Beer Travellers’ Guide: Liege

Beer Travellers’ Guide: Liege

Where to find the best beers, bars and food in Belgium’s Wallonian city

Daniel Neilson

That could have been a turnip. They were certainly a dozen French fries. Avocado. Cauliflower. That bloke’s in Lederhosen, and they are definitely bottles of beer. Just how someone dressed as a strawberry was going to complete 26 miles of the Beer Lover’s Marathon in Liège, I wasn’t quite sure. Perhaps the incentive of a beer break every couple of miles was enough, perhaps it was the fact that the vast majority of the 3,000 runners were also in fancy dress (the theme, in case you hadn’t picked up, was fruit and veg, and beer, of course, is a perennial favourite). We skip around to a couple of the beer checkpoints as the leaders are ploughing through. No fancy dress up here at the front, no beer at the Achouffe stop either. This is met with boos by the spectators, willing the runners to stop for a beer provided by men and women dressed as the Achouffe dwarves. Gradually the runner’s costumes become more elaborate, these are the ones who stop for a beer or at least slow down. Any drinking by runners is met with cheers. It’s the same at 16 beer points along the marathon route across the city. Marathons, I believe, always bring out the best in people; the best in the runners and the best of the people in the city. Liège, on this sunny spring day, was in a supportive and merry mood, but one gets the impression Liège is always like this. Liège is a fun city. Perhaps it’s the large number of students here, perhaps it’s the underdog attitude, either way, this is a city that parties, that celebrates everything from its food, to its history, from its artisanal heritage and, now, to its beer. And that’s why I’m here.

Liège, the main city of the municipality of the same name, is Belgium’s third most populous city and lies an hour east of Brussels. Hopping on the train from Midi, after the short trip under the English Channel, and the Kent-flat landscape of wheat and barley gradually begins to undulate as we enter the Ardennes. Woodland appears on increasingly steepening aspects. The train ambles into Wallonia and the home to the pleasingly named demonym Walloons. Wallonia, from the beginning of the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century, was the wealthiest region of Belgium, closely following Britain into the Industrial Revolution. Walking around the plazas of the Cathedral District in central Liège, the grandeur of the buildings attests to this. The cathedral itself, the university, the opera house, even the post office, all make statements.

We stop for a drink in the BeerLovers’ Café & Shop (, a world-class beer bar with 750 beers available, and a dozen on tap, more than half devoted to local breweries. From there we head to Brasserie C (, a brew pub set in a former nunnery. We sit on the beautiful terrace and sup from its range of single hopped beers, each named for the IBU unit: 30, 60, 90, and its multiple-fermented flagship beer Curtius.

The rest of the day is spent enjoying this busy, walkable city. We eat waffles – Liège waffles of which locals are rightly proud – from Une Gaufrette Saperlipopette and eat boulet at the characterful Lequet. Boulet is a Liège classic or large meatballs in rich sauce, with chips, apple sauce and some token salad. It is beer food at its best. We also learn about a particular Liège word: oufti. It’s more of an exclamation actually. It can be used in a surprised way, tilting up at the end: ouFTI! Or perhaps a bit sad in a deeper voice: ouf-ti. Apparently, it can also be angry, or excited, happy and disappointed. Oufti is a useful word.

Talk to a brewer in the US, it’s hops that often dominates the conversation, in the UK it can be malts, in Belgium it’s yeast. We sit and eat at the pleasant Refectory here, discussing the tasty beers and discussing the culture, in the glass and in the city.

The next day is an opportunity to explore the best breweries of Liège province. We start our tour at Brasse & Vous Brewery ( in Beyne-Heusay, six km from the Liège train station (pictured bottom left). Our guide, the impressively sideburned brewmaster Bruno Bonacchelli, shows us the brewery that sits alongside the restaurant. Talk to a brewer in the US, it’s hops that often dominates the conversation, in the UK it can be malts, in Belgium it’s yeast. We sit and eat at the pleasant Refectory here, discussing the tasty beers and discussing the culture, in the glass and in the city.

Sixty kilometres deeper into the Ardennes is Brasserie de la Lienne ( founded in 2013 by Mélissa and Nicolas Résimont (pictured middle left). Throughout the tour of this brewery set in the barn, we hear stories of fairies and knights and something about a golden goat. The Ardennes is wealthy in fairy tales it seems. The beers are excellent quality, a dry and bitter Noire stout being my pick.

