Once I started researching restaurants in Bruges and learning about Belgian beer I found out that Cambrinus was located 100 m from our hotel. Can you imagine my excitement? I subconsciously decided then and there not to do any more restaurant planning other than to crawl home every night. Since we had our two kids along it didn’t really work out that way but we did enjoy one amazing afternoon/evening of Belgian beer drinking and it was sublime!
Bierbrasserie Cambrinus is named after a legendary King of Flanders, an unofficial Patron Saint of beer brewing. The huge tome of available beers the waitress plunked down told me so. Also inside the giant book of beer were the names of over 400 available beers. Most of these beers also have their own branded glass or come in a specifically shaped glass designed to enhance their aromas and flavour.
I could tell we were going to have a great time but where to start? A friend of mine, upon hearing we were visiting Belgium, recommended that I try Bush Amber. He said it was a great tasting smooth beer but what he didn’t tell me was that it was 12%. So I started my evening with the beer with the highest alcoholic content…thanks Russ! After my first swallow, the alcohol entered my bloodstream immediately. It felt like a freight train. I’m just using poetic licence here guys, stay with me. Surprisingly, the beer was smooth and delicious though it tasted more like a barley wine than a beer. Hubby went with a local beer, Bruges Zot which was a local on tap favourite. It’s a pale golden ale which come in around 6%.
Since we hadn’t really eaten anything at all since breakfast, the effects of this alcohol were probably tripled. We decided to order some snacks to go with our beer. I decided that despite the so-so shrimp croquettes of the previous night, I was willing to give them another try. These “Zeebruges” were a bit better but I think if I were ever to travel to Belgium again it wouldn’t be the first dish I would order. We liked the little grey shrimps that came with the croquettes.
We also ordered the small ‘Cambrinus Waiting Dish’ which was an assortment of cold snacks including Beerscheese (with Trappist beer as an ingredient), Farm Ham, Paté and Southern Bacon. I went nuts over the farm ham and bacon and hubby really enjoyed the Paté.
With our bellies somewhat sated, it was time to order another round. I decided to go a bit lighter this time ordering a very nice unfiltered wheat beer, which at 5.5% felt nice and light compared to the Bush Amber. I really liked the extra yeasty flavour. Hubby went a bit heavier with his Westmalle Tripel. Belgian beers are classified according to several things. There are the lambics, wheat beers, Trappist and Abbey beers, blondes, blond ales, red ales, brown ales, Belgian ales, stouts, saisons, and a few oddities that don’t fit in to these categories. Within these classifications, beers are further grouped based on their alcoholic content. A ‘dubble’ is a fairly strong (6%-8% ABV) brown ale, with understated bitterness, fairly heavy body, and a pronounced fruitiness. A ‘triple’ is generally a fairly strong pale ale of about 7%-9% ABV. A quadrupel is intended to be stronger than a tripel with the ABV at 10% or more. Quadrupels are generally a strong, dark ale with spicy and fruity notes.
For our last beer, I was well beyond caring that we looked like foolish tourists. When a nearby table ordered some beer that came in really cool looking glasses, I just slurred, “We’ll have what they’re having” and rudely pointed at the couple. This was nicer than what I really wanted to say. If you have ever seen the movie ‘In Bruges’ you will recall the superbly hilarious line by Ray (played by Colin Farrell) who says to the waitress, “One gay beer for my gay friend, one normal beer for me because I am normal.” (NOTE: this is a line from a movie…not me!) I had really wanted to drink a beer out of the uber cool horn style glass that needed the wooden holder and ironically the glass that held the other beer had pink elephants all over it. That one was hubby’s…
My beer was the aptly named ‘La Corne’ and I should have maybe had that one at the beginning of our beer adventure when I was more coordinated. It is a pale blonde with an ABV of 5.9%. I don’t remember what it tasted like. I’m pretty sure it was delicious. Hubby’s beer was called ‘Delerium Tremens‘ or Delerium for short. During the brewing process, three different types of yeast are used. This produces a specialty blonde ale (Tripel) at 8.5% ABV. Of course I’m pretty sure hubby’s beer tasted delicious as well. I had sips of all of them. I do remember that the Westmalle was spicy/herby with a bit of banana thrown in.
I hope I have convinced you to try out Cambrinus if you are ever in the city of Bruges. It is a very popular spot so make sure to book ahead. On our first night in Bruges we passed by Cambrinus on our way back from dinner at Breydel de Coninc and inquired if they had a table available. The place was fairly lively by then, with a large men’s choir drinking and singing at a large table in the back. We were told that we needed to book at least a day ahead of our visit. I should have booked right there for the following two nights but I was hoping to hit it lucky. If you decide to visit without a reservation get there fairly early. I think we got there about 4:30 and there were many open tables. We had a really great time, meeting some fellow Canucks who occupied the table behind us and some Aussies from Queensland at the table directly across from us. It was the oddest thing though. After our time in Bruges, we hopped on the train to Brussels where we had a bit of a wait for the train to Paris Nord. Suddenly we had a man running up the platform and yelling at us and just by chance we met our Aussie friend again. We thought that was quite the coincidence.
Philipstockstraat 19, 8000 Brugge
Tel.: 050/33 23 28