Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours

Tour 86 / Belgian Beer from the Wood

Wednesday 3 May – Monday 8 May 2017

This unique two centre tour is based in Kortrijk and Aalst, two perfect beer towns from which to explore Flemish Red Browns and Lambic beers. The Tour will investigate wood and beer and how wood can be used to make beer taste interesting. We’ll be looking at and tasting Belgian barrel-aged beers, Lambic beer and Flemish Red-Browns. This Tour will take in the biennial Toer de Geuze on the Sunday 7 May 2017 which is a lambic-lovers heaven and a great day out in LambicLand.

Chuck Cook photo of Armand 2016

Photo of Armand by Chuck Cook, 2016.

Belgian Beer from the Wood 2017 - detailed itinerary

Day 1 - Wednesday 3 May

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

07.00hr Coach pick up at Esso Dartford Service Station, 474 Princes Rd, Dartford DA1 1YT.

07.45hr Coach pick up at Premier Inn, Eureka Leisure Park, Rutherford Road, Ashford TN25 4BN.

08.00hr Coach pick up at Stop24 J11 M20 near Folkestone Kent CT21 4BL.

09.20hr Eurotunnel Train crossing from Folkestone.

11.00hr Arrive Calais.

11.40hr Pick up at Cafe "De Verloren Gernoare", Stationsplein 3, 8660 Adinkerke, Belgium.

12.00hr Our first stop is at the beautiful restaurant-bar 't Molenhof in Oostvleteren which has an impressive beer menu of over 120 choices with 12 brilliant beers on tap which always include some rare brews plus specials from De Struise Brouwers across the road. This brewery was one of the first to experiment in modern barrel-ageing techniques for beer using whisky, Bourbon, Jack Daniels, Rum, Port, and Sherry casks. They have been very successful with these beers which are highly-prized throughout the beer-drinking world. If you haven’t had one yet why not try their aged Flemish bruin Aardmonnik (8.0%abv) a barrel-aged strong sour ale in the Flemish Oud bruin tradition with red wine-like character.

15.00hr Call in at Cafe-Restaurant Inktpot in Koekelare. This is a lovely café in the old Christiaen Brewery, operative from 1790 to 1969. The brewery has been beautifully restored and is now a cultural complex containing a museum, the Fransmansmuseum, which is dedicated to French farmworkers who used to come over the border to work in this part of Belgium. The complex also houses some of the works of Käthe Kollwitz, a German expressionist sculptor whose famous grieving couple statues are in the German First World war cemetery nearby at Vladslo where Kathe’s son was killed in the Great War. The Inktpot offers a menu of over 100 beer choices including a local beer brewed with Poperinge hops and Ale-Hoof called Couckelaerschen doedel and Podge will get everyone one of these*.

16.30hr Arrive in the West Flemish town of Roeselare, home to Flemish brown brewer Rodenbach which we will be visiting on the last day of our Tour. Today we will be calling in on a café we have not visited on Tour before called Walhalla. This specialist beer café has a big list with plenty of lambics and other rarities and specials for you to choose from.

17.30hr Leave for the journey to Kortrijk, our base for the first two nights of this Tour.

18.00hr Arrive at Ibis Centrum Kortrijk and check in. Kortrijk (Fr. Courtrai) is a proud Flemish city famous for its textile industries and the Battle of The Golden Spurs in 1302 which was a great win for the Flemish over the French. Travellers have a free evening exploring the bars and cafes of the city armed with Podge’s Kortrijk Bar Guide and Map, copies of which will be distributed on Tour.* Verzet Brewery Oak

Brewery Verzet Oak Barrels.

Day 2 - Thursday 4 May

10.00hr After a leisurely breakfast* we leave hotel by coach for:

10.20hr Pay a visit to our friend Geert Toye and his three-year old Toye Brewery in Marke just on the outskirts of Kortrijk. Geert hand built this brewery which took him three years to get into production using bits of old breweries he had collected over the years. He also went on a welding course so that he could stick them together. His main production is Goedendag (Good Day and also the name for the pikes used in the Battle of the Golden Spurs – have a close look at the bottle label) which is an 8%abv blond beer and we will have a tour* and tasting* in his tasting room. Geert has been experimenting with oak ageing beer with mixed results – showing how difficult and time consuming it is to successfully employ this technique.