We grab lunch at nearby Stavelot Abbey, one of the oldest monastic foundations in Belgium and dating back well over 1,000 years. It’s now partly a car and historical museum. Unfortunately we miss the town’s impressive, and slightly bizarre, carnival. On the fourth Sunday of Lent, men dressed in white and wearing a mask with a long red nose, walk through the town playfully hitting watchers with dried pig bladders. By all accounts it’s a racous affair, with hundreds more joining in, and thousands descending on the town.

Our final brewery stop is a highlight, the beers are superb, but its location among leafy farmland, is exceptional. As we sat on the sunny terrace of Brasserie de Bellevaux (, near Malmedy, 60 kilometres from Liège, eating flavourful local cheeses and cold meats, our ragtag group of beer lovers are happy (pictured top right). I’m reminded again of the power of beer.

As I sit and write this a couple of months later, I do remember many of the beers we tried, the superlative meal at L’Air de Rien, the discussions about the finer points of yeast cultivation. But overriding all is the snapshot of the Bellevaux terrace, loud with banter and replete with smiles, all over great beer. Well, that and the sight of a dozen mates dressed as frites stopping for a beer halfway through the marathon.



Mon Sep 21: Beer & Cider Marketing Awards winners

Mon Sep 21: Beer & Cider Marketing Awards winners

These are the breweries that nailed marketing in 2017

Original Gravity

You love your favourite beer because of how it tastes. But how did you first find out about that beer? You might have spotted it on the bar or shelf, but how did it get there and why did you notice it? Did it have a cool name or design? Had you heard of it before? If so, where? And how did the brewer persuade the bar or shop to stock it?

Marketing is often thought of as a dirty word in beer, but every brewer does it, even those who think they don’t.

A lot of marketing patronises its audience or clubs them over the head. Too much beer marketing is still appallingly sexist. And a lot of it is just rubbish. That’s why we at Original Gravity% think it’s important to celebrate the good stuff. And that’s why we’re partnering with the Beer and Cider Marketing Awards.

Creativity doesn’t end with crafting that wine barrel-aged hibiscus saison. The best brewers are also talented at packaging it in a way that makes you notice it, and telling you about it in an interesting way. Twenty years ago, beer brands were built on the back of entertaining TV ads, and only big brands with big budgets could afford to do them. But now, people get to know brands through social media and at events too. Brewers with no marketing department can get noticed just as much as those with millions to spend. And with hundreds of new breweries opening every year, it’s getting both much harder and much more important to stand out.

The Beer Marketing Awards started in 2015 with a mission to celebrate the best in beer marketing, from craft to cask, from big lager to brewpub hop bomb, from TV to can art to Instagram. This year, the awards have expanded to include cider.

Brewers and cider makers and their agencies can enter the awards at

Entries close on 26th June. The awards ceremony is on 21st September, and we’ll be there to toast the winners.

Art of beer: Lost & Grounded

Art of beer: Lost & Grounded

Take a journey with seven friends into the world of one of the country’s best new breweries

Original Gravity

The seven friends went marching up the hill, each one in search of something and holding a sceptre in hand. The swan, returning down the hill, appears to have found something. Perhaps they are searching for the racoon on the other side of the hill, himself waving at something, someone. I’m not sure. As I line up the bottles from new-ish Bristol brewery Lost & Grounded, I’m enchanted, intrigued, lost in a story. The labels form a panorama. Much like with the remarkable beers themselves. These are beers – lagers, red ales, saisons – made with such aplomb, such grace, I’d be enchanted by the beers alone. The beautiful artwork on the bottles only enhances the experience, a true reflection of what’s inside.

Lost & Grounded was founded by Alex Troncoso (formerly of Camden Town Brewery) and Annie Clements, and started brewing out of Bristol in July 2016.

‘Our initial idea was for an illustrative approach, our own modern version of some traditional European label art. The playful side of using animals stemmed from wandering home from our local late one evening and meeting a very dapper and polite urban fox,’ Annie says.

Wanting to use a local illustrator, they simply searched online for “Bristol illustrators” and found Alexia Tucker. They called her that day.

‘I wanted to make the branding unique,’ explains Alexia. ‘There are so many brilliant beer labels out there, the pressure was on to find something new. I thought it would be great to make labels that went on as one long storyboard-like landscape, so there is a real narrative to each image that customers can follow.

‘We aim to convey some playful essence of the particular beer, maybe a reference to where one of the ingredients is from, or the type of night you might expect to have after a few of one particular kind!’

