Beer In Bruges: t’ Brugs Beertje and Pannepot Reserva 2008
Other than De Garre, the one place all the guidebooks, beery and otherwise, say you have to visit is t’ Brugs Beertje (“the little Bruges bear”). We did so late on our first night and were fortunate to get a seat in the crowded little brown cafe, which looks exactly as you expect and want it to: nicotene stained walls covered in old beer adverts, assorted dark wood furniture.
It really is quite small, so it’s difficult to ignore your neighbours’ conversations (better sitting next to someone speaking Dutch or a language you don’t understand). Clambering in and out you may find, like me, that the floorspace is two sizes smaller than your boots. Owner Daisy Claeys, pictured looking welcoming and matronly in pretty much every one of the guidebooks, was behind the bar but we were served at our table by a very helpful younger barman.
The beer menu was amazingly comprehensive, and Around Bruges In 80 Beers states the selection to be around 250. Kate, who likes hoppy pale ales, went for a De Ranke XX Bitter from keg. It’s a nice, fresh, light, citrus-hoppy and uplifting kind of beer, with a slight breadiness to it.
I had a reasonably expensive beer to finish the night; one from a brewery that I hadn’t tried but had read good things about on Jose from Beer Nerds’ post about drinking the same beer in the same bar. Pannepot Reserva 2008 is a 10% oak-aged “Old Fisherman’s Ale” (or, as it’s described on American sites, a Quadrupel) from De Struise Brouwers, who are or were gypsy brewers.
The beer was all I wanted it to be: big and rich, with lots of dark malty flavours: raisins, chocolate and coffee. However despite the aging, the beer retained a freshness from a lot of hops that pleasantly lightened the experience. A really good beer, so many thanks to Jose for writing about it as I probably wouldn’t even have heard of it otherwise.
I would certainly echo everyone else’s recommendations of t’ Brugs Beertje, which is almost the platonic ideal of a brown cafe with a great beer list; like In De Wildeman in Amsterdam but more intimate and even more lived-in. I would very much have liked to go back for a second visit, but the opening hours didn’t allow for it. Next time.