When I was invited to a press event in the Best Beer Bar in the World, I couldn’t resist.
To be fair, I would have attended the press event wherever it was held. But I was certainly curious to discover what’s so special about this particular beer bar. In fact, I went with great expectations.
Which beer bar is the best in the world?
This accolade goes to “In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst.” This is a tiny bar in the tiny Flemish village of Eizeringen, near Lennik, to the east of Brussels. The name of the bar can be translated as “Insurance against a Great Thirst.”
Who pronounced this as the best?
The website RateBeer.com based on reviews of its readers. RateBeer claims that they are “the most in-depth, accurate, and one of the most-visited source for beer information.” The site’s database contains millions of reviews from users all over the world, covering more than 470,000 beers from more than 26,000 brewers.
How many beer-lovers voted for this place?
120. Yes, I agree, 120 seems rather a low number, considering the site has millions of reviews. It’s also appreciably lower than the 419 people who reviewed the Kulminator in Antwerp (in 6th position), and the 455 people who reviewed the Moeder Lambic Fontainas in Brussels (in 20th position).
What are the criteria?
For a beer bar to be voted the Best Beer Bar in the World it has to score highly on Ambiance, Service, Selection, Food and Value.
Where does the Grote Dorst score highly?
Selection. This is the main draw of this place. As one reviewer puts it: “If you’re looking for Gueuze or Lambic, this is THE place to go to. They have (possibly) the largest selection in the world of these beers, and even stocks from breweries/blenders that have been closed for years now. We’re talking real vintage stuff here. Only very few beer bars have Lambic on tap (if they serve it at all!), but here you’ll find it.”
By the way, if you’re wondering what on earth is Gueuze or Lambic beer, read this.
But if you don’t like Lambics?
Then you might have a problem. Another reviewer: “Forget this place if you don’t like Lambic.”
What about Service?
Service is highly rated, with many reviewers saying “They know how to serve a beer properly.” (But isn’t this Lesson Number 1 when training someone to work behind a bar?). The fact that the Lambic was “served in Lambic baskets and proper glassware” scored big points.
Most reviewers labelled this category as N/A (Not Applicable). This is because, well, they don’t serve food. A typical review: “Food is non-existent except for a bag of crisps and a dry sausage.” One reviewer was lucky: he got some cheese.
What about Ambiance?
This too scored highly. Many reviewers described the ambiance as warm, friendly, farmhouse-style, old-world, unchanged for centuries, cosy, rustic, jovial, charming and quiet. Spare a thought though for the reviewer who took his wife, because she “basically hated everything about the visit and walked down the hill to a café to wait for me.”
The Grote Dorst’s opening hours
10 a.m. to 8 p.m. But that’s not every day. It’s only open on Sundays. Yes, it’s closed from Monday to Saturday. One reviewer rather cuttingly suggested that this is why they have such a good stock of rare beers. “… this bar is open a few hours a week. Which makes it ‘easier’ to hold good bottles, cause if nobody can buy them, they can continue to have ‘em on the menu …”
Anything else worth knowing?
A reviewer: “They don’t take credit cards, so if you want to go for big ones bring cash enough.”
It’s also difficult to get to: “It’s in the middle of nowhere,” said one reviewer. Another said “impossible to reach by public transport.” (Not quite true, but it is difficult).
Also, it’s small, so be prepared for a tight squeeze. How small? Well, two football teams could just about squeeze in for a post-match drink. But the referee and supporters would have to wait outside.
What’s my overall opinion?
I found the Grote Dorst rather underwhelming. However, I’m not a beer geek. So I’m not interested in old Lambics or rare Geuzes. If you are a beer geek, then you will undoubtedly have to visit this place, and will surely love it.
But if I was looking for a cosy place to have a normal Belgian beer and maybe a bar meal with a couple of friends on a weekday lunchtime or Saturday evening, there are hundreds of bars in Belgium that I would rank higher than “In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst.”
If you want to read all about Lambic beer, the classic reference book is now available as an eBook:
This is described as the best overall reference book to beers of the world: