#BeerBuddies – Elien, Belgium’s best barmaid
A few years back after a work cruise around the waterways of the Netherlands and Belgium I found myself with a few hours to kill in Bruges. I am so thankful that I visited the newly opened T’Brugsch Bieratelier, not only because of the bars charm and great selection of draught Belgian beer but because I met Elien who was one of the most friendliest and coolest people I have had a chat with at a bar! The whole place had this nice vibe about it and it really helped me unwind before I had to make my journey home, this was without doubt helped by chatting to Elien. Clearly by the looks of T’Brugsch Bieratelier’s Facebook page many other travellers who have ended up drinking in T’Brugsch Bieratelier feel the same and had equally as good customer service from Elien. On my second outing to T’Brugsch Bieratelier my girlfriend and I popped in to say hello and again we all had a great laugh. Elien is a great assist to T’Brugsch Bieratelier and whenever in Bruges make sure you pop by and say hello for me but till then here is my third installment of my #beerbuddies interviews, this time with Elien the best barmaid in Belgium!
1. For those who haven’t been to T’ Brugsch Bieratelier please could you explain the bar and the set up you have?
T’Brugsch bieratelier is situated in the oldest part of Bruges, so the interior looks like the classic “bruine kroeg” (brown pub/cafe) as we call it in Flemish. Some people call the bar a midget bar, because the bar is much lower than an ordinary one. There are plenty of beer signs and candles for some romance now and then 😉 The first thing you’ll see are the taps, 12 different beers that we change every two months.
We work with a “tap master” and you can see all the kegs under the taps that are kept in the fridges. We don’t serve bottled beer because we think it’s important to give our customers the best quality draft beer, as you all know beer in kegs doesn’t last that long. We don’t serve food, although we have a nice little “tapa-menu” which is abbey cheeses, Italian ham cut by our own ham slicer and a nice selection of different artisan salami.
2. Belgium is world known for its many amazing beers. Growing up in Belgium you must have had the opportunity to try many different beers. What are some of your favourite beers?
We have around 2000 beers in Belgium, so I’ve tried a lot but definitely not all of them… It’s hard to choose one beer, it all depends on my mood, the weather, etc. During the winter I think one of my favorite beer is the quadruple by Fort Lapin and a big plus for the beer because it’s brewed in Bruges. Too bad it’s so strong… I’m drunk when I have 2…
Troubadour magma always puts a smile on me, nice bitterness with a fruity touch. Same as the Lambic beer from Timmermans, both of them are great during the summer! We recently had the Lupulus from brewery Les 3 Fourquets on draft and that’s a big YES for me as well!!
3. When you’re not working behind the bar what are your favourite places to drink in Bruges?
I like to go to Café Rose Red they have very nice beers, good atmosphere and friendly staff plus they serve all the Trappist beers! De Garre is situated in a small alley close to the main square. It is a very busy place and definitely worth a visit to try their house beer. Now and then I’m in a cocktail mood, a superb cocktail bar is Groot Vlaenderen (it doesn’t have to be beer all the time 😉 )
They also have a big selection of gins, included a Belgian gin called Biercé which is a gin with hops! Not my favourite but definitely worth a try. When I finish work and I’m reeeaalllly thirsty and in a good mood, you’ll probably find me in Café Top, the owner Chris is English but has lived here already for many years, small bar with very good music and a nice mix of locals and tourists.
4. There were some rumours of T’Brugsch Bieratelier starting to brew their own beers? Are their plans to turn T’Brugsch Bieratelier into a brewpub? And if so is brewing the beer something you would be interested?
“Atelier 6” is born!!! Thanks to Christophe, the brewer and owner from Fort Lapin brewery. All I can say is that it’s a blond-amber beer, not filtered and 6% in alcohol, easy to drink with a slightly bitter touch. It’s our first house beer, so we see it as an experiment. We had a lot of locals who asked us for a house beer, which we didn’t have at the time, so it got us thinking… We’ll see how it works out but it would be great to brew some different type beers in the future!
