Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours

The Great '30 Years and Still Going' Belgian Beer Tour

Wednesday 06 March - Sunday 10 March 2024

This five-day Tour has been designed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the founding of Podge's Belgian Beer Tours. Our first tour was in 1994. For this special Tour we are based at the fabulous luxury Hotel Park in the city of Kortrijk, right next to the rail station. This has always been a great city for beer and it has been a while since we stayed there. Recently, I've had a number of good reports from Travellers on the beer cafes of Kortrijk, which go from strength to strength, so I thought I'd base this Tour there. The last time we stayed at Hotel Park they had a special egg chef in the breakfast restaurant and there was a Belgian cycling team staying there, who ate their own breakfasts from little bags! The hotel has a swimming pool for the use of all hotel guests and a Wellness Spa. The city of Kortrijk is famed for the Battle of the Golden Spurs, a one day fight between France and the rebellious Flemish on 11 July 1302. The big thing is, rather unexpectedly, the Flemish won, and are pretty proud of it too, even today! There are plenty of beers referring to the golden spurs (worn by the hated French) and we will sample the beers of Kortrijk. The military historian in Siobhan will take Travellers to see the site of the famous battle in a park in town, and also the place where the golden spurs still hang up as trophies.

Park Hotel, Kortrijk.

The beer on this Tour will be excellent, as Kortrijk has many breweries in its environs. Such is their quantity and quality that when we conceived a prototype for this Tour a few years ago, Podge wanted to call it "The Kortrijk Ring-Road Tour", but the marketing department wouldn't agree to the Tour title! We'll travel a bit further to find some new breweries and some great beer cafes, including some we have not taken the group to before.

We are based in Chelmsford in Essex and we use a UK hired coach to travel. We try to use Le Shuttle (Eurotunnel) from Folkestone to get to and from Belgium, but if not available we go by ferry from Dover to Calais. Most of our Travellers join the Tour at our main pick up point outside The Woolpack Pub, 23 Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0DN and most come from other parts of the UK, and some from further afield, especially USA. Lots of our Travellers stay the night before a Tour (and often the night of our return) at Chelmsford Travelodge only a few minutes walk from The Woolpack or at the Premier Inn near the Railway Station, about a 10 minute walk to the pick up point at The Woolpack. We all usually pop in to The Woolpack the night before departure for a meet, greet and a few beers with Siobhan who is your Tour Manager, Tour Guide and drinking pal for the duration.

Our Galloways luxury coach (49 seater coach with toilet) starts from Suffolk and on the way to Folkestone (or occasionally Dover) picks up at several points, as agreed with Siobhan and our current agreed pick up points appear below in the detailed timed itinerary. The crossing times we usually go for are the 09.20hr Le Shuttle (Eurotunnel) from Folkestone and the 19.50hrs from Calais, so we arrive back in Folkestone at 19.30hrs UK time.

The detailed planning for this Tour is almost complete and the detailed timed itinerary is set out below, but may be subject to change. If you would like to join us please send Siobhan an email or call on +44 (0) 7722 724 558 for details on how to secure a place and pay the £155pp deposit for this Tour, or if you have any questions about this Tour. Should your plans change, we are happy to return your deposit to you in full provided the date of the return request is more than six weeks before the departure date of the Tour.

Day 1 - Wednesday 06 March 2024

Very Early! Coach departs from Galloways coach depot at Denters Hill, Mendlesham, Suffolk, IP14 5RR.

06.15hr Coach pick up at The Woolpack, Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0DN.

07.00hr Coach pick up at Howdens, Unit 4, Moreton Industrial Estate, London Road, Swanley, Kent BR8 8DE.

07.45hr Coach pick up at the pull in outside Dobbies Garden Centre, Opp. Premier Inn Ashford Eureka Leisure Park, Rutherford Road, Ashford, Kent, TN25 4BN.

