Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours

Tour 82 / Flemish Breweries: Traditionalists & Trailblazers

Friday 13th May – Tuesday 17th May 2016

This is a Belgian Beer Tour staying two nights in Kortrijk and two in Leuven, both great traditional cities with a vibrant beer and cafe culture. Kortrijk is proud of its Battle of the Golden Spurs, which has a brewery and a beer named in its honour and Leuven is a major university city whose beer scene benefits from the avant-garde approach brought to the city by keen young students. Our hotels are the excellent Hotel Park in Kortrijk and Novotel Centrum in Leuven. This new tour is designed to investigate Belgian beer by looking back at traditional breweries and forward to innovators in Belgian Beer.

If you would like to join us or have any questions please call Podge on 01245 354677 or send Podge an email. Please also contact Podge to get details of how to send a deposit of £110 per person for this Tour. Full balance payable five weeks before departure.

Here is our detailed timed itinerary:

Friday 13 May

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

07.10hr Coach pick up Esso Dartford Service Station, 474 Princes Rd, Dartford DA1 1YT.

09.20hr Eurotunnel Train crossing from Folkestone.

11.00hr Arrive Calais.

12.00hr Our first stop is De Leute at Oeren, a classic West Flanders café which has recently re-opened. This is a lovely traditional pub which offers a whopping ten beers from De Bie Brouwers. De Bie was the first brewery ever visited by Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours twenty-four years ago and was housed in someone’s garden in Stoppelweg, Watou. The brewery has been through many changes since and in 2011 moved to a farm in Wakken (Dentergem). They brew with their own grains and feed the draff to Limousin cows, a breed of highly muscled cattle. Their latest venture is a partnership with cycling team Etixx–Quick-Step and ‘De Bie Vélo’ is a beer specially brewed for cycling fans. It is an 8%abv triple and hopefully De Leute will have some for those who would like to try it. We will also have our first pre-arranged group meal here. Ask Siobhan to show you the Joe English headstones in the next door churchyard. De Bie Velo Beer

De Bie Vélo Beer.

14.30hr We pay a visit to de Ranke Brewery for a tour* and tasting*. The brewery was founded in 1994 by Nino Bacelle and in 2005 he started a completely new brewery in Dottenijs and they now export 60% of their beer. They brew fantastic quality beers and were doing hops with their XX De Ranke before hops got hip. Here are some of their beers:

• Cuvée De Ranke made with 70% De Ranke’s own Westvlaams red-brown and 30% Girardin lambic.

• Guldenberg, blonde beer named after the nuns Abbey in Wevelgem, Nino’s first beer.

• Hop Harvest brewed with fresh hops, created in 2014.

• Kriek De Ranke, a blend of Flemish red-brown beer aged for six months to which sour cherries are added. The beer is then blended with Girardin lambic and further aged in the bottle.

• Noir de Dottignies which is a lovely strong black beer.

• Père Noël, an amber Christmas beer born in 1997.

• Saison de Dottignies, typical of the historical saison/season beers brewed by farmers in the winter for workers in the summer in the Hainault/Henegouw province and is thirst-quenching, of low gravity and well-hopped.

• XX Bitter, a 6%abv blonde born in 1998 and was the trendsetter in the rise of hoppy beers. In 2001 it was the most bitter beer in Belgium on the European Bitterness Units (EBU) scale. The XXX Bitter is the same strength but is an even hoppier version made at the request of USA Belgian beer importers in 2013.

17.00hr We will make our first visit to Brewery Verzet (Rebel Brewers) for a tour* and tasting*. These brewers always produced really quality, innovative beers when they gypsy-brewed at the Gulden Spoor Brewery and de Ranke breweries. They opened their own brewery in April 2016 and we are going to be among the first to visit. We have always been fans of these young unconventional brewers who pack in great taste at often surprisingly low gravities. As well as a host of Flemish Oud Bruin beers on oak here are some of their beers you might recognise:

• Super NoAH 4.9%abv

• Rebel Local 8.5 %abv

• Golden Tricky 7.5%abv

• Moose Blues 7.5%abv

• Oakey Moakey Wiskey Stout 7.5%abv

Verzet Brouwerij Rebel Local

Verzet Brouwerij Rebel Local.