People who’ve been here will know we don’t have room to brew our beer in house, but we had the chance to brew together with Fort Lapin, which made a delicious result! I’ve never brewed beer, I do know how the process works but never had the opportunity to actually do it.
Who knows in the future? From barmaid to brewer?
5. You have hundreds of people from all over the world walk through the doors of T’Brugsch Bieratelier. You must be proud to introduce all these people to Belgian beer?
Every day is different in this bar, some day’s people are overexcited about Belgian beers, some days they only want the cheapest one… It’s great to talk about Belgian beer with people who are passionate about beer. Every country has its own types of beers and it’s always nice to learn from them!
Of course Belgians are proud of their beers, we’re the best 😉 ! But that doesn’t mean that other countries make bad beer! There’s a big beer hype all over the world, microbreweries are brewing nice beers all over the world, so now we have to keep convincing that Belgian beers are still the best!!
6. What’s your favourite part about working behind a bar where people are passionate about beer?
I’m the happiest when people come in and (most of the time) the man says “my wife doesn’t like beer” but when I give the woman some samples, she suddenly adores beer. That makes my day!
Letting people try different or even unusual beers like a Geuze for example. When they take the first sip, they look at me with a strange face… but after a while they’re excited because they discovered and tasted a whole new beer.
People come in and ask me for a Leffe, Kwak, Hoegaarden etc, all the typical Belgian beers that are available all over the world. Some of them leave when I tell them I don’t have them, others stay and ask me for a recommendation. Nothing wrong with the “commercial” beers, but believe me once they have our beers, they will never order “commercial” beers anymore 😉 !
7. If you could share a big bottle of your favorite beer with three other people in the world (real or fictional) who would they be?
Definitely Jonas, An and my sister.
Jonas used to work here and literally knows everything about beer, he’s a great guy and I learn a lot from him. He’s now chef in a nice French restaurant close to here called Malesherbes. Every morning I pop in to have my morning coffee and have a chat.
An is his boss, well she doesn’t conceder herself as a boss. She always says “we’re colleagues”. Beautiful woman, on the inside and the outside!!
And then you have my sister, always there for me and sooooo worried… She never had alcohol till a few years ago, but now…she discovered a new world 😉 too bad she doesn’t like beer, she’s a diehard… but I don’t give up yet!
No beer sharing with celebrities for me, my friends and family, that’s all I need! (And the big bottle of beer off course!)
8. There has been a huge change in the beer around the world recently with the “craft beer” movement. Has this reached Belgium? Has there been a difference in some of the new beers being brewed like in England where there has been a huge influence from American Craft Beer?
We have plenty of breweries in Belgium, especially for such a small country. More and more microbreweries, as we call them, are opening. I don’t think that there is a big evolution in Belgian beers, I do noticed we’ve followed the USA with their IPA’s, but I don’t think that’s the beer Belgians are really looking for. Maybe we are old-fashioned, but I think Belgians will always stick with their good old strong triples.
Smaller, younger breweries do experiment, which is great but the beer culture won’t change, and it’s not necessary if you ask me. We’re good in what we brew, no changes needed!
9. If you could have your own beer brewed what would you call it and what style would it be?
I actually would make it simple, like a good pilsner, easily to drink and you can have loads of them! 😉
A name… That’s difficult… I probably would use my name ‚Elien’s beer’ no? I honestly have no clue…
10. I know you enjoy travelling, outside of Belgium where has been your favorite places to visit for a beer?
I travelled quit a lot, but not really to “beer countries”, this summer I’ve been to Turkey = no beer, France = wine.
I did go to New York this January and I tasted some great craft beers, my favourite was Breakfast Stout from Founders Brewery, which is a strong stout. I would love to go to Oktoberfest one day, looks great to drink (literally) litres of beer and to be part of the famous tradition of Germany.