What’s the best country for a holiday? Is it:
A. Spain, for its sun, beaches and vibrant night life
B. Thailand, for its sun, beaches and amazing food
C. Belgium, for its beer
The answer is, of course, C and inevitably its the country we’ve visited more than any other. To enjoy a holiday in Belgium you don’t need a Lonely Planet, Rough Guide or any other book from the usual travel publishers, you simply need a Belgian beer guide. Of which CAMRA’s is the best.
Now in its eighth edition, the book boasts descriptions on over 1,000 Belgian beers along with 800 of the country’s finest drinking haunts in which to enjoy them. If you can’t make a holiday out of that, you might as well stay at home with the cat.
Like other travel books it opens with a bit of history, a bit about how to get there, and some stuff on Belgian food (which in our experience has been excellent. Especially the waffles). Then, it hits the beer. A huge A-Z section gives the lowdown on the country’s breweries, with a brief description and marks out of five for both the brewery and the beers they produce. It’s an astonishingly thorough run down of the nation’s beery goods from two authors whose palettes we’re happy to trust. Even if you’re not planning a trip to Belgium it acts as a great guide when considering a Belgian beer haul for home consumption.
Once the beers are dealt with, the book moves on to the where to buy them. Nearly 200 pages, divided by the main cities and regions, with even a section on Belgian bars around the world. Each venue has a short description with essential information, and you’re also pointed in the direction of nearby beer shops and breweries that are open to visitors.
The book also features maps, colour photographs and fact-filled boxouts. Pour yourself a Belgian beer, spend a few hours roaming this book’s pages, and start planning your best ever holiday.
Three of our favourite classic Belgian beers
Are you a Belgian beer novice? Then we suggest these three beers are a good place to start…
Westmalle Tripel, 9.5%
Coming from one of Belgium’s famous Trappist Breweries, Westmalle originated the celebrated Belgian Tripel style and it’s still the best. ‘The stuff of eulogies’ according to the book.
Saison Dupont, 6.5%
When we first started drinking hardly anyone had heard of a saison, but these days they’re a common sight. Too many modern versions simply bung a saison yeast into any old wort and hope for the best: which is to achieve something like this, the dry, peppery saison benchmark.
Verhaeghe, Duchesse de Bourgogne, 6.2%
Barrel ageing is one of the latest beer trends, but few countries can match the way the Belgians do it. This is a tart, fruity Flemish Red, which has multiple flavours building up layers of delicious complexity.
CAMRA Good Beer Guide Belgium is available from the CAMRA book shop