Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours

Tour 88 / The Hop Harvest Tour

Thursday 14 September – Monday 18 September 2017

This is a harvest festival tour with a difference. It’s based at the Hotel Oude Abdij in Lo-Reninge in the hop growing district of Poperinge in West Flanders. We’ll be visiting breweries who brew from local hops and we'll be tasting their beers. We visit hop farms and see the harvest coming in as well as experiencing the Beer and Hop Festival 2017 which is held in the town every three years and is a homage to the noble hop.

Nice head on a Hommel Bier

A tasty Hommelbier.

Hop Harvest Tour 2017- detailed itinerary

Day 1 – Thursday 14 September

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

06.55hr Coach pick up at Coach pick up Thurrock Services, Arterial Rd, West Thurrock, Grays RM16 3BG.

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.

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. Watou is the home of St Bernardus Brewery and Van Eecke Brewery. Here we have our pre-arranged lunch and a beer or two.

14.30hr Leave Hommelhof.

14.50hr Arrive at Sas Brewery in Boezinge just north of Ypres. This is a rare opportunity to get a look inside a large brewery linked by family to the Van Eecke Brewery in Watou. The brewery was completely destroyed as it was on the front line in World War One, and was rebuilt after the war. Their Sas Pils is one of the best in Belgium. We will have a brewery tour* and beer tasting*.

16.15hr Leave Sas Brewery.

16.45hr Pay a visit to the best café in West Flanders, the beautiful Cafe ‘t Molenhof in Oostvleteren. The café has an impressive beer menu of over 120 choices including a huge range of beers from De Struise Brouwers across the road, usually a dozen or so on tap and some real rarities too.

18.00hr Leave Molenhof.

18.15hr Check in at our hotel the Oude Abdij in Lo which was once the thriving St Louis Brewery that closed in the 1960s. There is a beautiful stained-glass window in the doorway near the bar and other clues of the old brewery around the grounds. There is also a spectacular dove loft left over from when the grounds were an old abbey.

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 little cafes in the village. Hoppecruyt Hop Farm Proven 2014

Hoppecruyt Hop picking September 2014.

Day 2 – Friday 15 September

10.00hr After breakfast depart Hotel by coach.

10.30hr Arrive at the Hoppecruyt Hop Farm in 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. They have available three Single Hop Beers brewed at Proef brewery for them being Saphir, Spalter Select and Perle from hops grown on this farm.

11.50hr Leave Hoppecruyt Hop Farm.

12.30hr Arrive at Eutropius Brewery in Menen. Here we will have a brewery tour* and beer tasting*. This is a very new brewery started by Wouter who, like many Belgian brewers originally set up a hobby brewery in his parents garage. He trained as a brewing engineer in 2010 and in 2012 he met Barbara Pratz, who had a background in marketing who joined the brewery now in larger premises in 2014. They currently brew five beers, being:

Oscar, a blonde light bitter beer of 6,6%abv made with Cascade and Hallertau Mittelfruh hops.

Oscar Bruin, is a brown version with 6,5%abv but with less bitterness and a softer taste its caramel malts give the beer its typical flavour and creamy mouthfeel.

Remembrance Bier 14-18 was developed in 2011 to create a beer for a local remembrance of the Great War. Southern West Flanders was heavily under fire during this period which had a lot of victims as a consequence. This blonde beer has a dry bitterness and sourness and made with 3 types of grains (barley, wheat and rye) and lots of bittering hops from our own Flanders fields and is 9.0%abv. Made with Hallertau, Mittelfruh and Brewers Gold hops.

Vinkenier is a strong beer at 10,8% but is finely hopped with a soft smooth aftertaste and is deceptively drinkable. It is brewed with pilsner malt and a lot of munich malt to achieve a natural light amber colour. Cascade hops are in this brew and look out for the label which has to do with the traditional Belgian sport of competitive finch-singing.

St Tabarnak is the result of the collaboration between Brewery Eutropius and the Canadian death metal band Kataklysm. Apparently, the holy word "Tabernacle" from the Catholic Church, is commonly used as a swear word by French-speaking Quebecers. St. Tabarnak is a fine blonde Belgian beer at 6.66%abv with a sweet coriander aroma. Made with Magnum hops.

14.00hr Leave Eutropius Brewery.

14.20hr Arrive in Ypres where we have the opportunity to visit this historic city in this centenary year of the Great War. 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* which we will distribute on Tour. Here you can wander around the famous square, get in some chocolate shopping, find a beer or something to eat, or if you wish pay a visit to In Flanders Fields Museum.

17.50hr Leave Ypres from Vandenpeereboomplein near St. Martin’s Cathedral which will be marked on your maps.

