Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours

Beer on the Waterfront

Wednesday 26 June – Sunday 30 June 2024

This is our most popular Tour which is irresistible because it is based in the beautiful watery and beery City of Gent, and our visits are all connected with drinking beer by or on water, whether that be on a boat, on a river terrace, or at a canalside cafe. The highlight is a complete day on the coastal tram, the longest tramway in the world. Tavellers will be armed with a day pass for the whole Tram system plus a copy of Podge's Coastal Bar Guide which includes all the best beer bars on the Belgian coast within a fifteen minute walk of a tram stop. There are 62 stops on a 42 mile track from the French border to the Dutch border. Fun with knobs on! The Coastal Tram in Belgium - a great day out

The famous Coastal Tram in Belgium runs the whole of the coast from France to The Netherlands - the longest in the world at 42 miles.

This five day, four night Tour is based in Gent, one of the 'Flemish Pearl' cities - it is beautiful and has plenty of watery cafes. Our hotel is the centrally located Ibis Cathedral on the cathedral Square of St Baafs, surrounded by beer bars and cafes, so not far to trot in the evenings then! The cathedral contains the world’s most stolen artwork masterpiece, the Gent Altarpiece, or 'The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb' by Van Eyck. It’s recently been cleaned and restored and is amazing (especially as the cleaning revealed the mystic lamb has two sets of ears, as the artist changed his mind as to their exact position in the composition).

This biennial Tour is highly likely to book up, it always does, so if you want to join us, email me as to how to pay the deposit.

A nice selection of beers in De Planck, a boat Cafe in moored up in Gent

Nice selection of beer in De Planck, a boat Cafe in Gent

The Flemish city of Gent is one of the top beer destinations anywhere in Europe, just have a look at Podge's Central Gent Bar Guide! On this Tour we will be exploring beer, breweries, cafes and beer-cuisine restaurants alongside the coast, rivers, canals, lakes and waterways of Belgium.

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 Dover, if we go by ferry) and picks up at several points, as agreed with Siobhan, as below:

Ipswich, Bus Stop, Tesco Store, Pinewood, Ipswich IP8 3TS.

Colchester, McDonald's, Tollgate West, Stanway, Colchester C03 8RG

Chelmsford, The Woolpack, 23 Mildmay Road, CM2 0DN.

Dartford, BP Garage (formerly Esso) 474 Princes Road, DA1 1YT. On the return leg we drop off at Dartford Railway Station DA1 1DR

Swanley, Unit 4, Moreton Industrial Estate, London Road, BR8 8DE.

Ashford, pull in Outside Dobbies Garden Centre, Opposite Premier Inn, Ashford Eureka Leisure Park, Rutherford Road, Ashford, Kent, TN25 4BN.

Folkestone, Shell Garage, Stop 24 Services, J11, M20, Kent, CT21 4BL.

The detailed, timed itinerary for this Tour is set out below. 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 £175pp 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 26 June 2024

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

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

07.30hr Coach pick up at the pull in outside Dobbies Garden Centre, Opp. Premier Inn Ashford Eureka Leisure Park, Rutherford Road, Ashford, Kent, TN25 4BN.

07.45hr Coach pick up at Shell Garage, Stop 24 Services, J11, M20, Kent, CT21 4BL.

08.00hr Arrive Le Shuttle (Eurotunnel) Train Crossing from Folkestone.

10.20hr Departure of Le Shuttle (Eurotunnel) Train crossing from Folkestone.

12.00hr Arrive/Disembark Calais.

13.30hr Arrive at our first stop of the Tour at the coastal resort of Middelkerke and the Brasserie Iceberg, a new visit for us. This place is right on the sea-dyke/promenade/seafront. We should get a view, to the right of the huge new €60 million Middelkerke Casino building, due to open in March 2024. It is vast construction built on an artificial sand dune and incorporating sea wall defences. The wooden nest-thing contains the 60-room hotel and is apparently designed to look like a fishing-boat mooring post. The casino, restaurant and event hall are under the ‘dune’ with spectacular views of the beach and sea and there is a 200 space underground car park. Brasserie Iceberg is a beer-café-restaurant and we’ll have a meal here, and a crack at their 67 beer choices.

15.30hr Leave Brasserie Iceberg in Middelkerke.

