Depeche Moeder Lambic – a fashionable dispatch from Brussels

The centre of Brussels has been undergoing a fair bit of transformation over the past few years. This is not before time. Parts of the city had become fairly run down and I’m just talking about the tourist spots. This took away from enjoyment of stunningly beautiful areas such as the Grand Place.

Drinking spots haven’t been immune from this push for a facelift. Delirium has expanded from one large basement area to what has been dubbed a village, taking over all the premises along the narrow laneway and even pushing through to the next street over. BrewDog have just opened a bar in this Other bars have been given at least a lick of paint, no doubt driven by the smoking ban taking hold.

What the centre of this European capital lacks is plenty of options for al fresco drinking. I’m certainly not talking about overpriced bars and restaurants in the Grand Place. Day-trippers to Brussels for EU-related business often find themselves sequestered in featureless and too frequently window-less meeting rooms for hours on end. The thought of a nice beer before heading to the airport is much desired.

The European Quarter is unimaginative when it comes to beer offerings
The European Quarter is unimaginative when it comes to beer offerings

The bars of the European Quarter are relatively unimaginative in terms of the beers they carry. Sure there are a few decent ones available in bottles but most are more than familiar to what you can get at home. Some local bars off the beaten path are marginally better but you have to seek these out and time may not be on your hands.

The safest bet is to head into town on the Metro but to where? One area that has come on in the past few years is Place Fontainas. This is located between Rue du Midi down from the Bourse and a couple of blocks below the Mannequin Pis. One bar in particular needs to be visited – Moeder Lambic Fontainas.

Opened in 2009, this is the sister pub to the original bar located in the suburbs of Saint-Gilles. The original is a classic should be a must on any beery bucket-list. However, it’s trickier to get too and sadly not convenient when a decent after work beer is in order, especially if you’ve a flight to catch.

The pub is modern, long, narrow and post-industrialist. Booths are available on both sides with seating at the bar too. However, it can get fairly busy with people ordering, asking questions and those taking snaps of their beer (me included) so a bar stool may not necessarily grant you any desired solitude. The bar has great wifi too. There’s a big terrace out front so it’s a great place to have a drink on warmer evenings but will still be a place for smokers come wintertime.

The beer list is substantive, with local specialities on draught. There’s 40 taps with some international offering as well. Of course there’s cask lambics on offer. The bottle list is selective and of high quality. On my last few visits, however, I’ve tended to stick with beers from local Brussels brewery, Brasserie de la Senne.

Band of Brothers by Brasserie de la Senne exclusively for Moeder Lambic
Band of Brothers by Brasserie de la Senne exclusively for Moeder Lambic

Band of Brothers by Brasserie de la Senne exclusively for Moeder Lambic
Band of Brothers by Brasserie de la Senne exclusively for Moeder Lambic
First up is Band of Brothers that is produced exclusively for the bar. It’s eye opening at only 3.5% ABV in a town known for stronger beers. Suspicions that even the tap water comes in at a higher ABV. Joking aside, Belgium like elsewhere is seeing a growing thirst for lower strength but not necessarily poorer quality beers. This beer is case and point.

It arrives with a sense that it’s going to be refreshing, which is just perfect for a hot and humid day in Brussels. It’s almost cloudy pineapple juice with a thick frothy head. There’s pineapple and hints of mango on the nose. It’s creamy on first taste before the fresh tropical fruit bitterness takes over. It’s clean drinking. It may appear a little thin but again, it’s only 3.5% abv. Refreshment is its game. You have to take this in the same vein as enjoying the last few spoonfuls of a citrus sorbet that has become somewhat diluted from the melted ice – it’s still bitter and still hits the spot.

While sessionable as a pint, it’s always nice to have Tara’s Boulba in a 33cl pour
While sessionable as a pint, it’s always nice to have Tara’s Boulba in a 33cl pour
Next up has to be Tara’s Boulba from the same brewery and is its best known beer. The brewery has developed a remarkable reputation in a short-space of time for producing session-friendly and hop-forward beers. Taras Boulba weighs in at 4.5% ABV. Yes, it’s perfect for consuming by the pint (or half-litre, it is Belgium after-all) but there’s something pleasurable by having it in a smaller pour and in a far cooler glass.

While sessionable as a pint, it's always nice to have Tara's Boulba in a 33cl pour
While sessionable as a pint, it’s always nice to have Tara’s Boulba in a 33cl pour

Taras Boulba pours a cloudy yellow gold with hints of citrus fruit and banana on the nose. It comes across a little spicy also. It’s topped by a thick dollop of foam. Effervescent with a growing citrus bitterness. It finishes dry and spicy, although you never escape the citrus fruit bitterness. Yeast notes are detectable throughout. If this was released by an American brewery, it might have been called a session White IPA, which shows the blurred or more likely imaginary lines with the style.

So two fantastic beers to set you up for the night or in my case for the trip back to the airport. However, the bar and beers make the short 10 minute walk back uphill to Gare Central pleasantly passable. You may even have the opportunity to smile sarcastically at those who opted just to have a can of Jupiler or Maes on the rain to the airport. As for beers at Brussels Zaventem, you can forget about it. They’re simply not worth the money.