“Bruges is deservedly Belgium’s most popular tourist destination. It is a magnificent place for the general visitor. It certainly was long overdue for the award of Cultural Capital of Europe, which it got in 2002. Bruges absorbs tourists particularly well, so large crowds do not spoil its charm. World-class tourist attractions go hand in hand with facilities such as marvellous restaurants and hotels to suit all price ranges, and excellent transport connections. Bruges is easy to get to from the UK, being only 15 kilometres (10 miles) from the port of Zeebrugge, and it is motorway practically all the way from Calais, 115 kilometres (70 miles) away. For information on its tourist attractions, see the official tourist board website www.brugge.be.”
One of the cities that I really do enjoy the off season in, even though the Christmas period is particularly special nothing says Christmas more passionately than Brugge does each December. The Belgians of course have two celebrations with the Feast of Sint Niklaas coming early in the month! The city streets are beautifully decked out with twinkling lights and window displays and the main and smaller squares like Market Square and Simon Stevinplein have their stalls selling all kinds of gift, food and drink specialities. It’s a picture book / chocolate box place that you may wander and wonder around in the warmth of their hospitality and friendliness – and in safety, but as many do, I head there for the beer… especially the “‘t Brugs Beertje” should not be missed by any serious beer drinker when in Bruges; it is quite simply one of the world’s greatest Speciality Beer bars, right up there with: De Heeren van Liedekercke. The other spot I tend to hang out in, is the Halve Maan, with Xavier Vanneste. (www.halvemaan.be), in Bruges.
Xavier is the son of Véronique Maes, the owner of the brewery. the brewery’s Brugse Zot (6%), which is available in a good number of bars in Bruges, along with Brugse Zot Dubbel (7.5%). On this occasion, Brugse Zot was available on draught in ‘t Brugs Beertje at €2.75. After a few years of its beers being brewed elsewhere on an initiative of Xavier’s, brewing recommenced in April, 2005, in the Brouwerij De Halve Maan. Brewery visits are possible without pre-reservation, see the place’s website, which has Dutch, French and English pages.
The World Beer Cup is held every two years and is widely regarded as the ‘Olympic Games’ of beer competitions. Shortly after its launch in 2006, the pale version of the Brugse Zot won the Gold Medal at Seattle in the category ‘Belgian and French Style Ale’. In 2008 the pale Brugse Zot confirmed its leading position by once again winning the Gold Medal in the same category.