Excluding my four years in college, even the most casual observer would conclude that I am not much of a beer drinker (going to college in Maine, beer was almost a requirement to make it through the winter). Sure, I will have the occasional can after a long, hard bike ride, but other than that, beer has the tendency to gather quite a bit of dust in our house (it took close to four years to consume the beer that was leftover after our wedding).
That all changes, however, once I step foot into Belgium. I first started leading bike trips to France’s neighbor to the north at some point in the late ’90s/early 2000s and while there is a certain charm to Gent, the highlight of the trip is easily Bruges, the capital of the province of West Flanders.
Bruges was one of the most important cities in Europe for close to three centuries as it was the major port town on the Atlantic. Starting in the 16th century, however, the Zwin Channel which was the city’s access to the sea, began to silt up, eventually ending all commerce and Bruges’ reign as an economic juggernaut.
As a result, the city was essentially deserted, as the residents left and Antwerp quickly replaced it as the region’s most important port of call. Luckily for Bruges, however, the city remained intact, and very little development occurred for the next four centuries or so when it became a tourist attraction in the latter half of the 19th century.
Today, Bruges should be on any European bucket list, particularly if there is even a remote interest at all in beer.