Together visited this legendary institute that paved the way for so many others
For more than 30 years, Patrick D’hane has been one of Belgium’s greatest authorities on beer. He opened the Bier Circus in 1993, on rue de l’Enseignement when there weren’t so many bars specializing in Belgian artisanal beer. It’s hard to believe now, but at the time it was very rare to open a bar uniquely dedicated to Belgian beers; nevertheless, he decided to stick his neck out and work with small breweries and celebrate their craft.
“There are ever more breweries and more beers”
Belgium has more than 1,500 types of beer produced using different fermentation methods. “There are ever more breweries and more beers and they aren’t always ‘great’, I’ve tested lots of new beers, they’re often light in alcohol and easy to drink, but in comparison with the ‘good’ breweries they aren’t on the same level,” says Patrick.
Together asked Patrick to select five of the 100 beers he has on offer. This is a little like asking a parent to pick their favourite child, but he managed to choose five that reflected the spectrum of Belgian beers. Needless to say, he started with the beer that he commissioned to celebrate the bar’s 30th anniversary.
Bier Circus 30 year, (7.5%), Brasserie den Hopperd
The beer is from Antwerp province and is an organic beer. Patrick started working with Bart Desaeger of den Hopperd over 20 years ago with a special beer for the 10th, then 15th, 20th and 25th anniversaries. It is available on draught and in the bottle, and he says that this is the best one yet: “It’s very well balanced with a malty fruity side and with a refreshing bitter aftertaste.”
“It’s very well balanced with a malty fruity side and with a refreshing bitter aftertaste”
Patrick designed the label, he’s also a very accomplished artist. You can enjoy his art work when you’re in the bar. The drawings are beautifully detailed images from the natural world, from owls to foxes.
Taras Boulba, Noble Hop Session Beer (4,5%), Brasserie de la Senne
“I have Taras Boulba, on draught all year around; it is very, very local and 100% organic. I don’t have lager or pilsner but Taras Boulba is a good alternative as it is light in alcohol, very refreshing, while also hoppy and bitter.”
Cantillon, Gueuze (5.5%), Brasserie Cantillon
Gueuze is the Champagne of the beer world. It is a blend of several Lambics. Cantillon is the Dom Pérignon of Brussels Gueuze. Brasserie Cantillon Lambics are called “young” after one year of aging and reach full maturity after three years. The young beers contain the natural sugars necessary for second fermentation in the bottle. The three-year-old beers are known for their bouquet and finesse. “The process is made with natural yeast in the air and it is truly unique to the Belgian air, it’s a free fermentation beer. They blend the different lambics, then it’s fermented again in the bottle.” How special is this? Brussels has its very own yeast, that can’t be found elsewhere Brettanomyces bruxellensis, a yeast associated with the Senne valley.
Charbon, smoked beer (7%), Brouwerij De Dochter van de Korenaar
“And now for something totally different,” says Patrick, “a very good stout from a very good brewery. It has added vanilla from Madagascar and l’île de La Réunion. This makes it quite smooth, it’s a Belgian brewery, but geographically it’s a Belgian enclave in the Netherlands. We’ve got a lot of great stouts in Belgium, this is one of the lighter ones in alcohol.” The unusual name for the brewery comes from a quote from Emperor Charles (1500 – 1558): “I can stand the juice of the daughter of the ear of corn better than the blood of the cluster of grapes.”
And here, we cheated a little, Patrick chose a beer family with four examples as his last choice.
“A very good stout from a very good brewery”
Oud Bruin Infusions – Old Oak, Cherry, Vineyard, Raspberry (7%), Brouwerij ‘t Verzet
Oud bruin is a style of beer originating from the Flemish region. This style of beer is medium bodied, reddish-brown, and has a gentle malty flavor and no hop bitterness. This particular series of beers only comes onto the market once a year, by adding an extra ingredient to Oud Bruin that is at least one year old Verzet sets its beer apart. The added ingredient soaks into the beer for several months and releases its flavours. When the brewers judge that the flavours harmonize perfectly, it is time to bottle! Patrick says: “The taste is a little sour, a sort of sweet/sour. One of the flavours is oak leaf, they also use grape and even strawberry! This works very well with food in particular, it’s a really interesting family of beers.”
The Bier Circus has a truly unique atmosphere and it is very much in the image of its creator, from the music that’s played – everything from Peter Gabriel to Iron Maiden – to the cartoons, drawings and beer paraphernalia around the bar.
Open Tuesday to Friday 16:00 – 23:00