16.30hr Arrive at the Hopspot Microbrewery and beer café in Evergem, on canal street. This is another new visit for our Tours, and this venture was opened in 2023. This is a microbrewery and cafe conceived and initially funded by the mighty Van Steenberg brewery up the road. Run by a young team, it is housed in an old farm building, but this is a modern, flash on-site brewery, café, restaurant, meeting rooms and guest rooms. And wheelchair friendly. Hop growing outside is underway on the field to the left. They started with three beers, one being seasonal and these are served straight from the tank and are brewed here with 100% Belgian malt, Belgian hops and Belgian yeast. There are a further eight beers on draught brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge, including Monks Grand Cru, Piraat 7, Augustijn Blond, Fourchette, Gulden Draak Classic and there are the full range of Van Steenberg beers in bottles. All of their beers are, and always have been quality, so we’ll stop here for a beer and a comfort break, and Siobhan will get everyone a draft beer*.

18.00hr Leave the Hopspot in Evergem.

18.30hr Arrive at Ibis Gent Centrum St Baafs Kathedraal. Arrive at our base for the next four nights which is Hotel Ibis St Baafs, Gent which is in a fantastic position next to the cathedral and a square with a fountain and loads of cafes and restaurants around it. The evening is free for you to explore this beautiful city armed with a copy of Podge’s Central Gent Bar Guide* and accompanying map*. Cafe Trappisten, Westmalle

Westmalle Trappist Dubbel

Day 2 - Thursday 27 June 2024

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

10.45hr Arrive at Rubbens Stokerij in Wichelen, on a curve of a bank of the River Schelde, between Gent and Antwerp. Stokerij Rubbens are a distillery, who make the delicious Chouffe Coffee, gins and six beers too. They have a comfy distillery/brewery tap which we will visit and have a tasting*. Jenever distillery Rubbens grew from a farm in 1817 which turned home-grown grain surpluses into alcohol. By 1872 Charles Rubbens wound down the farm business and instead bought in large quantities of grain to make ‘genever’ in white stone jars. They must have had a difficult time between 1919 and 1984 when Belgium had a law preventing the sale of spirits in pubs (you were still allowed to buy it from shops in quantities of 2L). In 2008, the Rubbens family sold the business to farmer Dirk Beck and to expand production moved to this site, a former steelworks. Dirk combines farming with the distillery and uses farm produced grain in the distillery, and the spent grains go to animal feed. They started a brewery on site in 2021 and produce the following: Rubbens Blonde 6%abv, Dubbel 7%abv, Tripel 8.5%abv, IPA 5.5%abv and Fruit 6%abv. The bottle displays the Rubbens logo, a mythical Greek seahorse, the hippocampus, also the name of the part of the brain affected by alcohol, also shaped like a sea horse. Look out also for examples of the 1949 enamel publicity signs, 55 of six designs were ordered from Émaillerie Belge and many are preserved in collections.

12.45hr Leave Rubbens Stokerij in Wichelen.

13.30hr Arrive at the superb beer café restaurant Den Gulzigen Bok (The Greedy Goat) in Gavere. This is a place we visited many years ago and it deserves a re-visit. The interior is a lovely old-fashioned beamed barn, with old metal chocolate moulds cemented to the walls. They also have a large terrace for warmer weather. They are famous for good Flemish food and a well-picked beer list running to 80 choices with plenty of Trappistes, Lambics and some real quality picks. We’ll rest here for a meal and a bier or two.

15.15hr Leave Den Gulzigen Bok (The Greedy Goat) in Gavere.

15.30hr Arrive at another new place for us, de Wildebrouwers at Flora in Merelbeke who began here in 2017 in a 1940s factory which made SOFACQ slippers until the 1970s. They have a lovely brewery tap cafe which opens one Friday evening a month, but they are opening for us for a brewery tour* and beer tasting*. The beers are brewed with rainwater, purer than tapwater, they say, after they turn it into perfect brewing water using reverse osmosis technology. The energy used to brew is off-grid and comes from a photovoltaic (sun) installation. Their beers are organic and unfiltered and they brew beers of low, high and wild fermentation, some matured in wood barrels. They call their beers ‘traditional craft beers’ which is an interesting phrase. Their brewery is partly constructed from old brewery installations and ‘hours of polishing and welding renewed their former glory’. They really like recycling, reusing and also recuperate CO2 from the fermentation process. Some of the malt in the beers is replaced by unsold organic sourdough bread, toasted and crumbled. Their beers include:

 Louis XVIII 7.5% abv. Blonde, fruity ale brewed with Golding hops.

