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 Brown beers 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.

This Tour departs on Wednesday 3 May 2017 and our coach is booked on the 09.20hrs crossing on Eurotunnel, which means a 06.15hrs pick up at our Chelmsford pick up point. The Tour returns on Monday 8 May and we are booked on the inbound Eurotunnel at 19.50hrs from Calais arriving in Dover 19.25hrs.

This is a two-centre Tour with the first two nights at Ibis Centrum Kortrijk and the following three nights at the luxury four star Hotel Keizershof in the centre of Aalst.

Here is the latest update on the great places and visits we are aiming to to include on this popular Tour:

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.

Verzet Brewery Oak

Brewery Verzet Oak Barrels.

Since barrel-aged beers have increased in popularity with brewers and tasting connoisseurs in recent years, we’ll be visiting some of Belgium’s best examples of innovative barrel-ageing breweries, including visits to young and thrusting Brouwers Verzet at their brewery and barrel room in Anzegem as well as paying a special visit 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 infused, this is still ageing)

The beer tasting will be accompanied by small appetizers from regional producers.

We will also call in on our old friends at Alvinne Brewery in Moen to have a look at their current barrel ageing programme. Alvinne Brewery were at the vanguard of barrel ageing heavy beers such as Stouts and Porters, as we well remember since it was in March 2007 that a virgin French Oak barrel was delivered to Alvinne courtesy of Felstar Brewery in Essex, UK. This was filled with beer and September 2007 saw the first commercial release of Podge Oak Aged Stout. This was followed in October 2008 by the release of Podge Belgian Imperial Stout aged on Bourgogne oak barrels, which was released as Podge Bourgogne Barrel Oak Aged. Since then various wood-aged beers have been created including Podge Calvados Barrel Oak Aged and Podge Glenrothes Barrel Oak Aged. We think we might be able to dig up one or two bottles in our beer cellar to take on Tour for a mini-tasting for interested travellers.

We will be having a meal at the brilliant café restaurant 't Rusteel at Gullegem with their vast beer list of over 100 choices and which acts as brewer tap for next-doors Gulden Spoor Brewery. We'll also pay a visit to the huge Grill-Restaurant Bolekewis in Dworp for something to eat and a beer or two from their impressive menu of Lambic beers. One lunchtime will be devoted to a visit to the world famous 3Fonteinen Restaurant, owned by Armand DeBelder’s brother and nephew, in the traditional Lambic heartland town, Beersel. Here we will have a pre-booked beer cuisine lunch and a chance to sample some of the beers of 3Fonteinen brewery uniquely on draught here. We are also including another of our favourite beer restaurants, 't Molenhof in Oostvleteren. Here we will have our first pre-arranged group meal based around beers from the wood. This place also 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.

Cuvee de Chateau Van Honsebrouck

Van Honsebrouck Cuvee de Chateau.

We also plan to visit some top bars including popping in for a drink at the beautiful Bierkasteel Brasserie, the luxurious brewery tap of Van Honsebrouck Brewery with its selection of 29 beers on tap from the brewery. The whole complex only opened in August 2016 and oak barrels are installed for ageing beer. We have arranged a visit to a beer cafe we have not yet visited on Podge's Belgian Beer Tours, the Walhalla in Roeselare. This beer café has a big list of beers with plenty of lambics and other special beers for you to choose from. We hope to pay a special visit to the famed specialist lambic cafe In de Verzekering Tegen de Grote Dorst (The Insurance Against Great Thirst) in Eizeringen for a crack at their unique Lambic beer menu, including a great choice of vintage beers (hopefully they still have some Eylenbosch left from the closed lambic brewery down the road) in this superb traditionally-styled yet modern addition to the lambic-cafe scene and expertly run by the Paneels family, which usually only opens on a Sunday. STOP PRESS. 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. The logo involves a goat hiding behind a tree. He has around 80 oak barrels today and at present blends from lambic worts from De Troch, Girardin and Lindemans. Raf has already blended dozens of beers, picking cherries for his kriek lambic, 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.

