We love Belgium (and winter beers) at Christmas and we love taking a coach full of like-minded people. This year we are staying for five nights in the city of Antwerp and will go out and about in our coach during the day to places you'd never get to on your own. Here is the itinerary for the Tour:
Very early! Coach departs from Galloways coach depot at Denters Hill, Mendlesham, Suffolk, IP14 5RR.
05.15hr Coach pick up at bus shelter outside Crown House, Crown Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 3HS (opposite NCP Car Park).
05.45hr Coach pick up Chapel St South Layby Southway, Colchester CO2 7BA.
06.15hr Coach pick up The Woolpack, Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0DN.
07.00hr Coach pick up Esso Dartford Service Station, 474 Princes Rd, Dartford DA1 1YT.
07.15hr Coach pick up 7 Mays Siding, London Rd, Swanley, Kent BR8 8EE.
07.50hr Coach pick up Premier Inn, Eureka Leisure Park, Rutherford Road, Ashford TN25 4BN.
08.00hr Coach pick up Stop24 J11 M20 near Folkestone, Kent CT21 4BL.
09.36hr Eurotunnel from Folkestone.
11.15hr Arrive Calais.
12.30hr Our first stop is at the new Trappist Café Heerlijk at Raversijde near Oostende airport which opened early 2017 having moved from further down the coast. Vicky & Kevin offer 150+ beers including all the Trappist beers in the world. They are also working on a full collection of lambics for sale in the future. They offer plenty of rare Trappist beers in 75cl bottles such as Oak Aged Chimay, and also Chimay Doree, Westmalle Extra, Stift Engelszell (Benno, Gregorius and Nivard), Mont des Cats, Trefontaine and the weird Spencer beers from USA. Here we’ll have our first group meal and an introduction to the world of Trappist beer.
15.00hr Leave Café Heerlijk.
16.00hr Arrive at Brouwerij Van Steenberge in the town of Ertvelde, north of Gent. This brewery began in 1784. Paul Van Steenberge, a professor of microbiology at Gent brewing school ran the brewery after the first world war and changed the name to Brewery Bios, invested in a new brewing hall and tanks and switched from wooden barrels to glass bottles. In 1962 his son Jozef took over and focused on producing high fermentation beers. In 1978 the brewery acquired the beer recipe for Augustijn from the Augustinian friars who brewed in their monastery in Gent. It was fine-tuned at the brewery and launched in 1982 and remains the top beer sold today. Jozef also had the foresight to begin brewing Piraat and Gulden Draak when there was little market for strong beers at the beginning of the eighties. Jozef foresaw this trend and thanks to him the brewery survived and grew. In 1990, Paul Van Steenberge, Jozef’s son, took over. He built a fully automated brewing hall, a computerised barrel filling installation, water purification installation and a new bottling installation all in the face of a saturated home market but with an eye to exports. In 1998, Jef Versele, Paul Van Steenberge’s cousin and the 7th generation joined and expanded exports to 60% of production mostly to the US, the Netherlands and Italy. Although Augustijn beer is linked to an old abbey and is branded with a monk, it is not a certified abbey beer, but they do brew two certified abbey beers for two abbeys being Bornem and Keizerberg Beer connected with an abbey in Leuven. This illustrates the complex rules of abbey authentication. We will have a brewery tour* and tasting* in their brand new modern tasting room called Bar Baptist.
17.30hr Leave Brewery Van Steenberge.
18.15hr Arrive at our hotel base for the next five nights Ibis Antwerpen Centrum and the rest of the evening is free to explore Antwerp city armed with copies of Podge’s Central Antwerp Bar Guide* and map*, a guide concentrating on the city centre beer venues.
10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast in our hotel* we leave by coach for a day in the Dutch town of Breda.
11.00hr Arrive at the Toontje Schoen farm, brewery and cafe at the edge of the village of Chaam, the brewery tap for Pimpelmeesch brewery. This is a beer café and brewery created in 2013 inside a huge thatched barn, formerly part of a farm. This is a popular visit for families with a huge parking area, an outdoor terrace, farmhouse-made ice cream, Belgian coffee, cakes and of course local beer. All their beers are brewed by De Pimpelmeesch brewery which can be seen through the glass walls in the café barn. By the way, a pimpelmeesch is a Blue Tit. Here we will have a chance to look at the brewery, relax in the lovely renovated wood roofed farm building and have a house beer or two. The beers in their range include:
• Schoentje (Little Shoe) is their house beer, a 6%abv blonde and the only one available on draught. Podge will buy everyone on Tour a house beer*.