 Cydonia Barocca 8.0% abv. Strong blond low fermented beer with quince.

 Termont 7.0% abv. A sweet-and-sour red ale.

 Oud Brood 6.2% abv. Complex dubbel beer made with toasted and crumbled leftovers of organic sourdough bread. Now that, I am looking forward to.

 Hul Extra Stout 7.0%abv based on an old recipe from a beer bottle, found under the brewery. (75cl bottles)

 Sour Cydonia 7.5% abv – a Sour Ale aged in oak Bordeaux barrels with quince. (75cl bottles)

They also make a low alcohol (3.5%abv) range called Flora, so that’s me sorted, then.

17.30hr Leave de Wildbrouwers in Merelbeke.

18.00hr Arrive at the lovely moored boat Kaffee de Plank, in Gent. Nice as you can see moorhens, grebes etc bobbing around the boat from the seats on the deck or down below. Comfy bar with a friendly cat called Pousse, who likes spaghetti. Massive 125 beers on the menu including their house beer ‘Planckske’, brewed by Van Steenberge in Ertvelde.

19.00hr Leave Kaffee de Plank, Gent.

19.15hr Arrive back at Ibis Kathedraal, Gent.

Day 3 - Friday 28 June 2024

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

11.30hr We arrive in Anderlecht in South-West Brussels for a watery visit. We will have fascinating guided tour of the Brussels Sewer Museum*. We will descend 10m into the bowels of the earth beneath the Brussels streets to see the nineteenth century egg-shaped sewers which carried, and still carry city waste away from the River Senne. We follow the meandering path of the Senne, and we are invited to soak up the atmosphere of a real sewer. We will stroll along the subterranean banks of the Senne and enter the collector sewer of the Chaussée de Mons. Apparently “it does smell slightly!” This large sewer collects water from secondary tributaries and is still in service. It can also get flooded. In this case, the museum must close. We will learn about sewer construction, repair and the hard work of sewage workers. There are toilets and a small giftshop at the end of the museum. Can’t wait to see that! Tea towels and mugs?

The entrance and exits to the museum are housed in two old toll pavilions, from 1836, formerly used to collect taxes on goods entering Brussels. These neoclassical buildings contains a funny Latin joke. The letters in the triangular pediment spell S.P.Q.B. This should read S.P.Q.R. which is Latin for Senatus Populusque Romanus (The Senate and People of Rome) and these letters appeared on Roman public buildings, monuments and some coins. Here, the “R” for Rome has been amended to “B” for Brussels. Like I say, funny for us Latin scholars. By the way on World Toilet Day on 19 November 2023, Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, drew attention to the vital role of sanitation with a visit to this very Museum.

13.00hr Leave The Sewer Museum in Anderlecht, Brussels.

13.45hr Arrive at the Chalet de Goudkarper in Meldert. The Golden Carp is a pretty café with terraces onto the Mill Lake, a favoured spot with carp fishers. It is one of many Belgian cafes that start out as a bit of an anglers hut and end up turning into a full time all bells and whistles food and drink venue. This one has over 70 beers available including 11 on tap, majoring on Trappist beers and some lambics. They have been awarded Orval Ambassadeur cum laude and Trappist (La Trappe) Gouverneur. Catch your own dinner! Not really, but we will have a meal here and a beer or two.

16.00hr Leave the Chalet de Goudkarper in Meldert.

16.30hr Arrive at Pede Drinks Warehouse in Sint-Lievens-Houtem. Pede have five big warehouses in the area, this one is near a great cafe too, De Gouden Leeuw (The Golden Lion) which has a choice of 80 beers. So this is a chance for some of you to buy some of your favourite beers to take home, at great prices and for others perhaps to wait for us in the Gouden Leeuw, a two minute drive by coach on the village square.

18.00hr Leave Pede Drinks Warehouse/De Gouden Leeuw in Sint-Lievens-Houtem.

18.30hr Arrive back in Gent, get dropped in our hotel with a brief turnaround, then we leave our Hotel on foot for the short walk to the beautiful Graslei waterfront in the centre of the city for our evening city boat trip.

