Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours

Christmas in Leuven 2024

Tuesday 24 December – Saturday 28 December 2024

We love Belgium (and winter beers) at Christmas and we love taking a coach full of like-minded people. For Christmas 2024 we are based in the lovely city of Leuven in Flemish Brabant. Our hotel for our five day, four night Tour is the very centrally based Penta Hotel, from where we will explore Belgium at Christmas-time.

Leuven is a great beer city, as you can see from Podge's Leuven Bar Guide which gives an idea of the hand-picked beer bars we have included on the map within a walk of the hotel. Leuven also has 'the longest bar in Europe' which is the Oude Markt in which square almost every building is a bar. We will manage to fit in a brewery visit or two, some great meals in top beer/restaurants and plenty of visits to interesting cafes across Flanders. All from the comfort of our luxury 49 seater coach. Join us.

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.

A group brewery tour, at the Kroon Brewery, with Freddy Delvaux.

Our Galloways luxury coach (49 seater coach with toilet) starts from Suffolk and on the way to Folkestone or Dover, depending on the availability of Le Shuttle, we are increasingly travelling by ferry from Dover. We pick 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.

We are booked in on the ferry crossing departing Dover at 10.05hrs outbound and 19.00hr on the return leg from Calais.

This Tour is currently being built so keep an eye on this web page or subscribe to our monthly email newsletter for updates - there is a form to do this at the foot of this page. The final detailed and timed itinerary will be posted here at least four weeks prior to departure. 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. The deposit will be £180pp for 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.

CafeWelkom Hoeke. Christmas2016 (14)

Oh Belgian beer cafes, why do you look so inviting!

Day 1 - Tuesday 24 December 2024

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

06.00hr Coach pick up at The Woolpack, Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0DN.

06.45hr Coach pick up at Howdens, Unit 4, Moreton Industrial Estate, London Road, Swanley, Kent BR8 8DE.

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.

08.15hr Arrive Dover ferry terminal.

10.05hr P&O Ferry Crossing from Calais.

12.55hr Arrive/Disembark Calais.

14.15hr Arrive at our first stop which is the Oud Gemeentehuis in Varsenare. A gemeenthuis is a Town Hall, so this big place is in the old town hall, but it is now comfy a bar and huge restaurant which gets lively in the evenings and which apparently is a haunt of local professional footballers from Club Bruges. In the 1940s and 1950s the Jabbeke strait road was famed for speed records set on a measured kilometre of the road here so that car manufacturers could get maximum speed certified by the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium. In the 1950s the Pegaso Z-102 clocked 155 mph. We’ll have a meal here and a first delicious Belgian beer. Somehow that first one is always so good!

16.00hr Leave the Oud Gemeentehuis in Varsenare.

Siobhan may find us another beer stop on the way to Leuven.

18.00hrish Arrive at our base for the next four nights, the Pentahotel in Leuven.

St Bernardus Abt Beer - A Black Beauty

St Bernardus Abt Beer - A Black Beauty.

Day 2 - Wednesday 25 December 2024

11.00hr – late start. Following a buffet breakfast in our hotel* we leave for a Christmas Day like no other.

12.00hr We arrive at Grimbergen Abbey in the village of Grimbergen, north of Brussels in Flemish Brabant. This is a large complex consisting of the Abbey church, now a Basilica, a new modern micro-brewery, a museum/visitor experience, a brewery tap and the Fenikshof Restaurant. We’ll visit them all* with a fully guided tour with two expert guides. Grimbergen Abbey was founded in 1128 when the Lords of Grimbergen asked Norbert van Xanten, founder of the Premonstratensian Order to build an abbey and he granted them their wish here. Shortly after, the Fathers of Grimbergen Abbey began to brew beer. The Abbey was burned to the ground three times and was rebuilt bigger and better each time. Therefore their motto is ardet nec consumitur, latin for “burned but not destroyed”. Hence, the phoenix logo you’ll see everywhere. The complex also includes the Volkssterrenwacht Mira, Belgium’s oldest astronomical public observatory and planetarium which you can see peeking out of the former abbey farm buildings in the car park.

Now for the beer! Grimbergen beer in recent years has been made by large conglomerates elsewhere, but in 2021 they installed and opened a new micro-brewery here to brew some special limited edition beers, separate from the commercial products widely available in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. They are Erkend Belgisch Abdijbier – officially certified Abbey beers. We’ll have a beer tasting* of some of their beers including:

Grimbergen Magnum Opus Brut Beer - 8.0%abv. This is a crisp, light ale made with golden malts and has delicate notes of pear, orange and vanilla. Named from the Latin meaning 'finest work', it is, apparently ‘reserved for distinguished guests’.

Grimbergen Ignis Quadruple – a 10%abv malty, sweet beer made with beech-smoked malt. It has notes of raisin, plum, and fig.

