Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours

Tour 83 / Beer on the Tracks

Thursday 25 August – Tuesday 30 August 2016

Our 2016 Beer & Transport themed Tour focuses on trains, trams and beer in Belgium. This is a six day Tour staying at the luxury four star Hotel Keizershof in the centre of Aalst. This Tour aims to include a steam train ride on the Dendermonde-Puurs line which also has a great little buffet on the station and a buffet on board with a good selection of beers.

We also hope to arrange a visit to Het Stoomcentrum Maldegem where we will have a look at their steam museum and have a ride on one of their many trains. We will pay a visit to the Le Rail-Rebecq-Rognon steam/diesel 600mm gauge line from Rebecq to Rognon, about 3km which operates a tourist train at weekends in the summertime.

Belgian Coastal Tram

Belgian Coast Tram

The Tour includes a day pass for riding the brilliant Belgian Coastal Tram which runs the whole length of the Belgian coastline for 68 kilometre. Bar guides and maps will of course be provided for the best places for food and beer along the coast. We will also take in the super North Sea Beer Festival in the Leopold Park in Ostend with over 20 breweries and 150 beers on offer.

We'll be doing a bar-takeover at the great new micro beer café and shop Ambarosa in Aalst close to our hotel who will open specially for us one evening. There we can try new beers of the East Flanders region and you can also buy bottles to takeaway. Robbe also does superb deli plates of local specialities of the cold meat and cheese variety. We have arranged a group meal for our first day at the friendly ‘t Hof van Hemel in the beautiful town of Veurne and have our first crack at their great beer list which now extends to 100+ and is the best beer list in town and offers some extreme rarities.

We will pay a visit to the great Lambik Centre in Alsemberg for the Annual Lambikstoempers Beer Festival which is held the weekend of our Tour where there will be a unique selection of lambic and other beers to taste.


The gastronomic experience at Vapeur Brewery

Our beer warehouse stop will be at Dranken Geers in Oostakker for an opportunity to buy beers to take home.

We have arranged a visit to the amazing steam brewery Vapeur at Pipaix. This is one of their famous brewing days when we can see the last steam brewery in the world in action and we will also experience the fantastic homemade Vapeur Brewery food and beer extravanganza put on by Jean-Louis the brewer. If you have never experienced this place, it is a must.

Please see the full itinerary below. 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 the full balance for this Tour which is now due.

Thursday 25 August

05.15hr Coach pick up at bus shelter outside Crown House, Crown Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 3HS (opposite NCP Car Park).

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

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

07.45hr Coach pick up at Stop24 J11 M20 near Folkestone Kent CT21 4BL.

08.10hr Pick up at Dover Ferry Terminal CT16 1JA.

09.25hr P&O Ferry from Dover, we are due to cross on the Spirit of Britain, one of P&O’s new ships.

11.55hr Arrive Calais.

12.40hr Our first stop is at the lovely and friendly ‘t Hof van de Hemel in the beautiful Belgian town of Veurne. We will have our first pre-arranged group meal here and a crack at their great beer list which now extends to over 100 including an assortment of rarities and all the world’s Trappist beers. A very historic and interesting building.

16.00hr Arrive at the Het Stoomcentrum Maldegem, the Maldegem Heritage Steam Centre for an afternoon guided visit* of their railway museum which claims to house the largest number of steam locomotives in Flanders. Outside the museum shed is the renovated 1950s Steam Locomotive OL49 from Poland. Inside the museum shed is the Polish TKh5387, a working steam locomotive, the little ‘Yvonne’ and ‘Bébert. Train enthusiasts will be interested to see SCM RS16 known as ‘Fred’, an Avonside British built locomotive made for use in Buxton Quarry in 1925. It took seven years to restore this prize exhibit. They also have a 1910 steam fire engine and lots of railway paraphernalia. We then take a 30 minute ride* on the 600 mm (1 ft 11 5⁄8 in) narrow gauge line which runs to Donk on the former Bruges line which was supplemented by a standard gauge line in 1989 which runs to Eeklo. Finally, we call in at the renovated Café De Statie in the main station buildings built in 1862 for a house beer on Podge*.

17.30hr Leave Maldegem for Aalst.