19.30hr Embark from the Graslei jetty on an Aperitif Boat City Cruise* with Ghent Watertoerist. This is a guided cruise through the historic centre of Ghent and its waterways, on a summer evening. Ghent lies at the junction of the canalized part of the great River Leie (Fr. Lys) and the mighty Schelde (Fr. Escaut) and is the centre of an urban complex that includes Ledeberg, Gentbrugge, and Sint-Amandsberg. The city cruise includes two glasses of local beer* onboard.

20.15hr Disembark evening boat cruise, carefully!

Nice head on a Hommel Bier

A tasty Hommelbier

Day 4 - Saturday 29 June 2024

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast* in our hotel we head off by coach for a day on the brilliant Belgian Coastal Tram which at 42 miles in length is the longest tram line in the world with 69 stops.

11.00hr Arrive and drop at Oostende 15 Mercatorlaan, which is also the official parking place for coaches in Oostende. I’ll go and get the tram day pass tickets* for the group from Oostende Rail Station/ Tramstop and it’s a couple of minutes’ walk from the coach to there, where the group can join me for the ticket distribution. Each traveller will get a day tram pass* and you have the day free to travel on this fantastic coastal tramway. The Oostende Station Tramstop marks just about the middle of the whole tram system. You are free to travel the complete length from the French border in the west to the border with the Netherlands in the east but this does take about two and a half hours, so bear this in mind when planning your day and you’ll want to build in time for a meal. The ‘western’ half from Ostende to De Panne on the French border is more heavily populated with bars and restaurants than the ‘eastern’ half to the border with the Netherlands. Travellers will be provided with bar guides* for the best places for a beer (and food) along the coast and all bars marked on Podge’s Coastal Bar Guide are within walking distance of the tramline. A tram map with all 69 stops will be provided to travellers. In the summer season coastal trams run every 10 minutes. Did you know that a 'vacuum cleaner' tram comes past every day to remove all the sand from the tracks?

20.00hr Coach pick up where we left the coach in the morning at 15 Mercatorlaan, Oostende.

21.00hr Arrive and drop at Ibis Kathedraal Hotel, Gent.

Day 5 - Sunday 30 June 2024

10.00hr After breakfast* check out of the hotel.

11.15hr Arrive at Middelkerke on the coast to have a look at one of the open-air artworks which are part of the amazing Beaufort art installation, which takes place every three years. Most of the monumental artworks are left in place, so the coast is getting quite crowded with big, weird artworks! Siobhan has been wanting to see some of these for some time, so we’ll pop over to the beach to have a look at a very weird installation involving frogs.

11.30hr Arrive at BONK beach bar on the sand for a local beer from their menu. This is a pretty, newly redeveloped beach bar (and accommodation) and has on the beer menu Oyenkerke from de Panne, Sea Spark from Koksijde and Krevet from Koelschip on Oostende, none of which Siobhan has tried – yet.

12.30hr Leave BONK beach bar.

Siohan is working on another coast sculpture/bar visit.

14.00hr Arrive at the Hoeve Paepehof Eetkaffee and Kinderboerderij (Children’s Farm) in De Panne. We are not here to pet the goats, but to have a meal and a crack at their astounding beer list of around 100 choices. Their pork spareribs come highly recommended, so I’ve included these in our meal choices.

16.45hr Leave Hoeve Paepehof Eetkaffee and Kinderboerderij in De Panne.

17.50hr Arrive Calais Le Shuttle (Eurostar) Terminal.

19.50hr Leave Calais on Le Shuttle (Eurostar) train.

19.25hr Arrive Folkestone Le Shuttle (Eurostar) Terminal.

19.35hr Coach drop off at Shell Garage, Stop 24 Services, J11, M20, Kent, CT21 4BL.

19.50hr Coach drop at the pull in outside Dobbies Garden Centre, Opp. Premier Inn. Ashford Eureka Leisure Park, Rutherford Road, Ashford, Kent, TN25 4BN.

20.50hr Coach drop off Dartford Railway Station DA1 1BP.

21.40hr Coach drop Junction Lady Lane & Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0EA.

22.00hr Coach drop off Travelodge Hotel, 128-136 Parkway, Chelmsford CM2 7GY.

22.15hr Coach drop Premier Inn Victoria Road, Chelmsford CM1 1NY.

23.30hr Coach drop Galloways depot, Denters Hill, Mendlesham IP14 5RR.

Tour Price is £985 per person sharing a twin or double room

Single Supplement: £295

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 £175 per person.

Send Siobhan an email to find out how to pay the deposit

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.