#1) DeDolle Brouwers, 12b Roeselaerestraat, Esen
I LOVE THIS PLACE! I first visited back close to 20 years ago and knew this place was something special. While I have always loved the De Dolle beers, the tasting room here follows suit with their beers – incredible. This is a brewery tasting room extraordinaire. Only open Saturday and Sunday afternoons. They do a brewery tour on Sunday at 2 in French and English and 3 in Dutch. They also will arrange for private tours during the week for groups of 30 or more, but this has to be prearranged. They usually have 3-4 Dolle beers on tap and an assorted cheese plate or a homemade pate sandwich (great). In the winter there is a circular fire pit and in summer a back patio facing a nice pasture. Husband and wife owners – Owners Kris and Els are wonderful hosts.
#2) In De Vrede, 13 Donkerstraat, Westvelteren
This is the official brewery tap of Westvleteren beers, brewed by the St. Sixtus monastery which is directly across the street. Please understand and respect that the monastery may not be visited.
The In De Vrede cafe is a modern building that replaced the previous building; an old farmhouse many years ago. In De Vrede serves the 3 different Westvleteren beers; Green Cap/Blond, Blue Cap/8 Degree, Gold Cap/12 degree. They also serve coffee, soft drinks and a selection of sandwiches and small plates. Note! In De Vrede is closed on Thursday and Friday!
In De Vrede means ‘In the Peace’ or alternately ‘In the Rest’ but whatever the Flemish translation this is a mecca of sorts for lovers of Belgium beer, especially those that love the Trappist beers. Visitors that do not have this ‘passion’ might be a bit underwhelmed, as there is nothing particularly special about the cafe; other than the fact that they serve one of the greatest beers on the planet here. Besides the cafe there is a gift shop here where assorted products are sold – mostly made by other monasteries and if one visits on a ‘lucky’ day, they may buy a six-pack of whatever beer is available that day (one per visitor). Also, inside the building is the ‘Claustrum’ an interactive exhibit that tells the story of the life of the Trappist monks across the street in St. Sixtus. There is a small charge to visit the Claustrum.
Across the street from In De Vrede, next to the abbey, is the ‘Bier Koop’ where crates (baks) of the famed beer may be purchased. In days past, all that was required was that you arrive on the days that they were open; drive through and pick up some beer. Not any longer. Due to the strong demand for the beer, now one must call well in advance on a toll-free line and make a reservation to visit and pick up one crate of beer. You will be required to provide information that precludes most visitors from procuring the beer. If you happen to luck out; you will be asked to sign an agreement to not resell the beer.
#3) De Struise Brewers Kasteelstraat 50, 8640 Oostvleteren
De Struise Brewers is an incredible visit but be informed that they are only open to the public on Saturdays from 14:00 – 18:00…PLEASE don’t show up at other times expecting a ‘private’ peek; the owners are wonderful people, but this is a business and they have to maintain their rules.
This renovated school house is where it all happens. As one of the most sought after beers on the planet, this is not like most breweries, rather there is a bit of magic here as every beer produced is stellar. They also have a school of sorts where Struise staff educate visitors on brewing skills and a small shop and tasting room where one can stop in for a beer and to shop for take away. (The ‘school’ is by arrangement only.) Head brewer/owner Urbain Coutteau, and part owners Carlo Grootaert, Philippe Driessens and lead brewer Jeroen Steenkiste all work together to develop, brew and educate others about their fantastic creations.
#4) Fantome Brewery, Rue Preal 8, Soy
Dany Prignon and his father started Fantome in 1988. The brewery is a hodge podge of equipment, but Dany works wonders with it and produces some of the most wonderful beers in Belgium and focuses on Saisons. Dany allows tours, but only by appointment. After the tour the visitors will visit the small cafe for a taste of 2-4 different Fantome beers and some snacks. I have had the pleasure of brewing with Dany several years ago and it was an excellent experience. There have been times when I would visit and Dany would ask for help with bottling or other assorted tasks. I do try to visit each year, if his schedule permits; but he is really a one-man brewery so please understand if he is unable to accommodate you .
Dany speaks OK English, but if e-mailing him to ask about visiting, the less words, the better. Also, Dany will usually be the one to serve you the beers in the cafe; but he doesn’t drink alcohol, so he’ll have a Coke while you enjoy his wonderful creations.
#5) , Auberge de Poteaupré, 5b, 6464 Bourlers
Official brewery tap for Chimay; and an excellent adventure in gastronomy. Not only can a visitor try all the range of Chimay beers including the Doree; the ‘small’ beer brewed for the brothers who live at the monastery, they can choose to have a simple snack or a gastronomic adventure. As a personal advisement; if you visit – try the quiche. The service is excellent and they now have expanded the cafe to include a new gift shop and Espace Chimay, an interactive exhibit about the history of Chimay.