• Zilverpel (Silver Spoon) a 6.5%abv blonde beer named after a Dutch breed of chicken
• Goudpel (Gold Spoon) a 7.5%abv amber beer also named after another Dutch chicken
• Chaams tarwebier a German style Heffe Weißen wheat beer at 5.5%abv
• Chaamse dubbel, an abbey-style dubbel beer of 7.0%abv
• Chaamse bockbier a caramel malty beer at 6.8%abv
• Chaamse tripel, an abbey-style blonde beer of 8.5%abv
• Chaams winterbier, a robin-red beer of 8.5%abv
12.30hr Leave Toontje Schoen in Chaam.
12.45hr Arrive at Frontaal Brewery in Breda. Brewery Frontaal is a young microbrewery founded by Roel Buckens in 2013. Roel has been successful and now demand for his beers outstrips the supply and he wants to scale up production and is looking for crowd funding. His base range consists of four beers and in addition each season he brews a beer appropriate to the time of year. Roel went backpacking in Australia on his nineteenth birthday and got the taste for beer. On his return he hobby brewed in his kitchen every week. After a period of experimentation, he began a microbrewery at STEK, a business area in Breda for creative entrepreneurs. The slogan of the brewery is: Beer for thought. Roel wants his customers to try a wide selection of tastes. Frontaal brewery focuses on people who are open to new tastes, whether a beginner or "beer nerd". These are Frontaal’s core beers, but he may have a different selection over Christmas:
• Tankard – an American session IPA, massively dry-hopped with Amarillo, Centennial, Brewers gold and Cascade. 3.9%abv
• Lumberman - a red rye IPA, hopped with centennial. 6.5%abv
• Bulldog - an insanely hopped IPA, supercharged on Magnum, Cascade, Centennial, Crystal, Chinook and Simcoe. Dry-hopped twice. 7.5% abv
• Billiard - an Imperial coffee oatmeal stout with Bourbon Royale coffee beans. 10.1%abv
13.40hrish Leave at Frontaal Brewery in Breda.
13.45hrish Arrive in the centre of Breda and drop off. Free time in Breda armed with Podge’s Breda Bar Guide* and Map* to have a drink or something to eat. Or shopping.
18.00hr Coach pick up in Breda.
19.00hr Coach drops at our hotel in Antwerp for an evening at leisure in the city.
10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast in our hotel* we board the coach.
10.45hr We begin the day with a visit to Pirlot Brewery and Distillery in Zandhoven for a look at the brewery* and a taste of their beer*. The brewery now known also as the Kempish Vuur (Kempish Fire) was started by Guy Pirlot in the mid-eighties but moved from hobby brewing to an official brewery in 1998, cuckoo brewed elsewhere and eventually settled here in 2007. The old Kempish long gable farm was transformed into a brewery with the first beers being produced in 2011 which was Kempisch Vuur (Kempish Fire), a blond beer. The distillery also makes whisky which is aged in Laphroaig barrels and other liqueurs. A special tasting room was added in 2013 which affords first floor views of the brewing kettles. Vinnie and Rebekah took over operations in October 2017 and they are serious about beer and tasting and also offer beer and food-pairing and gastronomy experiences. The usual house beers offered in the tasting room on draught are:
• Kempisch Vuur Blond 5.0%abv
• Kempisch Vuur Hoppergod 6.0%abv
• Kempisch Vuur Kriek 6.0% abv
• Kempisch Vuur Jeneverbier 6.5%abv brewed with juniper berries
• Kempisch Vuur Haverstout Stout, an oat stout at 6.5%abv
• Kempisch Vuur Tripel 7.5%abv
• Kempisch Vuur 3-Dubbel 7.5%abv
• Kempisch Vuur Devil's Heaven (Oak Barrel Aged) Russian Imperial Stout, 10%abv
• Kempisch Vuur Winter Beer, brewed every August at 9.0%abv
They may have some special bottles available too as they do oak and wood barrel ageing of beer. Of course, they offer their own Kempisch Vuur Whisky, Bierjenever (gin), Sandlewood Bitters liqueur made with local pine needles, a Citrus Liqueur and a coffee cream liqueur.
