Food & Drink

The best breweries in Belgium

Holidays are the perfect time to try something completely new. It’s time to put your taste buds to the test and find your new favourite Belgian beer.

What makes Belgium beer so special is the diversity. Belgium only brew 1% of the world's beer (in fact, the state of Oregon has more breweries than in the whole of Belgium), but that 1% features some of the most unique flavours you can find in the world.

Belgian breweries are known for their fruit beers, but there are also darker, more robust beers available. Find your favourite at any of the breweries in our handy guide.

A side note for designated drivers, but an important one, you will have to forgo the beers.  Belgium is stricter than the UK, allowing 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood, instead of 0.8.

A room with chequered tile flooring containing large copper metal drums for brewing beer inside

The history of Belgium’s breweries

As well as a long history of making delicious chocolates, Belgium’s brewing abilities reach as far back as the 11th century, long before it even became an independent country. Brewing beer was a good way to make money and people drank more of it as water was not particularly sanitary.

The first recorded sale of beer (a brown beer) was on 1st June 1861, but the most popular today are Trappist and Abbey beers. The first brewery of its kind, Trappist beer at Westmalle started production in 1836, brewing dark and sweet beer exclusively for monks as this type of beer is brewed in Trappist monasteries under strict specifications. Abbey beers are defined as any monastic or monastic-style beer, with far more relaxed brewing rules.

The best breweries in Brussels

Head to the capital to sample, not only some of the best Belgian cuisine, but Lambic, a beer brewed in Brussels since the 13th century!

Cantillon Brewery and the Brussels Museum of the Gueuze

This is a family-run brewery where Lambic is brewed and nothing has changed since 1900. The Van Roy-Cantillon family welcomes visitors with tours that include tools, machines, and manufacturing processes from the brewery’s creation to present day.

Enjoy tasting an authentic traditional Gueuze-Lambic, and if you want to know a little more about the other Kriek and Framboise, the Master Brewer here is exceptionally well-versed in their history.

The non-profit museum attached to this brewery was created in 1978 to make sure the Cantillon Brewery and its history would be preserved well into the future. It offers tours and exhibitions year-round.

Brussels Beer Project

Spend your visit sampling the plethora of craft beers on offer at Brussels Beer Project, the first brewery to make a beer from unsold bread called Babylone. This ‘bread bitter’ is brewed with recycled bread and dry-hopped with Chinook, inspiring Toast Ale to be brewed in London by like-minded individuals keen on cutting out food waste. Since 2013 this brewery has been breathing new life into the traditional beer scene by creating bold collaborative beers including the local community, letting them choose from prototypes to add to the core range.

En Stoemelings

En Stoemelings means ‘on the sly’, doing something in secret. The founders Denys Van Elewyck and Sam Languy chose the name as they began in a small kitchen within a basement, a great cooler for the beer. Even the bottles have a curious story behind them, made from business cards that Denys and Elewyck over ordered so needed to make use of! They brew a tasty Tripel-style brew called Curieuse Neus (the Nosy Kid), which has become a signature offering but don't miss its quirky IPAs and porters.

The breweries of Ghent

With hundreds of bars, shops, and tasting venues, Ghent is the perfect place for beer lovers.

Ghent Gruut Brewery

This is possibly the best-know city brewery, where herbs are used instead of hops to create unique beers. There are five variations to try: Gentse Gruut White, Blond, Amber, Bruin, and Inferno. A special beer is also brewed every few months with some surprising ingredients which have previously included mango, lime, and chilli pepper!

Dok Brewing Company

Thriving on experimentation, Dok Brewing Company is a microbrewery to the north of the city centre. Only producing keg or tap-tank beers, Dok sources its supplies from other quality microbreweries, so the beers here are on the rarer side. You can also grab a bite to eat during your visit as the brewery shares its premises with a pizza restaurant, bistro, and patisserie.

A wooden tray on a table with eight different glasses of beer on it in shades of yellow and brown

The breweries of Bruges

Bruges is a gorgeous place to visit at any time of year, with some exceptional breweries to boot. We can also recommend a stop off in Poperinge en route as the surrounding fields supply 80% of all the hops used in Belgian beer and the town itself is home to the national Hops Museum.