07.55hr Coach pick up at Shell Garage, Stop 24 Services, J11, M20, Kent, CT21 4BL.

08.10hr Arrive Folkestone Eurotunnel.

10.20hr Eurotunnel from Folkestone.

12.00hr Arrive Calais.

12.45hr Pick up two travellers at Rail Station, Stationsplein 3, 8660 De Panne.

13.15hr Arrive at our first stop, the Vlasschaard in Stene, just inland from the coastal city of Ostend. This is a neat place in a picturesque village next to the windmill and church. Here we will have an opportunity to have something to eat and a crack at their beer card of 60+ choices. They have a good selection of locally brewed beers and a very nice choice of 10 on draft. Go for the local Keyte Tripel by Brouwerij Strubbe, or the mighty but brilliant Gouden Carolus Whisky Infused (11.7%abv). We reckon a wheat beer is nice with lunch and they offer here the very good local Sint Bernardus witbier on draft (5.5%abv).

15.00hr Leave de Vlasschaard in Stene.

16.00hr Arrive at The Brew Society, Heule, Kortrijk. We will have a tour* of the brewery and a beer tasting* here. This is a large brewery which started in 2016 in big-style with a modern plant. They use 100% Belgian ingredients and are certified organic. They also have solar panels and a water purification system for sustainable and environmentally friendly brewing. There are two groups of beers brewed here. One is the Martha series, which you may have heard of. There is Martha Sexy Blond, a strong 8%abv blonde beer. Then there is Martha Guilty Pleasure which is an 8%abv sour cherry beer. Finally weighing in at 12%abv is the strong, dark Martha Brown Eyes made with roasted malt. But there is a second range of beers called The Seven Sins. These are brewed by scientist Koen Hugelier, who is now a brewer and we met him at Christmas at the Circus Brewery in Zwevegem. His beers are based on the Latin names for the seven cardinal sins and are brewed so as to ensure that the ingredients and flavours perfectly express the eponymous sin. In the Genesis Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve bit into the apple which released a flood of sins upon the world. There were seven, each more shameful than the last – according to Pope Gregory I.

• Lust – the Latin and the beer name is Luxuria. This is a ruby red beer with a lovely hoppiness, a spicy kick and a long, sensual aftertaste at 9% abv.

• Gluttony – the Latin and the beer name is Gula. A rich beer at 10% abv which presents the sin of gluttony without moderation in the form of a full-bodied ruby red, and is the most gluttonous beer in the Zeven Zonden collection.

• Wrath – the Latin and the beer name is Ira. This is a wheat beer with a spicy touch at 7%abv designed to express the most devastating of all sins: wrath.

• Envy – the Latin and the beer name is Invidia. This is the one for you dark beer lovers, as it is black in colour and 10 %abv.

• Pride - the Latin and the beer name is Superbia. This is described as a straw yellow taste bomb! The hops give it a tropical fruity taste, at 7%abv.

• Greed - the Latin and the beer name is Avaritia. Interestingly, representing the sin of greed is a low alcohol beer at 0.5%abv! The brewer, Koen, gave me a bottle of this Christmas 2023 and I drank it on New Year’s Eve. It was great, with a lovely elderflower aroma and taste.

• Sloth – the Latin and the beer name is Tristitia and I have not located this beer, yet. I am still looking!

17.45hr Leave The Brew Society in Heule, Kortrijk.

18.00hr Arrive at and check in at the Hotel Park in Kortrijk, our base for this Tour.

Day 2 - Thursday 07 March 2024

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast* we head off by coach.

10.35hr Arrive at the beer shop/warehouse Drinks 4u in Deinze. This is a big place with over 1650 types of beer. The showpiece is the range of specialty beers and thanks to their collaboration with small brewers, they offer a unique beer selection. Have you ever tasted a special beer in a beer café and would you like to bring it home? There is a good chance that you will find it here! All your favourites should be here too, for those all-important great-value Belgian beers to take back home.

