Guest series on Belgian beer by Christopher Barnes. In this episode: De Halve Maan Brewery.
Over the last 1,000 years, its fortunes have waxed and waned generating great wealth which helped build an impressive cityscape that was largely ignored by two world wars once the city receded into semi-obscurity. This good fortune, in good times and in bad, left the city intact and ready for refurbishment in the latter half of the 20th century.
Now, Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit stop on any vacation to Belgium. While you’re there, walking the cobblestone streets, you’ll probably work up a thirst and what better way to slake it than with beers brewed by Bruges’s De Halve Maan or Half Moon brewery.
The Halve Maan brewery
De Halve Maan Brewery can trace its history back at least to the mid 16th century and the Moon Brewery. The Maes family comes into our story in 1856 when Henri I purchased the brewery and modernized it to the current standards.
After WW I, Henri III converted brewery De Halve Maan over to the new popular style of lager brewing and later added in soft drink production with a home delivery system for both. Unfortunately for De Halve Maan, as more people bought cars and did their shopping at grocery stores that sold beer and soft drinks, they lost their home delivery customers but didn’t have enough brewing capacity to supply grocery stores.
The late 70’s and early 80’s brought a revival in the interest for traditional style beers. Veronique, 5th generation to run the brewery, created a new higher alcohol blonde ale that became known as ‘Straffe Hendrik (Strong Henri) Triple’. The brewery made another good move when it opened its doors to the public as a ‘house brewery’ or a ‘brewpub’. Diners and beer enthusiasts could drink De Halve Maan beers surrounded by the brewery’s old, out-of-use equipment.
Xavier Vanneste, son of Veronique, completely refurbished and modernized the brewery and relaunched it with a new beer, the famous ‘Brugse Zot’. Brugse Zot is served throughout Bruges and has won many awards throughout the world. In 2008, he revived the Straffe Hendrik line of beers completing De Halve Maan’s revival.
De Halve Maan beer
Brugse Zot is a blond ale of 6% ABV with a nice balance of malt and aromatic hops that create a refreshing and easy drinking beer. Incidentally, ‘Brugse Zot’ roughly translates to ‘The Fool of Bruges’. Brugse Zot Dubbel is the darker version brewed with 6 different malts and boasting 7.5% ABV. The Zot beer is popular around Bruges and you’ll be able to order it at various cafes.
Straffe Hendrik Tripel, originally brewed in 1981 and returned to the brewery in 2008, is a higher alcohol, 9% ABV, tripel of excellent character and depth with a nice hop character to balance it out.
Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel is that darker, richer, higher alcohol beer with a bold 11% ABV.
Where to go to have a Half Moon beer
The obvious answer to this question is brewery Halve Maan, of course. If you’re into brewery tours, you can take their 45-minute De Halve Maan brewery tour for €7. Plus, you get a beer tasting as part of your tour. It’s a great opportunity to check out a little Belgian brewing history, try some really nice beers, and really experience some of Belgium’s world-renowned products.
De Garre beer cafe is located on one of the smallest streets in the heart of Bruges. It’s all brick, dark wood, and white walls along with an amazing bottle list and a well-curated list of draft beers. This list includes beer from De Halve Maan and their own house beer, De Garre Triple. This atmospheric place is quickly becoming a prime destination for beer fans in Bruges.
A newer option with an excellent reputation and beer list is Cafe Rose Red on the first floor of the Hotel Cordoeanier. The ceiling is covered in dangling artificial roses. While this may sound a bit cheesy, it works in this place and adds a bit of unique character. The beer service is impeccable and if the long list leaves you full of indecision due to too many choices, check out their beer of the month or just ask the helpful bartender.
Don’t drink and drive!
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Christopher Barnes is an American beer writer, blogger, and brewing industry professional with a passion for travel, Belgium and its beers. You can find his writings at I think about beer or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.
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