Mothers & Daughters // Brussels gets a lesbian bar, and so much more

In early May 2018, behind a jumble of corroded neon signs touting a long-departed Greek restaurant, a group of artists and activists opened something Brussels hadn’t seen for 15 years: a bar by and for the city’s lesbian community. Mothers & Daughters is its name.

Mothers & Daughters // Brussels gets a lesbian bar, and so much more

On the lash with Baudelaire // A literary pub crawl through Brussels (Act One)

Brussels throughout its history has been called home by many writers and artists, from Victor Hugo to the Brontë sisters, through to James Joyce and Hugo Claus. Some of them have been temporary visitors, others permanent, and many reluctant. Nobody exemplified this genre of Brussels resident better than Frenchman and serial flâneur Charles Baudelaire. Prompted by an exhibition about Baudelaire’s ill-fated time in Brussels organised on the Grand Place, I set off on a tour, in his and others footsteps, of what remains of Brussels’ literary haunts.

On the lash with Baudelaire // A literary pub crawl through Brussels (Act One)

Brussels Irish // The James Joyce: last call for the Irish pub?

The green-and-gold door looks closed, but a tug on the brass lion doorknob and it pulls open. Inside, the lights are off in the back and there is no evidence of any customers or staff. It’s Saturday evening just past seven and the James Joyce, Brussels’ oldest Irish bar is still. Almost thirty years after it opened, is Brussels’ oldest Irish bar on the way out?

Brussels Irish // The James Joyce: last call for the Irish pub?

Brussels Irish // Beerstorming x Jameson Caskmates: Brussels beer in Irish barrels

“Jameson is a pretty big and beautiful distillery. And we got to drink a lot of whiskey,” says Arthur Ries, co-founder of Brussels’ Beerstorming brewery, as he and Sean Deane, Jameson Whiskey's brand ambassador for Belgium, reel off some of the perks of participating in Jameson's Caskmates programme. I'm sitting down with the two men in Beerstorming's front room to talk about how one of the world’s largest drinks brands ended up working with one of the smallest breweries in Belgium, maturing beers in Irish whiskey barrels in a Sint Gillis cellar underneath the brewery.

Brussels Irish // Beerstorming x Jameson Caskmates: Brussels beer in Irish barrels

Brussels Irish // Drinking my first ever Guinness, in African Brussels

In a corner of the Brussels pentagon, where the Quai de Commerce, Square Saintclette and the Boulevard d’Anvers meet in a jumble of tram cables and traffic jams, is a little of Central African neighbourhood. Shops with windows full of yellow-black plantains and knobbly root vegetables and hair extensions. And fridges stacked with Guinness Special Export and Foreign Extra Stout.

Brussels Irish // Drinking my first ever Guinness, in African Brussels
Eoghan Walsh

Belgian beer labels and sexism // #TimesUp for turning a blind eye

Belgian beer culture is the only one in the world that is recognised by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage. With that recognition comes a responsibility to make sure that this culture is open and inclusive. The consequences of movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp are bringing up hard questions about sexism, misogyny and gender equality in beer. Is Belgian beer culture and the beer community ready and willing to answer them?

Eoghan Walsh
Belgian beer labels and sexism // #TimesUp for turning a blind eye

A European Craft Brewers Conference? // The Brewers of Europe Forum and unity in European brewing

“[To] connect the European brewing scene and try to put a counterweight against the Americans. To shout out the message to the world: Europe is the cradle of beer!” That, according to Luc de Raedemaeker, founder of the Brussels Beer Challenge and now one of the organisers of the inaugural Brewers of Europe Forum, taking place in Brussels in June this year.

A European Craft Brewers Conference? // The Brewers of Europe Forum and unity in European brewing

Beer and the City // When beer was brewed at the European Parliament: Brasserie Leopold and the "Whim of the Gods"

Rue Wiertz, in Brussels’ European district, is a nothing street. Bound at both ends by slate-grey security barriers to protect the European Parliament, it is an unremarkable street in an unremarkable part of town. But, underneath the glass and stone towers that line the street, is some remarkable history. This spot, at the confluence of Rue Wiertz, Rue Vautier, and Parc Leopold, is where brewing in Brussels died. More specifically, it is where Brasserie Leopold – the last commercial brewery operating in Brussels city soil – shut its doors in June 1981.

