BrusselsLife with Pierre Zuber

Written by Olivia Davis - 30 Jun 2014, 00:00 (Updated: 23 Jul 2014, 08:13)
BrusselsLife with Pierre Zuber
He could answer any question you have about beer. He’ll even offer you a beer at 10 am. No it’s not too early. “Breakfast beer does exist you know,” he assured me. “It’s called a breakfast stout, and it comes from the United States obviously.” As the founder of Délices et Caprices, the first specialty beer shop and tasting room in the center of Brussels, Pierre Zuber has got the wealth of knowledge, experience, and the welcoming smile to make anyone appreciate Belgium’s national beverage.

There are many things that make this establishment and its owner special. Pierre, the friendly and passionate owner, moved to Brussels from Switzerland about 3 decades ago. And ever since, he has greatly boosted the beer culture with his unique establishment.

His concept: here we have the beer equivalent of a wine bar. At Délices et Caprices you can taste beers before you actually buy them. Pierre’s 20 years experience in the business will guide you through the tasting experience or help you sift through the artisan beers on his shelves. In the little tavern-like store in the heart of Brussels, sat amongst bottles and bottles of craft beer. Slices of tasty ginger cake posed on a beer-label decorated table top set the scene for our chat with this popular Brussels name, Pierre Zuber.

How and when did you start up your business, Délices et Caprices?

I was born in Switzerland, and I moved to Brussels about 25 years ago. I have been in the business for almost 20 years, and Délices et Caprices is 10 years old. Before, we were located on Rue des Pierres.  The concept came about when I decided I wanted to launch as an independent business owner. It was a business choice; I wanted to open a store in the city center. I asked myself, “What are people in the city center interested in?” This meant I had two options: chocolate or beer. Twenty years ago, there was not one specialty beer shop in the center of Brussels. My first boutique was right at the beginning of the “beer hype.”At that time it was not at all easy to sell artisan beers. Customers would come to the store, attracted by the shear selection, and would leave with beers they already knew or had already tried. So I adapted the “wine bar” concept to “beer bar.”

How does your beer tasting work?

You can come in a group from 4 to 20. Sit, try, and discover five different beers in store that you can purchase afterwards! Five foodpairing snacks come along with. It lasts about 3 hours and costs 30 euros a person. 

Your favorite restaurant in Brussels?

La Taverne du Passage is good for folklore. In the Ilôt Sacré on the same stretch of a 200 meter street, you have a choice between 4 high quality brasseries/restaurants: Aux Armes de Bruxelles, Chez Vincent, Scheltema, and Ogenblik. People are always saying these are tourist traps, meaning bad quality or too expensive. But in reality, these are gastronomic institutions that have always been in Brussels and are worth the visit.

Your favorite place to spend an evening out?

That depends. Obviously I really like the city center because there is a different ambiance as you go from neighborhood to neighborhood, whether it’s Sainte-Catherine, Saint-Géry, Grand Place. Everything is accessible by foot which is great.

Your favorite place to develop your cultural side?

Without doubt, the BOZAR.

Your favorite neighborhood in Brussels?

I really like the city center, like I said before, and the area behind the Cathedral (Quartier des Libertés.)

If you had to show a foreign friend around Brussels, where would you go first?

I think the Cathedral is very pretty, and it’s a lesser known spot to see. 

What is the best thing about Brussels to you? What makes you stay in this city?

I have lived here for almost 30 years, and I love the cosmopolitan side, but also the manageable size of the city. Paris and London are too hectic. I like the laid back feel here. 

What do you really not like about Brussels? What makes you want to leave the city?

The mindset and attitude of the people, the linguistic wars, and the lack of integration between the communities. Eurocrats, Muslims, Brussels natives, they all stay in their close knit groups. There is no cultural mixing. I believe it is a shame, we are missing out on such richness that we could have in this smaller, down-to-earth city. Also I don’t like this false conception that the city center is only good for tourists. It’s not true.

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