Bruges food and beer hall offers quality and quantity

Summary

Every week, Flanders Today fills you in on the best recipes, culinary events and special eateries. This week: a new food hall in Bruges

On Flemish food and drink

Flanders is rich in the variety of beers on offer, but how’s a person to get around them all without ending up in a puddle on the floor? One answer is tasting small quantities of a wide selection.

The Flemish beer association Zythos, which organises the country’s largest beer festival in Leuven in April, works with 10-centilitre samples, which is enough to get a good taste of the beer without losing the power of rational thought.

That’s something to keep in mind when visiting B Taste in Bruges, a new concept in food halls. Its main attraction is 104 beer taps you get to operate yourself. B Taste is housed in the Oud Sint-Jan site, on the grounds of the medieval hospital and in rooms once used to film the TV series Aspe.

It opened last month with the intention of running daily until 3 January when it would move to weekends only. According to founder Peggy Bobelijn, however, the plan has changed: B Taste will now be open every day on a permanent basis.

B Taste has its own kitchen, but nibbles will mainly be provided by a rotation of stand-holders and food trucks, so the selection will change regularly. When Flanders Today visited, the menu was limited to burgers and spicy potatoes or three varieties of quiche. But the organisers assure us the selection will be broader once the venture finds its feet.

Of a lack of choice in the beers on offer, though, there’s no question: Some 100 choices on any given day, from everyday offerings like Maes Pils and Leffe Blond to rarities like the Scheldebrouwerij range, Brouwerij Verzet, Prearis and, of course, Brugse Zot and Straffe Hendrik from Bruges brewery De Halve Maan.

You pay €10 as a starter, which gives you a glass to keep and €5 credit on a swipe card that registers exactly how much you’ve poured. When your credit is up, refills are available for whatever sum you choose. You won’t get round everything in one day, but at least you will be able to walk out the door unaided.

Photo courtesy B Taste

Belgian beer

Belgium has a beer-brewing tradition going back centuries and is known around the world for both its beer culture and hundreds of craft brews.
History - Beer culture has been recognised by Unesco as part of Flanders’ Intangible Cultural Heritage. The local beer culture dates to the middle ages, when farmers brewed their own beer from the rich harvests of local grain, later transferring brewing to local guilds and abbeys.
Beer styles - The main styles include lambics, white beers, fruit beers, Trappists and abbey beers. The Trappist beer Westvleteren 12, brewed by a dozen monks in a small West Flanders town, is regularly rated by various sources as the best beer in the world.
Exports - Sixty percent of the Belgian beer production is exported abroad, with France, Germany, the Netherlands and the US the largest markets.
74

Litres of beer annually consumed per person in Belgium

100

breweries in Flanders

19

million hectolitres of beer produced in Belgium in 2012