18.30hr Arrive at the brilliant Hotel Park in Kortrijk and copies of Podge’s Kortrijk Bar Guide* and Map* will be distributed for an evening saunter through the great beer bars of this Flemish city of the Battle of the Golden Spurs.

Saturday 14 May

10.00hr Following a leisurely buffet breakfast* we leave the hotel by coach to pay a visit to the Maenhout Brewery in Pittem for a tour* and tasting*. Thijs started brewing in 2009 and we visited him in his old brewery in Meulebeke. He moved to larger premises in Pittem in 2015 and expanded and automated. His beers include Blinde Mol, a blond (alc.vol 6.5%); Ferre - an amber quadrupel (alc.vol 10%), Hoppa Hontas, an IPA with Amarillo and Sorachi Ace (alc.vol. 6.5%) and Koeketiene, his tripel (alc.vol 8.5%).

14.00hr Call in at De Dolle Brouwers in Esen for a beer* but not a Tour on this occasion. Their on-site tap rooms usually have the incomparable Oerbier, Arabier and maybe the seasonal Boskeun (Wood Rabbit) will be on. This brewery can claim to be at the vanguard of the renaissance of Belgian brewing when it was started in 1980 by three brothers and their mum. They called themselves the Mad Brewers possibly because they were considered so for trying to restart an old brewery and go up against the big budgets of the mega-breweries at that time. The brothers in fact lent a fierce intelligence and intellectual bent to these early small-brewery enterprises with Jo being a Doctor and Kris the current brewer, being an architect and artist. Their beers have always been distinctive and are of such quality that De Dolle are one of only a handful of breweries of which you can honestly say you would not avoid any of their beers if you are lucky enough to find them on a cafe menu. The strong blonde Stille Nacht Christmas beer brewed annually is prized for drinking and cellaring. The strap-line for the brewery on their glasses is “Nat en Straf” which means “Strong and Wet”. Nuff said.

Arabier, De Dolle Brouwers.

15.30hr Arrive at the Gouden Osse in Tourhout for our pre-ordered group meal and a beer or two. The Golden Ox is a lovely family-run café and restaurant and was an old inn on the main road to Tourhout where merchants fed and watered themselves and their cattle. They were the days of the riotous annual Pinksteren Fair which included a cycle race from this pub to the "Lange van Bellens" pub where competitors had to run round a beer barrel. You had to be there. They do have a beer list of over 130 beers which should satisfy most thirsts. Last time we were there we were able to taste side by side Westvleteren 12 and St Bernardus Abt, a rare opportunity.

18.00hr Call in for our first ever visit to the 4th Koekelare Beer Festival in Koekelare, with over 100 beers and some great breweries in attendance. This year’s special guest from Holland is Emelisse. The festival is in the local culture hall and there are 15cl tasting glasses brought by each brewery and a token system for getting beers. Zythos members receive a free token.

20.00hrish Leave on coach for the return to lovely Kortrijk for a crack at its cafes, bars and estaminets, armed with Podge’s Kortrijk Bar Guide* and Map*. Gouden Carolus Glass

Gouden Carolus Glass.

Sun 15 May

10.00hr After a buffet breakfast* we check out of the Park Hotel.

