You know you’re in Belgium when…

I consider myself extremely lucky to be in the somewhat envious position of having an old friend who actually lives in Holland, so I was able to pop over to Den Haag (The Hague) for a few days to visit him and enjoy the local fare whilst there. Even better, my other half, K, has a good friend who is currently studying in Leiden, so she was able to visit her old friend whilst I did the same.

If you didn’t know, Leiden and The Hague are only about 15 minutes apart, and are both about one tank of petrol away from Maldon, where we live together in England. That in mind, we decided to take the car and Europe for the long weekend (in the UK, Good Friday and Easter Monday are public / bank holidays).

Maldon, Folkestone, Calais, Gent, Antwerp, Rotterdam, The Hague.


We took the Channel Tunnel from Folkestone to Calais, rather than the ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland as it was just too expensive, so this required us to drive through Belgium (and a little of France) to get there. Being a Belgian citizen myself, I am always happy to visit the old country, there’s something intangibly great about this sleepy little country, even if beer isn’t your raison d’etre like it is for me.

I have a few bits and pieces from the holiday to write up and share, but the first thing I thought might be of interest to those of a beery persuasion was the selection of beers available from a petrol station on the motorway somewhere between Calais and Gent. In my homeland of South Africa, petrol stations don’t generally sell beer at all (this is somewhat ironic, as a large proportion of South African drivers love to drink and drive. Some might go as far as to say it’s the South African national pasttime, with more than 1100 road deaths during December 2010 alone, but I digress), so I always do a bit of a double take whenever I see ice cold lager for sale on a busy motorway.

In the UK, you’re usually presented with a choice of Stella, Fosters, Kronenbourg, Carlsberg and maybe Newcastle Brown if you’re lucky. But this is Belgium, the spiritual home of good beer, and it shows. Even in this plain little shell garage, I counted about 9 different Belgian ales (two of them Trappist!) as well as a selection of different lagers from Belgium and the rest of the world. I guess by Belgian standards, these are probably the usual suspects, much like those on the list I just rattled off are back in the UK. Who has the better deal? You tell me…

Grimbergen or Desperados? Hmm...


Filed under Beer, Travel

2 responses to “You know you’re in Belgium when…

  1. Theldry

    Leffe in cans? It’s like a whole different world. šŸ˜€ I’m currently living in Scotland so you’d need to add Tennants to your list of UK-based beers, and probably scrub 2 or 3 of the others! Like so many things in the UK you really have to go out and hunt down quality. Sadly, you can’t expect to turn up at the nearest pub or off license and find anything better than dross. Around Glasgow there are 2 very exceptional bars for great ale (that I know of to-date) but I would never have find those without word-of-mouth.

    Anyway, negativity aside, your road trip sounded like a fine little adventure. Looking forward to seeing your write-ups!

  2. So true! I’ve only been to Scotland once (Aberdeen) on business, so I’ve never had the chance to try Tenants. I managed to convince my colleague who was travelling with me at the time that it would be a good idea to seek out a good beer bar one night, so we asked our taxi driver to take us somewhere we could get a good pint. He drove us to a trendy bar somewhere in the centre, but I told him ‘no, where the locals drink, you know – real ale?’
    ‘oh, aye’, he said.
    He then took us to a dingy, dodgy-looking little pub under a road fly-over, where they had 8 different cask ales on tap, all beautifully kept. I have fond memories of that night (not many though), going through the line of malty, caramelly scottish ales.
    Along the lines of seeking out quality, I always consider it a win if I find Budvar at an off-licence when in London. It’s often been my go-to beer in times of trouble!

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