Meet Yannick de Cocqueau, our resident Taste Vacations beer expert with quite impressive credentials. He was born and raised in Ghent, Belgium and he is not only a skilled homebrewer but he is a freelance brewer for Bourgogne de Flandres. To top things off, he also has acted as a beer judge for several beer competitions throughout Belgium. This guy knows his beer.
With his extensive knowledge of Flanders, a northern region in Belgium, we asked Yannick to share with us his top 10 hidden gem beer bars for travelers looking to visit his beloved home country. He was happy to oblige.
As with most hidden gems, some are in unusual locations but they are all quite accessible, and in most cases, you should be able to easily get along with speaking only English. Here are his recommendations, in no particular order:
1. Apostelken >>
‘t Apostelken is a real beer monument. You’ll discover over 250 beers here, with a focus on the regional and typical Belgian styles like lambic beers. A big central Orval bottle makes it clear that you are at an Orval Ambassador, serving this Trappist at different ages and temperatures. If you’re hungry the house spaghetti or brochette are recommended. Additionally, the collection of over 5,000 full bottles of Belgian beers is just impressive and worth a look.
2. Gainsbar >>
The interior of the bar reflects the eccentric and artistic character of the French singer. Of all the beer cafés in the city, this is also the one with the longest and most diverse beer list. Local brewers and really special beers are featured here. You’ll always be able to try something you don’t know in a great atmosphere until the early morning hours. The place to be(er) in Kortrijk!
3. Trollenkelder >>
Bij Sint-Jacobs 17
Brown beer pub with a 15th-century basement where you can enjoy a quiet, intimate chat. Here you can’t order a normal pint, only top-quality Belgian specialty beers! The name is coming from the Norwegian origins of the formal owner and the troll stories coming from the north. Trolls are still quite present in the decoration and interior.
4. M-Café >>
You can visit the M-café for a drink and a bite to eat before, during or after your visit to the M-museum. But this bar is way more than just a typical museum bar and offers you the largest selection of regional beers in Leuven. They also have an extensive amount of knowledge and experience – they know what they do, what they serve, and how to serve it.
5. ‘t Brugs Beertje >>
‘t Brugs Beertje serves 300 different Belgian beers. Add some Belgian cheese or paté to make your pub visit even more enjoyable. It’s small and cozy and you’ll often meet some brewers having a beer here too. A nice mix of tourists and locals.
6. Antwerps Bierhuyske >>
Within a stone’s throw from the main square, you’ll find the Mecca for beer lovers. Beers are poured like they should, following all the rules, and showing full respect for the product.
7. Botteltje >>
An authentic brown pub with probably the biggest beer menu on the Belgian coast. Make your choice from more than 300 beers and pair it with some of their tasty bapas (beer tapas). If you’re really hungry, go for one the traditional dishes or menus. Even in the food, beer isn’t really far away.
8. Monk Bar >>
With several Trappist beers on draught and the possibility to taste the Faro, a lambic based beer typical for Brussels, Monk is worth a visit. An authentic bar in one of the most lively neighborhoods of Brussels were you can start with a coffee in the early morning, have a great spaghetti for lunch, and finish at night with a good beer as night cap. The atmosphere changes along the day with a flow of locals and tourists coming in and out.
9. ‘t Ankertje aan de Dijle >>
In this cozy café located in a 18th-century building of Late Baroque style, you’ll find famous Mechelen beers on the beer list. There is also a beer shop featuring all sorts of ‘beery’ gifts. The ground floor of the building is dedicated entirely to the beers of Brewery Het Anker, with several of their beers on tap. The upper floor is decorated with countless advertising panels and materials from the 30-odd breweries that have been located in Mechelen at one time or another. ‘t Ankertje is located on the Vismarkt, which is today a fashionable, trendy neighborhood in the city.
10. Boelekewis >>
Boelekewis means regional cuisine, grilled meats, and mussels. In the summer, you can enjoy one of their fresh salads on their big terrace and garden. You can’t imagine a better place to enjoy some delicious lambic beers. They hold the record for the most regional spontaneous fermenters – more than 40 on the menu!