Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Back From Europe...and full of beer!

I'm back on Canadian soil after spending two great weeks in Europe, making stops in Amsterdam, Belgium and Paris.

My wife and I departed Toronto on October 2nd for our first trip across the Atlantic and things didn't start off on the right foot. Flying over Newfoundland & Labrador it was announced that the plane would be turning around and heading back to Montreal due to issues with the right engine. Three and a half hours later we were back in the air to Amsterdam.

We spent three days touring the canals, sitting in cafe's along the canal edge, tasting beer from the local Brouwerij 't IJ, taking part in the Heineken Experience, browsing through the wonderful Cracked Kettle beer shop, and visiting the museum's and historical properties. It was a fun filled, albeit packed, three days. Then it was off to Bruges.

After settling in to our hotel room at the beer-centric, Hotel Erasmus, we strolled over to the famous Markt to get a glimpse of the wonderful old buildings. Cobblestone roads, horse and buggies, chocolate shops and  small cafes all line the Markt and make for some interesting people watching.

When the clock struck 4pm we found the small alleyway that is home to 't Brugs Beertje. We found Daisy (the owner) behind the bar pouring beers for a number of American's and locals alike. We found a table and settled in for a long session, which included a in-depth conversation with Johan Brandt, owner and brewer of the Brouwerij Smisje, and Daisy herself. After saying our goodbye's we staggered off to Cambrinus before heading back to hotel for a nightcap that included numerous glasses of 2008 Orval at the hotel bar. The next morning I interviewed Daisy for the winter issue of TAPS and I found her love of good beer has truly shaped her path in life. She is an exception woman, and one hell of a publican.

We visited a number of other brasserie's in Bruges over the next two days, including a great visit to De Halve Maan brewery and a number of bottle shops, and loved every minute of it. I would go back in a heartbeat! Unfortunately we had a train to catch to Mechelen.

20 minutes after getting off the train we were standing in the lobby of the famous Het Anker Brewery Hotel. This historic brewery consumes a huge lot on the corner off a busy street and is home to the brewery, a hotel, brewery offices and as of two weeks ago - a brand new brewery restaurant with a great retail store. We had some lunch and I made my way through a number of their products before heading out to see the old town.

The next day my wife and I were led on a personal tour of the grounds. The history surrounding the brewery is astounding and they've done a great job to preserve it. Throughout the grounds you can see old equipment, bottles, the malt house, the cooper cooling tank on the roof of the brewery, the secure part of the brewery that houses the valuable Scotch barrels (under lock and key), and images of year's past. For two hours we climbed steep stairs, poked our heads into the brewing tanks, spoke with the brewing staff and heard the interesting history behind the names of each beer.

We finished the tour, had lunch, then headed off to climb the highest tower in Mechelen before catching another train to Brussels.

Our hotel, Metropole, was magnificent. I would recommend it to anyone planning a visit to Brussels. We made sure to visit during the weekend when the prices of hotels are significantly cheaper (from 400 euros during the week to 115 on weekends!).

We did a lot during our three days in Brussels. We visited the Brewer's MuseumDelirium Cafe (which I was disappointed in), a la Becasse (lambic pub - lambic served in ceramic jugs), a la Mort SubiteBeer Planet, and Cantillon.

Cantillon was something that will be remembered for years. Jean Van Roy was there to chat with me over some of his beer and the place was busy with tourists taking tours. The brewery is a special place, almost out of place in the bustling Brussels. The city grew up and built itself around the old brewery.

On our last night in Brussels, before heading off to Paris, we found a great establishment off a busy street, tucked away down a dim light alleyway called Au Bon Vieux Temps - I didn't want to leave. The building dates back to 1695 and it feels as though you're drinking in the basement of a church, with the stained glass windows on each side of the place. Locals and tourists drinking together in harmony!

Here are some pictures from the trip. I'll eventually get to posting more in-depth profiles of some of the places visited in the upcoming weeks.

Deus at 2BE

't Brugs Beertje

Old Bottles at Het Anker in Mechelen


1 comment:

Ilya Feynberg said...


Is it ok if I tell you how incredibly envious I am of you for being able to make it Bruge?!?! ;)

I'm in love with that city and I've never even been there yet. I think it should be declared a Mecca for beer lovers everywhere. Between the medieval history and the beer...well it's just incredible. That picture of the street for example...I stared out for a few minutes. I get lost in thought at times with that city between the history, the beer and the amazing places to drink it at. :)

Wonderful post, thank you!


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