11.50hr Leave Beer shop Drinks 4u in Deinze.

12.45hr Arrive at Au Chaudron des Légendes in Ellezelles - a brewery, tasting room and restaurant owned and run by Brasserie des Légendes. Here we will have a meal and a beer or two from their wide range. This project started in 2000 when the brewery, then called Géants (Giants) brought out their first beer, Gouyasse at Castel d’Irchonwelz in Ath, where we have visited in the past. They later acquired Brewery Ellezelloise (makers of the beers Quintine and Hercule) who were looking for a buyer. They then built the “Au Chaudron des Légendes” pub in Ellezelles, which translates as "The Cauldron of the Legends", next to the existing brewery. The Legends title comes from this area, known as de Pays de Collines (The Hilly Lands) which is home to legends of witchcraft, as well as Ellezelles village being the home of Hercule Poirot who was born here on 1 April 1850. The beers are made from their own barley grown on the family owners farm. Here are their range of beers:

    Goliath Blonde - a blonde beer of 6%abv.

    Goliath Triple - a blonde beer of 9%abv.

    Goliath Ambrée - an amber winter beer of 7%abv.

    Legends Harmony - a blonde, summer beer of 5.7%abv.

    Gouyasse Blonde - blond beer of 6%abv. This beer is sold mainly in this region, but under the name Goliath Blonde, its twin sister, in the rest of Belgium and abroad. The reason is because Gouyasse is the local dialect name for Goliath, the famous Ath giant.

    Ducassis Bio Organic - a 3%abv blackcurrant beer.

    Saison Voisin is their coppery blonde 5%abv beer with hop flowers.

    Quintine Blonde - a strong 8%abv beer.

    Quintine Ambrée - a strong 8.5%abv amber beer.

    Quintine Nature bio is an organic wheat beer of 5.9%abv.

    Quintine de Noël - Christmas beer - a red-amber 7.8%abv.

    Hercule Stout - is a 9%abv jet black English-style stout.

    The 'Corne' range of 4 beers, including a dark one, takes their name from the mischievous Cornelius, who, according to legend, continues to play tricks on anyone who crosses his path. These beers are served in a glass horn held on a wooden stand.

14.45hr Leave Brasserie des Légendes in Ellezelles.

16.00hr We pay a visit to Jef at Brouwerij d'Oude Maalderij / The Mash Café in Izegem. Jef is a passionate brewer of big, black beers. Here he has the small d’Oude Maalderij inox brewery and a fantastic bar with a huge quantity of vintage signage and Belgian breweriana. We’ll spend some time here and you can choose from his beers on tap or from his amazing black and barrel aged special bottled beers.

18.00hr Leave The Mash in Izegem.

18.30hr Arrive back at Hotel Park in Kortrijk. The Mash / d'Oude Maalderij Izegem

The Mash / d'Oude Maalderij in Izegem

Day 3 - Friday 08 March 2024

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast* we head off by coach.

10.45hr Arrive at the Hofke ter Musse in Maarkedal for a special visit. This is an historic farmhouse/museum/beer café and are opening for us. They are considered one of the ‘Pearls of the Flemish Ardennes’. It is a nineteenth century farm house and square courtyard and is called “The Sparrow.” It is a lovely vintage cosy café which has a courtyard full of antique farm equipment. The stables has an array of vintage wooden ‘pub games’ and we’ll have a go at these*. The pub has a wood fired baking oven in which they cook traditional bread and less traditional pizzas! They have a great list of 60-odd beers including the house beer Musselbier (Sparrow Beer) at 6%abv. You can order this with or without a portion of the house cheese, Mussebierkaas, "House Sparrow" cheese made by nearby Vierhoekhoeve farm. They also sell Mussebierpaté, an artisanal pate (probably not made from sparrows) from local butcher 't Culinairke.

12.15hr Leave Hofke ter Musse in Maarkdal.