18.10hr Arrive at the centrally located luxury four star Hotel Keizershof in Aalst for a five night stay. The hotel breakfast buffet is served 0700-1000hrs and there is a free Sauna and Gym on the first floor. There is tea and coffee making facilities in the rooms. Free WIFI network available. You have the evening free is this great little Flemish town whose inhabitants are known as onions, which has something to do with the way they pronounce certain words in the local dialect. Copies of Podge’s Aalst Bar Guide* and town map* will be distributed. Fred

Fred the Train

Friday 26 August

10.00hr Following a superb 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. A tram map will be provided and trams run every ten minutes in the summer.

11.10hr Arrive at the Tram station at Knokke-Heist at the eastern end of the Belgian Coastal Tram. You will be given a day ticket* for the tram and have the day free to travel on this fantastic tramway. We will provide you with bar guides for the best places for a beer (and food) along the eastern half of the tramway up to Ostend, where we will all meet the coach at 21.00hrs. You are free to travel right to the French border but this does take about two and a half hours, and another hour or so to get back to Ostend, so bear this in mind with food stops when planning your day. We recommend sauntering along the line from Knokke-Heist to Ostend, particularly as there is the North Sea Beer Festival from 16.00hrs in the Leopold Park in Ostend with over 25 breweries and brew firms offering 150 beers, and we aim to finish our day here. By the way Beershop and city brewery 't Koelschip nearby have their open day today where you can see them brewing on their small but perfectly formed brewery on the premises.

21.00hr Coach pick up outside the huge Casino-Kursaal on the corner of Westhelling and Van Iseghemlaan, Oostende, which will be marked on your map.

21.50hr Drop at Hotel Keizershof, Aalst. Ostend North Sea Beer Festival

Ostende North Sea Beer Festival

Saturday 27 August

10.00hr Head off by coach from Hotel Keizershof.

11.00hr Arrive at the fabulous and unique steam powered Vapeur Brewery in Pipaix which dates from 1785 and which is the only brewery left in Belgium rum by steam power. It is owned by the incomparable passionate beer and food aficionado Jean-Louis Dits who will be our host for the day. Jean-Louis’s love of beer was born in 1967 when as a student he visited Brewery Dupont in nearby Tourpes, and could not stop talking about the brewery. His friends thought he would forget about it in the morning. He didn’t. He bought a farmhouse and started selling special beers in the outbuildings, but still dreamed of making his own beer. The Pipaix farmhouse brewery was bought by Jean-Louis in 1984 and he now brews these beers himself:

Saison de Pipaix - a 6%abv traditonal Wallonian saison beer, born with the brewery in 1785. Dry, hopped, slightly acidic and very spicy (black pepper, ginger, sweet orange peel, curacao and star anise are added).

Vapeur en Folie - an 8% blonde saison - a hazy, crisp brew with a lemony, spicy taste and sweet malty overtones.

Vapeur Cochonne - the brewery's flagship beer, a 9% strong amber ale with a complex, soft taste, not too hoppy but well spiced with chicory, coriander and sweet orange peel.

Vapeur Vanille - also known as Vapeur Légère, a 5%abv light saison, dry, delicately hopped, subtly spiced with vanilla and cinnamon, plus other herbs.

You will note that the bottle labels feature pigs in various states of undress. The Belgian cartoonist Louis-Michel Carpentier designs these, but the cartoon lady pigs had to have bikinis added when the beer was exported to US. Jean-Louis says that in the First World War the occupying German military requisitioned all metals for their war effort and though they tried to take the steam engine, they only went away with a copper vat. We are visiting the brewery on one of its open days held on the last Saturday of each month, when not only can we see the steam brewery actually working and brewing, but also when Jean-Louis and his wife open their brewery to visitors with an amazing gastronomic experience, which should not be missed – for the extraordinary cheese selection and the beer* alone!

15.00hrs Leave Vapeur brewery, Pipaix.

16.00hrs Arrive at the Visitors Centre ‘De Lambiek’ in Alsemberg, a great modern centre and museum to all things Lambic. They are hosting the 17th Beer weekend of the Lambikstoempers – the local Pajottenland and Zenne Valley beer enthusiasts. There will be more than 100 beers to choose from here and although they spotlight spontaneously fermented beers, there are many other quality beers too, especially those from this region. So among the special lambics, oude geuzes and oude krieks they should have beers from Belgoo, 4Pajot, En Stoemelings, Brasserie de la Senne and heaps of others.

18.00hr Leave by coach.

