All About Beer Magazine - Volume 35, Issue 1
May 21, 2014 By

Bezoekerscentrum De Lambiek (Gemeenveldstraat 1, Alsemberg)

Bezoekerscentrum De Lambiek (“The Lambic Visitor’s Center”) opened in May 2011 in Alsemberg, a village near Beersel. The 1.7 million euro project has produced the lambic beer equivalent of the Maison du Vin in Bordeaux.

While it’s not really a café, visitors can drink just about all of the regularly available artisanal lambic beers there. There is usually a lambic on draft. Oude gueuze, oude kriek and other brews are mostly available in 37.5 cl bottles, making them easy to share with friends. If the weather is pleasant, outside seating is available.

De Lambiek is really a living history center complete with a 100-seat theater where films about the local area and lambic beer production are shown in four languages. There are also interactive displays, a couple of which are located inside hollowed-out wooden barrels. In one of them, you can listen to the sounds of lambic brewing at its different stages, and try and match the sounds with the correct stage in the process. In another, you can smell various ingredients used in lambic beers, such as hops, malts and cherries.

All of the brewery members of the High Council for Artisanal Lambic Beers (HORAL) have their own display cases at the center where samples of their products—and a photo chosen by them—are on display. HORAL promotes and protects traditional lambic beers, and its members are Boon, De Cam, 3 Fonteinen, Girardin, Hanssens, Lindemans, Mort Subite, Oud Beersel, Tilquin, Timmermans, and De Troch.

3 Fonteinen
Traditional Flemish fare at Brasserie/Restaurant 3 Fonteinen. Photo by Charles D. Cook.

Brasserie/Restaurant 3 Fonteinen (Herman Teirlinckplein 3, Beersel)

A short distance from the Bezoekerscentrum De Lambiek, Restaurant 3 Fonteinen, in the village of Beersel, eight miles southwest of Brussels, is adjacent to the brewery and gift shop. Beersel also has a medieval castle dating to around the year 1300 that was important to the local area. You can experience the lambic production process up close while purchasing souvenir bottles or preserves made with kriek. Stay for a meal at the restaurant, where delicious local Flemish dishes such as stoofvlees (Flemish beef carbonnade with frites) and konijn (rabbit with frites or croquettes) are served, along with many others, all paired with the brewery’s drafts and vintage bottles.

Hotel Centrum (Steenweg op Ukkel 11, Beersel)

Also in the village of Beersel is the bar at Hotel Centrum, with over 150 beers, including many lambics. It’s also a comfortable place to stay the night.

In de oude pruim
In de Oude Pruim. Photo by Charles D. Cook.

In de Oude Pruim (Steenweg op Ukkel 87, Beersel)

Another venue, In de Oude Pruim, is a classic café restaurant dating to 1871, which offers Girardin lambic from handpump and various bottled lambics as well. Both Centrum and Oude Pruim offer fine Flemish cooking.

Adri Vanderelst
Adri Vanderelst of Herberg De Zwaan. Photo by Charles D. Cook.

Herberg De Zwaan (Gemeentehuisstraat 1, Dworp)

From Beersel, head nearly due south, to the village of Dworp. The renowned Hanssens lambic blendery is here along with what is considered one of the great “new” cafés in the area: Herberg De Zwaan (“The Swan”) that opened in October 2011. De Zwaan is located in a building dating to 1700, and it looks the part of an old village pub. The owners, brothers Adri and Stijn Vanderelst, are serious beer lovers, and it shows in their enthusiasm.

“We have 125 beers, including over a dozen different oude gueuze and nine oude krieks. Plus, we have some vintages going back as early as 2002,” Adri says. “We also usually have a lambic on draft, from Boon, Lindemans or Tilquin.”

Bowelekewis Grill
Boelekewis Grill/Resto. Photo by Charles D. Cook.

Boelekewis Grill/Resto (Alsembergsesteenweg 856, Dworp)

Eating well is one of the other great pleasures of lambic country, so visitors should plan to savor some great meals while there. Boelekewis Grill-Resto stocks 40 lambic brews and 10 other regional beers, so there is plenty of choice. There is also plenty of space, as the barnlike interior seats 180 people, and the patio, 220. There is a children’s play area as well. Boelewekis and its owners, Jof and Bart, were awarded the Gouden Lambiekstoemper in 2012 by De Lambiekstompers, a lambic beer appreciation and promotion group in Halle, as the place that best promoted lambic brews for that year. Boelekewis is an excellent place to eat. The menu is diverse, with chicken, beef, venison, fish, mussels, rabbit, wild boar and other scrumptious dishes on offer, as well as a number of desserts.

In de Oude Smis van Mekingen (Jan Baptist Cardijnstraat 10, Sint-Pieters-Leeuw)

A great place for just drinking is In de Oude Smis van Mekingen (“In the Old Forge of Mekingen”) in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw. This old Pajottenland village was home to the Moriau lambic blendery until it closed in 1992. Frank Boon brews the Moriau Oude Geuze now, at his Brouwerij Boon, and it’s the main attraction for lambic beer lovers at the Old Forge. The building dates to at least 1847 and the café is owned and run by several generations of the same family. The walls of the single-room bar are filled with breweriana and old photos.

in de Oude
In de Oude Smis Van Mekingen. Photo by Charles D. Cook.

In ’t Vagevuur (Vlezenbeeklaan 91, Sint-Pieters-Leeuw)

Also in the vicinity, and on the way to Vlezenbeek, home of Brouwerij Lindemans, is Vagevuur (“Purgatory.”) This is one of the few spots where you can find Lindemans lambic on draft. It’s worth a stop to have one and meet Marina and Raymond, the owners.