De Garre – Bruges

Although it’s a couple of years old now, for some reason this post seems to be getting lots of hits at the moment, probably as folk plan Belgian beer expeditions. I like it as it brings back lots of fond memories, so I thought I’d post it again. Sorry for the self-indulgence if you’ve read it before…

P1010907To find this place you either stumble across it, or have to purposely search for it, for us thanks to the “Around Bruges in 80 Beers” guide-book and the map reading skills of “pathfinder Rachie” (the wife), it was the latter.

Although centrally located on the main tourist trail and only 100 yards from the main Bruges Markt square, De Garre remains discretely hidden from the less discerning beer tourist, tucked away down a tiny cobbled alley (De Garre) off Breidelstraat. Clientele ranged from the obviously regular local folk each having what seemed to be their own favourite chair, to beer enthusiasts and folk that were very probably lost…

The main room itself is quite small in cafe/bar terms, probably 18 feet by 18, with a small apertured high bar facing you as you venture up the ancient worn stone steps, a tiny winding staircase aside the bar leading to the upper drinking gallery.
Once inside the feeling is like stepping back in time. Being a fan of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, it reminded me of the scene in The Prancing Pony where the hobbits first met Strider, huge gnarled oak beams, stone floor, simple wooden tables clustered together all baring glasses of foaming ales.

Dating back to the 1700’s, De Garre is one of those places where the gentle atmosphere and ambience has your mind wondering how many people have sat here before you. What joys, tragedies, laughter, crimes or drunken buffoonery have these tine four walls witnessed in their lifetime?

Garre Tripel – 11%

Although they have a reasonable beer menu at De Garre, I was only after one in particular at the recommendation of Mark, co author of “real ale reviews” blog. This was the leg weakening De Garre house “Garre Tripel”, I was not alone as almost every table had at least one.

The Tripel arrived in two large goldfish bowl like glasses, with the thick white creamy head massively outweighing the liquid content by about three parts to one, there being only about three-quarters of an inch of beer sitting at the base. Either by sensing our unconscious looks of disappointment or by the daily experiences of newcomers to his bar, the barman softly whispered “wait, it will come”.

Each tray of beer is served with a small portion of chopped cheese, which I’m led to believe is a compatible match for most Belgian beer, it was soft, creamy and when finally, patience rewarded we got to taste the Garre Tripel went perfectly with the beer

The beer itself has aromas of yeast and biscuits with slightly grassy hoppy notes. Once through that thick long lingering head, the first thing that hits you is the smooth malty flavour that disguises the alcoholic strength better than some half the same ABV. Garre is quite sweet for a Tripel which I suspect is due to the heavy alcohol, it has a smooth full-bodied creaminess in the mouth which perfectly compliments the peach and light citrus flavours. The finish is easy-going with evidence of hop bitterness but lightly so.

Garre Tripel is only available on the premises so you really need to make an effort and find it if ever you visit Bruges, all in all a fantastic experience and one we repeated whilst in the city. The beer can be purchased in 1.5 litre bottles to take away but we refrained from buying one preferring to keep the memory of the visit alive.

A final word of warning, at De Garre I’m told they will only ever serve you three house Tripel beers in one sitting, I didn’t test the theory but probably suggest that it’s a wise move..


This is a very brief post on the merits of planning…

One of the ideas that spawned our recent Belgian trip was a plan I have to organise a future trip taking in all the Trappist breweries in a week, so far I have looked at options, talked to a few folks and that’s about it. Nevertheless all that talk ended up in four of us making the trip over/under the Channel and we decided it would be a cracking idea to visit some breweries on our travels.

Now I’m not sure about the situation where you (the reader) are based, but in the UK pretty much most breweries are open and welcome visitors, even if it’s only to a brewery shop via the back door. This may be the case in Belgium too, but from our experiences, who knows?

First off on our journey from Watou (where St Bernardus WAS open), we thought it would make sense to drop in on Alvinne. Error. Nuls Points. Turn around where possible.. It was very much closed.

So much so that there wasn’t even so much as a bottle to photograph.. Epic Fail

The next attempt was on the journey from Brussels to Brugge, lots of options here but we narrowed it down to either taking a detour to Bosteels home of Kwak, Dues and Tripel Karmeliet. Or, to go to the lesser known Urthel and then on to Rodenbach which was pretty much on route. Being the driver I made the executive decision on the latter.

