Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours

Tour 72 / Hops & Pops

Thursday 18 September – Monday 22 September 2014

This five day tour is based around the Poperinge area, known as ‘Pops’ to First World War British soldiers. This region is famous for its hops and we will focus on the hop plant and explore its relationship with beer in the Westhoek.

Poperinge hop fields.

Here is the detailed itinerary:

Thursday 18 September 2014

05.45hr Coach pick up Chapel St South Layby Southway, Colchester CO2 7BA

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

06.50hr Coach pick up Esso Dartford Service Station, 474 Princes Road, Dartford DA1 1YT

07.00hr Coach pick up 7 Mays Siding, London Rd, Swanley, Kent BR8 8EE

08.50hr Eurotunnel Train Crossing from Folkestone

11.00hr Arrive Calais.

12.00hr Our first call is at the famous beer cuisine restaurant Het Hommelhof run by Master Chef Stefaan Couttenye on the square at Watou, just inside the Belgian border. Here we have our pre-arranged lunch and a beer or two.

14.30hr We make our way across the village square to the Brouwerij Van Eecke for a brewery tour* and tasting*. This historic local brewery is most famous for their Poperings Hommelbier, created in 1981 to satisfy demand for a strong hoppy beer to drink at the three yearly celebration of the hop harvest, the Poperingse Hoppefeesten. Hommel is local dialect for hops.

16.00hr We again return to the village square to the traditional Flemish Café St. Georges for an included Hommelbier or St Bernardus Tripel on draught* and a game of traditional Flemish Boltra* (a type of bowls) in their special indoor court at the rear of the cafe.

18.15hr On the way to our hotel we have a quick beer stop at the beautiful Cafe ‘t Molenhof in Vleteren. The café has an impressive beer menu of over 120 choices including a huge range of beers from De Struis Brouwers across the road.

19.30hr Check in at Hotel Oude Abdij in Lo which was once the thriving St Louis Brewery that closed in the 1960s.

20.00hr We will have our pre-arranged evening meal and the rest of the evening at leisure in the hotel’s well-stocked bar, or there are a couple of bars in the village.

Nice head on a Hommel Bier

A tasty Hommelbier.

Friday 19 September 2014

10.00hr Depart Hotel.

10.30hr Arrive in Poperinge for a visit to Belgium’s National Hop Museum situated in this town in the centre of the traditional Flemish hop-growing district. We will have a fully guided tour* by the excellent guide Bertin. After the tour we can relax with a taste of Van Eecke’s Poperings Hommelbier* in the tasting café.

12.00hr We will have time to have a wander around the town and get some lunch with the help of a copy of Podge's Poperinge Bar Guide*.

14.45hr Coach pick up in Poperinge. Make our way to Proven. Remind Siobhan to show us the rare whitewashed billeting numbers still marked on the front of the houses in the village from the First World War.

15.00hr Arrive at the Hoppecruyt Hop Farm in the village of Proven owned and run by the Desmyter family since 1893. Here we will have a tour* by the owners of the farm during its busiest hop picking season, plus a special beer tasting* in their tasting room on the farm. We will taste five beers brewed by Proef Brewery to the same recipe except each beer uses a different hop variety grown on this farm.

17.30hr Arrive in the town of Veurne for a free evening armed with a copy of Podge's Veurne Bar Guide* and an opportunity for a beer and a meal if you wish.

20.15hr Leave Veurne.

20.30hr On the way back to our hotel we call in at the little De Witten café in Fintele. This is a new venture in an old building stocking over 100 quality beers including some special lambics and a range of beers you would never expect to find in West Flanders. A great little friendly place and highly recommended.

22.00ish Return to Hotel Oude Abdij in Lo.

Saturday 20 September 2014

10.00hr Leave Oude Abdij Hotel in Lo.

10.30hr Pay a visit to De Plukker Brewery and Organic Hop Fields on the outskirts of Poperinge. Here we will have a guided tour* and explanation about the hop harvest alongside the hopfield, a brewery tour* and a taste of one of their beers*. Their main beers are the Keikoppen (Cobblestone-head – don’t ask) a 6.1% blond and the lovely brown Rookop (red-head) brewed with Admiral and Golding hops at 6.5%.

12.45hr Arrive at Café Local in Anzegem. If Verzet Brouwers had a brewery, this would be the brewery tap. The three young owners have full time jobs in established West Flemish breweries, but in their spare time they brew for themselves at Brouwerij De Ranke. All their beers can be sampled here, and as a special treat we are being taken to their oak rooms nearby where they age some of their beer in oak barrels.

