Fancy a Belgian Brewery Tour?
With our list, you won’t need a group to go
By Melissa Maki
Beer tourism has become an important industry in Belgium, but not just because of the tasty brews. With beer being a source of national pride, you’ll find a Belgian beer café on just about every corner in larger cities and small villages either have their own brewery or contract-brewed, town beer. You can even find beer in vending machines!
A number of companies specialize in Belgian beer-centered travel and book group brewery tours. But for those who prefer not to travel in a large group (and don’t speak Flemish or French) it’s difficult to find breweries that offer tours. We’ve compiled a short list of breweries for solo travelers. These breweries are unique in that they allow individuals and small groups to tour their facilities and feature tours and/or information in English.
De Dolle Brouwerij is a considered a “hobby brewery” since they only brew on the weekends. But don’t let that fool you—they produce some serious beer and are well respected around the world. Brewer Kris Herteleer is well-versed in Belgian beer history and prides himself on being one of the only breweries in Belgium still brewing with the traditional copper equipment and using whole hops rather than pellets or extracts. He’s a colorful fellow and is usually on hand and ready to chat up fellow beer lovers.
Smaller groups or individuals are welcome to tour the brewery on Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. The guided tour takes about an hour, costs € 4,50, and includes a beer. If you are lucky, the brewer’s nonagenarian mother might be your tour guide. She regales visitors with jokes and anecdotes about beer and its health benefits.
De Dolle is located in the village of Esen, which doesn’t have a train station, but don’t let that stop you from visiting this fine brewery. It is possible to get to the brewery with public transportation if you are willing to walk a few kilometers. Take the train to Diksmuide. Then take a left out of the train station and head down Bortierlaan. Take a left on Maria Doolaeghestraat (N35), which becomes Esenweg and will take you all the way to De Dolle (Esenweg becomes Roeselarestraat). If you walk, it takes about 40 minutes. Just be careful not to yourself so much that you miss the last train out of Disksmuide!
De Dolle Brouwerij
Roeselarestraat 12B, Esen
Cantillon doubles as both an operational brewery and the Brussels Gueuze Museum. As such, it is a terrific starting point for those curious about the history of lambic brewing. Lambic is a very traditional Belgian beer style that originates in the Senne Valley (which includes Brussels) and Pajottenland. It gets its distinct character from spontaneous fermentation via the specific microorganisms that are abundant in this particular region. This is a sour, acidic and dry beer. Due to its complexity and character, lambic is often compared to fine wine.
Cantillon is the only brewery in Brussels and one of only ten traditional lambic breweries in Belgium (and in the world). A walk through the brewery and museum is a bit like travelling back in time. Old photos and antique furniture decorate the tasting area, and tables are fashioned from old, wooden barrels. Much of the brewery’s equipment dates back to the 19th century.
Individuals can visit the brewery every day of the week, except Sundays, for self-guided tours of the brewery and museum. In addition, you can also download a PDF file from the Cantillon website that features a historical walking tour of Brussels, ending at the brewery. The tour fee is €6 and includes a glass of beer. If you happen to visit from October-March, you may even get a chance to see the brewing process.
Gheudestraat 56, Brussels
De Halve Maan is a large brewery in Bruges that has been run by the Maes family for six generations. As the only brewery in Bruges, a popular tourist destination, the Halve Maan is typically a busy place. While it doesn’t lend itself to the same kind of intimate interactions as Cantillon or De Dolle, it does feature interesting tours with knowledgeable guides, as well as a full service restaurant.
De Halve Maan is a modern brewery, but it retains a museum of brewery equipment and memorabilia. On tours, visitors have a chance to see high-tech brewing equipment alongside traditional copper kettles. Tours also include historical information and an explanation of the brewing process. Visitors are treated to a stunning panorama view of the city as the tour culminates on the brewery’s roof. Tours are conducted every day of the week, on the hour (visit their website for hours), they take about 45 minutes, cost €7 and include a beer.
Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan
Walplein 26, Bruges
While in Bruges
Bruges features an abundance of cafés to delight beer lovers. Staminee De Garre is one of them. It’s barely off the beaten path, just steps from Bruges’ touristy market square. But it’s tucked down the city’s narrowest alley, so if you blink you might miss it. Their house beer, the “Tripel van de Garre” is brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge (makers of Augustijn and Piraat) but you can only drink it here. The beer rates high among beer enthusiasts and has a sweet, malty flavour and creamy head that sticks with the beer until the last drop. It’s a surprisingly smooth beer considering the fact that its alcohol content is 11 percent.
Staminee De Garre
De Garre 1 (off Breydelstraat)