18.20hr Arrive at De Snoek, (The Pike) in Alveringem attached to the Museum of Thirst in the Great War housed in a First World War brewery. This superb little café is run by the lovely Francine and her team and we can have a crack at Francine’s fabulous beer list of over 150 choices.

19.50hr Leave Brouwershuis De Snoek in Alveringem.

20.00hr On the way back to our hotel we call in at De Witten cafe in Fintele. This is a new venture in an old building stocking over 80 quality beers including some special lambic beers.

22.00ish Arrive back at Hotel Oude Abdij in Lo.

Day 3 Saturday 16 September

10.00hr Leave Oude Abdij Hotel in Lo by coach.

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%.

11.50hr Leave De Plukker Brewery.

12.30hr Pay a visit to the brilliant Bierhalle Deconinck beer warehouse in Vichte for an opportunity to take some quality beers 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.

13.30hr Leave Deconinck beers in Vichte.

13.45hr 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 50+ menu featuring beers from the 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.

16.00hr Leave ‘t Rusteel, Gullegem.

16.15hr Arrive at Gaverhopke Brewery in their new home at an ancient farmstead in Waregem. Bruno and Gudrun run their brewery, a café and keep small animals in this lovely location which has evidence of Stone-Age occupation. We hope to see their new brewery* in the farm and have a taste of their beer*, hopefully on the relaxing terrace, with or without the tiny pony, pig and mini-goats.

17.45hr Leave Gaverhopke Brewery.

18.15hr Arrive at Cafe Walhalla in Roeselare. This specialist beer café has a big beer list with plenty of lambics and other rarities and specials for you to choose from.

19.15hr Leave Café Walhalla.

19.45hr Arrive in the town of Dixmuide for a little free time on the main square.

21.45hr Leave Dixmuide.

22.00hr Return to Hotel Oude Abdij in Lo. Hop Hats

Hop Hats.

Day 4 – Sunday 17 September

10.00hr Depart by coach from Hotel.

10.30hr 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. A copy of Podge’s Poperinghe Bar Guide and map will be distributed on Tour.*

10.30hr Our first call is to visit Belgium’s National Hop Museum in the centre of Poperinge, the town at the heart of the traditional Flemish hop-growing district. We are fortunate that hop expert and local author Bertin Deneire has agreed to give us a special fully guided tour* of this fascinating museum housed in a former hop store and exchange. After our tour we can relax with a tasty Van Eecke’s Poperings Hommelbier* in their tasting café.

11.00hr – 20.00hr Throughout the day the outdoor Lekker Westhoeks food and drink festival which takes place on the main square where you can taste the local produce including offerings from local breweries. Free entry. For those interested there is a new photographic exhibition of the thousands of Chinese labourers used by the allies for road building, carrying and other non-combatant functions in the First World War in the Poperinge area. The exhibition is at Gasthuiskapel at 1 Gasthuisstraat.

15.00hr The start of the Street Hop Pageant. 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, mostly in the form of various insects.

21.00hrs Leave Poperinge to return to Hotel Oude Abdij in Lo.

Poperinge Hop Festival procession.

Day 5 – Monday 18 September

10.00hr Depart Hotel.

10.20hr Arrive at Sint Sixtus Abbey at Westvleteren where the monks still brew in the monastery and we will call in at In de Vrede cafe where we can sample their world famous beers.

11.45hr Leave in de Vrede.

12.15hr Arrive at the Farm Brewery Beck in Bailleul which has made Hommelpap beer since 1994. This is an unpasteurised beer made without preservatives from ingredients grown on Mr Beck’s farm, both the barley and the hops. We hope to arrange a tour of his hop fields*, the brewery* and have a taste of his beer in the farm brewery tasting room*.

13.45hr Leave Ferme Beck.

14.00hr Arrive at the Sparhof Café and Restaurant in Dranouter, the beautiful heart of the Flemish Heuvelland (Hilly land). Here we will have a group meal and a chance of a last beer or two, as they specialise in nearby St Bernardus Brewery beers, always top quality and who used to have the contract to brew Sint Sixtus beers at Westvleteren. Many say the recipe for the Westvleteren 12 and the St Bernardus Abt are strikingly similar.

17.30hr Leave Sparhof for the drive to Calais.

18.50hr Arrive Eurotunnel.

19.50hr Leave Calais on Eurotunnel Train.

19.30hr Arrive Folkestone.

19.45hr Coach drop off at Stop24 J11 M20 near Folkestone Kent CT21 4BL

20.45hr Coach drop Dartford Railway Station DA1 1BP.

21.00hr Coach drop off Thurrock Services, Arterial Rd, West Thurrock, Grays RM16 3BG.

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

Tour Price: £635 per person based on sharing in a twin or double room

Single Supplement: £165

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.