11.30hr Arrive at Alvinne Brewery in Moen. Alvinne is another West Flemish brewery like Struise which began brewing then found their niche in barrel-aging beers. Their output is now split between what they term Flemish sour ales and oak aged beers. Their distinctiveness is down to a rare event for a small brewery – they have developed their own unique yeast strain called Morpheus. For you yeast-nuts it has a couple of standard beer-brewing yeast strains - Saccharomyces Cerevisae for example, but also ‘unwanted’ lactic bacteria used in dairy and sour beers. Alvinne’s yeast allows brewing of traditional ale or mixed fermented beer, resulting in a sour beer. Thanks to Morpheus, Alvinne is recognized as the worldwide innovator for mixed fermentation sour beers. We can ask them about their Lambic meets Morpheus Project 2015-2018. We can also taste some of their oak-aged beers which are put in casks previously occupied by Cognac, Sherry and white and red wines. Of course, some of you may want to try Podge Bourgogne Barrel Oak Aged beer which is an Imperial Russian Stout aged on Bourgogne barrels.

13.30hr Lunch is at 't Rusteel in Gullegem which is one of the best restaurants with a good beer list in West Flanders. Here we have an opportunity to eat and enjoy a beer from their excellent 100-strong beer menu featuring beers from the smart Gulden Spoor Brewery (Golden Spur) a which is housed a couple of doors down and beers from local brewery Eutropius. This is a big and comfortable converted farmhouse with a very attractive terrace and garden – keep an eye out for the Llamas.

16.15hr Pay a visit to Brouwers Verzet (Rebel Brewers) in Anzegem for a tour* and tasting*. These brewers always produced quality innovative beers when they gypsy-brewed at the Gulden Spoor and de Ranke Breweries. They then opened a brewery of their own in April 2016. We have always been fans of these young unconventional brewers who pack in great taste in their brews. They have a fixed range which includes Oud Bruin, a 6%abv trad-style West Flemish brown which blends young and old beer and which matures for six months in the bottle. They also make Oaky Moaky, the Edition 2016 is 7.5%abv and is a stout on Irish whiskey barrels which is slightly sour with vanilla and smoky flavours from the wood. They have a special range of Oud bruin infusions, adding ingredients to one year old oud bruin beer, such as grapes, sour cherries and wait for it… hand-picked fresh summer oak leaves.

17.30hr Call in for a great last stop of the day at a real up and coming brewer and oak-ager Jef at his brilliant café-bar and new brewery the Oude Maalderij (The Old Maltings) in Izegem. Up to recently Jef’s beers were cuckoo brewed at various breweries around Flanders, but late 2016 he started to brew in his impressive brewery just constructed out back. He brews a range of beers and the barrel aged ones are Qantelaar Oak Aged, Leviathan (a barley wine aged in Ardbeg whisky barrels), The Kraken (a barley wine aged in Andalusian brandy barrels and Chtulhu, a blend of the last two above. We will have an oak-aged tasting at Jef’s*.

19.00hrish Arrive back in the friendly city of Kortrijk for a crack at its cafes, and restaurants.

Oud Beersel Oude Kriek

Oud Beersel Oude Kriek.

Day 3 - Friday 5 May

10.00hr After breakfast* we check out of Ibis Centrum Kortrijk, load our luggage on the coach and leave Kortrijk for:

10.20hr A visit to the brilliant Bierhalle Deconinck for an opportunity to buy beers to take home. This is the best beer warehouse in West Flanders with an unmatched selection of quality beers from all over Belgium and some superb world beers too. They take credit cards.

