A couple from the UK with a passion for exploring the world, and enjoying a drink or two while we’re at it!
We want to share our travel experiences to help you plan your next trip, and let you know the best places to enjoy a cold one when you get there!
Although Christmas Markets are technically a German tradition, Belgium definitely hold their own when putting on the festivities! If you’ve visited the Belgium around the Christmas period in the past, you know that you can expect mountains of delicious waffles, a constant flow of Belgian hot chocolate to keep warm, and plenty of jenever (‘Dutch or Flemish gin’) to keep the party going strong!
This month, we’re jetting off (hypothetically) to Belgium’s beautiful Bruges for our lockdown date night, and to visit their famous Christmas Markets.
Belgian Beef Stew
500-750g Chuck steak or stewing beef
2 Bottles, approximately 660ml of dark Belgian Beer
1 Large white onion
155g Pancetta or smoked bacon lardons
3 Garlic Cloves
500ml Beef stock
2 Slices of bread
1tbsp Brown sugar
1tsp dried or fresh thyme
3 Bay leaves
1 tsp Unsalted butter
1tbsp Olive oil
1tbsb Plain flour
Salt & Pepper to taste
Crusty bread to serve
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 3.5 hours
- Using a large saucepan on a high heat, sear the beef in a touch of olive oil until browned on all sides and set side.
- In the same pan, add a small amount of unsalted butter and begin to fry the pancetta/bacon/. Thinly slice the onion and add to the pan along with chopped garlic. Fry all of these ingredients until golden and caramelised.
- Add a tablespoon of plain flour to soak up some of the liquid, then add the beef back into the pan along with the beer, stock and the remainder of the ingredients.
- Bring the stew to a boil and then drop down to a very low heat. Simmer gently for 2.5-3 hours until the stew has reduced and thickened.
Belgian Beer Guide
No visit (hypothetical or otherwise) to Belgium would be complete without sampling a variety of delicious Belgian beer! Nowhere else on Earth is a drink more synonymous to a country than beer is to Belgium, and over the thousands of years the Belgians have been making our favourite amber beverage of choice, they’ve gotten pretty good at it!
There are literally thousands of different Belgian beers that are ripe for exploring from hundreds of breweries around the country. We’re going to be very brief here and just give you a quick overview of the most popular styles of Belgian beer, as well as some of our favourites!
Ok, to get technical, Trappist isn’t a style of beer, but beer that’s brewed inside a working monastery! There are only 11 Trappist breweries operating in the entire world, and 6 of them are in Belgium. The monks have perfected their brewing techniques and recipes for literally centuries, which is why Trappist beer is highly coveted, and generally some of the best you can find!
This style of brown ale stands out as they utilise double the ingredients of a standard beer recipe. As a result, Dubbels are generally stronger than other beers and have a very rich, full bodied malty flavour, with a hint of sweetness.
Westmalle Dubbel is a perfect start for anyone who wants to explore this quintessentially Belgian style of beer. It’s also from one of the few Trappist breweries we mentioned before.
Lambic beers are some of the most varied you can find on the market. While almost all beer is brewed with specific strains of yeast, Belgian Lambic beers are left in open vats where wild yeast and bacteria ferment the beer. The beer is then aged in barrels for up to three years before bottling, which means that Lambic beers are almost all very different and often quite unusual. That must make them fun to try though right??
Lambic beers are so varied that we wouldn’t know where to start with a recommendation, as its purely down to your taste. Do your research and pick a flavour that you want to try and go for it!
Blonde beers were Belgium’s answer to the mass production of European lagers back in the 18th and 19thcentres. Brewers added Pilsner malt to their traditional ale yeast to get a golden pale ale that we generally now know as Blonde.
Blonde beers are lighter in colour and taste compared to other Belgian beers, but they still retain the sweet, malty flavours that people love in Belgian beers.
Belgian blonde beers are some of our all-time favourites and we absolutely love Leffe Blonde, La Chouffe and Jupiler!
Saison, or farmhouse ale is a highly carbonated pale ale that’s known for its dry, fruity and spicy flavours. It used to be brewed with relatively low alcohol levels, however modern versions have fairly high ABV as with many Belgian styles. It’s citrusy notes and dry aftertaste make Saison beers a perfect companion for a hot summer day!
We love the St Feuillian brewery and would definitely recommend their Saison for your first venture into this style.
There is some debate as to the official definition of a Trippel. Generally it’s used to describe heavy, top fermented beer with either a golden blonde or rich amber colour/ Tripels are some of the strongest beer varieties that typically range from 7-9.5%, but in many cases can go even higher! Trippels are, like other Belgian beers very malty, with a strong, sweet fruitiness.
Many Belgian breweries make Trippels, however our favourite is Gouden Carolus!
Witbier is a classic style that some people will argue originated in Germany, others in Belgium. We arent too worried about that though because we love it all the same!
Belgian wheat beers use unmated barley in their brewing whereas German breweries use malted wheat. The result is a ‘white beer’, which is pale in colour and smooth in texture. Wheat beers tend to have strong flavours of coriander and orange peel.
There are so many wheat beers available that its hard to narrow the choice down. However, our personal favourites are Hoegaarden, Vedett Extra White and Gruut Witbier.
That's how we'll be spending our festive Belgian night in! We would love to explore the beer halls of Bruges and Brussels, but it looks like we're going to have to wait a little while longer to get there.
Until then, we hope you enjoy your virtual Belgian date night and try some great beers that you might never have had before!
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