Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours

Tour 95 / Christmas in Antwerp 2018

Saturday 22 December – Thursday 27 December 2018

We love Belgium (and winter beers) at Christmas and this Tour stayed for five nights in the city of Antwerp at the central Ibis Hotel and spent Christmas Day in a brewery. The full itinerary for this Tour is set out below.

Christmas in Antwerp 2018

Day 1 – Saturday 22 December

Very early! Galloways Coach starts from Galloways depot at Denters Hill, Mendlesham, Suffolk IP14 5RR.

04.15hr Coach pick up at bus shelter outside Crown House, Crown Street, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 3HS (opposite NCP Car Park).

04.45hr Coach pick up Chapel St South Layby Southway, Colchester CO2 7BA.

05.15hr Coach pick up at The Woolpack, Mildmay Road, Chelmsford, Essex CM2 0DN.

06.00hr Coach pick up Esso Dartford Service Station, 474 Princes Rd, Dartford DA1 1YT.

06.15hr Coach pick up 7 Mays Siding, London Rd, Swanley, Kent BR8 8EE.

07.00hr Coach pick up Premier Inn, Eureka Leisure Park, Rutherford Road, Ashford TN25 4BN.

07.15hr Coach pick up Stop24 J11 M20 near Folkestone Kent CT21 4BL.

08.36hr Eurotunnel Train Crossing from Folkestone.

10.20hr Arrive Calais.

11.30hr Coach pick up one traveller at De Panne railway station (Adinkerke).

12.15hr Our first stop is at one of our absolute favourites Bistro Nieuwege in Varsenare. This pretty waterside café is on the banks of the Ghent-Brugge-Oostende canal which connects the North Sea to the Belgian interior. This lovely West Flanders gem is run by the friendly Didier, Sofie, Jim & Jay. Their beer list is staggering and runs to a whopping 126 choices. We find it hard to tear our travellers and ourselves away from this place and Didier is bound to have something wintry on draught for us, or you could go for something from his brilliant selection of strong bottled De Struise Brouwers beers. Here we will have our pre-arranged meal and a beer or two.

14.15hr Leave Bistro Nieuwege, Varsenare.

15.00hr Arrive at the Kantien on the outskirts of Ghent. A fairly recent addition to the burgeoning Ghent beer scene, this is a great conversion of a water sports centre building within the university sports area. The bar is at the end of the rowing straight, a five lane rowing course built in 1954 using part of the River Leie (Fr. Lys) which flows through it. Two annual regattas are held here. Food (and water sports) are the major draw here but their beer menu extends to an excellent 60-strong choice. They are all top drawer beers with four on draught including L’Arogante 7.2%abv and if you haven’t tried it yet go for the luscious Excuse Me While I Kiss my Stout in bottles. Expect beers from Contreras, Boon, Sint Bernardus, Dilewyns, De Ranke, Jessenhofke, Verzet, De Graal, Plukker, Cantillon and Hof ten Dormaal.

16.00hr Leave the Kantien, Kanodreef, Ghent.

16.45hr Arrive at our base for the next five nights Hotel Ibis Antwerpen Centrum. The evening is free for you to explore the beautiful city of Antwerp armed with copies of Podge’s Central Antwerp Bar Guide* and map* which is the central part of our full, online Podge’s Antwerp City Bar Guide.

Day 2 – Sunday 23 December

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. This is a pretty farm, brewery and cafe at the edge of the village of Chaam which is the brewery tap for the Pimpelmeesch Brewery. They have a beer café and brewery created in 2013 inside a huge thatched barn, formerly part of an old 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 the 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. Siobhan will buy everyone a house beer on arrival*. The beers in their range include:

Schoentje. Their house beer, Little Shoe is a 6%abv blonde and the only one available on draught.

Zilverpel (Silver Spoon) is a 6.5%abv blonde named after a Dutch breed of chicken.

Goudpel (Gold Spoon) is a 7.5%abv amber also named after a Dutch chicken breed.

Chaams Tarwebier is a German-style Heffe-Weißen wheat beer at 5.5%abv.

Chaamse Dubbel is their abbey-style dark of 7.0%abv.