Beer and the City // When beer was brewed at the European Parliament: Brasserie Leopold and the "Whim of the Gods"

Brussels Beer Festival Agenda 2018 // 9(ish) events to do this year

2017 was a bit of a watershed year for beer in Brussels. Breweries like En Stoemelings and Nanobrasserie L’Ermitage both moved into new and/or expanded facilities. Brasserie de la Senne broke ground on their new site along the Brussels canal. The city even saw its first beershop open north of said canal in Fermenthings. And the beer events calendar has become increasingly busy – new upstarts joining established calendar entries. 2018 looks set to be no different; so to help guide you through 2018, here’s nine events to look out for.

Brussels Beer Festival Agenda 2018 // 9(ish) events to do this year
Eoghan Walsh

QUICK HIT // Cantillon Kriek 2010 versus 2017

For a long time now, I’ve had an old bottle of Cantillon Kriek in my cellar. Not ancient, but the label says it was bottled in May 2010, and I must have bought it in June or July of the same year. That means that I have had it longer than my two children, most of the clothes I currently own, and the house I live in. About time to see what it tastes like, then.

Eoghan Walsh
QUICK HIT // Cantillon Kriek 2010 versus 2017

The Kalibabou // Recreating the Brussels Christmas cocktail made with Lambic and...eggs

As the days grow darker and the nights colder, winter is the time of year to huddle close in a pub with a warming drink. Winter in Brussels is no exception. But, instead of a mulled wine or a hot toddy, in Brussels people celebrated the end of one year and the coming of he next with a “Kalibabou” – a hot cocktail of lambic, rum, sugar and eggs. Or, at least they used to.

The Kalibabou // Recreating the Brussels Christmas cocktail made with Lambic and...eggs
Eoghan Walsh

"Monsieur Brasserie de la Senne" // Jean Goovaerts and the art of beer labels

You may never have heard of Jean Goovaerts, but if you have gotten drunk in Brussels in the last decade, then you will know his works. On beer bottles, pump clips, and posters, his artwork for Brasserie de la Senne is all over the city. Even sitting in Cafe Le Coq, nursing a Bruxellensis and waiting for him to arrive, his Brasserie de la Senne sunrise logo is plastered on my glass. His blocky, colourful, and idiosyncratic designs are central to Brasserie de la Senne’s identity, its rise to prominence, and the brewery’s success abroad.

Eoghan Walsh
"Monsieur Brasserie de la Senne" // Jean Goovaerts and the art of beer labels

Drinking in Ganshoren // A cabaret of the unreal

A man walks into a bar, followed behind by his daughter. They exchange a few words in muttered French. A couple ahead of them – man with his arm in a sling, woman fussing over the drinks menu – order their beers in Dutch and take a seat at a rickety wooden table. This is La Charnière, a rudimentary café housed in an 18th century Brussels farmhouse

Drinking in Ganshoren // A cabaret of the unreal

The Session #129 - A Round-up

Acknowledging that the local Brussels brewing scene is still quite small compared to other local scenes, I expected that in this era of ubiquitous choice many submissions might highlight the abundance of styles available to them locally. And, several did. Several more entries questioned the very nature of styles and posited a contradiction between the spread of styles and the search for local variety.

The Session #129 - A Round-up

The Session #129 - A Plea for a Brussels Pils

I settle into my seat with a draught glass of Redor Pils from Brasserie Dupont, contemplating my lot, and the lot of pils in Brussels. This is a beer style (or at least a family of beers made using bottom-fermenting yeasts at low temperatures) that defined brewing in this city for half a century, but has since vanished along with the breweries that made it so dominant. As brewing undergoes a revival in the city, it is time for the new generation of Brussels breweries to do justice to the city’s beer history.