Grimbergen Astrum Pale Ale – is a lively, smooth, refreshing beer at 6%abv. It is called Astrum – star, is a reference to the famous observatory in the grounds. It is brewed with Galaxy hops from Tasmania and is fruity to complement the biscuity malts.

14.00hr We make our way to Het Fenikshof restaurant, within the abbey buildings. This is an attractive eatery where we will have a meal and a sit down! One of the meal choices Siobhan has selected is Turkey-Schnitzel! They serve on draft the Grimbergen Microbrewery beers in three different sizes, and the other Grimbergen brews too.

16.00hr Leave Het Fenikshof at Grimbergen Abbey, Grimbergen.

16.30hr Arrive at an afternoon stop for a beer or two which Siobhan is currently arranging.

18.30hrish Arrive back in Leuven and drop near the Hotel.

Dark Beer

A nice black beer - go on - it's Christmas!

Day 3 - Thursday 26 December 2024

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast in our hotel* we leave for a day out!

Siobhan is arranging a morning visit for the group.

13.30hr Arrive at In de Molen in Bierbeek. This is an attractive long fronted corner brick built café in the centre of the village. It has a nice traditional cosy wood interior a lovely old fancy tiled floor and a Buuzestove/Leuvense Stove, which may be stoked, given the season. They are well known in this part of the world for the quality of their food and we’ll have a meal here. This is backed by a well thought out 100+/- strong beer card, so we are sorted for the afternoon! They have a house beer brewed for them too, Bierbeek Tripel, an 8.1%abv beer, named after the village.

15.30hr Leave In de Molen in Bierbeek.

16.00hr Arrive at Brouwerij de Coureur microbrouwerij and taproom in Kessel-Lo. This is a small, modern brewery with a nice little tasting room, and some of the best series of fixtures and fittings made out of bicycle parts which I have seen. The faux taxidermy bike saddles are nothing short of brilliant. I would certainly like one of those. Bikes and cycling are a big thing here. The name of the brewery means “The Cyclist” in French and I’ve recently worked out that the line drawing graphic on the glass is a person riding a bike, viewed from above. We’ll visit Bart & Ine here for a tasting* and little tour by Bart*. The brewery dates from 2019 and is hidden in a residential area of the pretty Kessel-Lo. The the beers can only be drunk onsite as they do not bottle their beers at all, but may can some. They have a series of regular beers and special editions on tap, including:

    Colleke – a creamy blonde beer at 4.5%abv

    Souplesse – a dark blonde at 6.9%abv

    Kuitenbijter – (Calf-Biter) an American IPA at 6.3%abv

    Klein Verzet – (Little Rebel) a low gravity amber beer at 3.4%abv

    Voorjaarsklassieker (Spring Classic) – a Belgian strong golden ale at 7.3%abv

    D’r op en D’r Over – a sour IPA at 5.3%abv

    Zwart Voor De Ogen – an imperial stout at 8%abv

18.00hr Leave Brouwerij de Coureur in Kessel-Lo.

18.30hr Arrive back in Leuven and drop near the Hotel.

Day 4 - Friday 27 December 2024

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast in our hotel* we board the coach for a day out.

10.30hr Arrive at the beer warehouse Drinks VCB, still owned by the fourth generation Van Craenenbroeck family, situated to the north of the city of Leuven. This business has been going since 1892 and are proud to be Stella Artois’ oldest customer! We can stock up on beers to take home. Those who cannot bring back beers, perhaps if they are travelling by train, can wait for us in the bar next door. The thing is, it’s a bar attached to a Climbing Experience called De Stordeur . Only in Belgium, you get a climbing gym for young and old, with a giant green twisty beanstalk and a beer bar attached. It has a beautiful rooftop bar with a view over the Dyle waterway. Chimay Tripel on draft and 37 beers all told. Siobhan has contacted the owner, and they are open over Christmas, but say there will be a lot of children in and around the café, and we may not want to brave it! If I know Podge’s Belgian Beer Tour travellers, they are unlikely to be daunted!

Siobhan is working on a mid-morning visit, before,

13.30hr Arrive at the Abdij van Park, Heverlee. This is the Park Abbey, a Premonstratensian abbey at Heverlee just south of Leuven. The abbey was founded in 1129 by Duke Godfrey "the Bearded". We are parking up in the abbey grounds and will take the short walk to the Brasserie De Abdijmolen for a meal. This is an attractive restored abbey mill building near the abbey ponds and has quite a lot of the wooden mill components in place in the dining area. They also serve beers from the new abbey microbrewery. The Abdij van Park thrived in its day, but in 1797 under French rule the abbey lands and goods were confiscated and the canons forced to leave. Worst of all, beer brewing came to an end. But it’s back. In 2017, the fathers of Park Abbey and Joris Brams began to rebuild the abbey brewery on its original site, next to the mill. They now brew small batches of beer using local ingredients, especially those grown on the Abbey farm. The new micro-brewery is called “Braxatorium Parcensis” meaning “Park Brewery” in Latin. Their ranges include the Libertus beers, named after a famous abbot in the 1600s. They are organic too.

