We don’t really like taprooms, we say. We prefer pubs, you see, and old brown cafes, and beer halls with the weight of history upon them. But we loved Zennebar, the Brasserie de la Senne taproom in Brussels.
At first glance, it’s a typical outpost of Craftonia that could just as easily be in Manchester or Madrid.
There it sits in post-industrial wilderness, a 19th century ruin to one side and developers developing furiously on the other. Shiny metal, shiny glass, that exact type of foldout beer garden table these places always have.
The crowd is familiar, too: beards, bikes, laptop bags and band T-shirts all round.
There’s a street food truck outside, of course – fish and chips.
So far, so generic.
The beer really helps. We’d been drinking de la Senne all week, and enjoyed it, but here it tasted 20% better again.
Zenne Pils, their lager, tasted like a totally different, much better beer than the one we’d struggled through in a city centre bar.
As we drank, we kept asking ourselves: “Why does this work?”
The light, perhaps. Taprooms tend to be either (a) gloomy and windowless or (b) white boxes with too much harsh fluorescent light. This bar had walls of glass perfect for capturing the mellow evening sunlight.
The clientele, maybe. It’s easy to snark and generalise (we refer you to paragraph four, above) but there were several large groups of women, some older people, some barely of legal drinking age, and some drinking alone at the bar. It felt like a pub crowd, in short, despite the shiny surroundings.
The bar staff, certainly. Professional, in control, on the case, but also patient enough to warmly indulge our stupid questions, in halting French, about the beer range.
On paper, we shouldn’t like it. In reality, we can’t now imagine going to Brussels without paying a visit.
Zenne Bar is at Drève Anna Boch 19-21, 1000 Brussels, and is open from Tuesday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm, and on Saturday from noon to 8pm.