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Cheers! Four breweries near Brussels open for tours and tastings
If you want to combine a short trip to the countryside with a taste of some of the country’s best beers, the green belt around Brussels is the place to go. Flemish Brabant is home to all kinds of breweries, with big names such as Palm and more local initiatives like De Kroon.
All of them have great stories to tell, and some of them have on-site shops or summer bars. Here are four of our favourite brewery tours in the green belt.
Brewery Hof ten Dormaal in Tildonk Hidden in the fields around Leuven lies an old farm that has been transformed into an ecological brewery. With roots going back to the 13th century, Hof ten Dormaal’s brewing goes hand-in-hand with farming, in line with the ancient Belgian tradition in which beer was made at farms with the ingredients – wheat, hops and oats, for instance – cultivated on site.
Using this method, the family-owned brewery produces its original endive beer as well as many others. After brewing, surplus from the spent ingredients are used to feed the farm animals, including the Belgian draught horses, typical for the region. A visit to the brewery can be combined with a carriage ride or a bite to eat at the summer bar on the edge of the family’s pond. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a tour.
Brewery Boon in Lembeek If you have already tried a lambic or one of the beers derived from it – like geuze and kriek – you probably remember its distinctive sour taste. This kind of beer is typical for Brussels and the region southwest of it, the Pajottenland. One of its flagbearers is Brewery Boon, which has been based in Lembeek (part of Halle) since the 1990s, but has a history dating back to 1680.
It’s one of only a handful of breweries that use the ‘cloudy wort’ method, the oldest traditional brewing process for lambic. Boon both delivers lambic to makers of geuze and produces its own Oude Geuze, Oude Kriek and Kriek Boon. Tours can be taken on Saturday afternoons. The brewery is just a few minutes’ walk from Lembeek’s train station.
De Kroon in Neerijse About eight years ago, the Delvaux family revived this brewery that originally started in the late 1800s but had ceased activity for several decades. Their tours take you from the old section, where the brewery’s history unfolds, to the new facilities, where the Delvaux and Superkroon beers (among others) are produced. The brewery is located in Neerijse, part of Huldenberg, just 15 kilometres east of Brussels. Tours take place every Saturday afternoon, and the on-site restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.
Palm Brewery in Londerzeel It has a long history, but Palm beer really took off after its successful presence at the World Expo of 1958 in Brussels. It’s the only brewery in the world to make beer according to the four traditional fermentation methods. The amber-coloured Palm beer is known for its herbal flavour but also for its logo, which features the Brabant draught horse. Such horses are bred on the grounds of Diepensteyn Castle behind the brewery.
If you visit the website, don’t be confused by the name – Palm was bought up a few years ago by the Swinkels Family Brewers in the Netherlands. But the names of the beers have not changed. The Palm brewery in Londerzeel is unfortunately not open to individual visitors, but if you can get together a group of 15, it offers a full day of lunch and carriage rides on top of a tour of its beautiful site.
A tip: Some breweries in Flemish Brabant offer tours in English or French as a matter of course, but it’s always best to check the info on the website or ask before you book
Photos, from top: Courtesy Toerisme Vlaams-Brabant, courtesy Erfgoedcel & Regionaal Landschap Pajottenland & Zennevallei, courtesy De Kroon/Facebook, courtesy Palm Brewery