Annie agrees: ‘We went ahead with a clear and personal vision of what we wanted. Our illustrations are unique and left of centre which matches our brewing philosophy: we make beers that take inspiration from various styles to result in something that is clever and well balanced. Our beers, just as Alexia’s beautiful illustrations, have multiple layers to them which can be either dissected by the drinker or can be simply enjoyed without fuss – not everything has to be an intellectual exercise.’

Six Pack: New England IPAs

Six Pack: New England IPAs

What exactly is the hazy beer du jour, and why is it so popular

Original Gravity

So where did the New England IPA, this IPA sub-style, this non-style even, this hybrid of hops, this fantastic beast straight out of Narnia (or should we think Gormenghast, but please read on), this virtuous paragon of haze and hoppiness come? New England, as the name suggests, could be the home though as is often the case with beer, self-proclaimed historians might suggest that the style’s origins are cloaked in mystery with more claims than an office full of ambulance-chasing lawyers.

However, for the sake of pity and peace, let’s settle on The Alchemist’s Heady Topper as the ur-beer, the one that went on before everything else and started yet another path down which IPA can meander.

And now, when we think of a New England IPA, we have a variety of beers beneath this name, being brewed in the USA, the UK and — as I discovered on recent visit to Germany — Berlin. Turbid, milky, burnt orange in colour and it also seems a beer to make anger rise to the surface as if the devil was abroad. ‘They’re all shit’ as someone posted on my Twitter feed when I asked the blog/mob-o-sphere their thoughts on the beer (while more recently another beer writer tweeted a pic of an New England IPA where bits and pieces of something or other swirled about in the glass — I had drank the same beer, the BrewDog/Cloudwater V2 collaboration, and noted no bits and pieces).

So how shall we proceed? How about that the New England IPA is resonant with the erotic possibilities of ripe and bruised tropical fruit skin on both the nose and palate, prickly with the sharp bite of carbonation, Las Vegas crooner smooth in the middle palate, laced with a lushness of juiciness, lacking in bitterness, and when cold and correctly brewed, as drinkable as any beer style, whatever its origins and designation. ATJ

/ Black Market Brewing, Batch 001, 7.5%

Black Market Brewing make beers with Herculean-strength hops. This “New England-style IPA” adheres to “style”, but has a welcome thwack of bitterness.

/ Unbarred Brewery, NEIPA, 5.5%

Proof that a self-proclaimed NEIPA can’t have a hint of bitterness. Massive tangerine and pineapple on the nose. More fruit on the palate, but with a dry bitter twist making it very drinkable.

/ De Molen/Magic Rock, Magic & Tricks, 8.4%

Woah, this is a big, sweet, fruity and alcoholic, and with cornflakes. This Magic Rock/De Molen collaboration is so fruity, syrupy, it needs care and attention.

/ Odyssey Brew Co, The Cult, 6.7%

This darkly amber beer has the hallmarks of a NE IPA, but with the attitude the label suggests. Low on bitterness, but big on the dank, allium aroma. On the tongue, a grown-up fruit cocktail.

/ Cloudwater vs BrewDog, New England IPA V2, 8.5%

Aromatics of mango, papaya and the sternness of biscuity malt spring from the glass, while the tropical fruit continues with a creaminess, a juiciness and a dry finish.

/ Red Willow, Perceptionless, 6.6%

Macclesfield’s Red Willow are not afraid to call Perceptionless a New England IPA, explaining that in their view the sub-style is all about lots of aromatics and a juicy mouth feel. And of course the haze.

Brooklyn Cloaking Device


Brooklyn Brewery’s remarkable new beer is a 100% Brett fermented porter.

Original Gravity

Porter, London’s own drink, used to be stored in wooden barrels and it would have been exposed to whatever bugs were clinging onto the wood. The beer would have tasted, well we don’t know what it would have tasted like, but I’d imagine a fair few would have been a bit sour, a bit, well, earthy. Brooklyn Brewery, under the eye of the immensely talented Garrett Oliver, has produced a porter, aged in oak barrels that once hosted red wine and fermented with Brett, the yummy yeast strain that adds a umami-like, tomato savouriness to beer. It’s then fermented again in a champagne bottle, with champagne yeast. Alongside the Brett notes, this 10.5% imperial porter has coffee-berry fruitiness, and slice of pineapple.

DN /

Unearthing Lager


Adrian Tierney-Jones travels to ÄŒeské BudÄ›jovice to discover the secrets of one of the world’s greatest lagers

Adrian Tierney-Jones

Can you dream in flavour? Let us dream in flavour. Long after returning from Budvar I still dreamt of the crisp and fresh unfiltered Original that emerged like a wraith of love from the brewery’s lagering tanks. I still dreamt of the hint of bitter lemons two-stepping a tango across the tongue in the company of a crisp biscuity maltiness and a lengthy bitter finish. It’s a sensation of nobility and elegance that still haunts and humbles me whenever I return to the day several summers back when I visited Budvar for the second time in my life.