Chaamse Bockbier is a caramel malty beer at 6.8%abv.

Chaamse Tripel is an abbey-style blonde tripel at 8.5%abv.

Chaams Winterbier is a robin-red beer at 8.5%abv.

12.30hr Leave Toontje Schoen in Chaam.

12.45hr Arrive at the excellent Frontaal Brewery in Breda. On his nineteenth birthday Roel Buckens went backpacking in Australia and got a taste for beer. On his return here 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. Brewery Frontaal is a young microbrewery founded by Roel in 2013. Roel has been so successful that demand has outstripped supply and he wants to upscale production and is looking for crowd funding. He has a core range to which he adds seasonal brews. The slogan of the brewery is: Beer for thought. Roel wants his customers to try a wide selection of beers tastes and flavours. Frontaal aims to appeal to anyone who is open to new tastes, whether you are a beginner or a "beer nerd". Here are their core beers, but they will doubtless have a selection of others over Christmas:

Tankard – an American session IPA, massively dry-hopped with Amarillo, Centennial, Brewers gold and Cascade. 3.9%abv.

Author – Belgian Wheat Ale, 5%abv.

Freehand – A French saison-style at 6.8%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 made with Bourbon Royale coffee beans. 10.1%abv.

Rhodesian – an American Barley wine at a sturdy 11.3%abv. Here we will have a look at their brewery* and a taste of their beers at their new tasting room on the same site. First beer on Siobhan*.

13.45hrish Leave at Frontaal Brewery in Breda.

14.00hrish 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 at an agreed location.

19.00hr Coach drops at our hotel in Antwerp for an evening at leisure in the city.

Day 3 – Monday 24 December

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast in our hotel* we board the coach.

10.45hr Arrive at brewery VBDCK or to give it its full name Verbeeck-Back-De Cock Brewery in Tielrode. This tiny brewery was founded in 2017 but came to the market with a knowing eye to wordplay advertising, especially in English. They like crossings out crossings out. They have a sense of humour, as you will see. They also have an active online shop for beer sales. Their bottles non-standard Belgian beer bottles and are unusual and distinctively squat. The building was formerly the old Verbeeck-Back Brewery back in the nineteenth century but they stopped brewing in the 1960s. Meanwhile the Verbeeck-Back brewing family married into the De Cock family and created a ridiculously-long-named-brewery-which-is-just-as-impossible-to-remember in its acronym format, VBDCK. They occupy the former brewery buildings and opened an eight room hotel in 2018. They brew the Kerel range of beers (roughly translates as Bloke, Guy, Chap) with:

India Pale Ale 5%abv – an English-inspired IPA.

Saison 5.5%abv – a yeasty and bitterish beer.

Stout 5.5%abv – a roasty, coffee, chocolatey stout.

Dark IPA 6%abv (sorry, to (i) PFW (ii) all those who object to contradictions in terms (iii) Miniature Giants.

Biere de Garde 7.5%abv – a French inspired malty amber beer.

Pink Imperial 8%abv – a stout with raspberry added.

Grapefruit IPA 5%abv – Somebody has to try this one.

Here we will have a look round the brewery* and a taste of their beer*.

12.15hr Leave Verbeeck-Back-De Cock (VBDCK) Brewery in Tielrode.

12.15hr Arrive at De Watermolen (The Watermill) in the village of Hamme. This is a beautiful café in a quirky three storey building (which presumably was once a water mill) situated on a waterway called the Oude Durme. This is a tributary of the River Schelde which is now separated from the main Durme waterway, like an ox-bow lake. The attraction here is the pretty waterside setting and views from the terraces. Here we can have a go at their 45-strong beer list. They have the luscious dark Vicaris Generaal at 8.5%abv which is a top beer and you need to try it is you have not done so before and like big, dark brews which are not sweet.

14.15hr Leave De Watermolen, Hamme.

14.00hr Arrive at Ganzenhof in Willebroek. This is a children’s petting zoo called the Kinderboerderij De Specht (The Woodpecker Children’s Farm). They have llamas, goats, pigs, peacocks and a Green Turaco. Yes, really. Thing is, they also have a beer café here called the Goose Yard which offers 100 beer choices on their card. Here we will have our pre-arranged meal and a beer or two and hopefully a look at the wildlife.

