Beers of Belgium

It’s a fairytale fucking town, isn’t it? How can a fairytale town not be somebody’s fucking thing?

Harry, In Bruges

Bruges is, indeed, very pretty, though I have yet to see any swans. I have been blessed with the chance to drink plenty of beers, though, so I can’t complain.

I started my tasting journey at the 2be beer wall, a necessary stop for any beer tourists. It’s not literally a wall constructed from beer cans, much to my disappointment, but it’s pretty interesting looking along the rows of bottles and spotting which I’ve seen before and which I’d like to try.

It’s been a while since I last did the Chimay tricolore challenge…

I opted for the tasting flight of local beers, which came with a few snacks: some salty cracker things with nuts, a handful of chorizo bites, and a slice of hard cheese wrapped in plastic. None was especially inspiring – I’d have preferred one good morsel to three mediocre snacks, but it was a nice thought.

Clockwise from bottom left: Witbier, Bourgogne des Flandres, Brugse Zot Blond, Viven Master IPA

Brugs, Witbier 4.8%

First on the menu was a wheat beer from the unimaginatively named local brewery Brugs. As you’d expect from witbeer, it’s pale golden in colour and cloudy, with a thick, persistent head. Orange, coriander seed and pepper all come through on the nose, with a hint of warming allspice.

It’s all feeling fine so far, until the beer hits the tongue. It tastes flat and watery, like Orangina when you forget to shake the bottle. There’s a suggestion of orange, but that’s soon displaced by a flourish of soapy bergamot coating the tongue to finish.

This beer tastes like it’s been watered down. Perhaps it might have been a tasty beer at full strength, but as served here it’s disappointing. 1/5

Timmermans, Bourgogne des Flandres 5.0%

This beer claims to be “the real taste of Bruges”. Given my experience of the city so far, that’s not necessarily a good thing. It certainly looks pretty, but the central square smells mostly of horseshit and exhaust fumes: not what I’m looking for in a beer (usually).

BdF is a dark, ruby brown with a thin, cream-coloured head. Now that I’m smelling it I understand what the tasting notes mean by “esteraroma”: without that steer I’d describe it as sweet, fruity furniture polish.

There’s a hint of sourness on the tongue, with raspberries and an oaky, malty roundness. That berry fruit flavour lingers on the finish, but so does a sugary sweetness. It almost tastes like this beer hasn’t finished conditioning.

It’s growing on me, and the light, fruity sourness certainly isn’t unpleasant. I won’t be rushing back for another though. 2/5

Brugse Zot Blond 6.5%

Allegedly this beer is named after an incident in 15th century Belgium, when the people of Bruges asked King Maximillian permission to build a mental hospital. His response? He told them to shut the city gates, since Bruges was already filled with fools.

King Max the Savage

Brugse Zot is golden and perfectly clear. It smells like a lager, with hints of buttered sweetcorn. It’s rounded and aromatic on the palate: pears and pot pourri, and buttery smooth. The finish is sticky sweet, coating the tongue.

It’s certainly not a bad beer, and it’s easy to see why there’s taps serving it all over the city. I’m sure there’s better beers available, but as a staple, this is a decent shout. 3/5

Viven Master IPA 7.0%

A cloudy amber IPA with a thick, lingering head, the Viven Master is surprisingly well-hopped compared to anything I’ve tasted in Belgium so far. The nose begins with dry peach, complemented by powerful, bitter grapefruit rind on the palate.

I’m waiting for the promised tropical fruit to show up and there’s just…nothing. That dry, bitter grapefruit rind persists alone for the finish. It’s not a bad beer: it’s just not terribly good either. 2/5

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