Day three and we are leaving the Poperinge for Bruges and an altogether different experience in the hustle & bustle of Bruges.
Although the journey driving direct from Calais to Bruges only takes roughly an hour and twenty minutes, because of the dog leg route via Ypres (Leper) it’s still an hour from Poperinge, still it’s nice to see a different side of Belgium as you are driving off the motorway, the hour passing quickly.
We arrived at our digs for the next two days where we had opted for a completely different type of accommodation, this was to be a let room in a large house in Bruges belonging to an artist by the name of Rita Riemaker. The house is decorated in art deco style including the let rooms, which although a little dated, were spacious, clean and comfortable (with a very attractive price).
Rita our host was very welcoming and provided a lovely continental breakfast on both days, however the only downside was the location which was a bit of a yomp into town. Not too bad (about 10-15 minutes walk), but doing it at least twice a day there and back became a chore after walking all day.
Making our way down the canal side and through tight cobbled streets, we finally emerged into the Markt Square which was packed with locals and tourists sampling local produce and hot food, exactly what we needed along with a good beer. As guides we took along the great little hand book “Around Bruges In 80 Beers” which has details of many great bars, beer shops and places to eat (which also sell beers), also a great set of notes kindly provided by Mark from Real Ale Reviews both of which proved really useful.
Consulting the map Cambrinus was in the next street and started our beer tour.
Brasserie Cambrinus despite it’s outside appearance is a relatively new opening sometime in 2006 and once inside you could be forgiven for making a sharp exit if you prefer something traditionally Belgian, taking aside the stained glass, pictures and advertising adorning the walls it’s interior is quite British in style, dark panelled walls and lots of brass lights give it an almost Wetherspoons, Harvester air.
The place was packed though, with people queuing just to get a table, the food as it passed looked and smelled wonderful, oh and I forgot to mention the 400 varieties of beer available on their menu…
The menu itself is awesome, there’s something special (and daunting) when being presented with a large heavy wooden bound tome from which to choose your beer, but I spotted a couple of untried items from Forestinne, the Ambrosia and Mysteria.
Forestinne Ambrosia – Amber coloured beer with light sents of hops, fruits and malts. Soft taste with notes of plums and hazelnuts. 7,5% alc (Brewery Notes)
Forestinne Mysteria – Blond beer with sents of hops and exotic fruits. Soft taste with slightly bitter notes at the end. 7% alc (Brewery Notes)
Apologies for the lack of actual beer notes anywhere in the post, there were simply too many and in all sorts of circumstance to keep track at times. What was interesting was the back label for the Mystique though, which sort of intimates that it could be either blonde, amber or dark..translation anyone??
From the outside this was a bar that you could walk right by either by passing it unnoticed, or by purposely avoiding because of it’s location and signage. Situated in a cellar below a Chinese restaurant and advertising UK football on big screens conjures images of a rowdy holiday pub and whilst establishments like that have there place they’re not always the sort of pub for a quiet drink in Belgium. I’m not sure about match days but mid afternoon on a Wednesday it was fine, whilst the beer menu wasn’t massive it was adequate and the atmosphere and welcome were great. Well worth a look.
Bruges is full of wonderful places to eat on all budgets, but eating in tends to be quite expensive, cue Bretoen Pannenkoeker. It’s a little traditional cafe bar not far from the Markt square, 5 mins at most, inside they have a small menu of beer, sandwiches and the main events pancakes and omelettes. I had the best bacon omelette ever which came with four slices of rye bread and salad, Mrs H had a caramelised apple pancake which was enormous with both dishes combined coming in at under ten Euros.
It was full of locals when we visited late afternoon, which is a testament itself, all the pancakes are cooked in front of you as in the picture. Lovely traditional food at bargain basement prices.
At first glance this open plan modern cafe we thought was a bit of a mistake it had to be said, the staff weren’t particularly attentive and the overall atmosphere wasn’t brilliant, feeling a bit like a city businessman’s lunch venue.
What changed our minds was the beer, the house beers were really good quality and a refreshing and worth paying a visit for even if it’s only a flyer…
Described as an American Diner meets Student Union, we had no idea what to expect when we made our way to De Repbliek. On entering it’s a large open plan room with small raised alcoved areas and a wooden floor, a large bar with details of cocktails, food and upcoming events dominate one side. This though was where I made my personal best beer discovery of the week (Westveleren aside), it was the Viven Imperial IPA… It’s a really outstanding beer, pouring a reddish amber colour with punch you in the face fruity American hops.
Now for a beer that I rate so highly you may be thinking that’s a pretty piss poor review and you’d be quite right, however this has to go in my top beers list so I plan to revisit again to revel in it’s full glory…
Day one in Bruges then is done, there were many beers and many bars that have not been listed here, some because they are not really worth a specific mention, others because they deserve special attention, De Garre, Brugs Beertje and De Halve Maan being some of the latter. They should follow in the next few days.
To close I can’t stress how useful some local knowledge is, Mark’s notes and the “Around Bruges in 80 Beers” book were of immense value, not to be led as such more-so a great source of information to help you get off the beaten track and find those hidden gems.. Happy hunting!