12.40hr Leave Brewery Pirlot/Kempisch Vuur.
13.00hr Arrive at Café Lindekens in the village of Vosselaar with a good-looking terrace onto the street with 60 beers on offer. The house beers are brewed at Schelderbrouwerij for the Brouwerij De Lelie, a brew firm which has been resurrected using the name of an old brewery in the village dating from 1907 which stopped production in the fifties. They do a blond and a brown beer.
14.15hr Leave Kaffee Lindekens, Vosselaar.
14.30hr Arrive at ‘t Hofke Merksplas in Merksplas for a pre-arranged group meal and a crack at their beer list which includes all of the La Chouffe range, with La Chouffe on draught, the Kasteel range, large sharing bottles of Lupulus blonde and brown, Averbode from Huyghe and Straffe Hendrik Wild. This is a nice looking place in amongst rural buildings and possibly has donkeys, but they may be away working at this time of year.
17.00hr Leave ‘t Hofke Merksplas.
18.00hr Coach drops at our hotel in Antwerp for an evening at leisure in the city.
12.00hr LATE START! Following a buffet breakfast in our hotel* we board the coach and head off for the day to the town of Goes in Zeeland, the Netherlands.
13.00hr Arrive at Brewery and Restaurant Slot Oostende in Goes in the centre of the town next to the church. This is a brewery, restaurant and hotel housed in a modern building on the site of the old castle Slot Oostende, bits of which still exist, particularly the fine vaulted cellars. Here we will spend the day beginning with a brewery tour* which ends in the medieval vaults with a beer tasting of four small beers*. Their beers include :
• Slot Oostende BLØF Aan, a golden ale of 5.0%abv
• Slot Oostende Poortwachter, a porter at 7.0%abv
• Slot Oostende Schorre bock, a doppelbock of 8.0%abv
• Slot Oostende Blonde Jacoba 5.0%abv
• Slot Oostende Dubbel Slot, an abbey-style dubbel of 7.0%abv
• Slot Oostende Gouden Gans, an abbey-style tripel at 8.0%abv
• Slot Oostende Straffe, a non-India pale ale of 6.5%abv
• Slot Oostende Wit Voetje, a German-style Heffe Weißen of 4.5%abv
14.30hr Go to the beautiful restaurant for our pre-arranged group meal. In the restaurant they offer over 60 beers with sixteen on tap including their own brews and some from Emelisse, both on tap and in the bottle. For dark beer lovers they offer 8 sorts of stout.
Here we will have a buffet including fresh home made beer soup, smoked ham with melon, various breads, tapenades and herb butter, salad with tuna, salad with marinaded chicken, meatballs in mushroom sauce, home made beef stew cooked in house beer, home made schnitzel, chicken in a satay sauce, lasagne Bolognaise, pasta ribbons with fresh herbs, herb cheese and crème fraiche, several sorts of potato dishes and frites, various vegetable dishes and a dessert buffet including fresh seasonal fruit, several sorts of bavarois (a dessert made with cream and custard) and other varieties of sweet dishes. The meal includes two beers.
17.30hr Leave Brewery and Restaurant Slot Ostende in Goes.
18.30hr Coach drops at our hotel in Antwerp for an evening at leisure in the city.
10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast in our hotel* we board the coach.
10.30hr Arrive at Den Triest Brewery in Kapelle-op-den-Bos (The Church in the Woods). This was founded by Marc Struyf in 2009 after he had been to brewing school at Ghent University. Here we will have a brewery tour* and tasting* and a relax in the lovely cosy brewery tap. Marc makes the following beers:
• Triest IPA at 7.5%abv
• Triest Blonde a pale beer of 6.5%abv brewed with Belgian hops
• Triest Bruut’n 9%abv
• Triest Dubbel 8%abv
• Triest Tripel 7.5%abv
• Greenhopping 6.5%abv
• Kerstbier Triple Xmas 9%abv
• Triest Kriek 5%abv
• De Neus 7.5%abv, a beer brewed for the village. 'The Nose' is a triple with its own recipe brewed for the municipality of Kapelle-op-den-Bos and the community centre in the old parsonage next to Den Triest microbrewery.
12.30hr Leave Triest Brewery.
