Brussels, Beer and the BXLBeerFest

Eat and drink in Brussels when you’re not at the BXLBeerFest

Brauerei Kemker BXLBeerFest

Brussels–and Belgium for that matter–is virtually in my backyard. From my American perspective, I’ve driven almost the same distance in the US just to get to the airport to go somewhere as it takes for me to get to the likes of Belgium, the Netherlands or even the Czech Republic now. I take it for granted how I get to just pop into one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, you know, just for the weekend.

But I’m not taking Brussels for granted anymore.

The BXLBeerFest is what brought me to Brussels over this past weekend and it’s what will keep me coming back to this gorgeous city. The mission of the festival is to give Brussels its rightful place on the list of the best beer cities in the world. Well, to the organizers, volunteers, brewers and fellow festival-goers, I’d say: mission accomplished.

Here’s why:

The Festival

The BXLBeerFest put itself on the map and 2019’s dates are going in the calendar. The venue was very spacious which, even after it got busy, meant that there was still breathing room to walk around. That’s a great thing for families too because Wee Man had some space to run around without getting in the way and people with strollers weren’t thrashing other people’s ankles. Gold star.

Personal space aside, the quality of the breweries there was outstanding! Belgian breweries were the focus (I mean, we were in Belgium, after all…) but I made sure to hit up the French, Dutch and German breweries I was looking forward to trying. None of them disappointed and I am pleased to say that I can now add two French breweries to my rather short “French Breweries I Like” list.

Clean glasses, clean restrooms, short lines, lots of space and a super chill vibe where it really felt like you were hanging with about 2500 friends made the BXLBeerFest my new favorite festival on the continent. Looking forward to next year!

And the (totally useless but it makes me feel good to say it) awards for my favorite beers of the fest go to…

Citra DIPA

Brauerei J. Kemker

Brouwerij t’Verzet
Porters Provision
(East Flemish Oud Bruin)

The Pubs

Le Poechenellekelder Brussels

The city of Brussels had a captive beer audience over the weekend. I’m mean, of course there had to be pre-gaming, after-partying and “I need to beat this hangover with more beer”ing. In the name of research, I partook in all three. Just for you, gentle reader. Here are a few of the standout places to see what Brussels beer culture is all about whether you’re in town for the fest or not:

Brewery 3 Fonteinen
Molenstraat 47, 1651 Lot (Beersel)

The tasting room of one of the world’s greatest lambic and gueuze producers.
Spacious and comfortable with outdoor space suitable for picnics and pétanque.
You can select from an extensive menu of their bottled gueuzes, krieks and vintages and the knowledgeable staff will walk you through it if you need help.
Soft drinks, coffee and limited snacks are available.
It’s a 10-minute train ride from Brussels-Midi so not in the city, per se.

Open 10am-5pm Wed-Sat
(Last orders 4pm)
Guided tours available for groups with reservation

  • Children welcome

  • Changing table available

  • Strollers easy

Moeder Lambic Fontainas
Place Fontainas 8, 1000 Brussels
Phone: +32 2 503 60 68

This is the place to go in Brussels if you really want to know what’s up in Brussels (and beyond) beer.
The staff is knowledgeable and helpful in guiding you through their extensive list of draft, bottle and guest beers.
Soft drinks and some food available.
Relaxed vibe early on but can get noisy and, umm, lively later.
Spacious inside with some outside seating (where the smokers are.)

Open 11-01 Sun-Thur,
11-02 Fri-Sat

  • Children welcome

  • Strollers possible

Le Poechenellekelder
Rue du Chêne 5 1000 Brussels
Phone: +32 2 511 92 62

Located next to Mannekin Pis, it’s undoubtedly geared towards tourists but there is a good “local joint” vibe to it.
Friendly, helpful staff pour beer with an entertaining flourish and make sure the labels are pointed towards you
upon service.
Fun decor and an extensive list of the standard, but great, Belgian beers.
Some food, snacks and soft drinks.
Lots of outside seating.

Open: 11-01 Sun, Tue-Thur
11-02 Fri-Sat
(Closed Mon)

  • Children welcome

  • Located upstairs. Nowhere great to leave strollers.

  • A bit cramped so not particularly toddler-friendly

Beer and Food

Nuetnigenough Brussels

The BXLBeerFest had some great food trucks at the fest: pizzas, falafel and the like. But, if you really want to experience Belgian beer culture there’s no better way of doing so than alongside food. Belgian gastronomy is the best in the world when it comes to showcasing beer. While the cuisine itself is usually rustic, hearty and comforting, the greatest dishes are lifted to a level of refinement that only Belgian beer can bring. And a pile of meatballs is everything you’d want after a day at the fest. Here are some of the great beer and food meals we had in Brussels:

25 Rue du Lombard 1000 Brussels
Phone: +32 2 513 78 84

A highly respectable list of some of the greatest Belgian beers both in bottle and on draft.
The food menu is excellent even if it doesn’t have 37 pages to flip through. The veal meatballs are outstanding.
Friendly, super-helpful service who serves a good beer.
The restaurant is quite small and doesn’t take reservations so be prepared to loiter outside with the kids waiting for a table.
No children’s menu but there are some small bites that would suit or the littlest ones can just pick off your plate.

Open 5pm-22:30 Mon-Fri
12pm-22:30 Sat-Sun

  • Children welcome

  • Strollers not possible

9 rue des Renards 1000 Brussels
Phone: +32 2 511 55 83

Classic Belgian fare, reasonable prices and a great beer list.
The service is good but not sure they would know much about the beer beyond the basic.
This is a great place to experience beer and food in Belgium!
It’s lively in the restaurant after about 8pm so if the little ones make SOME noise, it shouldn’t offend too much.
It’s a bit cramped between tables or you may even have to share a large table so expect to ditch the stroller somewhere.

Open 12pm-?? Tue-Sun
(Dinner served from 7pm)
Closed Mon

  • Children welcome

  • Children’s menu

  • Changing table available

  • Strollers could probably be put outside

  • Highchairs available

Les Brigittines
5 Place de la Chapelle 1000 Brussels (Sablon)
Phone: +32 2 512 68 91

Stunning decor, efficient (if but aloof) service, and classic Belgian dishes served at an extremely high standard.
The beer list features a long list of 75cl bottles of gueuzes, krieks and the odd saison. Cantillon gueuze on tap as well as Brasserie de la Senne.
This is a higher-end place.
Kids would be fine during the day (although this is a business lunch sort of place) but we’d be pumping Wee Man full of bread in the evening to keep him quiet.
Excellent across the board.

Open: 12pm-2pm + 7pm-10pm Mon-Sat
(Closed: Saturday lunch, Sunday and official holidays)

  • Children welcome

  • Strollers possible

  • Not particularly child-friendly

A visit to 3F Lambik-o-droom

I’m so glad that the BXLBeerFest pulled me back to Brussels. As I said before, I had been taking it a bit for granted. I made a long weekend out of this beer festival and made my way to pub after pub, museum after museum (and waffle after waffle.) I have a new-found affection for the city and I can’t wait to go back to get to all the places I couldn’t manage to get to this time. Let me know where I should be going WHEN I go back in the comments below!