We arrived at Urthel on a beautiful day in blazing sunshine, this after driving through lovely countryside into a forested area. Taking the long single track drive to the one building on it, we saw two men beavering away and thought “yes they are open”! As we parked though, the two figures scurried inside (I think hoping we would go away). We pressed on regardless and started to mooch around before they finally reappeared, explaining the owners were away and they were just working on the building itself.

This though is where it got ever so slightly more interesting, as we could see they were working on a new bar area which will be open to the public (on weekends). It’s a lovely looking little place which stands looking all Hansel and Gretel in it’s forest setting. It’s a bit of a trek though so how many visitors will make it I’m not so sure, worth checking out though if you have a driver among you as Urthel beers ROCK!

We moved sadly on to Rodenbach where we thought we were bound to have better luck. Parking on a little side street near the brewery I almost walked straight into a chaps living room by mistake as he happened to live by the biggest Rodenbach sign I have ever seen and his door was wide open… You should have seen the look on his face…

Undeterred, we wandered around the huge brewery (where nothing looked open) until we found an office and thought aha! There awaited a receptionist (Gladys for the purposes of this blog), as we arrived Gladys was on the phone and thought nothing of the four weary travellers from the East that had plonked themselves in her nice tidy reception area and continued her chat.

“Wot no Beer?”

After several minutes during which Gladys finally finished her chat and we had made use of the office washroom facilities we approached and in my very best Steve McClarenesque pigeon Belgian/Dutch hybrid English I asked “are you open for brewery visshits?”

“No” said Gladys curtly.

“What about a brewery shop, surely you have a shop?”

“Yes” said Gladys.

“Oh good can we go and take a look and perhaps by some beer?”

“No” said Gladys, “it’s closed, only open at the weekend”…

So that was it, another failure, everything well and truly closed. Which goes to show, piss poor planning means two hours wasted drinking time…

Moeder Lambic

In stark contrast to my post a few days ago about the Delirium Village, I found a new favourite place to drink beer in Brussels on this visit, the sister bar of ‘Meoder Lambic Original“, Moeder Lambic Fontainas.

We had a bit of a shock when first looking for this bar, looking on maps it looked a good mile or so outside of the centre, however this was directing us towards the original (one for another visit) and we were extremely happy to see Fontainas was only a short stroll from The Grande Place.

The inside comes across as being a bit of up market chic and I suppose it is when compared to other older bars in the city, clean lines, exposed brickwork, mood lighting and a stunning bar. But it’s also very cosy, warm and welcoming too, helpful friendly staff buzzing around and attending to your beery needs.

The outside space is really cool too, with loads of shaded tables clustered together on the pavement outside, the view isn’t brilliant as it’s on a square quite near a busy road but who needs a view any further than this?
We spent a good few happy hours exploring the guest beer and bottle lists in a lovely relaxing atmosphere, not a boring at all with a happy gentle buzz of people enjoying beers in the evening sunshine, but a world away from the football factory mayhem of the Delirium Village. We didn’t have any food here although the menu looked fine, plenty of cheese and meat snacky dishes if memory serves perfect for an evening of beer exploration.
For the record the two beers I really enjoyed most here if available when you visit were my first taste of Tilquin Gueuze which was surprisingly palatable for someone who normally struggles with the style (I think I’m getting a taste for it) and Brewfist Spaceman, a really fresh hoppy IPA which I’m amazed is getting poor reviews from the bottle, hopefully they will sort that out soon.
Moeder Lambic’s logo has the strap-line “Beer Is The Answer” and it couldn’t be more right, a new firm favourite must visit bar for anyone on the Brussels beer trail, address details of both bars are below, let me know what you think.
8 place Fontainas, 1000 Bruxelles
Tel.: 32 2 503 60 68
Lu,Ma,Me,Je,Di : 11:00 > 01:00
Ve,Sa : 11:00 > 02:00
68 rue de Savoie, 1060 Bruxelles
Tel.: 32 2 544 16 99
Lu,Ma,Me,Je,Ve,Sa,Di : 16:00 > 03:00