For a small country, Belgium has a lot of breweries– over 100 producing nearly 700 varieties of beer. To sample a variety of Belgian beers in one place, head to Brussels, regarded not only as one of the best beer cities in Belgium but also in the entire the world.
Belgian beers are famous around the world and chances are that you’ve enjoyed some in your hometown (I’m partial to witbier). But while you can undoubtedly find an ample selection of Belgian beers at your corner liquor store, certain beers are very hard to find outside of Belgium. Some Belgian beers are simply too limited in production to export, especially with a loyal local population ready to deplete the stock. Other beers are too temperamental to travel long distances.
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Belgian Beer Souvenirs from Brussels
These hard-to-find Belgian beers that don’t make it beyond Belgium’s borders are a fantastic souvenir for the beer lover. While you need to take some extra care in packing (we recommend inflatable wine bags), it’s no harder than bringing home a bottle of wine (many Belgian beers are actually sold in large bottles similar in size to a wine bottle).
Try Before You Buy: Sampling Belgian Beer at Brussels’ Pubs
Instead of blindly selecting an unknown beer souvenir to bring back home, we recommend you try before you buy and hit one of Brussels’ many traditional pubs. Our favorite Brussels pub, A La Morte Subite, is conveniently located right off the Grand Place. A La Mort Subite has been described as a “riot of art nouveau“– with an interior so insanely gorgeous that it’s worth a stop just to gawk at the Belle Epoque space. If it’s also insanely crowded (like it was on the day I visited) settle into one of the outdoor tables to enjoy some prime people-watching along with your pint.
Where to Buy Belgian Beer Souvenirs in Brussels
You won’t have any problems finding shops selling Belgian beer in Brussels– there are plenty right around the Grand Place alone. If you get easily overwhelmed, stick to the smaller shops, but if selection is important, hit one of Brussels’ many beer specialty shops, including:
- De Biertempel, the place to find very rare beers, offering over 600 different types. (Rue Marché Aux Herbes 56)
- 250 Beers, while this shop has less beers than the comprehensive De Biertempl, it’s very conveniently located near the Manneken Pis. Rue au Beurre 32
- Beer Planet, another great option in central Brussels, Rue de la Fourche 45
How to Select Your Belgian Beer Souvenir
If you know your Belgian beers, or have done your pre-work by sampling them in the local Brussels pubs, you won’t have any problem picking a beer to bring back. But if you’re like me, a beer neophyte who has a very limited knowledge of specialty beers, just follow our Belgian beer shopping tips:
- Ask the knowledgable staff at any of Brussels beer shops— they know their stock inside and out and can lead you to some great finds (plus you’ll never know what you’ll learn– this is part of why I love local shopping).
- Do your research beforehand. Do a little googling and you’ll find all sorts of “top” lists, like this one from the Rough Guide.
- For something distinctively Belgian, try some fruit beers– like the famous kriek beer made with cherries.
- Take the advice of our favorite Brussels concierge at the Stanhope hotel, and try these unique Belgian beers:
- Cuvee ST Antoine blond beer (Brasserie du Flo)
- De Graal Tripel, triple beer (Brasserie De graal)
- Diole, blond beer (Brasserie des Carrieres)
- La Boterresse Blonde
While most people pick up bottles of Belgian beer to drink back home, another option is to cook with your Belgian beer. Look for our next post where we use some Belgian beer to cook up a delicious Belgian carbonnade flamande back home.
Bonus Souvenir: Belgian Beer Glasses
- Tulip glasses, which create a large surface area for head,
- Champagne flute glasses, whose tall profile help keep the bubbles fizzy in lambic and fruit beers
- Goblets and chalices, the oldest glass styles, which are generally associated with Abbey and Trappist beers.
So why not follow Belgian tradition and pick up the matching beer glass for your souvenir beer bottle, so it can be enjoyed as intended back home. Even if you aren’t a beer lover, these glasses are fun to collect for their unique designs. You’ll find beer glasses everywhere beer is sold– even in supermarkets. Most shops will wrap the glasses for you, but you might want to throw some bubble wrap in your bag just in case.
A Free Belgian Beer Souvenir– Coasters
Finally, if you’re a beer lover, but space prevents you from bringing your favorite Belgian beers and glasses back home, you can always bring home a light (and free) souvenir– coasters from your favorite Brussels bar. Coasters aren’t something I personally collect because whenever I’ve brought them home, I have no idea what to do with them. But I would love to hear from readers on ideas on how to display or use your coaster collection back home.
What to buy: Belgian beer, matching glasses, coasters (free).
Where to Get it: One of Brussels many beer shops– we hit 250 Beers by the Mannekin Pis out of convenience.
What to Know: There are many excellent pubs to sample Belgian beers– we loved A La Mort Subite.
Where to Stay: We stayed at the luxury boutique hotel, the Stanhope— within walking distance of all the great Brussels pubs.
Do you love Belgian beer? Tell us about your favorites in the comments below!