16.30hr Leave the Ganzenhof in Willebroek.

17.00hr Coach drops at our hotel in Antwerp for an evening at leisure in the city.

Day 5 – Tuesday 25 December

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 in the Netherlands.

13.00hr Arrive at the Brewery and Restaurant Slot Oostende in Goes in the centre of the town right 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. We begin with a brewery tour* reached by crossing the lovely living wall gardens, followed by a beer tasting* of four small beers in the beautiful renovated underground medieval vaults. Their beer range includes:

Wit Voetje, a German-style Heffe Weißen, 4.5%abv

BLØF Aan, a golden ale of 5%abv.

Blonde Jacoba 5%abv.

Straffe, a non-India Pale Ale of 6.5%abv.

Dubbel Slot, an abbey-style dubbel of 7%abv.

Poortwachter, a porter at 7%abv.

Schorre bock, a doppelbock of 8%abv.

Gouden Gans, an abbey-style tripel at 8%abv.

14.30hr We proceed to the beautiful restaurant, upstairs 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 no less than eight sorts of stout. Here we will have a buffet meal including fresh homemade beer soup, smoked ham with melon, various breads, tapenades and herb butter, salad with tuna, salad with marinaded chicken, meatballs in mushroom sauce, homemade beef stew cooked in house beer, homemade 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 the Brewery and Restaurant Slot Ostende in Goes.

18.30hr Coach drops at our hotel in Antwerp for an evening at leisure in the city.

Day 6 – Wednesday 26 December

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast in our hotel* we board the coach.

11.00hr Arrive at Het Nest Brewery in Turnhout. This is a new small brewery but produces excellent quality beers. It all started about ten years ago with a group of hobby-brewers who hired a brewer to contract brew for them. Their recipes were so good that they got enough money to build their own brewery and started brewing here in 2015. Half their beer is exported and it is said that they have hired a brewery to make their beers in…Brazil. Their beers are all named after and follow the theme of playing cards because Turnhout is famous for its playing card industry, housing the head office of the world's largest manufacturer of playing cards, Cartamundi. Turnhout is also home to the Museum of the Playing Card. Our itinerary is too packed to fit in a visit – maybe another time! Here we will have a look at the brewery* and a taste of their beer* in their comfy tasting room. Their main playing card beers are as follows but like many other small Belgian new breweries they are fond of barrel-ageing their beers on wood.

Four Aces Kelderbier 5.5%abv. A hazy golden sweetish, malty beer.

HertenHeer – King of Hearts, a 6.5%abv blonde bitter beer.

Koekedam – Queen of Diamonds a 6.5%abv saison-style beer.

SchuppenAas – Ace of Spades a 6.5%abv Orval-inspired beer using a different yeast for the first fermentation but like Orval the second yeast strain is a Brett. Also dry-hopped, like Orval.

Schuppenboer Tripel - Jack of Spades 8%abv, fruity and inspired by La Chouffe, also brewed with coriander.

Schuppenboer Tripel Grand Cru - Jack of Spades Grand Cru is based on the Tripel but has an increased alcohol content at 10%abv.

Klevere Tien – Ten of Clubs is a 10%abv winter quadruple brewed with aniseed.

Two Faced Jack is a 10%abv blend of Schuppenboer and Klever tien.

Dead Man's Hand is their fabulous 10%abv black Russian Imperial Stout with chocolate, coffee, caramel, raisins and aniseed notes. Dead man's hand is a nickname for a poker hand of a two black aces and two black eights. The hand was said to have been held by Wild Bill Hickok when he was murdered.

12.30hr Leave Het Nest Brewery, Turnhout.

12.50hr Arrive at the Staminee de Crawaett in the village of Lille. This is a smart modern café in a big locals venue. They stock a mighty 120 beers featuring proper geuzes including Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen and support plenty of local breweries too. They are opening especially for us today. Here we will have a beer or two.

14.00hr Leave Staminee de Crawaett in Lille.

