Halle, a historic market town 12 miles (19 km) southwest of Brussels, sits on the edge of Belgium’s Payottenland. Halle is in the Province of Flemish Brabant, and is part of Belgium’s lambic country. As such, it should be no surprise that the city has a number of great beer-focused cafes, and that lambic is one of premier beer styles featured at said bars.
Halle dates to the Middle Ages, and its Sint-Martinusbasiliek (Saint Martin’s Basilica, usually called Our Lady Basilica) dates to 1409, and was built around a chapel dating to 1335. The statue of the Virgin of Mercy was donated to the town of Halle by Machteld of Brabant in 1267. This statue stands above the high altar. The statue, said to be a miraculous image of the Holy Virgin, is often referred to as The Black Madonna of Halle. Important visitors to Halle include Edward I of England, and Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Philip died in Halle in 1404, and is buried in the city, which now counts over 41,000 inhabitants.
In the shadow of the Basilica, not far from Halle’s Grote Markt (Great Square) is ‘t Parlement, a two-story cafe/bar focused on serving a selection of some of the best Belgian beers, as well as whiskys from all over the world. ‘t Parlement was founded by life partners Frank Van Der Voorde and Mina Manand, in 2012.
Frank and Mina are a very warm and welcoming couple, and ‘t Parlement is a very cozy spot. Frank is fanatical about great beers, such as lambic brews, Trappist ales, family brewers, and local beers. ‘t Parlement stocks about 200 different brews, which does not include the large number of lambic beers they have. “We have a huge menu of lambic beers separate from the main beer menu,” Frank remarked. Mina is the whisky expert, and ‘t Parlement usually has over 300 different whiskys in stock.
Here is the full, ten page long lambic beer menu: Parlement Menu_Geuze en Kriek_A5_2023.01
Here is the Trappist beer menu: Parlement Menu_Trappisten_A5_2023.02
Here is the menu for all beers that are not lambic or Trappist: Parlement normal Menu_Bieren_A5_2023.01
Frank added: “During the course of the year, we also organize tastings by reservation at ‘t Parlement, on Tuesdays. These include Whisky, Rum, Beer etc. We have around 25 to 30 tastings per year.”
There are lambics on offer from Boon, Cantillon, De Cam, De Troch, Den Herberg, Eylenbosch, 3 Fonteinen, Girardin, Hannsens, Lambiek Fabriek, Lindemans, Oud Beersel, Gueuzerie Tilquin, and Timmermans. Lambics from Het Boerenerf and other new lambic producers are expected to be in stock soon as well.
About how they came to meet and open a business together, Frank says: “We met by coincidence 14 years ago. We had our first talk the weekend of November 1st, and around the New Year, we were a couple.”
Frank added: “Mina stopped with a previous business that she had run (a dining and dancing restaurant) before we met. She did not plan to return to the world of Horeca (Note: that is hotels, restaurants, and cafes.) But as you know, once it’s in your blood, the fire always comes back. Together with the approval of the kids, we suggested her to restart. And she agreed, as she still wanted to do something with whisky. When she asked me if I would join her in this business, my answer was OK…but only if I could develop a beer menu never before seen in those days in Halle! Since then, we are together for more than 14 years in business.”
Frank continued: “This year (2023) Mina and I will get married. In the summer of 2022, she proposed to me live on the air at a local radio station during a two hour interview about her life as an entrepreneur in Halle. Of course, I said yes!”
What a great story Mina and Frank have!
‘t Parlement has been an Orval Ambassador since 2020, and a La Trappe Gouverneur since 2016. For detailed info about the Ambassador and Governor programs, see the websites linked above. Suffice it to say that ‘t Parlement is a great place to drink Orval and La Trappe!
Frank says: “We have also the title of Honorary Pelgrim for Brasserie St.Feuillien, are recognized by “Orde van de Sikaru” and are a comraigh bar for Kilchoman (Islay) and a preferred partner for SMWS, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, headquarted in Edinborough.
