- Beer has been brewed in Brussels and the surrounding communes since the beginning of the 13th century, ever since the requisite grains—barley and wheat—and hops have been grown here. In 1295, John II, duke of Brabant, authorized the city aldermen to levy a duty on the production and sale of beer, and beer constituted an important early revenue source. By the end of the 14th century, local products included waegbaert, hoppe, roetbier, cuyte, and zwaertbier. Quality was strictly regulated. The number of breweries grew steadily over the centuries, with the 17th century an especially active period. Ixelles was noted for its brew making at this time. Breweries in Brussels, of which there were 73 in 1617, clustered near the Senne River. In 1675, residents refused to pay a supplemental tax on beer— the gigot—to help defray expenses and meet war costs. Many brewers remained in existence until well into the 20th century, when competition and consolidation caused most small operators to close or be sold.The family of lambic beers is unique to the valley of the Senne. Fermented spontaneously by action of naturally occurring airborne yeasts—tiny fungi called Brettanomyces found only in Brussels and nearby areas to the west—lambic beers are strong brews that are aged for a year or more. Varieties of lambic include kriek, made with cherries (formerly grown in Schaerbeek), framboise, made with raspberries, and gueuze. Gueuze is a sharp beer made by blending several lambics from different years. It is produced at the Cantillon brewery in Anderlecht, the sole surviving independent lambic brewery in the Brussels area. The Musée bruxellois de la Gueuze is housed at the brewery at rue Gheude 56. The Schaerbeek Museum of Beer opened in 1993. Cafés and taverns in Brussels today serve over 500 different brands of beer.See also À la Mort Subite.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.