We have arranged a visit to the Oud Beersel Geuzestekerij (geuze blenders) in Beersel for a guided tour around the old brewery museum, the current blendery and a special tasting in their superb suite of modern rooms on the premises. For a look at a modern wood-ageing project we will go and see Jef at his great cafe and brand new brewery out the back at the Oude Maalderij (The Old Maltings) in Izegem and staying in West Flanders we'll pop in to see Geert at his Toye Brewery in Marke. Both of these young brewers have started barrel-ageing some of their own beers.

On the Saturday we have an invite to pre-Toer Lambic Events at Boon Brewery in Lembeek and at the newest addition to the family of Belgian Lambic blenders and brewers, Tilquin in Bierghes (Rebecq). Pierre Tilquin is holding a Lambic event at his gueuzerie the day before the Toer de Geuze, so we should get a chance to taste Pierre’s fabulous Geuze, Kriek and other blended lambics, look out for his Alsatian Purple Plums. We also hope to pay a visit to De Troch brewery, but not on the Sunday of the Toer de Geuze.

Dorst Eizeringem, Lennik Tourism

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

All day Sunday is devoted to the biannual Toer de Geuze. Since we attended the first Toer de Geuze in 1997 it has become progressively busier and more popular in recent years and though the atmosphere is brilliant, it has become something of a challenge to get round all the participants in one day with a decent time spent in each. Thus Podge Tours have in recent years spread their visits to Lambic breweries and blenders over a couple of days, especially on the Saturday before the Toer. This works well and indeed some of the participants have had the same thought and indeed Toer de Geuze events are now spreading out from the Sunday, which is a good thing. This year on the Sunday we aim to visit:

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

De Cam – Gooik. Officially, Karel is not participating in the Toer de Geuze, but as we have had such a long friendship with him, we hope to visit him. Watch out for the bagpipes. If you get an opportunity to taste Karel's Raspberry Lambic, don't pass it up. Sublime, and probably the best fruit beer in the world.

Timmermans – Itterbeek. The oldest lambic brewery dating from 1702 and again there are opportunities to sample their many lambic based beers.

Mort Subite - Kobbegem and Lindemans in Vlezenbeek, with great razzmatazz.

Following the Toer de Geuze on the Sunday evening and after a drop off back at our hotel, we plan to have a café takeover back in Aalst at Café Shop Ambarosa, an excellent little place run by Robbe offering a brilliant selection of local (rare) beers, loads from Glazen Toren and some really tasty snacks of the artisanal cheese, ham, pate and deli variety.

Rodenbach Brewery Foeders

Rodenbach Brewery Foeders.

We aim to include a visit to an old West Flemish Brewery, Christiaen in Koekelare, which now houses cafe-restaurant Inktpot. They offer a menu of over 100 beer choices, including the local beer Couckelaerschen doedel, brewed with Poperinge hops and Ale-Hoof.

Of course, as on all Tours we include a visit to a beer warehouse. We will go to the vast Bierhalle Deconinck in Vichte so that travellers can buy some quality beers to take home. This is the best beer warehouse/shop in West Flanders with an unmatched selection of top beers from all over Belgium and some superb world beers too. They take credit cards.

We may well have saved the best until last, for on the last day of this Tour we are spending some time at the grand-daddy of all Belgian brewers from the Wood – Rodenbach in Roeselare. 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. Don’t miss this Tour.

To get an idea of what to else expect on this Tour, timings and other details, have a look at Tour 81 when we built a tour around a visit to the brilliant biennial West Flanders Red Brown Tour (Rondje Roodbruin). This Tour is still being built so keep an eye on this webpage for updates. Please send Podge an email or call him on +44 (0)1245 354677 if you have any questions or would like to join us on this Tour and for details on how to send a deposit of £150 per person. The full balance is payable five weeks before departure.

Podge Beer from the Wood Tour 2016

Podge Beer from the Wood Tour 2016.

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 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 (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.

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