Siobhan is Podge’s partner. She is also co-tour guide with Podge on all his Beer Tours. Siobhan is a historian with a Master’s Degree in Victorian Studies, another in English Literature and has recently been awarded another Masters (distinction) in First World War Studies from Birmingham University. Her special research subject is alcohol on the Western Front which is particularly useful on Podge’s Beer & Battleﬁeld Tours.
Siobhan shares her encyclopaedic knowledge of the wartime beer experience in Flanders with illustrated talks as well as presentations ‘in the ﬁeld’ which include estaminets and breweries in the Ypres Salient. This allows our travellers a unique experience of sharing in this unusual research subject, delving into the behind the lines troop experience in WW1 and along the way visiting some Flemish beer outlets from WW1 which still survive and which Siobhan hunts out for us.
Podge's Belgian Beer Tours was founded by Podge, aka Chris Pollard back in 1994 and is now run full-time by his wife, co-beer-writer and co-traveller for thirty years, Siobhan McGinn. Belgium suited Podge, both being beerish and idiosyncratic. Life outside the mainstream appealed which is why they spent so much time in a small country known to the few who share its secret delights. This need to taste, experience and know all about Belgian beer drove what would become Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours. Podge liked to tell people that he arranged the first tour so he could take a coach to Belgium and bring back beer for domestic use by the crateload. But that was only partly true. He couldn’t wait to share with his friends what he had discovered and enjoyed. Early tours were fun, exploratory and charmingly chaotic. In the days before Sat Nav to find breweries Podge relied on a ridiculously small-scale Michelin map on which breweries were not marked nor roads named. One of the first we visited was De Bie Brewery said to be in the village of Watou. Podge knew it was located on a street called Stoppelweg but he had no house number. How difficult could it be to find a working brewery down a street you knew the name of? Podge got our coach to drive slowly down Stoppelweg until we were well out of the village and into the Flanders countryside. Podge made the coach stop outside the door of every house, got out and knocked at each door and enquired if they had a brewery out back. He found it. It was a tiny brewery and we had a brilliant time. It was the first of many small, out-of-the-way breweries run by mad enthusiasts which Podge would seek out, visit and support. This spirit of Podge’s Tours remains vested in Siobhan since Podge’s death in 2018 and she is happy and proud to carry on Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours.