During my PlacePass beer tour of Brussels, my tour guide Simon had no qualms about telling us, a group of Americans, exactly what he thought of American beer. He was the leader of a two and a half hour long beer tasting tour in Brussels, and he was certainly proud of his country’s beer heritage.
After being assured that American beer tastes like the liquid from a plastic water bottle that’s been sitting in your hot car for a few weeks, we were ready to try our first real Belgian brew. Simon first instructed us to warm our bottles between our hands. Why? Because Belgian beer is actually meant to be served nearly at room temperature. In keeping with the American-beer-is-awful theme, he told us that our national beers often advertise their extra cold cans because drinking them ice cold helpfully glosses over the fact that they pale in comparison to Belgian beer. Belgian beers, on the other hand, are actually flavorful, best tasted at a temperature that doesn’t numb your senses to their complexity.
While we drank the first beer we exchanged some American pleasantries about our background and travels. Despite Simon’s prejudice against American beer, he didn’t seem to harbor the same resentment for Americans themselves and was happy to chat with us. After finishing our first beers, it was time to relocate to Monk Bar in Place St-Cathérine. On our way there, Simon pointed out a line of urinals built into the side of the church, a sign of Belgian humor indeed. Of course, one of the American fellows felt the need to try it out right then and there.
At Monk Bar, Simon pointed out that it’s important to drink your beer from an open glass, since much of the sensation of taste comes from the nose. Drinking straight from the bottle or can is an American habit, and as such, terrible. He asked us to try and pick out specific flavors in the beers: orange peel, vanilla, cherry. He explained that in Belgium there’s a lot of variety in beer, since people put tons of different flavors into them. The IPA craze in the United States Simon feels is a cop out; it’s easy to put tons of hops into your beer but more difficult to make ones with subtleties.
By the end of our time at Monk Bar, everyone was getting pretty thoroughly tipsy. After all, we had sampled quite a few beers at this point with alcohol percentages up to 10.5%. At this happy and drunken point, Simon cleverly urged us to write him online reviews. After the tour, we were still the same patriotic, burger-eating Americans, and we’ll probably all return to a warm PBR at some point.
Want to take a Belgian beer tour? Book your beer tour ticket with PlacePass.
Wondering about aperitifs around Europe? Check out our blog post on da Vinci’s vineyard!
By: Emily Corrigan, a Let’s Go! researcher-writer
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