I won’t lie to you – one of the main reasons I moved to Ghent was for the beer. Coming from England, where the beer is weak, flat and a bit too warm (I’m allowed to say that), I was and still am, in awe of the range of beer in Ghent. When I first visited, I was taken to all the usual drinking dens by my local colleagues. The places that are in every tourist guide – the Dulle Griet, the Waterhuis (or is it Bierhuis?) and the Trollekelder. Fantastic bars, and always on my list when friends and family come to stay. So I’m not going to talk anymore about those. Instead here are some other plekken (spots) and gems of beer wisdom that I’ve discovered since I’ve lived here.
My top bars
Geus Van Gent
De Geus van Gent sits right next to the water just around the corner from Sint-Pietersplein. Its location away from the historic city centre means it doesn’t attract passersby. But it’s hiding one of the best beer lists (it’s actually more of a book) in Ghent. They do a good range of sour geuzen beers too. Shrinking violets might not want to inspect the display cabinets at this bar too closely. Now you’re wondering…
Famous for student nights out and cheap deals on lager and shots, Overpoortstraat is unsuspectingly home to a bar that has 60 beers on tap – Rock Circus. It’s like a little hideout where beer connoisseurs go to try something new (I challenge anyone to know ALL 60 already). Its sister bar – Backdoor Café – has been around for a while and also has an impressive beer list. Both places play indie and rock music and the walls are chockablock with memorabilia of all kinds.
Another one to try is Barrazza. This time we’re in the heart of the historic city centre, overlooking the water. On a summer’s day you can sit out on the steps to watch up close as canoes and tourist boats glide by. With coloured lights in the trees and tealights on the tables inside, it doesn’t look like your average Belgian bruincafe. I was expecting around 5 beers and an extensive cocktail menu. Instead, 8 or so pages list a mix of classic Belgian beers and the best new brews.
Dok Brewery Company
Finally, it’s worth dropping into the Dok Brewery Company brew hall. Set in an old industrial transformer hall, this vast area offers long tables, 30 taps, an impressive brewing installation and four food stops. This latest brewing establishment is brought to us by the brewers behind three of Ghent’s local beers: Pils 13, Hedonis Ambachtsbier and L’Arogante.
If you wake up the next
morning afternoon and think you need to get your own home supply then visit Hopduvel or Dranken Geers. Hopduvel is in the city centre at Coupure and walking distance from a tram in case you get carried away. Dranken Geers is a bit further out, in the northern district of Oostakker, so a car is your best bet. But it’s also possible to reach it on bike or bus. Both shops also have a good range of beer glasses to match the beers (it is a sin to serve a beer in the wrong glass here, by the way). So never again buy overpriced glasses from the tourist shops in the centre. They also sell baskets of beer wrapped in ribbons which are a common gift if you’re invited over to someone’s house for a special celebration.
Keeping it local
Ghent specifically is enjoying a boom in beer brewing at the moment. Two beers which are leading the way are 13 pils and Ne Veurvechter. 13 pils is a ‘craft pils’ that combines only Belgian hops, Belgian barley, water and a bit of yeast. You won’t find any sugar or other additives. Try it at the brewer’s own restaurant, Kantien, near the Watersportbaan. Ne Veurvechter is brewed by De Laatste Drinker brewery and is dialect for ‘someone fighting for something’. Belgian and American hops combine to add a citrusy finish to this hoppy beer that packs a punch. But the best thing about these two beers is that they’re both made in Gent. The brewer behind De Laatste Drinker is also a member of the Gent Beer Society which organise the Gent Beer Festival each August.
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