Celebrating Tintin with Belgian beer in Brussels

September 26, 2018

In fairness, Tintin isn’t a big beer-drinker. The Belgian comic-book hero quaffs a pint in Scotland before confronting a gorilla in The Black Island, but that’s an exception to the rule. However, since 2019 marks Tintin’s 90th anniversary, it’s time to raise your own pint to the comic icon in Brussels, the capital of Belgium.

This globe-trotting reporter debuted on January 10, 1929, in the newspaper Le Petit Vingtieme. Today, more than 230 million of the comic albums by Brussels native Georges Remi (aka Hergé) have been sold. Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson produced 2011’s The Adventures of Tintin.

Since beer rivals chocolate and lace as Belgium’s signature product, why not celebrate Tintin by pairing his classic adventures with tasty brews and cultural experiences? Here are five curated options:

The Book: The Castafiore Emerald

The Brewery: Cantillon

The Beer: Kriek

This city of 1.2 million is more colourful than its reputation for EU technocrats and NATO generals might suggest. Hergé said: “I myself am a genuine product of Brussels, and I am very familiar with the real Brusseleir, the authentic Brussels dialect.”

If you’re linguistically ambitious, buy The Castafiore Emerald (Les Stiene de la Castafiore) in French Brusseleir. This quirky story about an opera singer’s missing jewellery has been called Hergé’s masterpiece by British novelist Philip Pullman and French philosopher Michel Serres. You’ll find it at the official Boutique Tintin, near the iconic, flower-adorned Grand Place.

Then sample Kriek, a sour beer made with Marolles cherries. The Cantillon brewery, founded in 1900, has perfected this style of lambic. “In the 1960s and '70s, most local breweries closed,” said BXLBeerFest organizer Jean Hummler, who co-owns the renowned Moeder Lambic beer bar. “Cantillon is a survivor.”

You can also enjoy Kriek with rabbit fricassee and Belgian fries at Nüetnigenough, a centrally located traditional restaurant.

The Book: Destination Moon

The Brewery: En Stoemelings

The Beer: Tanteke

When Hergé put Tintin and his dog Snowy in a rocket in 1950’s Destination Moon, he was way ahead of astronaut Neil Armstrong. Depictions of Hergé’s rocket abound in Brussels, including a towering model at the airport.

A famous Destination Moon scene shows Captain Haddock, Tintin’s lovably intemperate friend, accusing the eccentric Professor Calculus of “acting the goat.” Commemorate that kerfuffle by visiting La Fruitiere, a new cheese shop, to pair En Stoemelings’ Tanteke with fresh goat cheese.

Tanteke is a classic dry Belgian saison (7% ABV). En Stoemelings, founded in 2015 by two school pals, means “in secret,” mirroring the secrecy around the Destination Moon mission.

Keep your taste buds in orbit with a chocolate workshop at nearby Laurent Gerbaud. Create your own chocolates with the aromatic house blend and toppings like salted cashews and candied ginger.

The Book: King Ottokar’s Sceptre

The Brewery: Brasserie De La Senne

The Beer: Revolution

In the Schaerbeek neighborhood, feast on ostrich medallions and roasted vegetables at Faubourg Saint-Antoine. While sipping Brasserie de la Senne’s Revolution, a hoppy, funky Tripel (8% ABV), you may recall how Tintin foils a plot to overthrow an Eastern European monarchy in King Ottokar’s Sceptre.

This restaurant’s unauthorized Tintin pictures are as irreverent as the classic Brussels Manneken Pis statue of a boy peeing. One shows Tintin gaping at the nude woman in Belgian painter René Magritte’s Black Magic (1945), displayed at the Magritte Museum.

The Magritte Museum is just steps from the Royal Palace. Built between 1820 and 1934, the palace provided Hergé’s model for King Ottokar’s residence.

The Book: Tintin and the Picaros

The Brewery: Brussels Beer Project

The Beer: Jungle Joy

1976’s Tintin and the Picaros was Hergé’s final album. It’s an eclectic, ultra-modern take on South American politics. It calls for something different from traditional Belgian beers.

Operated by cheeky millennials, the Brussels Beer Project offers a vibe similar to upstart North American craft breweries. Jungle Joy, a Dubbel infused with mango and passion fruit, evokes the fictional San Theodoros jungle.

Visiting in September? Ride the Metro to the Brussels Park for the three-day Comic Strip Festival, featuring Franco-Belgian comic book sales and author signings. Don’t miss the Balloon’s Day Parade, with huge balloons depicting Tintin, the Smurfs, and others.

The Book: Tintin in Tibet

The Brewery: Mort Subite

The Beer: Witte Lambic

For full Tintin immersion, travel by train to the Hergé Museum in Louvain-la-Neuve. Budget two hours for the dramatic, 2009-opened museum with skylit ceilings and angled walls.

Discover Hergé’s Boy Scout past, view a first edition of Cigars of the Pharaoh, and check out Andy Warhol’s Hergé portraits, among other highlights. The gift shop has Tintin books, watches, and full-sized statues.

Back in Brussels, the Belgian Comic Strip Center has a Tintin section with insights into the personalities of the characters. Temporary exhibitions include subjects like Catel Muller’s graphic novels, which feature female icons like singer Josephine Baker.

After this educational odyssey, taste the ethos of Tintin in Tibet. Ultra-white imagery dominates Tintin’s quest for his long-lost friend Chang, reflecting Hergé’s personal psychological crisis. Stroll to the 1928-founded Mort Subite cafe and cathartically swig Witte Lambic with lemon and peach notes.

Getting there

Want to celebrate Tintin's birthday in Brussels? G Adventures can get you there. Check out our small group tours to Belgium here.

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