Until the year 2009 I don’t think I had even heard of the city of Bruges. Then I watched Martin McDonagh’s outstanding movie “In Bruges” starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two hitmen hiding out in the city after a hit gone wrong. It’s a great film with excellent performances and lots of dark comedy which I always enjoy. The film also does a fantastic job of showcasing the beauty of the city. I’ve been intrigued with going to the city ever since.
Fast forward to 2014 and the time has finally come to see this historic city and all it has to offer. Perhaps more importantly, this city happens to be in Belgium. That means an opportunity to find more bars and beers to check out as we make our way around the country. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, when I’m traveling with the wife, sightseeing comes first and beer drinking comes in second. Normally I’m able to make this concession work to the best of my ability but with limited time in Bruges, I wasn’t able to check every box off the list that I had in mind.
So let me get the disappointing part of the trip out of the way first: I didn’t make it to De Halve Maan, the only family owned brewery in the city, before it closed for the day. They close early during the winter months so if you travel during the spring and summer I don’t think you’ll have the same issue. But I was able to drink several of their beers at other establishments around the city and I have concluded that it is worth a visit if you have the chance, especially the tripel. Here is the address for any who want to visit – Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan 26 Walplein 8000 Bruges.
Two other local bars really caught my attention, first up is…
‘t Brugs Beertje – 5 Kemelstraat, Bruges 8000.
This is a small bar populated mostly by locals and they are very serious about the beers they serve. How serious? Well, when I asked for the bottle list I was handed a one-inch thick binder. Holy cow they have a lot of beers here. The draft list was pretty impressive as well, but if you take the time to pour through the pages of the binder you can find some true gems. Including Orval aged 6 months, 9 months or 12 months if you feel like conducting some research. They open late in the afternoon but happily pour beers till midnight allowing you plenty of opportunity to dive into the immense offerings. The folks working the bar are very friendly, especially after ordering the Orval which I think impressed them a little bit. Small, cozy and not touristy in the least, this is a top bar in Bruges.
Le Trappiste – 33 Kuipersstraat, Bruges 8000
From what I leaned at the bar, Le Trappiste is something of a franchise type bar. The original location is in the U.K. with the purpose of bringing the great beers of Belgium to the people of England. Normally franchise bars are not my favorite thing, but the Le Trappiste in Bruges is one of the most impressive bars I’ve been to in just about any country. Set in an 800 year old brick cellar, this bar not only features the best of traditional and long running brewers of Belgium, they are also pouring the some of the best beer from all the up and coming brewers of Europe. The brick cellar is one of the coolest and most unique locations for a bar I’ve ever seen. Sitting inside surrounded by impressive brick work arches and knowing this building has existed for almost a century was something I’ve never experienced before. When you add in a delicious beer, I’m in heaven. The place just oozes with atmosphere and ambiance. This bar is also the second in Belgium, but first in Bruges, that I was able to find that carried the super rare Westvleteren XII. The staff there is super nice and very knowledgeable on all the beers they happen to be pouring, and in the case of our bartender, very knowledgeable of the beer industry in Europe in general. It’s a great spot that I can’t recommend enough.
These are three spots I recommend, I also recommend checking out the film, but please try to be a better tourist than Colin Farrell’s Ray character from the film.