Brouwer’s Is a Small Piece of Europe’s Finest Country

Poring over the brew menu is always an exercise in indecision.

I say, with confidence, that Belgium is the greatest European country...and I've visited less than a handful of them. I say this because it's as if the best attributes of the Germans, Dutch, and French were manifested in the good-time spirit of the Irish. And while some might argue that the Belgians lack distinct character, all one has to do is sip their beer to understand what an idiosyncratic bunch they truly are. Brouwer's Cafe, in Fremont, is Belgium-obsessed. And rightfully so: It's the restaurant/bierhaus spin-off of Bottleworks, Wallingford's über-excellent beer shop, which has a soft spot for that country's brews. Whereas the beer houses I visited in Belgium were cozy, intimate joints, Brouwer's is cavernous and theatrical. Iron mesh railings circle the terrace, a skylight brightens the wooden communal tables in the middle of the dining room, and the walls are made of rock. Sure, it looks like Shakespeare could be produced here, but the dramatic aesthetic serves to highlight Brouwer's centerpiece, the bar, which boasts about 50 draft beers. Poring over the brew menu is always an exercise in indecision, but I went with the St. Bernadus Tripel ($7.50) and a Poperings Hommel Golden Ale. Thankfully, Brouwer's follows the Belgian method of serving the beer in its tailor-made glass. The inside of the glass is rinsed with water before any beer is poured, and the fresh-wheat-colored beer is topped by a frothy, unobtrusive head. With each sip, a history of the beer is left in the form of a lovely foam lace around the glass. Much like the interior of Brouwer's itself, a good Belgian beer is a dramatic piece of work. 

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