Inside the brew house, a silent space with just the hiss of machinery in the background, gleaming copper domes stood sentinel, their chimneys reaching to the ceiling and beyond. This is a monumental space, with something of a dream about it; even though in reality it’s an industrial plant and Budvar is a business, there’s still a romance and sense of heritage that you wouldn’t get in a steelworks or a car factory. You know that what is being made here sustains the soul and brings joy to many.

The lagering tanks hide away in white washed cellars, holding beers that slumber away in their winter-is-coming sleep of 1˚c, beers that are lordly and assertive and confident of their special status. These are beers that lager away for 90 days, change character, develop and grow. As if that wasn’t enough time, then think of Budvar’s stronger beers, especially its Fresh Hopped Imperial Lager, which has a mighty 200-day production cycle — some marriages don’t even last this long. Fresh in its compliance with the unique aromatics of Saaz, smooth in its sensation on the palate (all that time it’s been getting ready to show off) and bittersweet in its genial farewell at the back of the throat. Oddly enough, I’ve never tried it at the brewery, instead I’ve galloped through the odd glass in the confines of those London pubs that stock it on its limited release of six weeks.

On a road off the square, red-tiled roof, its face the colour of dirty sand, is a bleak looking building of the 19th century, a former Austro-Hungarian army barracks that was once briefly home to Jaroslav Hašek, author of The Good Soldier Švejk.

Back to dreaming. Let us dream of the city that the beer and its makers call home. Let us see it for ourselves. If you visit České Budějovice, as you must, you will find a city that was first raised in 1265; you will find a city whose wide open main square is a mash-up of Gothic, Baroque, Classical and Romantic architectural styles whose frontages swoon with different swashes of colour, including terracotta pink, deep lemon yellow and pale blue sky blue. And on a road off the square, red-tiled roof, its face the colour of dirty sand, is a bleak looking building of the 19th century, a former Austro-Hungarian army barracks that was once briefly home to Jaroslav Hašek, author of The Good Soldier Švejk. You must visit.

Meanwhile back at the brewery, I ask and I ask and I ask and finally (something that was denied me during my previous visit) I get to taste the water with which this monument of beers is made. If water could be a ghost then this is it. On my tongue it is hardly there, ethereal, clean and limpid, the canvas on which the actions of malt, hops and yeast daub their colours and form their shapes. And then I stop. That’s enough of water. It’s beer I need, a beer I will dream of until the end of time.

Read Original Gravity% Issue 15 for free here

Do you know where you are, do you know where you’re from, do you know where you are going? Three vital questions that people ask themselves time and time again as life rolls on, but when it comes to beer this triumvirate of brain-teasers is often forgotten. Beer can be made anywhere, it doesn’t matter if the beer that was born in that town is now made in that town 100 miles away. On the other hand there’s almost a mystical connection between a beer and its sense of place, which, let’s be honest, isn’t always essential to the beer (a recent conversation with one of this issue’s contributors Boak and Bailey about the excellent quality of Young’s Ordinary, which has long  gone from its London home, springs to mind), but it’s this mysticism, this sense of the other, this sense of beer being like an oak with its long tendrils of roots glued to the very earth where a tiny acorn once fell, is what our writers have tried to convey in this issue.

Roger Protz has done a Michael Parkinson and interviewed an IPA (born in London and grew up in Burton); Pete Brown argues that beer does have a sense of place and also visits a brewery with its roots and beers firmly in the west Flemish countryside; Daniel Neilson rhapsodies over Wiper and True’s English Saison, which is also reviewed elsewhere; Emma Inch visits Brighton FC and drinks Harvey’s Sussex Bitter, perhaps the first beer that springs to mind when the South Downs hoves into view.

Elsewhere, Jessica Mason remembers her early exposure to the pub, and Copenhagen inspires its own sense of place. Beer meets wine, barley wine goes beneath the microscope and we’ve got some cool beers reviewed to whet your thirst. Oh and a little bit of news — November 13 sees the launch of our new website, which will feature exclusive stories and features that won’t be in the printed edition and there’s a regular monthly newsletter, which I would highly recommend you sign up for, so mark 13/11 in your diary!

Chin chin

Adrian Tierney-Jones, Editor