15.15hr Arrive at café 't Eenvoudig Bestaan in Kerkhove in a converted barn for a unique experience of a lunch of unlimited savoury oven cakes with a huge variety of fillings. To wash them down we can choose a beer from their expertly picked menu that runs to 60 choices.

17.30hr We pay a visit to the brand new Toye Brewery at Marke just outside Kortrijk. This was hand built and is run by brewer Geert Toye, it took him three years to complete the brewery using bits of old breweries he had collected over the years. His one beer at present is Goedendag (Good Day) which is an 8%abv blond beer and we will have a tour* of this small brewery followed by a tasting of Geert’s beer* in his ever refurbished tasting room..

19.00hr Arrive in nearby historic Kortrijk for an evening out in this town with an ever-improving café scene, Study Podge’s Kortrijk Bar Guide* for endless great food & beer possibilities.

21.45hr Leave for Hotel Oude Abdij in Lo.

Hoppecruyt Hop Farm Proven 2014

Hoppecruyt Hop picking September 2014.

Sunday 21 September 2014

10.00hr Depart by coach from Hotel.

10.30hr Arrive at Drankcenter ROJO in Handzame for an opportunity to buy some beers to take home.

11.45hr Arrive at Brouwershuis De Snoek in Alveringem. This café is attached to a First World War brewery which is today houses a museum. Francine runs this café attached to the museum and has a great selection of beers.

13.30hr Arrive at Poperinge for its three yearly Beer and Hop Festival. The Sunday is devoted to the Hop Pageant street parade which starts at 15.00hrs.

15.00hr This colourful pageant tells the story of the hop in all its facets. More than 1,300 people take part, several dozen horsemen and various beautiful floats bring outstanding interpretations of, among other things, the foreign hop pickers and the hand hop picking. Children represent the friends and enemies of the hop. Throughout the day the Lekker Westhoeks food and drink festival takes place on the main square where you can taste the local produce including offerings from local breweries. Free entry.

21.30hrish Return to hotel.

Poperinge Hop Festival procession.

Monday 22 September 2014

10.00hr Depart Hotel.

10.30hr Arrive at the outstanding St Bernardus Brewery outside the brewing village of Watou for a guided tour* and beer tasting* plus leave room in your luggage for a substantial souvenir beer gift pack*.

12.15hr Arrive in Ypres where we have the opportunity to visit this historic city in this centenary year. There have been a rash of great new beer bars setting up in Ypres which all appear on Podge’s Ypres Bar Guide and map*. Here you can wander around the famous square, get in some chocolate shopping, find a beer or something to eat, and if you wish pay a visit to In Flanders Fields Museum.

17.00hr Leave for Calais

18.50hr Arrive Eurotunnel

19.50hr Leave Calais on Eurotunnel Train

19.30hr Arrive Folkestone

20.30hr Coach drop off 7 Mays Siding, London Rd, Swanley, Kent BR8 8EE

20.45hr Coach drop off Dartford Railway Station DA1 1BP

21.30hr Coach drop off 102 Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0EA

22.10hr Coach drop off Chapel St South Layby Southway, Colchester CO2 7BA

Tour Price: £470 per person based on sharing in a twin or double room

Single Supplement: £140

If you are travelling alone and want to share a room with another traveller please contact Podge as we are regularly able to pair up travellers in twin rooms to avoid the need for payments of Single Supplements.

All detailed itinerary times are local and approximate. All food and drink (apart from those marked with an asterisk* on the detailed itinerary) and all passport and insurance costs are each traveller’s responsibility. Personal insurance is not included in the Tour price, but is strongly advised, as is carrying the European Health Insurance Card available online, by phone or via the Post Office.

If you would like to join us or have any questions please call Podge on +44 (0)1245 354677 or send Podge an email. Please also contact Podge to get details of how to send a deposit of £100 per person for this Tour. Full balance payable five weeks before departure.

Included in the cost of this Tour: 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 other items marked with an asterisk on the individual detailed tour itinerary; Copies of Podge’s City Bar guide and Map for the town or city where we stay or spend some time on Tour; Free still and sparkling water on the coach; Pick up from Ipswich (Crown Street Layby), Colchester (Southway Chapel St South Layby) or Chelmsford (The Woolpack, Mildmay Road). Arrangements can be made for different joining points on the way to Folkestone or even on the other side of the channel. Tour terms and condition here.