14.30hr Arrive at Het Badhuis in Kessel. The Bath house is a lovely little place which started life as a bathing suit changing hut. In the 1890s a chap called Vranckx had the idea of making money from swimming here in the Nete River which is a tributary of the River Schelde running into the sea at Antwerp. In 1896 push bars were installed under the bridge here to create a swimming dock. During the summer they created a real beach and hundreds of people from all over the region came to swim. There was a small wooden hut where you could change into your swim suit, for a small fee or rent one from the Vranckx family. A year later they built this cafe pub, which was given the French name "Maison des Bains" which still adorns the front of the building along with its build date. From 1913 swimming and water polo competitions were held here and thousands of visitors attended. The Bath House Café was in the hands of the Vrancx family for five generations but sadly people stopped swimming in the 1960s when the River Nete was polluted by industrialization and the water plants and fish died. Elderly Leo closed the pub in recent years and lay empty for a year, but local Helene has lovingly renovated the building beautifully a la 1920s style. Here we will have our pre-arranged meal and a beer or two from their bijou menu. The speciality of the house is Gageleer on draught which is brewed with Bog myrtle.

17.00hr Leave Het Badhuis in Kessel.

17.30hr Coach drops at our hotel in Antwerp for an evening at leisure in the city.

Day 6 – Thursday 27 December

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast* we check out of our hotel and head off for the last day of our Tour.

10.45hrArrive at Boelens Brewery in Belsele. Kris Boelens restarted his family brewery in 1993. We have not visited here for many years. When he first re-stared their most often seen beer was the Bieken brewed with honey, but as tastes have moved away from sweeter beers they now have a range of quality beers which you may not have seen before, as they are still a very small brewery. Here is what they get up to brewing-wise:

Tripel Klok an 8.5% tripel is their best-selling beer which is hoppy and spicy.

Dubbel Klok an 8.5%abv dubbel dark beer.

Bieken is their 8.5%abv hazy orange lightly honeyed blonde beer.

Waase Wolf a 6.5% spicier amber beer brewed in memory of a wolf that is supposed to roam in this area of Flanders (known as the Waasland or land of mists) killing sheep. The wolf on the label says “Niet voor schaapjes” which translates as "Not for little lambs".

Waase Kriek a 5%abv cherry beer

Waaslander is a 6%abv pale wheaty blonde session beer, named for the local area.

Hubert is a 5.5%abv blonde beer brewed to celebrate the dying craft of pigeon-breeding in Flanders.

Santa Bee is an 8.5%abv which is a dark malty, caramel-hued winter brew. Here we will have a brewery visit* and a taste of their beer*.

12.15hr Leave Boelens Brewery in Belsele.

12.45hr 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.

13.45hr Leave Dranken Geers, Oostakker.

14.50hr Arrive at our last stop of the Tour at the excellent Beer-Café-Restaurant ‘t Hof van Hemel in the beautiful town of Veurne. Here we will have a pre-arranged meal and a crack at their beer list which extends to over 100 choices including some rarities. This is one of Veurne’s oldest houses and you can see the recently discovered fire break passage to enable water to reach crowded buildings at the rear, the width of a man carrying two buckets. Opposite the café is the bust of Veurne's famous son Karel Cogge who was in charge of the inland waterways which were used to flood the land and keep the Germans out of this little corner of Belgium in the 1914-1918 war. Next door is the house where double Nobel Prize-winner Marie Curie stayed during the First World War when she brought her experimental medical radiology (x-ray) equipment here.

17.45hr 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.

20.00hr Coach drop off Premier Inn, Eureka Leisure Park, Rutherford Road, Ashford TN25 4BN.

20.45hr Coach drop off 7 Mays Siding, London Rd, Swanley, Kent BR8 8EE.

21.00hr Coach drop off Dartford Railway Station DA1 1BP.

21.45hr Coach drop off The Woolpack, Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0DN.

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.

Tour Price to be issued in early 2019 will be per person based on sharing in a twin or double room

Single Supplement: £to be advised later in 2019

If you are travelling alone and want to share a room with another traveller please contact Siobhan 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 join us please send Siobhan an email or call on +44 (0)1245 354677.

All Tours are subject to our Terms and Conditions.

book this tour