Belgium, Brussels and beer. It’s a cliché as old as humankind but like most cliches, there’s definitely something to the story. Living in Brussels, I still wonder how the night shops manage to build their shop window out of – almost exclusively – beer bottles. I’m still in doubt on what to order at a cafe where they serve more than twenty beers, which is almost the norm. And I still haven’t tried the myriad of Belgian beer styles. At all.

People stick to their habits. Ask a Belgian who likes beer what their favorite brand is and they’ll answer within a second. Mine? Triple Chimay. A Trappist beer, quintessentially Belgian and truly my number one.

And just as everyone has their favorite kind of liquid gold, everyone also has their favorite spot to drink it. Some like it grimy, some like it traditional, some like it fancy. However, it can be – literally – refreshing to step out of your comfort zone and explore some new spots for once.

Whether you’ve explored Brussel’s beer scene or are brand new to it, you’re in luck. I’ve done the hard work of trying & testing them and creating a Brussels beer guide so you can just show up and focus your effort on choosing your brew.

Brussels Beer Guide

Brussels Beer Guide

Brussels Breweries: Where it All Begins

Cantillon

If you know your way around Belgian beers, you’re undoubtedly familiar with lambics. If not, look it up because it’s quite complicated. Anyway, this brewery produces both gueuze and kriek. The first one is described as sour and a bit cider-like whilst kriek is rather sweet thanks to the addition of sour cherries. They’re both traditionally from Brussels and not to be missed. Cantillon was founded in 1900 and is the only local brewery still in operation. You can take a guided brewery tour, which includes a tasting at the end or just wander around on your own. If you truly want to capture the feeling of a Brussels brewery, this is it.

Brussels Beer Guide

Brussels Beer Project

This one is something totally different. Born in 2013, the Brussels Beer Project aims to modernize the Belgian brewery scene. They’re convinced that Belgian beers are too conservative so they like to play around with their brews. Some are a bit fruitier, some more floral, others bitter, but there’s always a twist. Brussels Beer Project wants to focus on co-creation. When you go to their taproom for a beer, you’ll be able to test some of their newest creations and give your opinion. They also organize a crowdfunding campaign once a year. The best thing about that? Once you’ve donated, you get 12 beers a year. Forever.

Brasserie de la Senne

This one is somewhat of a personal favorite. “Senne” is the name of the river running through Brussels and that says a lot about their philosophy. Brasserie de la Senne is a 100% Brussels brewery, which means that it’s located in town and prioritize delivery to bars within the city. Turns out almost all my favorite bars serve their beers (coincidence?). I especially like their Zinnebir, which is slightly bitter whilst still subtle. It’s possible to visit the brewery, although due to time management, they only cater to group tours. But you get to taste four of their beers afterwards, so gather all of your friends and dive into the Belgian beer culture.

Brussels Beer Guide
Brussels Beer Guide

Beerstorming

Always dreamt of creating your own beer? You’re in luck as that’s what Beerstorming is all about. The concept is quite simple. You can rent the brewery for a night of beer making with friends and family, with the help of a professional brewer. The best of these brews are tested, voted upon, and the winner is brewed on a larger scale. Every few months there’s one beer that goes out, one that goes in. At the brewery, you’re always welcome to drink a beer or to buy some bottles to take home. Special feature of Beerstorming: they’ve got one CO2-neutral beer and eventually want their entire brewery to be that way. Other projects include opening different branches throughout Belgium. They’ve been storming the beer market since 2015 and won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

Brussels Beer Bars – Where You Drink

Brussels Beer Guide

Brasserie Verschueren

This bar is located in the heart of Saint-Gilles, one of the more hipster neighborhoods of Brussels. Brasserie Verschueren is always a delight to visit, whether it’s summer or winter. The inside of the cafe gives you the instant Brussels feeling; Wooden panels covering the walls, mirrors, and benches are a standard part of the decoration. The outside, on the other hand, features a nice terrace in front of a church. The building itself is a beautiful example of typical Belgian Art Deco architecture, and a wonderful backdrop for sipping your beer: it’s a This is one of the bars serving Zinnebir, so if you’d like to test it out for yourself.

Brussels Beer Guide

Au Soleil

Even though bar Au Soleil is right in the city center, this spot is almost exclusively visited by locals. The decoration is a lot like Brasserie Verschueren – again, quite typical of Brussels. The service here is always on point – case in point: the one time they served me a glass of wine. I wanted to take it back to my seat, so the bartender told me to ‘Wait!’, took out a new bottle, and filled my glass to the rim. That’s what I like to call value for money. Their beer selection is not endless but they’ve done their homework and all of the ones on the menu are mouthwatering. There’s a certain nonchalance to this place that makes me go back frequently. If you’re lucky, you’ll snag a seat in the sun (or “au soleil” as we say in French).

