DAY 1 – Brussels

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BOTD* – Bier Circus 20th Anniversary blond triple, Bier Circus

Let’s face it, my inability to plan anything for this trip that didn’t involve beer or food, plus an inherent optimism in my poor map reading skills was always going to mean I would end up walking the streets of Brussels completely lost for the first couple of hours in the Belgium capital.

Once I had actually found the hotel, I dropped my bags off and headed straight for the centre to get my bearings. As is always the way, my panic to ensure I make the right decision in what I want to quench my thirst or satisfy my hunger with, results in me making rash decisions. On this occasion the choice lead me straight to a lovely quaint little bar in one of the side streets off the Markt, where I sat outside in the sun with a trusty Rochfort 8. I was later told by a very overly friendly Belgian gentleman who offered to buy me a drink, that the establishment I had made myself at home in was in fact a gay pub – I had wondered why they made me feel so at home.

I declined the drink and went in search of the Delirium Village – a must-see Brussels beer spot comprising of 8 separate bars all with their own quirky specialities – but it was a Friday, it was 20+ degrees and my tourist compatriots were out in force. I could barely move down the winding side streets, never mind get ‘in my map’ to find out where the main taphouse was. Somehow I managed to at least find the cafe which, despite its small size, had a huge selection of beers. I had a Rodenbach Grand Cru, a rich, very fruity beer with a distinguished sour finish and a dryness reminiscent of cranberry juice. Pouring a deep mahogany red, it had  a hidden spice to it not often seen in many sours.

At this point I thought the place was interesting and the beer excellent, but ultimately it felt a little too quiet and uninspiring for it to warrant the hype, which meant I had my suspicions whether I was in fact in the right place. Tomorrow I would find out that my inclination had been correct.

I headed out of the main square and indulged in my first Belgian ‘Frites’ of the trip – Basically just over-hyped chips smothered in mayo and ketchup. I was to have much better during the course of my time in the country. I was now aiming for the Bier Circus, a specialist beer bar nestled in between the Markt and my hotel which I had read amazing things about. It had only just opened for the evening shift so it was fairly quiet and it most certainly didn’t deliver on the ‘circus’ atmosphere I was expecting.

It’s a fairly clinical looking bar with a much more modern feel compared to a lot of the other places I had already seen, mainly because it was actually light enough that I didn’t have to read the menu by candlelight. Despite the lacking ambiance, the beer menu was extensive. I plumped for something on one of the boards, their own 20th anniversary brew – a blonde triple, ridiculously refreshing with hoppy hints of an IPA but fuller in body than the likes of La Chouffe, which is on tap in pretty much every bar and restaurant.

The place had a terrific food menu too, with most of the dishes comprising of beer oriented recipes. Spag Bol cooked with Chimay Blue and an apple, raisin and Orval cheese meatloaf both tempted me, but after stuffing my face on very average frites I headed for the cheeseboard.

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I went for their signature trio – Cheese Moinette with malt and hop, cheese with Saison Dupont and old Moinette, served with plenty of bread – and I opted for a Moinette blonde on the side for good measure.

After binging on beer and cheese I headed up to the Witloof Bar in the nearby Botanique where I was due to see Stu Larsen. Not your stereotypical UK gig venue – it was in the basement of a huge old arboretum building overlooking the beautiful grounds – but what set it apart from all other venues back in England was that you could purchase a bottle of Westmalle Triple for 3 euros. I really couldn’t have been further from the £4.50 pints of Carlsberg I’m forced to drink at many a show back in the UK.

 

*Beer of the Day, the beer I enjoyed most from each day of my trip, fairly self explanatory really.

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