Ratings Key (0-10)
A: Choice and/or quality of drinks
B: Style and décor
C: Atmosphere and feel
D: Amenities, Events & Community
E: Value for money
F: The Pub Going Factor
Bars marked with (*) will take you to our full profile write-up!
|t’Brugse Beertje *||Bruges||10||10||10||7||6||10|
|Café Rose Red||Bruges||8||8||8||6||5||8|
|Goupil Le Fol||Brussels||8||10||10||7||7||10|
|La Porte Noire||Brussels||8||7||8||6||6||8|
|A La Becasse||Brussels||8||8||8||5||6||8|
|A L’Imaige Nostre Dame||Brussels||7||8||9||7||6||9|
|A La Mort Subite *||Brussels||7||9||8||5||4||8|
|Moeder Lambic (Centre)||Brussels||7||9||8||5||4||8|
|La Fleur en Papier Dore||Brussels||6||10||9||6||4||9|
|Au Bon Vieux Temps||Brussels||6||9||8||5||4||8|
|Au Daringman *||Brussels||5||9||10||7||6||9|
|Café Den Turk *||Ghent||8||8||8||6||6||8|
|Pot Au Lait||Liege||8||10||10||7||7||10|
|Taverne St Paul||Liege||8||9||10||7||6||9|
Let me count the ways. Belgium maintains a centuries-old love affair with beer and brewing, meaning you have among the highest concentrations of good breweries anywhere in the world. Not only that, but a huge proportion are independent and brewing beer to an exceptionally high standard.
Unsurprisingly, with all this beer around people need somewhere to drink them in.
Although Belgium has arguably the finest tasting beer on Earth, its pub scene is more erratic.Brussels itself contains dozens of terrific bars right in the centre, and that shouldn’t be understated – the density of truly fantastic bars is a match for anywhere in Europe.
Traditionally, Belgium has gone in for ‘brown cafés’, very no-nonsense local bars with wooden furniture and some beer ephemera on the walls. Often these places would have no music playing (not all day anyway) and just be about drinking, smoking, reading a paper and talking. Brown cafés may be a Flemish/Dutch creation but the concept of a room with chairs featuring beer is hardly a novel one, and you will find the same sort of thing all over the country.
The modern pub scene allows any owner to dip into periods in history for inspiration, and Belgium has an advantage too, being so cross-cultural. You can find spinoffs of brown cafés, jazz-themed bars, art nouveau style, Gothic, Hanseatic era, or just a place where someone has become obsessed with collecting marionettes. Characterful drinking venues are in abundance.
Outside of Brussels, the fun continues, though not to the same extent. Bruges has a strong but perhaps overstated reputation for beer and bars, though there are still half a dozen bars of genuine note, and two central breweries, De Halve Maan and Fort Lapin, a growing and terrific small brewery on the ring road. Leuven has a formidable reputation for nightlife with the Oude Market being one of those places claiming to have the largest density of bars in one area. However, in terms of the places themselves, these are more day-to-day places, not special, and few feature on here. Ghent is another sizeable city brewing its own unique style of beer, and has a cluster of bars by the waterfront that make for a very very atmospheric night out.
You will need to pace yourself, as blonde beer generally starts at 6% and upwards, dubbels 7% and upwards, tripels at 8% and upwards and quadrupels 9% and upwards. However, you’d be surprised once you get through a few just how strong your fortitude is!
Going out in Belgium drinking the finest beer will give you that warm golden glow of merriment and satisfaction that makes it all worthwhile.