11.00hr Arrive at another new brewery for our Tours, the brand new Broers Brewery (Brewing Brothers) in Zelzate who have just opened their own brewery in time for this Tour. They have been brewing a gorgeous big dark beer called Zwarte Ruiter and a superb fresh saison called Brughopper at the Gulden Spoor Brewery and Boelens breweries respectively. Like many in Belgium these young entrepreneurs started brewing for fun as a hobby and it quickly became a passion. Like others, brewing their beers at another established brewery tided them over until they got together the money for their own brewery. The Brew Brothers were formed in late 2013 by Bram, Ruben and Thomas. Bridge Hopper was the first beer marketed, a blond of 5.5%abv brewed with Poperinge hops. Its refreshing qualities come from the hops and the low (ish) strength. We first tried their beer at Poperinge Beer Festival and were very impressed.

14.00hr We are delighted to be going to Mechelen and to the mighty Het Anker Brewery. This time we will first have a Brewery tour* and tasting* followed by a group meal. This brewery has a special place in Podge’s Belgian Beer Tour history as it was among the first we ever visited over twenty years ago. We are also delighted to say that this brewery has gone on to great things since we saw it tottering slightly all those years ago with its old fashioned Mechelen Brown brands and a run down but beautiful brewery. The original brewery was founded on this site in 1471 by a community of Beguines, a bit like our nuns, but not. During WW1 lots were drawn by the invaders to decide which breweries in Mechelen could stay open and brew and this one lost out, but like many other Belgian breweries it arose phoenix-like again. After the wars it expanded its beer range from lager to ale and began producing "Emperor Beer" after WW2. In 1960 it renamed the beer "Gouden Carolus" (Golden Charles) after Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, who grew up in Mechelen. He is still an important figure here and speciality beers like the strong Cuvée van de Keizer is brewed once a year on his birthday and comes in a pale ale (known as “Red”) and a dark ale (known as "Blue"). The brewery has had great success with what is now its Gouden Carolus range. The label for the Easter beer is particularly pleasing with Charles on his horse carrying a basket of Easter eggs. Tradition and innovation are well blended here. They opened a hotel and restaurant on the brewery site and now produce a single malt whisky distilled from Gouden Carolus Tripel.

15.30hr Group pre-ordered meal at Het Anker restaurant in the brewery.

18.00hrish Arrive in the city of Leuven and check-in at the comfy Novotel Centrum in Leuven. You can choose either to explore the great night-life of this student city armed with Podge’s Leuven Bar Guide and Map* or go to the Leuven Innovation Beer Festival open 14.00-22.00hrs and held in the majestic De Hoorn Stella brewery, a ten minute walk from the Hotel and marked on Podge maps. This is its second year and it is a beer festival which aims to showcase all things new in the beer world so you can keep up to date on what’s trending. Expect hops. The entrance arrangements for one day are a package consisting of a 15cl tasting glass, seven beer tokens, a programme and a bottle of water for €25 if you buy in advance online or €30 cash on the door. More details on their website above. St Gummarus brewed by Brewery Cornelissen

St Gummarus brewed by Brewery Cornelissen.

Monday 16 May

10.00hr Following our buffet breakfast* we leave Novotel by coach for our beer shop stop.

10.15hr Call in at ABS Beer warehouse in Winksele just outside Leuven for an opportunity to buy and take home some of your old favourites, or find your new favourites.

12.15hr Arrival at the vast Bocholter Brewery Museum for a tour of the museum* said to be the largest brewery museum in Europe. Thank goodness has its own bar attached, which we can visit too.

14.00hr Arrive at the Brouwershof in Opitter where we can sample beers with our meal from the Cornelissen Brewery across the road. This is one of a rash of Belgian breweries which has recently changed its name. Formerly the St Josef Brewery it is now the Cornelissen Brewery because this is the name of the brewer. The current brewer and owner Jef Cornelissen is the sixth generation to brew in the area. As seems common in Belgian families the children, or at least the eldest sons of each generation had the same initial. This may show a lack of imagination but with ten children perhaps it was easier. Especially as these brewers started putting J.C. on their glasses, bottles and coasters. From that time they had to stick to the naming rule which still prevails in the family today. The current owner Jef’s son is Jacob. Surely the glasses stock has run out by now? The St. Joseph Brewery was founded in the village square in Opitter in 1859. A new brewery was constructed in the 1930s when Pax Pils and Ops-Ale were born. In 2004 Jef, only son of Josephus, took over the company, renovated the brewery which is still in the town square and in 2015 as a tribute to the five generations before him (Jan, Jozef, Jake, Jan, Josephus) he renamed the brewery. We will have our organised meal at the nearby Brouwershof and have an opportunity to try some Cornelissen beers.

