There turned out to be another book by George W. T. Omond on Amazon. Bruges and West Flanders, published in 1906.
The country life is simple. A good deal of hard drinking goes on in most villages. More beer, probably, is consumed in Belgium per head of the population (sic) than in any other European country, Germany not expected, and the system of swallowing “little glasses” of fiery spirit on top of the beer brings forth its natural fruits.
The drunken ways of the people are encouraged by the excessive number of public-houses. Practically anyone who can pay the Government fee and obtain a barrel of beer and a few tumblers may open a drinking-shop.
It is not uncommon in a small country village with about 200 inhabitants to see the word Herberg or Estaminet over the doors of a dozen houses, in which beer is sold for a penny (or less) for a large glass, and where various throat-burning liquors of the petit verre species can be had at the same price; and the result is that very open a great portion for the scanty wage paid on Saturday evening is melted into beer or gin on Sunday and Monday.
As a rule, the Flemish labourer, being a merry, light-hearted soul, is merely noisy and jovial in a brutal sort of way in his cups, but let a quarrel arise, out comes the knives, and before the rural policeman saunters along there are nasty rows, ending in wounds and sometimes in murder. When the lots are drawn for military service, and crowds of country lads with their friends flock into the towns, the public-houses do good business.