18.45hr Drop at Hotel Keizershof Aalst for a free Saturday night out on the town. Vapeur Brewery

Vapeur Brewery in action on brewing day

Sunday 28 August

10.00hr Following a superb buffet breakfast in our hotel we head off by coach to Rail Rebecq Rognon (RRR or Petit Train Du Bonheur) and Line 115.

11.00hr We arrive at Rebecq Station for a ride on the little steam train* on the 600mm line between Rebec and Rognon. The steam loco Arthur is back in service in 2016 and we are hiring him for our short journey along the picturesque Zenne valley. We will stop for half an hour at the tiny rail halt depot of Bloc U for refreshment before returning to Rebecq station.

13.00hr Leave Rebecq.

13.30hr Arrive at Bistro Leireken in Steenhuffel. This grand brasserie is set in the closed Leireken station building which is now only passed by the tourist train ferrying beer tourists from Palm Brewery to and from the brewery's impressive stables at Kasteel Diepensteyn. They have an outside terrace on the platform for fine days. The beer menu is quietly impressive with around 40 beers big on Palm, a top range of Boon plus choices from Leireken, Lupulus and Wolf. We will have our pre-ordered meal here.

15.40hr Leave Bistro Leireken.

16.15hr Board the Steam train at Puurs Station (Seinhuis Kaai) for 45 minute journey on the line Puurs – Baasrode*. We should have the opportunity for a beer on board, and they take orders and serve the beers in your seat.

17.00hrs Arrive at Baasrode Station for a quick beer at the little station bar, run by the local steam enthusiasts which also has a nice outdoor seating area on the platform.

18.00hr Arrive at Brasserie 't Stationneken at Baardegem which is a nice café occupying the old station building which is in the streaky bacon architectural style. They have a selection of beers which is good on Trappists, Boon and Palm.

19.15hr Make our way to the Streekbieren Festival Land Van Aalst (Regional Beer Festival) in Erembodegem on the outskirts of Aalst. This local festival showcases beers from the Aalst region with 20 brewers offering 70 choices of beer. They have beer tapas and local snacks. We might even catch the Johnny Cash Tribute Band.

21.00hr Drop at Hotel Keizershof, Aalst. Vapeur Brewery

Arthur, Rebecq-Rognon

Monday 29 August

10.00hr Following a superb buffet breakfast in our hotel we head off by coach.

10.30hr Arrive at the newly expanded Huyghe Brewery in Melle for a special tour* and beer tasting* which has been arranged for our group.

13.30hr Arrive at the huge brand newly built and just opened Van Honsebrouck Brewery. We will have a meal at the Bierkasteel Brasserie which opens on 10 August 2016. This state of the art comfortable modern brewery tap has breath-taking views of the brew hall and foeder hall through giant windows. It also offers a massive choice of 29 beers on tap from Van Honsebrouck Brewery. Here we will have our pre-arranged meal, followed by a tour* of the brewery, a beer tasting*.

17.30hrish Leave Van Honsebrouck for the hour journey back to Aalst.

19.30hr We have arranged for a café-takeover at new beer café, shop and tasting room Ambarosa in Aalst five minutes from our hotel which is opening exclusively for us this evening so that we can try some of their great regional beers which they specialise in. You can also buy bottles to takeaway and there are excellent local snacks too.

Van Honsebrouck Brewery Kasteelbier

Tuesday 30 August

10.00hr Check out of Hotel Keizershof and head off by coach to:

10.30hr Dranken Geers in Oostakker, the best beer warehouse in East Flanders. Here we have an opportunity to buy beers to take home and they do take credit cards.

12.00hr Arrive at Eeklo Station at the other end of the Stoomcentrum Maldegem line and board a pre-booked train* for the journey to Maldegem Steam Centre Station where we started our Tour on Thursday. There may be a chance of a quick beer at the station bar again.

12.45hr Leave Maldegem Station.

A pre-arranged meal and an opportunity to have some beers on the coast on our last day is being organised and food choice sheets will be emailed to travellers in early August.

18.50hr P&O Ferry from Calais, we are due to sail on the Pride of Kent ship.

19.20hr Arrive Dover Ferry Terminal CT16 1JA

19.30hr Coach drop at Dover Ferry Terminal CT16 1JA

19.50hr Coach drop at Stop24 J11 M20 near Folkestone Kent CT21 4BL

20.50hr Coach drop Dartford Railway Station DA1 1BP

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

22.30hr Coach drop at bus shelter outside Crown House, Crown Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 3HS (opposite NCP Car Park).

Tour Price: £625 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, 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.