13.00hr Arrive at the Taverne Saint-Gery in Aubechies, one of the “most beautiful villages of Wallonia”. The Taverne we are visiting is named after the Romanesque village church of Saint Gery opposite. It is next door to the Archeosite and Museum of Aubechies which is a huge museum dedicated to local pre-history to Roman times and is the largest archaeological open-air museum in Belgium. This is a lovely 17th century café, a classic Hainault white-washed farmhouse and is very pretty both inside and out. The inner wall incorporates local Roman finds and an original stable trough. They have a huge beer list of 140 choices including lots of Wallonian 75cl stunners. Christophe, the owner, travels to U.K. a lot and has great English! We will have a meal here and a beer or two.

14.45hr Leave Taverne Saint-Gery in Aubechies.

15.00hr Arrive at the brilliant Brewery Dupont in Leuze-en-Hainaut for a visit. This is the most famous brewer of Saison beer, and the best. We are coming here because Saison Dupont is my favourite Belgian beer. Founded on a working farm which dates back to 1759. Historically, their best-selling beer was Moinette Blonde. However, the popularization of the Saison Dupont by their American importer in the 1980s led to great international popularity for this beer, which further promoted “farmhouse ales” as a style. In 1995 a cheese-making facility was added and they mature cheese in beer. The brewery was started in 1920 by Louis Dupont and now run by Olivier Dedeycker, the fourth generation. We will have a guided brewery tour*, beer* and cheese tasting* here. We will also each get a gift from the brewery – bet it’s beer! Here’s what they brew:

Saison Dupont 6.5%abv - a slightly cloudy yellow-coloured ale with high carbonation, fruity and spicy aromas and tastes and hoppy. Unfiltered and bottle-conditioned. Superb.

Moinette Blonde a strong 8.5%abv beer and its brother, Moinette Brune a brown 8.5%abv beer.

Avec Les Bons Vœux. Theresa’s favourite beer. A 9.5%abv strong golden ale began as the brewery's Christmas gift or "Cadeau" for friends and favoured business associates, but has become part of their regular commercial lineup. They also do a superb Redor Pils which I have long thought was Belgium’s best Pils.

17.00hr Leave Brewery Dupont at Leuze-en-Hainaut.

17.45hr Arrive at another brewery in the top 10 in Belgium, Brewery De Ranke, run by the great Nino Bacelle. It is in Dottignies and began in 1996 with Nino launching a beer called Guldenberg. In the mid-1990s, Nino met Guido Devos and in 1996 they establish Brewery De Ranke. Every beer I’ve ever had from them is great quality, and Podge liked the Guldenberg and XX Bitter. Since our last visit, they have opened a lovely upstairs large tasting room, and we’ll stop in here for a bit on our way back to base camp in Kortrijk.

• Guldenberg – an amber Abbey beer at 8%abv.

• Noir de Dottignies – a dark beer at 8%abv.

• Saison de Dottignies - a Hainaut (local region) Saison at 5.5%abv.

• Hop Harvest – a blond 5.5%abv, brewed with fresh hop flowers.

• Kriek De Ranke – a cherry beer at 7%abv.

• XX Bitter – a blond hoppy beer at 6%abv.

• XXX Bitter - a blond very hoppy beer at 6%abv.

• Père Noël – a Christmas beer at 7%abv.

19.15hr Leave Brewery De Ranke in Dottignies.

19.45hr Arrive back at Hotel Park in Kortrijk.

Day 4 - Saturday 09 March 2024

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast* we head off by coach.

11.30hr Arrive at Train World in Brussels. This is the national train museum of Belgium and opened in 2015. It brings all Belgium’s national historical rail assets together inside the beautiful nineteenth century Schaerbeek station building, an imposing ‘streaky bacon’ building. Belgium was the first country in mainland Europe to open a public railway in 1835. It covers 8,000 square meters and includes:

• the showpiece is the oldest locomotive in continental Europe, Le Pays de Waes, dating from 1845.