The cafe celebrated its tenth birthday in 2022. For the occasion, Frank and Mina worked with Brouwerij Boon to produce an oude geuze especially for their anniversary, “Cuvée 10 jaar ‘t Parlement Oude Geuze.” Frank remarked: “This was created by using Boon Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait as the base beer, and adding some other lambics from special barrels to it.”
Frank remarked: “This is not just an anniversary beer. It’s a charity beer. All the profits from our 10th Anniversary Oude Geuze will go to provide meals for the homeless in Brussels.”
I tasted it at De Lambikstoempers Beer Weekend, which I wrote about in this article here, in August 2022. This is an excellent oude geuze, which should cellar/age very well. I tasted it again at the cafe a few days after the festival.
The Lambikstoempers paid Cafe t’ Parlement the high honor of being awarded De Gouden Lambikstoemper (The Golden Lambikstoemper) for the year 2016. From De Lambikstoempers website: “Based on an impressive list of lambic cafés and various criteria (that were drawn up after many hours of negotiations) and after anonymous visits to the proposed businesses, we annually reach out our Golden Lambikstoemper Award to a business that promotes the many lambic beers (Old Gueuze, Old Kriek, faro, lambic and so on …) and puts them in the spotlight on a positive way.”
Such is the respect given to ‘t Parlement by De Lambikstoempers that they hold their monthly club meetings there. The club’s next festivals are the Bier Weekend on August 26-27, 2023, which will be held at De Lambiek, the lambic beer visitor’s center in the village of Alsemberg, and the “Dag van de Oude Geuze” (Day of the Oude Geuze) on October 28-29, 2023, which will be held at the Streekproducten Centrum in Halle. This “Regional Products Center” of the Province of Flemish Brabant, is a retail/take away shop, located at Poststraat 3A in Halle. It has a great selection of beers, liquors, chocolates, and many other products, at very good prices. A visit is highly recommended!
While not a restaurant, ‘t Parlement does have a few excellent food options. The delectable baked meatballs are served with a side of cherry jelly, as well as homemade tartar sauce. There are charcuterie plates, as well as cheese plates with an assortment of artisanal cheeses, which come with delicious homemade bread. Scampis (shrimp) are also available, in season.
There is also a whisky festival held in Halle every year, and Mina is always involved with the planning for that. Frank commented: “The local whisky festival is organized by the Maltclan, of which Mina is part of the board of directors. The festival is organized on the 3rd Sunday of January. We have a booth were we serve food…and whisky!”
Cafe ‘t Parlement is located at Klinkaert 10-19, within sight of the cathedral. Telephone is 32 2 309 54 43. It is about a 15 minute walk from Halle’s train station, which is just a 20 minute ride from Brussels Central station. Parlement is closed on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays. Opening hours for winter are 5 pm (3 pm from Easter through October 1st) to 11 pm Wednesday and Thursday; 3 pm to 1 am on Friday, and 10 am to 1 am on Saturdays. ‘t Parlement is one of Belgium’s hidden gems, and premier beer and whisky cafes. Get there and explore it yourself!
While Halle and ‘t Parlement are accessible by public transport, much of Belgium’s lambic country is hard to reach without a vehicle. If you would like to take a tour of lambic breweries and cafes, I recommend considering a professional lambic guide.
One such person is Patrick Van der Spiegel. As a resident of Halle, ten miles southwest of Brussels in Belgium’s lambic country, he has lived his life savoring and enjoying lambic brews. Patrick has two projects, “The Land of Geuze” and “Lambic Tours” which both have Facebook and Instagram pages. The Lambic Tours website is here.
To sum up, Patrick Van der Spiegel organizes tours to lambic breweries, geuze blenderies, and traditional Belgian pubs in and near the Pajottenland and the Zenne Valley. Patrick guides these tours himself, and can do so in English, Dutch, and French. In addition, there is the possibility to pair these tours with guided tours at breweries or blenderies, with professional tour guides, or lambic brewers/blenders. These tours typically include tasting samples of multiple beers, and an optional lunch or dinner for the whole group.
If you are interested in these custom guided tours, feel free to fill in the contact form on their website (lambictours.com) or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It is also possible to send private messages through their Instagram and Facebook pages.
Patrick’s lambic tours can be summed up in one word: Marvelous!