With all due respect to local stouts, sours and IPA’s, I feel Belgium makes the best beer in the world. And while we have breweries dedicated to brewing in the Belgian style, it can be hard to find the real thing. Enter Mort Subite, a bar that not only specializes in beer from the land of waffles and chocolate, recreates the warmth and friendliness of a traditional Belgian pub.
Old School Beer in a New School Bar
And when I say specializes, I really mean “dedicated.” Mort Subite offers over 20 taps and 40 bottles, all imported from Belgium. From hoppy pale ales to fruit-forward tripels, to beers brewed by Trappist monks since the 1600’s, an entire world of yeasty goodness is yours to explore.
And just like a bar in Belgium, glassware is king. Every single beer on the menu is served in the correct glassware. This allows each one to be presented and tasted exactly as the brewer intended. All of Mort Subite’s bartenders are masters of the pour, as well. The right glass plus the proper pour equals an authentic experience.
If you’re looking for a recommendation, Mort Subite’s General Manager Nancy Palma suggests the Rochefort 8. Rich with dark fruit and a bit boozy, this Trappist strong ale is packed with flavor and has the ABV to match. Newbies to the style would do well with either Kwak (a strong, malty pale ale), Delirium Tremens (a light yet alcohol-forward tripel) or Zinnebir, a light, yeasty golden blonde.
But what if you’re not feeling particularly European? Mort Subite also serves a smattering of local favorites, specialty cocktails and hard-to-find craft beer whales. Attention, beer geeks! When I visited last week, Mort Subite had Austin Beerwork’s Sputnik and the rare Whiskey Barrel Aged Double Pecan Porter from (512) on draft.
Authentic Taste of Belgium at Mort Subite
When Mort Subite’s founder and owner Nancy Palma first conceptualized a bar, focusing on Belgians was the natural choice. But simply serving tasty imports wasn’t going to be enough.
“Belgian beer isn’t just the liquid,” said Palma. “It’s the whole experience. It wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t have the whole package. The aesthetics, the glassware, the pouring approach. It helps people feel like they’re in a little part of Belgium.”
Palma’s dream come true is a long, railroad style bar. Natural brick from the historical building it lives in lines the far wall, while a deep, spacious marble bar top sits on the right. Look up, and you’ll see Belgian flags hanging from the rafters while rows and rows of multi-shaped glassware hover over the bar.
Another important aspect of the Mort Subite experience is food. To fill hungry stomachs, Saperlipopette, a new French food truck specializing in crepes and galettes, has become a semi-permanent resident. Located in the back next to a cozy wooden patio, this truck provides authentic French cuisine in line with the bar’s European feel.
Local Bar With a Far Away Feel
But all the beer, glassware, and grub won’t make a lick of difference if it doesn’t feel like home. For Palma, this is the most important aspect of Mort Subite.
“My number one goal was to remove any sense of pretention from the bar,” shared Nancy. “I can’t stand it when you go into a beer bar or any retail establishment, and the people there make you feel like you’re lucky to walk in. Bars are places where people want to loosen their collar and take it easy. That’s what we want to be.”
If a bustling happy hour crowd during my last visit was any indication, Mort Subite is succeeding. Lively conversation danced to the tune of pouring beer and clinking glasses. Through the back door, the smell of freshly cooked crepes crept in. A friendly bartender poured samples for smartly dressed businessmen and t-shirted twenty-somethings alike.
When finishing up my chat with Palma, she mentioned how she always wanted a “Cheers.” A local pub where you walked in and everyone knew your name. Consider Mort Subite her wish realized. With outstanding beer served in a friendly, pretense-free environment, this bastion of all things Belgian is a refreshing new addition to the ATX craft beer scene.
Mort Subite is located at 308 Congress Ave., on the corner of Congress and 3rd Avenue. For the beer list, hours and social media, visit mortsubite.com.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Where do you go for your Belgian beer in Austin?