16.30hr We set off for the journey back to the city of Leuven and you can choose either to explore the great nightlife of this student city armed with Podge’s Leuven Bar Guide and Map* or go to the Leuven Innovation Beer Festival held in the majestic De Hoorn Stella brewery (see Sunday evening for entry details, but Monday opening times are 12.00- 20.00hrs). Malheur Beers

Malheur Beers.

Tuesday 17 May

10.00hr After a buffet breakfast* check out of Novotel Leuven. Coach leaves for our last day.

11.00hr Arrive at Malheur Brewery in Buggenhout for a special tour* and tasting*. Malheur is an independent family brewer, started and still owned by the De Landtsheer family, a very brewery-oriented dynasty in an incredibly densely-breweried area, even for Belgium. This was once called the Sun Brewery hence the orange colour featuring strongly in the house style. When Pils beer became fashionable the brewery turned to bottling, establishing ties with Lamot Brewery in Mechelen, Trappist brewery Westmalle and an importer of Pilsner Urquell. The current owner Manu De Landtsheer started brewing here in 1997. It is now known as “Brewery Malheur”. Hard to precisely translate, the word Malheur was chosen because market research showed that its playful double meaning conjured up pleasant connotations and stuck in people’s minds. This brewery is most famous for its Malheur Bière Brut, a unique pale ale brewed with yeast similar to champagne yeast, which is what gives the beer its superb spritzy mouth feel and carbonation. This is another brewery which is special to Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours as we were shown round by Manu when his first brew of Malheur Brut was stored in the cages awaiting degorgement. This method of brewing and creating a beer was revolutionary at the time and helped propel Belgian beer into the restaurant rather than remaining in the bar. Manu’s brilliant beers now include these:

• Malheur 4, 6 , 8 10 and 12

• De Landtsheer Novice Bleu

• De Landtsheer Novice Tripel Black

• Malheur Bière Brut (Reserve)

• Malheur Brut Cuvée Royale

• Malheur Dark Brut (Noir)

• Malheur Dry Five

• Malheur Extra Brut

• Malheur Tripel Tripel Hop

14.15hr Arrive at Bistro Nieuwege in Varsenare. This is a West Flanders beer gem with excellent food and friendly service from the lovely Didier, Sofie, Jim and Jay. The beer list in bottles and especially on draught is staggering. We find it hard to tear our travellers and ourselves away from this place. Watch out for De Struise Brouwer specials.

18.50hr Arrive Eurotunnel.

19.50hr Leave Calais on Eurotunnel Train.

19.30hr Arrive Folkestone.

20.30hr Coach drop Dartford Railway Station DA1 1BP.

21.40hr Coach drop 102 Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0EA.

22.40hr Coach drop at Tesco Extra, Copdock Mill Interchange, Ipswich IP8 3TS. Bistro Nieuwege, Varsenare.

Bistro Nieuwege, Varsenare.

Tour Price: £580 per person based on sharing in a twin or double room

Single Supplement: £200

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.

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 on the individual detailed tour itinerary;

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 Ipswich (Ipswich Village Car Park, West End Rd, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 9AS), 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.

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 strongly advised, as is carrying the European Health Insurance Card available online, by phone or via the Post Office.

If you have any questions or would like to be added to the interested list please send Podge an email or call him on +44 (0)1245 354677.

All Tours are subject to our Terms and Conditions.