either.

    Maybe you should explore Brussels more next time. Check out the places and areas I listed, if you haven't already.
    tendermorsel likes this.

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