LEUVEN - Wherever you are in Belgium, Leuven (or Louvain) is never more than a stone’s throw away. Whether you land at Brussels airport, come into Brussels Midi by train or you’re driving on the country’s road network, Leuven’s central location means it’s never far away.
Leuven’s accessibility is a major trump card but there are a lot of other good reasons to visit the Beauty on the Dyle and, when you do it, it won’t be long before you notice that this city just won’t let you go.
Leuven is the indisputable beer capital of the world. The brewery business flourishes here more than in any other city. At the start of the 20th century, the city was home to more than 30 active breweries. Sadly most of these have now disappeared. The giant AB Inbev and domestic favourite Domus count among the survivors.
As to Domus, its beer is fed through copper pipes directly to the taps in the next-door café. You couldn’t ask for a fresher pint.
AB Inbev, the largest brewer in the world, originated around 1366 as a tiny city brewery in Leuven. The company grew from the home brewery started up by Sebastiaan Artois.
In 1708, Mr Artois became an official Master Brewer and started up his own brewery. The brewery, named Artois, produced a limited edition Christmas beer in 1926. As this brew was extremely clear, almost translucent, it was named 'Stella’ – Latin for star.
This new beer was such a success that customers started asking for it throughout the year. Stella Artois was to become one of Belgium’s most popular pilsners and, at the end of the 20th century, it started to conquer the world. Stella Artois is now available in over 80 countries.
Beer has to be experienced and Leuven offers plenty of opportunities to immerse oneself to the full. Brewery visits, creative workshops, down-to-earth beer cafés and delicious, beer-fuelled restaurant dishes…And of course, a great beer walk that’s packed with fascinating anecdotes.
Sign up for this guided walk and your host will take you on a tour of discovery of well established, ‘olde worlde’ cafés and ancient breweries, some of which have long since disappeared. You will learn the story and history of the beer city of Leuven. Did people really drink that much beer?
What happened to all the breweries? Is there a difference between a 'kroeg' and an 'estaminet'? Why does the Oude Markt have so many cafés?
Why did beer from Leuven become so popular? Are the stories about brewers using fish scales and pigs’ trotters actually true and did they use Dyle river water to make their brews?
You will receive answers to all these questions and hear an abundance of interesting anecdotes during this walk that, even teetotallers will find something to enjoy.
The Brusselsestraat was famous for its multitude of breweries. There were no fewer than 16, with 9 located in the former ‘Steenstraat’ (paved road) - in the lowest part between Voer and Dijle – and 7 opposite the ‘Blauwe Hoek’.
With the exception of the former Vilvoorden plant, all the brewery buildings were destroyed during WWI or demolished as part of a sanitation project in the abattoir area.
At the Oude Markt you’ll learn that during WWII the maximum alcohol content allowed in beer was 0.8°. This was called ‘fluitjesbier’, a Flemish term for weak and tasteless beer. Needless to say, this low-alcohol beer did not catch on.
Some cafés offered a jenever with the fluitjesbeer to rack the alcohol content up a bit. Many breweries raised the white flag and switched to the production of lemonade during the war.
Individual visitors can join the tour from 1 April to 30 October. Every Saturday at 11am, in Dutch and English.
The walk takes 60 minutes and starts from the Tourism Leuven office where you can also purchase your tickets, which are €3.
Groups can join the tour by prior arrangement throughout the year and the group rate is €60 which will accommodate a maximum of 25 guests. Apply three weeks before your trip through the Tourism Leuven office at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can contact or visit the tourism information office in Leuven at:
Telephone: +32 (0) 16 20 30 20
Website: www.visitleuven.be or www.leuven.be/beercapital