Brussels Beer Guide

Delirium Bar

Whether or not this place should be featured in a local’s list is open for debate. Yes, there are loads of tourists at Delirium. Yes, the beers here are pretty expensive. On the other hand though, most Brusseleirs (people from Brussels that is) have spent at least one drunk night in here. They have one of the most extensive beer menus in the world: 3,162 varieties. I can assure you, their menu looks like a phone book. Depending on your mood and company, there are different levels for you to drink a beer at. There’s the cellar where things look a more worn and cozy. There’s the tap room where you can only order beers from on draft. There’s the lounge where you go if you want to have a classy experience. And so on. Don’t forget to take a look at Jeanneke Pis, the female counterpart of Manneken Pis just in front of the bar.

L’Imaige Nostre-Dame

As one of the oldest beer bars in Brussels, L’Imaige Nostre-Dame certainly deserves a spot on this list. Entering the cafe feels a bit like time traveling, especially as you have to pass through a small “impasse” or alleyway to get there. Streets as small as this one are rare in Brussels, so that alone makes it worth a look. Other than that, they serve around 50 quality beers including 9 on tap. Beer on tap is their thing: don’t ever hesitate to try one out, ask the barman if you’re not sure on what to get. Sit down with your pint and imagine you’re back in 1685, when this building was built.

Brussels Beer Guide

Le Pantin

Around Flagey people tend to go to Belga. But I’d recommend visiting Le Pantin instead. Way less touristy, a very extensive beer list, and a short explanation with every beer, which can be super helpful if you don’t know your way around Belgian beer. The downstairs area is a bit gloomy, the upstairs is very hipster with comfy sofas and loads of natural light. Up to you to decide where you want to sit, though as far as I go, it totally depends on my mood. The free wifi makes it the perfect spot to make yourself somewhat useful whilst having a drink. Don’t overdo it though: you might be surprised about what you wrote or said after a couple of Belgian beers. If things get too complicated, you can always take a book from the library and just read.

Au Marseillais

Doesn’t matter who you ask, pretty much everyone in Brussels knows Le Marseillais. This bar is located at the Place du Jeu de Balle. A flea market takes place on that square every single morning, making sure there’s always enough people around to fill up the cafe. As the name suggests, Le Marseillais does also serve typically French beverages like Ricard. The beer menu is solid though: you’ll find everything from Lagers to Belgian Trappists. The bar is pretty small and so is the terrace, so it’s possible that you’ll have to fight for a spot. But it’s totally worth it.

Brussels Beer Guide

Monk

Monk is not only a beer bar, it’s also a restaurant and a bit of a cultural venue. Again, the style of the bar is rather classic, with a lot of wooden decoration and mirrors. It’s a place where you can both sit down and relax, or take part in an evening filled with music and swing dancing. Their beer menu is solid – whether you’re fancying a Trappist or a more ‘modest’ beer: they’ll have it. I also like the fact that they offer a good selection of cheeses to enjoy with your drink, as that’s a genuine Belgian thing. If you’re in need of a break from the noises inside, you can always take a seat on one of the benches out front and enjoy some good old fashion people watching.

Brussels Beer Guide

Au Daringman

Arguably one of the beer bars in Brussels with the most beautiful facade. It’s a rather intimate bar with an artistic feeling to it, thanks to the general atmosphere in the neighborhood. The Guardian considers it one of the best beer bars in the world, which the owner Martine appreciates, but which also creates a bit of a space problem. Au Daringman curates a good selection of rare local beers so take this opportunity to take a plunge and try something new. If you like concerts, this place hosts the occasional gig, assuring you to have a great night out amongst locals.

Brussels Bottle Shops

Brussels Beer Guide

Malting Pot

This is not your usual touristy beer shop. The man behind the Malting Pot wrote his dissertation about the social function of beer in Mesopotamia and clearly pays attention to the products he sells. His selection of around 200 beers concentrates on small breweries, mainly Belgian but it doesn’t stop there. The owner is always ready to give some advice on which beer would be perfect for your taste and there’s even the possibility to try some of them on the spot. This is Belgian souvenir shopping taken to another level.

Malt Attacks

If you want to be able to choose between either a normal bottle of beer or a ‘growler’, Malt Attacks comes to the rescue. They have a selection of beers on tap – that way, you can fill a bottle of almost two liters with your favorite one. The beers are all well-chosen and the shop avoids the more commercial brews. It’s not hand luggage-friendly, but if you really want something special to take home with you, here you go.

Night shops and supermarkets

I could go on and on about all the different beer shops in Brussels. But the point is: if you just want a solid ‘normal’ beer, pay a visit to whichever supermarket or night shop and you’ll probably find what you’re looking for. It doesn’t always have to be the most special beer. Sometimes a standard one will do just fine and why go a long way if your local shop has all you need.


Brussels Beer Guide photos by Camille Van Puymbroeck. Read up on other beer guides here.


About Spotted by Locals

This post was produced by Spotted by Locals – a series of apps and blogs with up-to-date tips by locals in 60+ cities across Europe and North America. To get the best local culture, dining, and beer tips, visit the Spotted by Locals website or download the app below.

Download the Spotted by Locals app