12.15hr We will be spending some time at the brand new venture, the 3Fonteinen Lambic O droom in Lot. Legendary 3 Fonteinen brewer/blender Armand Debelder and his partners have spent much of 2016 converting a former dairy ice cream warehouse in Lot into a new complex designed to centralise the breweries operations and allow visitors to see the end-to-end processes of Lambic beer making. As we will see, it houses a coolship, blending facilities, barrel-ageing rooms, a bottling plant, a bar, tasting rooms, a shop, and conference facilities. A brewery will be added in due course. We look forward to seeing Armand’s new installation with everything under one roof. We may be able to see how his newly planted Schaarbeekse cherry orchard is coming along. Armand says 2016 was a good Lambic brewing season, so we should have plenty to try here in this exciting new project for Lambic’s most charismatic ambassador. We’ll have a taste of Armand’s lambic here*.

14.15hr Call in at the huge Grill-Restaurant Bolekewis in Dworp for something to eat and a beer or two from their impressive menu of Lambic beers.

17.00hr We have arranged a visit to the Oud Beersel Geuzestekerij in Beersel for a guided tour* around the old brewery museum, the current blendery and a special tasting* in their superb suite of comfy modern tasting rooms on the premises. They are the creators of Oude Lambiek, Oude Geuze and Oude Kriek.

19.00hr Arrive in Aalst in East Flanders and make our way into town to the centrally located luxury four star Hotel Keizershof for a three-night stay. Travellers have the evening free to explore the cafes, bars and restaurants armed with Podge’s Aalst Bar Guide and Map*. Dorst Eizeringem, Lennik Tourism

In de Verzekering Tegen de Grote Dorst (The Insurance Against Great Thirst) in Eizeringen, photo, Gemeente Lennik.

Day 4 - Saturday 6 May

10.00hr After a leisurely breakfast* coach leaves Hotel.

10.30hr A special visit to a café that is opening just for us, the famed In de Verzekering Tegen de Grote Dorst (The Insurance Against Thirst) in Eizeringen run by the expert Paneels family who re-opened this café in recent times and have an unrivalled selection of lambics, Geuzes and Krieks. They have a selection of vintage beers. Hopefully they still have some Eylenbosch left from the closed lambic brewery down the road. This is a superb traditionally-styled yet modern addition to the lambic-cafe scene which usually only opens on a Sunday. In de Verzekering are offering beers from the latest lambic blender, Raf Souvereyns. Raf only began blending lambic beers three years ago, under the name Bokkereyder in Limburg Province. You'll recognise his bottles from the logo which involves a goat hiding behind a tree. He has around 80 oak barrels today and at present blends lambic worts from De Troch, Girardin and Lindemans. Raf has already blended dozens of beers, picking cherries for his kriek lambic, using his neighbours peaches and has a blend called Druiven using local grapes. Raf is already world-famous and his blended lambics have been gaining fans quickly all over the world, appearing at some of the cutting-edge world beer festivals. His beers are available in Copenhagen and Stockholm and he’s already working on export to the US. Get some on this tour especially since Raf has recently been awarded Ratebeer's Best New Brewery of 2016.

11.45hr Visit De Troch at Wambeek. This is a small, attractive lambic brewery housed in a still-recognizable farm around three sides of a square. Most of the production of this brewery goes into sweet commercial beers, but the real lambic they make is superb.

12.45hr We pay a visit to the giant and ever-expanding Lindemans Brewery in Vlezenbeek. Now being run by the 7th generation of Lindeman’s they started as a barley farm which made lambic on the side during the winters to employ workers year-round starting in 1809. By the 1930’s, brewing was so successful, they gave up farming. Go for the Oude Gueuze Cuvée René and Oude Kriek Cuvée René if you want the real deal.

14.00hr We will have lunch at the world famous 3Fonteinen Restaurant in the traditional heartland lambic town, Beersel. Here we will have our pre-booked beer cuisine lunch and a chance to sample some of the beers of 3Fonteinen brewery uniquely on draught here.

16.15hr We have an invite to pre-Toer lambic events at probably the biggest lambic, Geuze and Kriek producer, Boon Brewery in Lembeek where you can see the new brewery which Frank and his son Karel have built. We can have a taste of a beer or two here.