• Steam-powered locomotive ‘The Atlantic’ which broke the record for speed in 1939 by attaining 120km per hour.

• 21 other locos!

• a postal wagon and a restaurant wagon.

• a wagon decorated by Belgian surrealist artist Paul Delvaux.

• an original metal rail viaduct bridge from Namur, originally spanning the River Meuse (Du. Maas) which now serves as a raised platform for visitors to walk over.

• an original railway watchman’s house.

• my fav, being the beautiful green NMBS/SNCB Type 12 Atlantic 4-4-2 class steam locomotive dating from 1938–1939. This was built for the fast lightweight Ostend boat trains operated by Belgian National Railways.

The opulent ticket hall of Schaerbeek station is now an exhibition space, currently devoted to animals and trains. You can walk among locomotives, take a seat in 100-year-old trains, visit the railway house and walk across the real railway bridge. You can even experience how it feels to drive a train! Within the museum complex is a nice comfy café called Filousophe which offers snacks and full meals and, of course, has a great beer list of 30 or so, with about a dozen on tap. Some good ones here too, including local Zinnebier from de la Senne brewery down the road. I'll hand the tickets* out and we’ll have three hours here for all you rail-folks, and time for a lunch snack.

14.30hr Leave Train World in Brussels.

15.00hr Arrive at La Source Brewpub in the Royal Laeken area of Brussels. This is a new craft brewery which opened in 2019 in an old warehouse used for storing the famous drink Byrrh, an French aperitif made from red wine and quinine, created in 1866 and still made today. Byrrh adverts can be seen in The Great Escape (1963), Saving Private Ryan (1998) and prominently displayed in Café Réne in the BBC sitcom 'Allo 'Allo! The owners of this brewery are a couple who took this place on to brew beer and wanted to let people taste it as fresh as possible – at Source, so they fitted taps to five beer vats, allowing you to drink straight from “the source”, hence the name. We will spend a little time here at this micro-brewery and large bar. They have fifteen beers on tap and five served straight from the shiny 600L tanks, so ultra fresh beer is guaranteed. The tanks protect the beer from heat, light and air and minimizes packaging and environmental impact. The beer menu changes, but will include fresh IPAs and black beers, creative barrel-aged beers and some ''brewpub-only'' exclusive beers, available at this taproom only.

16.45hr Leave La Source Brewpub in Laeken, Brussels.

17.30hr We escape the City and on the way back to Kortrijk we pop in to a pretty rural beer café called De Pikardijn in the tiny hamlet of Cotthem, the “gateway to the Flemish Ardennes”. This is a real family business. The Pikardijn was a house which was rebuilt in 1937 after a fire by Mr De Kerpel who lived there with his wife and two sons, Jules and Marcel. In 1944 a German bombing raid on the nearby rail station killed both Mr De Kerpel and his eldest son Jules. Younger son Marcel and his mother continued to live in the house and he married Maria in 1952. Their daughter Laurette and her husband Jaak occupied the house in the 1970s. In the 1980s they moved upstairs with daughter and son Stijn, as their living space and opened lower floor as a beer café called De Pikardijn. In 2023 Laurette’s son, Stijn took over the business and runs it today. They have a great beer list of over 170 choices, with label images and full beer info on the menu. In winter you can enjoy the cozy warmth of one of the wood fires or the brilliant old stove, and in warmer weather you can choose a spot on the terrace close to the bar. They like people to eat, drink and relax here, so we’ll do the last two, then.

19.00hr Leave De Pikardijn in Cotthem.

19.45hr Arrive at and drop at Hotel Park in Kortrijk.

Day 5 - Sunday 10 March 2024

10.00hr After breakfast* check out of hotel.

