‘T BRUGS BEERTJE, BRUGES
This speciality beerhouse, tucked down a side street in Bruges , is like no other – and is hands down the best bar in Bruges if not the best I’ve ever visited.
It’s a tiny beer cocoon, with some 300 brews to choose from, and is jam-packed with atmosphere, ambience, and people of all nationalities, ages and personalities.
I heard about it on telly, when Dom Jolly visited and ordered a glass of Kwak. I watched him sitting in this quirky little pub drinking from the strangest glass, and immediately put it on my must-visit list.
Charm and character
If you’re not looking for ‘t Brugs Beertje, you might well miss it – and if you do, you’re missing out.
Venture away from the Markt Square towards the Zand – as you walk along Steenstraat, look to your right for Kemelstraat and that’s where you’ll find it.
When you walk through the door the first thing you’ll notice are zillions of retro beer posters and adverts, adding an immense amount of charm and character.
The heavily tobacco-stained walls add more warmth and remind you that this is a long-established bar that has seen many punters before you.
To the left of the door hangs fronds of dried hops, and on a shelf along the top of the bar you’ll find rows of ceramic beer mugs and dust-collecting, faded-labelled bottles from years gone by.
Behind them, above the bar, hangs every shape of glass imaginable in a pub – or perhaps I should say tasting house – which prides itself in presentation, and always serves your beer in the correct glass to ensure you experience it to the full.
Don’t expect a paper pamphlet for a menu – you’re presented with a chunky book with all manner of beer styles, complete with tasting notes.
And if that’s not enough to help you reach your decision, the staff are so knowledgeable and will always take the time to advise you what beer is best, taking into account everything from your personal taste to the weather conditions.
There are also delicious nibbling platters to keep you going while you sample the menu – I recommend the ‘little nibbling plate’ of pate served with pickles and a mini pot of mustard.
On one of our earliest visits we were sat next to a plaque which read “RIP Michael Jackson” – at that point the pop star of the same name was still with us and I had never heard of Michael Jackson the Beerhunter, but have since learned of his huge significance in the beer world.
Beside it was a picture of the man himself along with some other people including a smiling young woman. As I examined it, someone in the bar pointed out a middle-aged lady waiting the tables who had given us advice on what to buy.
“That’s her in the picture with Michael Jackson”, they said, sounding starstruck. “This is her bar.”
It turns out the woman in question was Daisy Claes and she too is somewhat of a legend in the beer world.
She started this iconic bar in the 80s after getting her hands on the premises, which dates back to 1632. Since then she has almost tripled the number of beers on offer as well as attracting global recognition and awards.
Indeed, when she scooped the HO.RE.CA Award in 2010, she and the bar were credited with having put Bruges “on the world map” which is quite an accolade.
After decades at the helm, she sold the bar earlier this year, but it remains as magical as always – and you still might spot Daisy there, only this time she’ll likely be enjoying a beer rather than serving it.
The boyfriend and I have had so many amazing visits to ‘t Brugs Beertje.
One time we spent so long shouting across the room to strangers that we pushed our tables together to form one big super-table and had a great (and blurry) night of chat and laughs.
We’ve bumped into everyone from locals to visiting stag dos and I recently had a selfie taken with a grown man dressed as a giant furry bear.
On one occasion I decided to park myself next to a gentleman in his 70s who’d sat alone all night, and was glad I did as he shared the most fascinating stories about his life and past.
Go to this bar. See if you agree that it’s the best bar in Bruges. You will not be disappointed.
Unless you pace yourself, you may not remember WHY you had fun – but you WILL have had fun.