Sunday, September 17, 2006
Weekend Watering Hole: Brewery De Halve Maan, Bruges, Belgium
As a regular weekend feature, Lyke2Drink will visit some of the world's great watering holes. This week we head to the historic Belgian city of Bruges to visit a classic brewpub.
Brewery De Halve Maan
8000 Brugge, Belgium
Phone : 32 50 332697
Bruges (Brugge), located in West Flanders, is known as the "Venice of the North" for its canals. Like Venice, Bruges was once a European maritime trading capital. Port cities like Antwerp handle today's modern ocean freighters, while Bruges' cargo is tourists who flock to see one of the best preserved medieval towns on the continent. I was lucky to visit with my family a few years ago and, in addition to buying some lace, enjoying lots of chocolate, taking a boat ride along the Reien and making a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Sacred Blood, I had the chance to stop at The Halve Maan (The Half Moon) for a glass of Straffe Hendrik, a strong blonde ale.
The brewery has been active since 1856, although records can trace a brewery called Die Maene (The Moon) in Bruges back to 1564. The Halve Maan continues to be owned by the Maes family and during the 1980s they created a hospitality area and started offering tours. The brewery's brands were acquired in 1988 by Riva NV and that company continued brewing Straffe Hendrik (Strong Henri) until 2002.
In 2005 the old brewery came back to life when Xavier Vanneste, a Maes family descendent, renovated the old operation and launched the Brugse Zot brand. The beer takes its name from a legend that goes back to a visit by Maximilian of Austria to Bruges in the 1400s. The people of Bruges organized a colorful parade of merrymakers and fools. When they asked Maximilian at the end of the day to provide money for a new madhouse he replied: "Today I have seen nothing but fools. Bruges is already one large madhouse !" Since then the people of Bruges are called "‘Brugse Zotten" (fools of Bruges).
Belgium is a country of many great beers. The range of styles is quite incredible. The Halve Maan's Brugse Zotten may not be as well known in America as many of the brands, but the brewery -- like the city of Bruges - is very much worth a side trip.