10.30hr Arrive at Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte. This is a small family-owned Brewery in West Flanders who brew great Flemish Red-Brown beers, and can be considered as a little brother to the mighty Rodenbach Brewery. Paul Verhaeghe started this brewery-maltings in 1885 and sucessfully sent much beer to Brussels, by train. At the outbreak of the first world war, Paul responded to the call of the Belgian Government to resist German occupation economically by stopping production. Post-war brewing started with new equipment and they formatted a plan, and still stick to it that consumers prefer beers of high quality, with a unique identity. The commercial success of their star beer Duchesse de Bourgogne is proof of this. It is a lovely ruby red 6.2 %abv beer of mixed fermentation, matured in oak casks and is brewed according to an ancient method. We will see these old oak casks and have a special guided tour by Katrien* and a beer tasting here*.

12.30hr Leave Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte.

13.45hr Arrive at our last stop for the Tour, the great Het Blauwershof, a very Flemish estaminet in Godewaersvelde, just over the French border. This village was well known to First World War Tommies, who could not pronounce the Flemish name, so it was known as “God Wears Velvet”. Blauwershof translates as Smugglers Den, referring to ye olde border activities here. They serve regional dishes, and we will have a meal here. They are close to the Abbey at Mont des Cats, and food and drink from here feature in their menu. They have other regional beers, including some French ones you may not have had before.

16.30hr Leave Het Blauwershof in Godewaersvelde.

17.30hr Arrive Calais.

19.50hr Leave Calais on Eurotunnel train crossing. (to be arranged by our coach company).

19.30hr Arrive Folkestone.

19.45hr Coach drop at Shell Garage, Stop 24 Services, J11, M20, Kent, CT21 4BL.

20.00hr Coach drop at pull in outside Dobbies Garden Centre, Opp. Premier Inn Ashford Eureka Leisure Park, Rutherford Road, Ashford, Kent, TN25 4BN.

20.45hr Coach drop Howdens, Unit 4, Moreton Industrial Estate, London Road, Swanley BR8 8DE.

21.30hr Coach drop Junction of Lady Lane & Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0EA.

21.45hr Coach drop Travelodge Hotel, 128-136 Parkway, Chelmsford CM2 7GY.

22.00hr Coach drop Premier Inn Victoria Road, Chelmsford CM1 1NY.

23.15hr Coach drop at Galloways coach depot, Denters Hill, Mendlesham, IP14 5RR.

Rodenbach Brewery

Rodenbach Brewery.

Tour Price is £965 per person sharing a twin or double room

Single Supplement: £285

We regret that we need to charge a single supplement for travellers who would like their own hotel room. This is because increasingly hotel room prices are quoted with very little difference between single person or two person occupancy.

Deposit payable to secure a place on this Tour is £155 per person.

Send Siobhan an email to find out how to pay the deposit. THIS TOUR IS NOW FULL!

Included in the cost of this Tour are:

Hotel accommodation and breakfasts;

Hotel city taxes;

Luxury coach travel on a 49 seater coach with toilet;

All brewery visits, tours and brewery beer tastings;

Entrance fees to attractions, museums and historical sites;

All items marked with an asterisk above and on the individual detailed tour itinerary when issued;

Copies of Podge’s City Bar Guides and Maps for the town where we stay or spend some time;

Still and sparkling water on the coach;

Pick up from one of our agreed joining points on the way to Folkestone or even on the other side of the channel.

Courier Services from Siobhan McGinn, your Tour Guide.

Travellers are responsible for the costs of all food and drink apart from items marked with an asterisk on the detailed itinerary plus all passport and insurance costs.

All itinerary times are local and approximate.

Personal insurance is not included in the Tour price but is required to be taken out by Travellers on Podge's Belgian Beer Tours, as is carrying the free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which is the 2021 replacement for the old EHIC. You can still use your EHIC card so long as it is in date, then you need to apply for the GHIC replacement online.

All Tours are subject to our Terms and Conditions.