13.00hr Arrive Het Anker Brewery in Mechelen for a brewery tour* and beer tasting* and meal. Het Anker Brewery was founded in 1471 by a community of Beguines, a kind of group of nuns. In 1872, the brewery was acquired by Louis Van Breedam, who renamed it Het Anker ("The Anchor"). Expanding its assortment from lager to ale, it began producing ‘Emperor beer’ after the Second World War. In 1960 it renamed the beer "Gouden Carolus" (Golden Charles) after Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor (1500-1558) who was brought up in Mechelen. Charles was said to be fond of beer and this brewery makes Cuvée van de Keizer which is brewed once a year on the birthday of Charles V, 24 February and is only available in 75cl bottles, for sharing. The red label at 10%abv is the blonde version and the blue label is the dark beer at 11%abv. Sublime, especially the dark.
In 2010 Het Anker began producing a single malt whisky, distilled from Gouden Carolus Tripel. Their Lucifer beer was originally brewed by Liefmans Brewery but the brand was then acquired by Duvel Moortgat Brewery and has now passed to Het Anker. They have also acquired another Liefman’s brand, Dentergems Wit, a wheat beer. They make a 5.5% blonde beer called Maneblusser. The inspiration for this beer originates in an event in the town on 27 January 1687. That night the moon projected a reddish glow on Saint Rumbold’s Cathedral tower which also happened to be wrapped in a dense fog. A local drunk saw it and shouted out “Fire, fire, the tower is on fire!”. The alarm was sounded and people hurried to help put out the so-called fire. Before they reached the cathedral tower the moon slowly moved through the fog revealing no fire at all. From that time forward the locals have been called the Maneblussers or “moonextinguishers”.
14.45hr Begin our two-course ‘Gouden Carolus’ meal at the Het Anker Brasserie Restaurant and also a chance to try some special Het Anker beers.
17.15hr Leave Het Anker Brewery and Brasserie.
17.45hr Coach drops at our hotel in Antwerp for an evening at leisure in the city.
10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast* we check out of our hotel and head off for the last day of our Tour.
10.45hr Arrive at 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.
12.30hr Arrive at the newly expanded and huge Huyghe Brewery in Melle, most famed for their flagship brew and distinctive bottle Delirium Tremens. The brewery though vast is in the centre of the town of Melle and was founded in 1906 by Leon Huyghe who bought an old established brewery on this site, but it was named Huyghe only in 1938. Like many Belgian breweries between the wars they started only brewing bottom fermented pilsner, but soon moved to top fermented special ales, including a series of beers under the "Delirium" name with pink elephants and other strange creatures (said to be seen in the various stages of delirium tremens) on the label of the distinctive stone-look bottle. The best known is Delirium Tremens, a strong blonde Belgian ale of 8.5%abv. They also brew Delirium Nocturnum a dark brown-red 8.5%abv and Delirium Noël a winter seasonal chestnut amber spicy beer of 10.0% abv. They brew other product ranges such as the Mongozo, Floris, Averbode and St Idesbald beer ranges. Here we will have a brewery tour* including a look at their brand new magnificent brewhouse and we will have a taste of beer* in their large tasting room and museum. They have a great brewery merchandise shop full of pink elephant products which hopefully will be open. Their thongs come highly recommended.
14.00hr Leave Huyghe Brewery, Melle.
15.00hr Arrive at the brilliant seafront Beer Café and Restaurant Venus in Middelkerke. This excellent beer café has a whopping choice of 126 beers for you to choose from, and they carry beers from some of the best brewers in Belgium. Sea views can be had from the picture windows as this café is right on the promenade, or the Zeedijk.
17.30hr Leave for Eurotunnel.
18.30hr Arrive Calais.
19.50hr Leave Calais on Eurotunnel.
19.30hr Arrive Folkestone.
19.45hr Coach drop off Stop24 J11 M20 near Folkestone Kent CT21 4BL.
20.05hr Coach drop Ashford.
20.50hr Coach drop 7 Mays Siding, London Rd, Swanley, Kent BR8 8EE.
21.05hr Coach drop Dartford Railway Station DA1 1BP.
21.45hr Coach drop Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0EA.
22.15hr Coach drop Chapel St South Layby Southway, Colchester CO2 7BA.
22.45hr Coach drop Crown Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 3HS (opp NCP Car park).
23.15hr Coach reaches destination Galloways depot, Denters Hill, Mendlesham, Suffolk, IP14 5RR.
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.
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.