Belgium is anything but boring. How can a country that celebrates life with some of the finest chocolates and innumerable variants of beer be boring? We spent 4 days in Belgium, stayed in Brussels, took day trips to Bruges and Ghent. But the most fun we had was on one evening when we set out to explore the best(esttttttt) things about this country- Beer and Chocolates.
Anyone who has traveled and traveled well enough will often be heard singing laurels of the finesse of Belgian Beer and Belgian Chocolate. And even though Germany (for its beer production) and Switzerland (for their chocolates) are direct neighbors, Belgium maintains its standards in both quality and taste.
Belgium’s connection with chocolate dates back to the 17th century when the chocolate was brought to Europe from Mesoamerica. By the mid-18th century, cocoa beans were regularly imported to Belgium from their African colonies. And by 1960, Belgium was exporting more chocolate than it was importing. The chocolate industry became an important industry in the country and holds high prestige even today.
Some of the finest, high-quality chocolates in the world are made in Belgium.
In the 12th century, relatively low-alcohol beers were used as water to deal with the sanitary issue. With the Catholic church’s permission, beer was brewed in local French and Flemish abbeys and distributed to raise funds. Over the next several centuries, the methods of brewing beer evolved. Monks who fled from the French revolution began brewing beer in the Trappist monasteries in the 18th century. Belgium has a reputation of its own when it comes to beer and quite a high one at that. Everywhere in the world, beer is just beer! But in Belgium, there is beer, ale, stout, lager and many varieties within. Even today, Belgians (and the visitors) drink beer simply like water.
Fun Fact: Delirium Café in Brussels holds the Guinness World Record for the number of beers available for tasting- 2,004 in the year 2004.
The Brussels Journey: Beer & Chocolate Tour
To make the most of our little exploration evening, we signed up for The Brussels Journey- Beer & Chocolate Tour. Just in case you are not a tour person, do give this one a chance because it gave us a sneak peek into the history, the local favorites and glimpses of Brussels. Brussels is so full of breweries, bars, chocolatiers, each looking better and fancier than others. It can be challenging to make a pick and get the right balance and the best pick of tasters!
The tour consisted of 2 parts-
- The Chocolate Tasting Tour
- The Beer Tasting Tour
Chocolates & Pralines
We obviously started with chocolates and visited about 4 different chocolate shops ranging from affordable local favorites to celebrity chocolatier shops.
- The first lesson on this tour for us was learning about pralines. Pralines are fine, high-quality chocolates made by expert chocolatiers.
- Most chocolate shops are owned by chocolatiers and sell specialized chocolates and pralines prepared by them/ their recipe. It is here that you will realize that chocolate is not just a guilty pleasure but an absolute form of art.
- The percentage of cocoa beans and milk content differ in chocolates. We even tasted the raw cocoa bean and tried the variations of chocolate. Dark chocolate was my favorite, obviously. Parichay loved the milk chocolates, particularly.
- Chocolates are also prepared with a range of other elements such as nuts, fruits, mint, liquor, etc.
- Chocopolis, Pierre Marcolini, Frederik Blondeel were some of the top chocolate shops that we visited for sampling.
The second part of that night, that tour was where the fun kept leveling up with each bar, each taster! It was time for the beer tour.
Now like I earlier mentioned, beer is sacrosanct in Belgium. So, the chances of finding a bad beer are negative even for a novice. But on this tour, we were on the mission to try just the best and a whole range of them. I bet there have been a whole lot of people who must’ve wanted to move to Brussels right after this tour, obviously for their love for beer.
We took about 5 stops for beer in an interesting range of bars across the neighborhood to sample the different types of beers. First, it was all about tasting and understanding the difference between the types of beers- ale, stout, beer, etc. Gradually, we were also introduced to the range of bases of these beers, their preparation methods and most importantly the level of alcohol content. The alcohol content kept going up and the evening started becoming a blur yet happy memory!
My favorite beers that evening were-
The Orval, The Trappistes Rochefort & The Dark Sister.
Thank God for all the cheese and sides, we survived the night!
But that my friends are exactly why I cannot get into the specifics but can only promise you that I had the greatest evening on this tour on my Europe trip and you will undoubtedly enjoy the same!
So, whether or not to try this? HELL YES! THAT’S A NO BRAINER!
Bonus Brussels Tour
Now the add on advantage of this trip apart from all the fun, chocolates and beers that we were tasting was exploring some of the coolest spots of Brussels. With a local tour guide who could speak fluently in English, the trip got a whole lot better as we walked through some trademark spots of Brussels, including the markets, Grand Palace, Manneken Pis, best chocolate shops, local bars, waffle shops, and stunningly lit streets of Brussels whilst great conversations!
No matter how much fun you have exploring new destinations by yourself as a tourist, but the way a local shows his city shall always remain a priceless and unparalleled experience.
A big big thank you to the Brussels Journey team for this!
Book Your Tour
Where to book: http://www.thebrusselsjourney.com/
Cost: 80 € per person (This tour is only for those above 18 years)
Inclusions: All tasters- pralines, chocolates & beers till the last stop with some sides and bottles of water
Quick Tip: Don’t go on this tour empty stomach and drink lots of water if you don’t want to wake up sick the next day!