#6) Trappisten Café, 487 Antwerpsessteenweg, Westmalle (Oost Malle)
Official Brewery tap across the street from the abbey. Officially, Westmalle does not allow visitors and does not give tours. Westmalle tripel and dubbel are two of the best beers in the world and ones that all other brewers try to emulate. The old café was torn down in 2009 and rebuilt to the new modern building shown. I always wonder why a great place with excellent ambiance would be torn down and replaced by a cavernous modern building, but I guess they had their reasons. While not as ‘personal’ as the previous building the menu has expanded and they are still serving the excellent Westmalle beers.
#7) Huyghe Brewery, Brusselsesteenweg 256, Melle (Ghent)
Brouwerij Huyghe is one of my favorite tours. They recently expanded their brewery to accommodate the demand for their range of beers and the new brewery is state of the art; but it exists alongside much of the old brewery equipment making the tour even more interesting. Alain De Laet, is one of the most knowledgeable brewery owners in Belgium and besides Delirium Tremens and that range of beers; Huyghe brews over 50 other beers including the Floris range of fruit beers, Artvelde, Campus, McGregor and many others.
Huyghe does try to schedule tours Monday through Friday at 2:00, 3:30 and 5:00 PM but only by advance reservation. The tours must have a minimum of 15 people per group or the tour will not be confirmed. This does not mean that your group must have 15 people; just send a request and hopefully they will be able to fit you in. There is a minimal charge of 8 Euros with a minimum ‘group’ charge of 80 Euros. This includes participation in the guided tour and a beer tasting session. Depending on the tour guide, the tour might be perfunctory or might cause the visitors to need to chill before getting back in the car. But this is no problem as they have have a fantastic brewing museum and for those with an interest in beer, this could keep one preoccupied for a considerable amount of time.
#8) l’Ange Gardien, #3 Rue d’Orval, Orval
The ‘Guardian Angel’ is the official brewery tap of Orval Trappist monastery. After a tour of the ruins of the old abbey, you can pop into the gift shop and buy Orval cheeses and bottles of beer, but if you want to drink a fresh one, you need to go to the ‘Angel’. Orval only has one beer they brew for normal consumption, but at the ‘cafe’ you can also try the Petit Orval, the monk’s beer and you can also try Orval on tap – another unique experience. If they will allow; grab a couple of bottles to go; you’ll never see this beer for sale anywhere. They served an excellent variety of lunch cuisine and traditional Belgian dishes and snacks. By the way, the trip to Orval and the surrounding area is absolutely beautiful. There is a hotel, Hostellerie d’Orval about a quarter mile away if you feel you just can’t get enough of the area.
No brewery tours.
#9) Duvel Moortgat , Breendonkdorp 58, Breendonk-Puurs
A huge brewery with huge output, but this is where Duvel is made and since it is an excellent beer, so is the tour. And while this is a large commercial brewery, the tour is informative and excellent . When the tour concludes, the group goes into the on-site brewery tap for a small lunch and a taste of 3-4 of the Moortgat branded beers or select from the Maredsous abbey beers and Achouffe beers. Make sure to visit the gift shop after the tour and tasting for some great Duvel swag.
#10) Het Anker, Guido Gezellelaan 49, B2800 Mechelen
Brewery of the Gouden Carolus range of beers as well as Lucifer and a few others and more recently a Gouden Carolus Single Malt whiskey. The entire range of beers are world-class with my personal favorite being the Cuvee Van de Keizer Blauw (Blue), which is brewed only once per year on February 24th. The beer can be cellar aged for up to 20 years and evolves throughout the entire time. The brewery tour is top notch and they also have an attached hotel and tap room and restaurant…all world-class. Some of the buildings were built in the 15th and 16th century and a portion of the brewery used to be a hospital…over 400 years ago. there has been beer brewed in the area for the hospital and a in 1471 Charles the Bold decreed that any beer brewed for the hospital could not be taxed; an excellent reason to visit the hospital. the current brewery started up in 1872 and his now in the fifth generation of the brewing family; and the quality of their beers show this.
I would like to say that I have many more favorites, and many of the owners and brewers are friends of mine; but on this site, I am trying to determine which breweries offer what I consider to be a once in a lifetime ‘experience’; and an ‘open door’ policy; and while many others like Rodenbach (Palm), De Landtsheer (Malheur), and many others are incredible breweries and do offer exclusive tours; many do not have an official open day for their tasting rooms, where visitors can schedule a visit without an appointment and stop in and try the range of beers. While I understand that all breweries are production businesses; without the ability of the average traveler to stop by and try their beers precludes me from including them in this section.