The Session #129 - A Plea for a Brussels Pils

Brussels beer x Brussels food // Growing mushrooms in Cantillon

I don’t like mushrooms. Oh, no. I hate them*. You will never see a beer and food pairing involving on this site**. This distaste for fungus did not stop me from meeting with Champignons de Bruxelles – Brussels entrepreneurs cultivating mushrooms on the spent grains of Brasserie Cantillon, in the bowels of Anderlecht’s slaughterhouse.

Brussels beer x Brussels food // Growing mushrooms in Cantillon

Announcing The Session #129 - Missing Local Beer Styles

The Session #129 – Beer Blogging Friday – for November 2017. And the theme of this month is "Missing Local Beer Styles". Essentially: what beer style would you like to see being brewed in your local market that is not yet being brewed? Simple enough question.

Announcing The Session #129 - Missing Local Beer Styles

Nanobrasserie L'Ermitage - opening in Anderlecht

Brussels in one more brewery richer, as of this weekend. On Saturday October 6, to be precise, Nanobrasserie de L'Ermitage open their doors to the public for the first time.

Nanobrasserie L'Ermitage - opening in Anderlecht

Alors on Zwanze

In all the years I’ve lived in Brussels, and as long as Cantillon have been organising their annual Zwanze celebration, I’ve never been organised enough to buy tickets for the main event at Moeder Lambic Fontainas before they have sold out. 2017 was no different. That is how we found ourselves schlepping up the hills of St. Gilles on Saturday evening to the original Moeder Lambic.

Alors on Zwanze

Beer & the city // Surviving Brusselization: the fate of Brasseries Atlas

Brussels has not been kind to its architectural heritage. The process of “Brusselization” describes the “indiscriminate and careless introduction of modern high-rise buildings into gentrified neighbourhoods” that characterised post-war urban planning in Brussels and was responsible for the callous destruction of historically important buildings, whole neighbourhoods, and local communities. Brussels’ breweries and their architectural legacy were not immune. The Grandes Brasseries Atlas is an exception.

Beer & the city // Surviving Brusselization: the fate of Brasseries Atlas

Brasserie En Stoemlings - moving up, and moving out of the Marollen

It’s early on a warm mid-July evening, and Denys Van Elewyck of Brasserie En Stoemelings is sitting behind the counter of the brewery, boxes piled up behind us and brewing equipment almost ready to be packed up. En Stoemelings, founded by Denis with his childhood friend and fellow Brusselaar Samuel Languy, is about to retrace the timeworn exodus of Brussels breweries from the centre to the periphery. Their brewery, which opened in 2015 on the Spiegelstraat in Brussels’ folksy Marollen district, is moving out and moving up. And, about time says Denys.

Brasserie En Stoemlings - moving up, and moving out of the Marollen

BXLBeerFest - Brussels' newest beer festival

The Brussels new wave beer scene continues apace. First cam the beer bars. Then came the breweries. And now it is the turn of the beer festivals. After the Swaff festival in July, this weekend it is the turn of the BXLBeerFest, what will be the largest beer festival dedicated to small, independent (craft, even) breweries organised in Brussels.

Over bottles of Orval at A la Mort Subite, Kevin Desmet – a.k.a. the Belgian Beer Geek – told me about the background to the festival, Brussels beer compromises, and why they think you should go to BXLBeerFest.

BXLBeerFest - Brussels' newest beer festival

Drinking in Koekelberg // The past, and a future?

Change comes slowly to Brussels. But it is coming to the corner of Brussels where the unfashionable communes of Koekelberg, Jette, and Ganshoren meet at Parc Elisabeth in a jigsaw puzzle of municipal borders. Hotel Restaurant Taverne Le Frederiksborg and Bar Eliza represent old and new Brussels, and show in their contrasting fortunes how accelerating demographic changes are reshaping the neighbourhood. They also serve beer.

Drinking in Koekelberg // The past, and a future?