Brewery Bourgogne des Flandres

Offering ‘a genuine taste of Bruges’ Brewery Bourgogne des Flandres stands in the heart of Bruges and is often highlighted on the canal boat trips. In keeping with the ancient Flemish tradition, it blends a young, dark, top-fermented beer with a mature lambic from Timmermans Brewery. Surrounded by the smell of malt and freshly picked hops, you can watch the brewing process before you indulge in a tasting session.

De Halve Maan brewery

This is one of Bruges last family-owned breweries, operating since 1856. Its tour is a fascinating insight into the brewing process and history of the site, as well as stunning views of the city as you climb to the rooftop. The Half Moon produces the famous Brugse Zot (Bruges Fools) and Straffe Hendrik, which averages around 14 percent alcohol, plus you can enjoy delicious food at the onsite restaurant.

Fort Lapin microbrewery

Just outside the centre of Bruges lies Brewery Fort Lapin an artisanal brewery boasting eight different beers including a herbal beer and chocolate stout. After enjoying a tour (in  Dutch, French or English) you can taste the house beer, which is proudly labelled ‘Belgian hops beer’ and follows a homemade recipe. Despite being a relatively young brewery, started in 2011, its head brewer Kristof Vandenbussche has been experimenting and creating beers for many years.

A large church lined with carved archways and ornate floor patterning carved wooden benches for seating reach far into the back where a mass is being held

Other breweries to consider

Once you have ventured the breweries above, don’t panic, there’s plenty more. We recommend adding any of the following to your trip’s itinerary.

Rodenbach Brewery, Roeselare

A brewery tour is not all about the sampling of the vast array of beers on offer, it's about the secrets that go into creating the dark, amber liquid that makes the tour so interesting. On the tour of the Rodenbach brewery, you will discover why aging their Flemish reds in barrels is so important to its flavour. The tour is about two hours long, so expect to be a Rodenbach expert by the end of it.

Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles, Habay

From a historical brewery, rich with history, to a modern microbrewery, Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles is based in an old farm and creates beers in open fermenters, so they become more flavoursome. One of the signature beers, La Rulles Triple, is infused with herbs, spices, and ginger, in keeping with Belgium's fame for uniquely flavoured beers.

As it's a microbrewery, the kettles and rest of the kit is in keeping with its name; they're smaller and neater. But don't let that fool you into thinking it's not as interesting to see, the open fermentation process is unique, and the intimate feel means you'll have a more personal experience than on a larger tour.

Rochefort Brewery

Sometimes when you try a beer, you can almost taste the history in it, this is one of the reasons why Rochefort beers are exploding with flavour. The abbey where the brewery stands has been there since the 13th century and has had more than its fair share of hardship, being destroyed and confiscated throughout its history.

The monks started brewing beer here in the 16th century, but due to its tumultuous history, it was only during the 1950s they were able to brew without difficulty, they added Rochefort 8 and Rochefort 10, stronger versions of the original Rochefort 6. Their beers use water from the Tridaine spring, which they are fighting to protect, as it is integral to its taste.

Unsurprisingly, the brewery has been described as the most beautiful in Belgium, thanks to its copper domed kettles, stunning scenery, and historical backdrop.

Trappist beer at Westmalle

The Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Heart of Westmalle was founded in 1794 by a community of monks who are known as Trappists. As part of their life of work and prayer, they brew beers, Extra, Dubbel, and Tripel, using the purest ingredients and strict brewing processes. A Trappist beer must meet the criteria of the International Trappist Association (ITA) to carry the name. Although the monks are no longer directly involved with the brewing process, they oversee it and the revenue is used to fund life in the abbey, help charity, social projects, and people in need. This stunning place is well-worth a visit and if beer isn’t your thing, there’s also cheesemaking here too.

Explore the breweries of Belgium with LeShuttle

Is your mouth salivating at the thought of raising a glass of Belgium's finest? As it's only 35 minutes from Folkestone to Calais, you can enjoy a cold, refreshing beer in no time. To make your journey even sweeter, book your tickets with us early to get the best price.

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Explore the breweries of Belgium with LeShuttle

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