Cheese, Beer, and a Walk in the Woods: Chimay

Author: Martha Hepler   /   Belgium, Explore, Uniquely Belgian   /  
One of the first things my husband did after finding out we were moving to Belgium was to go a fancy beer store and bring home my first taste of the intense and exotic Chimay Blue. How fitting, then, that one of our first family outings after landing here was to visit Espace Chimay. This is the closest that visitors can get to the heart of this particular Trappist brewing and cheese-making establishment. It is adjacent to the abbey which originates these treats and is the site of a restaurant, small hotel, a shop, and the educational Chimay Experience.
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We arrived on a bitterly cold January day, but were soon seated in an ideal atmosphere—enough carved dark wood to give the pub a cozy and historic feel, and enough windows to have a nice view of the picturesque countryside surrounding it. We were a party of five adults and eight kids, and we were provided with a semi-enclosed seating area which made it easier to contain the toddlers. The staff was friendly and forgiving of our questionable French, and the trilingual menu was extensive. We were soon devouring cheese fondue, meatballs, and beer samples of the most sublime quality. Dessert was similarly delectable.

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The restaurant goes out of its way to accommodate children; from a kids’ menu to high chairs to a changing table in the bathroom to two large playgrounds out back, it is clear that they are welcome. They even sell slingshots in the gift shop, for the bravest of parents. There are tables next to the playgrounds, and we could imagine returning for leisurely summertime meals while the kids happily go berserk.

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After—let’s be honest—utterly gorging ourselves, we crossed the street to walk onto the grounds of the Notre-Dame de Scourmont Abbey, the home of the Cistercian monks who were ultimately responsible for this feast. Chimay, as an authentic Trappist beer, is brewed at the abbey, but the brewery is not open for tours. Visitors may wander the peaceful woods and gardens (find the young sequoia in the courtyard, already towering over every other tree!), enter the church, and view the cemetery. It is a place of serene beauty.

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Back at the restaurant, the Chimay Experience (an exhibit about the history and making of their beers and cheeses), looks fascinating. But we have found that, for a day trip, the meal and refreshing stroll through the gardens grounds fill our time quite nicely. I suppose we’ll have to book a room upstairs and make a weekend of it in order to taste all that is on offer at Espace Chimay.

Location: The restaurant (Auberge de Poteaupré), Chimay Experience, and hotel are all located at Rue de Poteaupré 5, 6464 Bourlers. The entrance to the abbey grounds walk is directly across the street from Espace Chimay. It is no more than a 10 minute walk to the church.

Hours: Vary according to season; check the website.


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