Top 5 things to do on a beer trip! Yahoo! Travel UK 11/07 2011

Top 5 things to do on a beer trip


By Chloe Turgis


Tired of drinking the same old lagers at your local? Then how about setting off in search of new flavours and making a holiday of it? Going on a beer trail won't just give you the opportunity to sample different beers, it can also be a fun way to discover a country (hic!). So, what's a beer lover to do? We went to Belgium to find out...

1. Taste as many beers as possible
From beers made by monks to those tasting of cherry or peach, there's definitely a wide range to choose from in countries like Belgium. And the best way to find out more about them is to sample as many as you can. Be warned though – a lot of Belgian beers contain much more alcohol than your average British pint. That won't stop locals telling you things like "This one isn't strong" while pouring you a beer with 6.5% alcohol. Obviously you can try them in bars but it's worth tasting some in breweries and restaurants too (more on that later). You'll notice that many beers will be served to you in specific glasses – many brands have their own glasses, coming in different shapes and sizes. The bottles are quite distinctive too – enough to possibly make a few beer fans think about starting a collection...

 Red Fruit dessert

2. Match beer with food
Many Brits may be used to going to the pub only to down a few pints, but in countries like Belgium you can expect to see people having their beer served together with food. Some restaurants specialise in matching food and beer, so why not try some of them for yourself? Have for instance Den Dyver's delicious plaice and warm sushi (yes, warm) while enjoying a glass of Saison Dupont. And if you fancy having beer in your meal as well, then why not give beer paté a go? There are tasty locally produced patés at 't Potje Paté restaurant for instance – served with matching beers of course. One piece of advice for vegetarians though: you may not easily find something to your taste in Belgian restaurants. But you can for example try dishes such as 't Hommelfhof's red fruit dessert marinated in beer while having a sip of raspberry beer. There's actually plenty of other dishes in which beer has been added to the sauce. Make notes in your recipe books!


3. Visit a brewery
Drinking isn't the only way to find out about beer – Belgium boasts lots of breweries, so why not head to Bruges and visit the town's oldest one, De Halve Maan (the Half Moon)? Not only will you learn about the history of its beers and how they're made, you'll also enjoy great views of the city from the top of the building... as well as taste their beverages. The brewery's latest creation? Bruges' Fool (ie De Brudgse Zot)! If you want to see how other beers are made, try going to the Rodenbach brewery – the beer they make bears a very strange resemblance to young red wine (somehow)! You'll learn about how the beer is made, and how it used to be produced. You'll probably even get to try the unblended kind – not necessarily something we recommend, unless you enjoy vinegar-like beverages...

 Beer glasses

4. Talk beer to the locals
One great thing about Belgium is that most residents speak English. Also, perhaps more importantly, the locals do love their beers and are generally more than happy to tell you about them. So do talk beer to them. However, beware: my experience tells me that in Belgium, you're never quite sure whether people are joking or not... Belgians can for instance tell you how to consume their beers, which are generally served with a head. Basically, they tell you never to complain about the head: you're supposed to wait once you're served, admire your beer, talk to it if you like, build up a relationship with your beer (is that a step too far?)... And if it starts talking back to you then maybe it's time for you to stop drinking, they say. Fair point.

5. Give the beer a rest...
If you do go to Belgium, then why not take this opportunity to also try another of the nation's favourite products – chocolate? Tasting it can even be fun. If you head to The Chocolate Line in Bruges (a town packed with chocolate shops), you can have chocolates 'the Rolling Stones way’, i.e. sniff chocolates with the 'Chocolate Shooter' (which was originally created for the Rolling Stones)! Fancy trying more booze instead? Then you can maybe have a shot of P’tit Peket, the local gin. One word of warning though: it is very strong. Best to stick to chocolate instead if you've already had enough beer for the day...

Fact box
You can go to Belgium by ferry – companies such as DFDS Seaways operate crossings between Dover and Dunkirk, which is a short drive away from the Belgian border. Fares from £25 each way. Book online here.

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