18.00hr Arrive at the most southerly and newest member of the Lambic blenders and brewers, Tilquin in Bierghes (Rebecq). Pierre Tilquin is holding a two-day open brewery event on the weekend of the Toer de Geuze 2017, where you can have a tour of his blendery and barrel rooms. His beers will be for sale at the bar and you can buy bottles to take away at the shop. They have food stalls and a bouncy castle. Pierre will have available Gueuze à l'ancienne and Gueuze on draft plus his Quetsche à l'ancienne a beer with Alsatian Purple Plums on lambic, refermented in the bottle. Look out also for the Mûre à l'ancienne, a blackberry lambic refermented in the bottle. He will also have Stout Rullquin on draft which is a collaboration between Pierre and the great La Rulles Brewery.

19.45hrish Arrive back in Aalst.

Day 5 - Sunday 7 May

10.00hr After a leisurely breakfast* we set off by coach for the biennial Toer de Geuze. Over the years the Toer de Geuze has attracted more and more people and each venue gets quite crowded with those enjoying these open days and beers. We hope to have about an hour and a half at each venue and will announce exact times to be back on the bus on the day. At most of the venues you can buy a snack to eat on the hoof. All of the members of HORAL contribute towards a special Oude Gueuze beer brewed for the occasion and you should see bottles for sale at each of the venues of HORAL Mega Blend 2017 which is the third time it has been produced for this eleventh Toer de Geuze.

Here is the order we will go for:-

10.30hr Hanssens in Dworp. There will be a chance to try rare beers from this blender including Hanssens Lambic Cassis, Hanssens Lambic Raspberry and Hanssens Kriek Lambic Schaerbeek (in limited quantities) for tastings and purchases.

12.00hr Timmermans in Itterbeek. This is the oldest lambic brewery dating from 1702 and again there are opportunities to sample their many lambic-based beers.

13.30hr Mort Subite in Kobbegem.

15.00hr De Cam in Gooik. This is a tiny blender and is a good one to pick if you want a mini tour.

17.00hrish Arrive back in Aalst. We have arranged for new beer café, shop and tasting room Café Shop Ambarosa to open for us specially this evening so that we can try some regional beers which they specialise in including the excellent Glazen Toren beers. You can also buy bottles to takeaway and there are local snacks too. Evening at leisure in Aalst. Rodenbach Brewery Foeders

Rodenbach Brewery Foeders.

Day 6 - Monday 8 May

10.00hr After breakfast* check out of hotel. Coach leaves for our last day.

10.30hr We pay a special visit, and our first to see the barrel room and ageing programme at OostEke at Gavere. Here we will be sampling* three of their oak aged beers: • Quadrum 12 Banyuls Finish 2016 • Triple O7 Bourbon + Cherrywood Finish 2016 • Het 5e Seizoen (a saison) JD infused 2017 (aged in bourbon barrels & Jack Daniels, this is still ageing). This beer tasting will be accompanied by small appetizers from regional producers*.

12.00hr Leave OostEke.

12.45hr Arrive at Rodenbach brewery in Roeselare. We may well have saved the best until last. We will spend the rest of the day at this grand-daddy of all Belgian brewers from the wood. If you have never been, this vast brewery and its cathedrals of foeders make it possibly the most beautiful and photogenic brewery in Belgium, and probably the world. Here we will have a brewery tour*, a meal in one of the foeder rooms and a beer tasting* of Belgium’s finest Flemish Red Brown beer, Rodenbach Grand Cru. Rodenbach have also just re-launched a beer which stopped production around 20 years ago, they cherry infused Alexander, named after one of Rodenbach forefathers who was blind.

14.45hr Three course meal at in Rodenbach brewery amongst the Foeders.

16.45hr Leave Rodenbach for the journey to Calais.

19.50hr Eurotunnel train crossing from Calais.

19.30hr Arrive Folkestone.

19.40hr Coach drop Stop24 J11 M20, Kent CT21 4BL.

Coach drop Premier Inn, Eureka Leisure Park, Rutherford Rd, Ashford TN25 4BN

20.45hr Coach drop Dartford Railway Station DA1 1BP.

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

Tour Price £775 per person based on sharing in a twin or double room

Single Supplement: £230

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