Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favourite pastimes is drinking a cold beer in the sunshine with friends or family… heck sometimes by myself with a book to unwind from a long day. So Belgium should be a perfect fit for me considering it has about 125 breweries, 500 different types of beer, and its residents drink an average of 93 liters of beer annually. Naturally, when I arrived here I was anxious to go out for a ‘terraske’ (Flemish for ‘a little terrace’ in the similar sense that we would ‘go out for a little drink’) and get a beer glass in my hand. Leuven boasts the “Longest Bar” in Belgium located in the Oude Markt (Old Market) that boasts about 40 bars. Is it a coincidence that Longest Bar is in a student city?… I doubt it. It is a tradition for students to try to have a drink at every bar in the Oude Markt at least once. I don’t think many succeed as it would be a very heavy night and might result in a trip to the hospital. I would love to hear from my Belgian friends who managed to carry out this feat ;). The Katholieke Universiteit is the biggest university in Belgium and established in 1425. The first time I saw the Library I stood with my mouth agape, but this is a post about beer not books.
Belgian beers are notorious for being stronger than the average beer as they commonly have an alcohol percentage that varies from 5-11%. There are several different styles such as Trappist, Tripel, Stout, Dubbel, and Abbey. In my research for this post I found this website from a fellow beer enthusiast that is excellent (http://www.beermad.org.uk/writings/belgianbeer.shtml).
The beer culture here is wonderfully complex and I have barely scratched the surface. There are specialty Christmas beers, Beer festivals, and Beer cuisine. I am just starting to accept the importance of specific glasses for different beers when sitting down for a nice drink. There are also various ‘beer drinking rules’ that I am starting to catch on to… aka I commit these faux-pas’ and my boyfriend laughs at me and quickly corrects me to save my social reputation. For instance, DO NOT pour the remaining 2 or 3 inches of your last beer into your new beer, even if it is the same beer. I am apt to doing this in Canada to cut down on the amount of empty glasses sitting in front of me or to help the server so he/she can clear them. I did this and was quickly scolded and then told that this ruins your beer and is a ‘drunk’ move that signals to people that you are completely wasted.
My Favourite Belgian Beers
- Barbar Honey Ale
- Kriek Lindemans
- Chimay Bleu
- Duvel Vedett (Fun Fact: Every bottle of Vedett has a picture of random person on the bottle. People can go online and upload their picture or of whoever’ and one day when you are enjoying a little terraske you may see a friends face on a bottle. Awesome. http://www.vedett.be.)
- Delirium Tremens
- La Chouffe
- Stella Artois (one I can always rely on)