Thursday, 9 February 2017

Travel: 't Brugs Beertje, Bruges - Notes from the Past

(With the recent changing of the guard, I thought it fitting to dig out this piece from an unpublished larger piece I wrote about a visit to Bruges and Brussels back in 2009.)

't Brugs Beertje sits on an unremarkable side street that millions of tourists pass by every year - unless you know about it of course.

Before we pushed open the door we could see the place was packed and the chatter of people as we entered confirmed that this - like De Garre earlier - was a meeting place for locals and beer tourists alike. The front bar had no free seats so we made our way to a quieter back room where by pure luck someone had just vacated a table, their empty glasses still in place and chairs still warm. No music was playing, the only noise was that chatter from the front room and the murmur of quieter voices in this section. The room itself had a homely feel, more like the livingroom of a house with extra chairs and tables added, with some street signs and beer advertising memorabilia hung on the wall for atmosphere. Not that it need those, as with the voices, smells and agreeable clatter of glasses, this place has bags - or bottles - of atmosphere.

A group of Americans were behind us, and more to our left. One leaned over and asked how we say 'Cheers!' in Ireland. Resisting the urge to say that we say 'Cheers!' too, I told him 'Sláinte.' This seemed to satisfy him and he returned to his conversation, never speaking to us again. How he knew we were Irish I don't know, as we hadn't spoken yet. Perhaps he had heard us in De Garre earlier? Or maybe we just look very, very Irish.

A woman I knew from my research to be the owner Daisy came over and asked us what we would like. I went for Valeir Extra on her recommendation of a hoppy beer, and it turned out be just that - a bitter, citrusy brew with a hop-filled bite that woke my palate after a long day. Nige went for a De Koninck from Antwerp and Pete went for the Brugs Wit, one of his favourite styles.

We drank our beers and discussed the trip so far. We had so far found great bars, great beer, and we hadn't even done any serious sight seeing yet. There was still the Groeninge Museum with its impressive painting by van Eyck, Bosch and David, we wanted to ascent the Belfort, visit some churches, and of course drink more beer. We had a lot to cram in before heading back to Brussels for one night and then heading home.

The night wore on, with Daisy keeping us plied with beer. I had another hoppy beer next, Urthel Hop-It, which was not as bitter as the first, a little smoother with less bite perhaps, but possibly a better beer for me. I followed that with a dark beer, a pleasant if not exciting, liquorice tasting 't Smisje Catherine - more of a belgian stout than an imperial stout perhaps...

We ate too, having cheese and salami first, then toasted ham and cheese sandwiches with a tiny touch of mustard that didn't take from the beer.

All this time Daisy dashed around efficiently and effectively keeping everyone happy, a perfect host adding to the feeling that this was the entertaining room of a house and not a pub at all.

I finished off the night with a wonderful De Dolle Special Extra Export Stout, that hinted at overripe banana and rum with a smoky aftertaste and a nice degree of bitterness in the end. A fitting beer to end the evening on...

And so we bade farewell to Daisy, thanking her profusely and a little drunkenly for her service, beer and food and leaving the still busy pub behind us, we tottered back to our lodgings for an early night.

(Apologies for both the lack of photos and the quality of the two I did manage to take!)

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