Brussels & the Pajottenland
- May 2019:
- Tue May 21 – Wed May 22
- September 2019:
- Fri Sep 13 – Sat Sep 14
- 2 days for approx. $625 (actual price 550 Euros)
- current conversion to US $
Likely breweries, visits, tours, and meals:
De La Senne, 3 Fonteinen Brewery & Restaurant, Cantillon, Oud Beersel, La Brocante, Restobières, La Tana, A La Mort Subite, and more!
Discount available to Cicerones® and Certified Beer Servers, too! Info at bottom of this page.
Brussels’ Hidden Gems
Brussels is a beautiful city full of historic and modern architecture, comic murals, museums, cafés, and people obsessed with enjoyment of beer, wine, and food. The city has fierce pride in local Brussels culture, despite being the capital of Belgium and the headquarters of the European Union. Eating, drinking, laughter, and a bit of mischief are the orders of the day.
The city’s residents are called Brusselers, and depending on whom you talk to, they might share with you tips on their favorite cafe, brewery, bakery, and butcher shop — or else they’ll misdirect you to keep their places secret! Many visitors only scratch the surface of Brussels. The touristy areas are beautiful and lively, but I find the real Brussels – which can seem stand-offish to outsiders – is an incredible treasure of beer and food culture worth seeking, and I’d love to share it with you.
Modern Craft Beer, Medieval Sours, and Cuisine a la Bière
The food of Brussels is revelatory with its local beers. “Cuisine à la bière” is the Belgian idea that cooking and eating are incomplete without beer. And while steamed mussels, french fries, waffles, and chocolate truffles abound, the city’s cuisine is complex and hearty. It shows its medieval Burgundian roots while incorporating more recent influences from Italy, the Middle East, central Africa, and India. Brussels beer and food culture is a truly delicious discovery!
Special Beer Styles:
- Belgian Blond Ales: refreshing golden beers with aromas of orange, apricot, and clove, and surprisingly bold hoppiness
- Abbey Ales: elegant, high-alcohol beers full of fruit, spice, and mystery
- Lambic: sour wheat beers fermented in oak barrels, served at cellar-temperature without carbonation in ceramic, served at select bistros/cafés
- Oude Gueuze: blend of lambics aging in oak barrels for up to 3 years; sour, earthy, winey, austere and absolutely fantastic
- Oude Kriek, Oude Framboise: lambic aged in oak barrels with sour cherries, raspberries, or other fruits; boldly features the color and aroma of the fruit but not the sweetness
- Saison: crisp, straw-colored beers with hints of lemon, pepper, and earth, a balance of rustic and elegant at the same time
- plus: great local, boundary-pushing craft beers, too
- Moules Frites: mussels steamed in various beers like gueuze and hommelbier and served with fries; seasonally available usually September through March/April
- Carbonnades Flamandes: velvety beef braised in brown or sour red beers (called Stoofvlees in Flemish)
- Lapin aux Pruneaux: rabbit braised in gueuze lambic with prunes
- Foie Gras Terrine: fattened duck liver cooked with a hint of spices and aromatics; the ultimate indulgence
- Bloempanch: thick-sliced blood sausage with spices and lard cubes, served with mustard, applesauce, or potatoes, included in the Slow Food Ark of Taste
- Stoemp: pronounced “stoomp,” the best mashed potatoes you’ve ever had, thick mash with sweet leeks and other vegetables, often with a link of sausage and thick slab of bacon on top
- Glace au Spéculoos ice cream made with crushed speculoos cookies — spiced cookies that are sweet, crumbly, and addicting
- Tiramisu Bruxellois: with rum-coffee-soaked speculoos cookies instead of Italian ladyfingers
- Liège Waffle: thick, glutinous yeast dough studded with pearl sugar some of which caramelizes on the waffle’s exterior and some of which stays crystalline on the waffle’s interior
- Brussels Waffle: thin, quick-leavened or yeast dough, pours easily in to rectangular shape, unsweetened waffle that is piled high with fruit, powdered sugar, and whipped cream
Local Customs We’ll Join In On:
- drinking fresh, flat lambic from gravity pour into ceramic pitchers, the way this beer has been drunk for over 500 years
- enjoying Cuisine à la Bière: beer in the kitchen and at the table; food designed for beer pairing in mind, and often cooked with beer as an ingredient
- enjoying large-format, Champagne-style bottles of aged lambic to pair with your savory courses
- pairing dessert with a dessert beer
- visiting the rural Pajottenland and walking the trails from brewery to brewery
- popping into cafés and pubs crowded with locals enjoying pre-dinner beers
- walking the winding streets of Brussels, amidst medieval architecture flanked by comic-strip murals and tongue-in-cheek sculptures, with the scent of hot, burnt sugar waffles wafting on the breeze
Local Non-Beer Sights We’ll See:
- Grand-Place square, Musee de Bruxelles, City Hall, medieval Brewers Guild building
- Galleries Royales St. Hubert, Bourse, Porte de Hal old wall gate, soaring churches
- Brussels’ large medieval Old Town: called the Sacred Isle or “Îlot Sacré”
- Mannekin Pis (but only because there’s a great bar across the street)
- Senne River
Places I’ve Enjoyed Staying At:
- Hotel NH Collection Brussels Grand Sablon, Rue Bodenbroek 2, Brussels
- nice rooms and in-room modern bathrooms in a medium-sized, modern hotel, with elevators
- central location has a tradeoff: it can be noisy outside due to proximity to bars and occasional concerts in adjacent plaza
- located in the heart of the hip Grand Sablon neighborhood, between medieval Old Town and hip Marolles and Petit Sablon neighborhoods
- from hotel: 10-min walk to Brussels Central train station; 10-min walk to Grand-Place
- Résidence Les Écrins, Rue du Rouleau 17, Brussels
- small rooms with in-room bathrooms in a small hotel, with elevator
- located in hip, lively Sainte Cathérine neighborhood northwest of the Îlot Sacré, two blocks from restaurants, bars, and shopping
- from hotel: 15-min walk to Brussels Central train station; 10-min walk to the Grand-Place
- Another Option:
- Hilton Garden Inn Brussels Louise: good location between St. Gilles and Marolles neighborhoods, 15-min walk from Brussels South train station; outpost of American hotel chain; well-located for Beer Immersion meet-ups, but farther from tourist draws of Grand-Place and Îlot Sacré
10% discount for Cicerones® and Certified Beer Servers!
Hold a Cicerone® Certified Beer Server distinction or higher?
You’ll get 10% off your Immersion price!
Beer Immersions are the best way to study and learn about beer! Plus, participants receive a free Cicerone® Beer Journey tasting notebook and guide.
(Beer Immersions are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Cicerone® Certification Program.)
Rich Higgins Beer Immersions
Bozeman, MT, USA
Registered California Seller of Travel #2130300-40