Far south in the Netherlands, we find the city of Maastricht in the region of Limburg. On a map, it comes across as a fiercely carved-out jagged area between Belgium and Germany. That shape also hints at the historical background and the cultures that have mixed over hundreds of years. From the western border to Belgium, just by Maastricht, it is merely 30 km to the eastern border, facing Germany. The region Limburg is narrow and stretches from the south of the country almost all the way to Nijmegen in the north. Limburg’s particular geography is exciting also for beer aficionados, and Maastricht in particular has a lot to offer when it comes to food and drink. It is a region where craft beers are common and popular, to the point where stories abound about biking excursions to visit craft breweries around the region. But you do not have to go that far to sample craft beers. Bars in Maastricht will keep plenty of craft beers in stock. Because microbreweries usually produce less than a few thousand barrels every year, there is a charm to the practice of offering craft beers in the local bars. Because of that fact, it has become a local cultural attraction. But Maastricht also has a place on the international scene, as it enjoys the attention of tourists from neighboring Belgium and Germany, international students, and organizations alike. Everything combines so that this city has a thriving craft beer culture. Against that background, let us start with the honey beer that Bijdehand Bier produces, the Dubbel and Trippel honey beers.
by the hand brouwers and its honey beer
Address: Bijdehand Brouwers Bongerd 18 6411 JM Heerlen
Bijdehand Bier brews the Dubbel and its cousin the Tripel are honey beers. In a way, it is a mix of two of the oldest beverages, mead, and beer. This microbrewery successfully supports the local beekeeper as it brews honey beers. It does so by only using honey from local beekeepers, so by drinking this craft beer you are supporting beekeepers and the local bee population. As you sip on their Dubbel or Tripel, you might want to remember that anecdote for your friends back home. This is also a fine example of how the craft beer community in Maastricht and Limburg also fits into the jigsaw puzzle of local produce and commerce. Maybe it comes as no great surprise that the students in Maastricht do some word-of-mouth marketing as they arrive from all over the world. If you then add to the equation the art scene and exhibitions, as well as proximity to places such as Aachen in Germany and Liege in Belgium, you have a scene to explore that goes well beyond craft beer.
Welcome the autumn with art discoveries and craft beer
Cruises on the river Maas (Meuse in Dutch) are offered throughout the year and if you feel like a proper all-day excursion, then have a look at the day cruises to the Belgian city Liege, just south of the border. The river in Maastricht has been the reason for people’s movement for centuries and goes back to Roman times. In ancient times the Romans had a fortification where Maastricht now stands, and it was named the Mosa Trajectum (meaning literally “crossing at the Maas”). It was placed along the Roman road Via Belgica. Nowadays you can take in the scenery on one of the river cruises that start from Maastricht’s old town while pondering on how many years, centuries, and lifespans this river has been a vital transport route for people. If you do not want to stray too far from the bars and restaurants in Maastricht, then go for a shorter cruise to take in the sights around the city. While the river is very wide and uniform, posing few surprises, the view of Maastricht from the water gives you a different perspective of the city. With that said, let us check out the brewery that focuses on seasonal beers.
Seasonal beers introduced at a regional market
Address: Breusterstraat 27, 6245 EH Eijsden
Breuster Brouwers introduced its beers at a regional market in 2017 and with example beers such as the dark beer Mère de Boebel, and seasonal beers, such as Savelsbock for spring and autumn. They have a tasting room you can taste goat cheese while sampling their beers, but for that you will have to leave Maastricht and head south, by car about 20 minutes, literally next to the Belgian border. If you go for this treat, check out the blonde ale Breuster Brouwers Sergeant Pinckaers and Mère de Boebel as you taste some goat cheese.
350 years since the French siege of Maastricht
The year 2023 also marks the 350th anniversary of 1673, the year that Maastricht was besieged by the French Sun King Louis XIV. To mark this event in history, the Maastricht Museum is hosting a special exhibition throughout the year. This showcases some less-known stories of the city. One fact that should resonate with literature lovers is that this was also when the musketeer D’Artagnan fell in battle in Maastricht. Yeah, he existed. That is the name of the musketeer that Alexandre Dumas (quite) loosely based on his series of novels about three musketeers. Speaking of past times, if you want to avoid the crowds that come in the weekend from neighboring Belgium and Germany, try to visit Maastricht at the beginning of the week. You could arrive early on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning and then wander around the streets of old Maastricht before the locals and tourists have taken to the streets. Just take a peek in amazement at all the winding alleys in the Jeker district on the left bank of the city, named so after the local river that flows into the Maas. There are bars in several streets and squares so you will find yourself thirsty by the time many open their doors, well before lunchtime. So with musketeers (real and fictional), as well as French sieges in mind, the setting in the city is saturated with both fact and fiction. That makes for a splendid word pair when sampling craft beers in a medieval setting. With that in mind, let us check out a third brewery.
Brouwerij ‘t Smakt
Address: Rector Cremersstraat 34 5817AK Smakt
Brouwerij ‘t Smakt will be our third and last brewery to check out. This brewery began like many others in a small house where it was brewed in the kitchen. This brewery is far up in the north of the region of Limburg. So far, it is a stone’s throw from the Limburg region border. Since the brewery open up in 2012, they have settled on a Tripel and IPA, to name a few. This selection took plenty of experimenting before the brewery found its combination to offer to thirsty beer lovers. Taste the ‘t Smakt Nano-Tripel Tripel which comes at 7.5%, and you might want to combine it with some cheese and Dijon mustard.
Where in Maastricht do you go?
Now you might think that you should go to the largest tourist square just opposite the large red church, Saint Jan`s church. But take your time and walk around, stick around the Jeker neighborhood, and walk around those winding alleys to work up an appetite while at the same time marveling at the well-preserved winding streets since medieval times. There are bars aplenty and several stock craft beers. Just ask the bartender, as it is a matter of great conversation to find out which craft beers they have in, and where to find others. The calm of the Jeker neighborhood balances well with the busier Onze-Lieve-Vrouweplein square and well-placed restaurants and cafés. If you want to stick around the waterside, you can get a good view of river Maas just behind the Maasboulevard where people gather for drinks and food throughout the day and evening. This is also a great location from where to set out on your walks as you explore the old Maastricht on one side of the river, and the more modern Maastricht on the other side of the river.