Brussels and Antwerp -- A place to sample many different beers?
I'm going to be in Brussels and Antwerp from next week and with thousands of beers to chose from, I need an option to sample the lot. There are many places in Europe to sample wines by the glass or to do tastings. Is there such a service in Belgium? If so, can someone tell me where?
Delirium Cafe is an absolute must. Their beer list is the size of a book. Cool place also.
Also, the Cantillon Brewery was kind of gross...no offense or anything, it was very interesting to see and very old (I think it's the oldest brewery in Belgium?), but the beer is too sour to enjoy. I went to De Halve Maan Brewery in Bruges and was very happy with that experience. Bruges is a short train ride from Brussels and I just did a day trip.
To each their own. Cantillon is considered the very best example of the lambic style, and it is not uncommon for their beers to fetch insane prices in the US. It might be too sour *for you* but that would simply mean that you have not developed an appreciation for lambics and gueuze.
No, that's not what it means at all. They make a point to tell people that they make their beers in a very traditional way and that it is too sour for most people. They were right. It was too sour for me. That isn't how most lambics taste, from what I've discovered. Cantillon is not the "best" example, but it is the oldest and most traditional example.
I'm sorry but you are wrong; Cantillon IS widely regarded as the best example of the lambic style. Check for example beeradvocate.com (http://beeradvocate.com/lists/popular) - there are 6 lambics in the top100 and 4 of those 6 are from Cantillon. Being from Belgium I can also assure you that their reputation in Belgium far surpasses that of Oud Beersel, Drie Fonteinen, De Ranke, Boon, Lindemans, and Belle-Vue. Yes I'm sure that they stated it would be too sour for most people who are not used to the taste of real lambics. Most Americans, for example, think that lambics are supposed to taste like Lindemans, because they have the best distribution in the US. But Lindemans sweetens their Lambics (Cuvee Rene being the exception), effectively ruining the taste. That is not how lambics are supposed to taste. Cantillon's lambics are not more sour than any of the other quality producers such as Oud Beersel or Drie Fonteinen, by the way.
Sorry, but you not licking Cantillon's lambics does not mean that they are not the best example of the style, but rather says something about your level of expertise in the style.
Also check out ratebeer.com's listing for best lambics. 8 of the top 10 are from Cantillon.
And it looks like the wine & beer expert tasting panel of the New York Times also disagrees with you, giving Cantillon the top ranking for both Gueuze and fruit lambics:
I'm an American living in Brussels for 3.5 years now. I definitely agree with all of the Brussels recommendations listed by od_sf. Those are the places with the biggest selections, I can also add Bier Circus, near Madou metro stop. They have very helpful staff who are happy to help you pick a beer if you tell them what you fancy (bonus that they have a menu of dishes cooked with beers, if you're hungry). Delerium is best on a Sunday or weekday afternoon or evening as it tends to get very "frat-tastic" on Friday and Saturday nights and the bartenders are just too busy to give you any advice.
Most small cafes and restaurants (Ultimate Atome excepted) only offer a couple of different beers (usually Maes or Jupiler, both of which are like the Miller of Belgium, or maybe Grimbergen or Leffe, which are good, if from big brewers).
For Antwerp, I agree with Kulminator, though it was closed on a recent Saturday when friends and I took a bar trek in Antwerp. Here are some other places we visited (bonus of a jenever bar if you need a break from beer):
't Oud Arsenaal: Maria Pijpelincxstraat 4. 2000 Antwerpen.
Small, dark and cosy
Het pakhuis : Vlaamse Kaai 76, 2000 Antwerpen. (http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&q=antwerp%20Het%20pakhuis%20vlaamsekaai%2076&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wl):):
This is a brewery pub, a 30 minute walk from the center
Stamineeke : Vlasmarkt 23, Antwerp
Stamineeke is the one true specialist beer café. It's a two-storey affair, in another 17th century house in the Antwerp style.. This bar has Westvleteren a hard to find sixth trappist beer
Not beer, but jenever (Belgian gin drink): De Vagant: Reyndersstraat 25, Antwerp
http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&q=De%20Vagant%20antwerp&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wl): • This is (alledgely) one of the best jenever bars in the world
De grote witte arend: Reyndersstraat 18, 2000 Antwerpen
Good atmostphere, courtyard, they have their own chapel – make of that what you will
Pater's Vaetje: Blauwmoezelstraat 1, 2000 Antwerpen.
A rather pretty drinking venue right next to the cathedral.• http://www.patersvaetje.be/bieren
Kulminator : was closed when we tried to visit on a Saturday night in June
Vleminckveld 32, 2000 Antwerpen
This is the local beer institution of Antwerp and has approximately 700 beers on offer.
You can't go wrong ordering almost any beer in Belgium, they're all FANTASTIC!
Here is a list of good beer pubs in Brussels. No idea about Antwerpen though.
Impasse De La Fidélité 4 A
Chez Moeder Lambic
Place Fontainas 8
6 Impasse Schuddevelde
A La Mort Subite
rue Montagne-aux-Herbes Potagères 7
Rue des Chapeliers 9
Au Bon Vieux Temps
Impasse St.Nicholas 4,off Rue Marché Aux Herbes 12
L' Ultime Atome
14 Rue St. Boniface
Brussels (Ixelles), 1050
Exactly right, most beers by far in Belgium are in the bottle, as most undergo a second fermentation in the bottle. So, you'll see draft in a few places (and Delirium has the most taps I've ever seen in Belgium (bottom floor (basement) in Delirium is bottles, ground floor is taps, and top floor is apparently non-Belgian beers). But most places serve in bottles because the of the fermentation process.