 Libertus 1 is their 6.5%abv blonde beer.

 Libertus 2 Rogge – a triple 8.5%abv beer brewed with rye from Farmer Tom's Farming Company grown on the abbey grounds.

 Libertus 3 is the 6.5%abv blonde matured for three months in Jack Daniels oak barrels.

 Libertus 4 Rode Biet. This is a 5.5%abv beer made with beetroot from Farmer Tom.

 Libertus 5 Tarwe is a 7.5%abv wheat beer, grown by Farmer Tom as well as the oats used in the brew. It’s dry-hopped and is unfiltered and unpasteurized.

 Libertus 6 is described as a brown tripel. It is 8.5%abv, is their first dark beer and is brewed with English Kent hops.

 Libertus 7 Rustiek is a saison-style beer of 6%abv with wheat and rye.

 Libertus 8 Infused Malt is an 8%abv innovation brewed with barley soaked in water containing cinnamon and ginger. Saaz and Magnum hops are used together with dried orange peel, and is said to be a ‘flavor bomb’.

 Libertus 10 is a hazy IPA of 7%abv made with fresh yeast and dry hopped. Farmer Tom provides the rye, wheat and oats.

 Libertus 11 is their new 8.5%abv dark beer brewed with rye and caramel malt, with the addition of abbey grown chestnuts.

 Libertus 900 is their beer celebrating 900 years of the founding of the Norbertines. It is 9%abv and is brewed with French grape juice.

 Quirinus 1 is the first in their low alcohol range. This is the Rogge, a 3.5%abv brewed with rye from the abbey lands and described, oddly, as a low-alcohol tripel.

 Quirinus 2 is a 4% abv brewed with green germinating barley/malt. The result is apparently a very fresh, full-bodied beer with an olive green color that is very drinkable.

 Quirinus 3 Groen Mout is their third green malt ‘tripel’ beer at 3.2%abv brewed with different hops to Q1.

15.30hr Leave Abdij van Park, Heverlee.

16.00hr Arrive at Den Druppel Micro-Brewery and tasting café in Aarschot. Den Druppel, or The Drop opened in 2020 and is a big cafe and microbrewery in what looks like an old industrial building. They have colonised the other side of the waterway (the Demer river) rather nicely. They brew several beers, including:

 Druppel Hop – an 8.5%abv golden blonde, balanced bitter and fruity. Dry hopped with Hallertau.

 Druppel Zwèt is a black stout at 9%abv which is apparently ‘drybeaned' which appears to be dry-hooped but with coffee beans (Mexican).

 Druppel Ipanema – a blonde beer at 5.2%abv, dry hopped with citra and mosaic.

 Druppel Tripel is a big tripel at 10.5%abv which tastes creamy, due to the yeast strain. We’ll settle here for a bit, and a beer or two.

18.30hr Leave Den Druppel in Aarschot.

19.00hr Arrive back in Leuven and drop near the Hotel.

Day 5 - Saturday 28 December 2024

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast* we check out of our hotel and head off for the last day of our Tour.

Siobhan is working on a visit for the morning of our return.

14.00hr Arrive at our last stop on this Tour, the pretty Den Ark in Nieuwpoort. Just behind the ‘goosefoot’ watercomplex at the sea, lies a large water reservoir with hundreds of little white pleasure boats parked up for the winter. The Ark is a large wooden chalet restaurant owned by an active fishing family working from a boat out of Nieuwpoort. So we’ll have a meal here and a beer or two, but probably not on their pretty terrace overlooking the water, but in the cosy inside.

16.15hr Leave Den Ark in Nieuwpoort.

17.15hr Arrive Calais Ferry Terminal.

19.00hr Leave Calais on P&O Ferry (to be confirmed).

19.30hr Arrive Dover Ferry Port.

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

19.50hr Coach drop at pull in outside Dobbies Garden Centre, Opp. Premier Inn.

20.30hr Coach drop Howdens, Unit 4, Moreton Industrial Estate, London Rd, Swanley BR8 8DE.

21.15hr Coach drop Junction of Lady Lane & Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0EA.

21.30hr Coach drop Travelodge Hotel, 128-136 Parkway, Chelmsford CM2 7GY.

21.40hr Coach drop Premier Inn Victoria Road, Chelmsford CM1 1NY.

23.00hr Coach reaches destination Galloways Depot, Denters Hill, Mendlesham, Suffolk, IP14 5RR.

Tour Price is £995 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 £180 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.