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Beer and chocolate heaven

A sweet-toothed journey to Brussels. Words: Jane Hamilton

e had thrown away the scales. packed some loose-

fitting clothes. bought some headache tablets and were

checking in for a long weekend in the beer-and- chocolate paradise of Brussels.

Belgium is known as the home of beer. chocolate. lace and the European Parliament. but will always be best remembered for coming in last at every race in It’s A Knockout. Thankfully that programme has now finished and Brussels can regain its credibility as a bustling city, a pleasant mix of Paris and Berlin with a mass of cobbled streets. tree-lined boulevards. varied architecture. trams and street stalls.

With well over 400 types of ale being brewed throughout Belgium, the country has a thriving beer culture. No matter what your preference, your thirst will always be quenched and your taste buds well and truly tickled. Sounded ideal to us. The bars are laid-back affairs where you can peruse the extensive beer menus before making your selection with the waiter. And let’s just say we got to know our waiter well.

The range is varied. but the popular choices include dark Trapist beers. which are decidedly strong. and refreshing white beers such as Hoegaarden and Brug. which are often served ice cold with slices of fruit in them. The majority have their own special glasses. some of them easier to look at than drink out of (I write from experience). And beware of their strength: these beers are meant to be sipped. savoured and enjoyed. so downing them too fast will only have you face down in your complimentary bowl of peanuts. as we discovered on our first night of merriment.

If you take a fancy to one or two of the brews. there are shops that sell nothing but these fine ales and their matching glasses. Our choice was a bottle of Satan beer I‘ll let you know how we get on.

One thing that definitely won't give you a hangover is the other Belgian expon: chocolate. They make some of the finest chocolates and sell them in every shop from the bakery through to the specialist chocolatiers such as Godiva. the price varying accordingly. Pralines are the most popular. but if. like me. you fancy something a bit different. you can get every imaginable style. shape and flavour. We splashed out on a beautifully boxed selection of choccies all wrapped and tied up with a ribbon. It was worth paying the extra.

You can also sample chocolate in other forms; a favourite of

ours was a hot waffle smothered in melted dark chocolate accompanied by a cup of the hot stuff with little pieces mixed in. After that little snack. we weren‘t able to move. but we were pretty sure we had just located heaven and. boy. was it sweet.

Your thirst will always be

Likelthe waite; in the bar. the wtlilman serving the quenChed waft es got to 'now us pretty we .

If you can tear yourself away from the bars and your and chocolatiers then there are plenty of other taSte bUdS

things to keep you amused in Brussels. All Hergé fans will know this is home of Tintin. Captain Haddock and Milou and the museum. the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessine’e. is dedicated to them. As well as the beer and chocolate museums. bars and cafes. look out for the fresh seafood (very tasty). steaming escargot stalls (not brave enough to try). delicious waffle stalls (sampled every single one). and the markets which sell everything from arts and crafts to antiques and foods.

You may well come away from Brussels as a tubby beer bore. but one thing for sure is that eating chocolate bars and drinking lager down your local will never be the same again.

well and truly tickled

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