Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours

Tour 99 / Christmas in Antwerp 2019

Sunday 22 December – Friday 27 December 2019

We love Belgium (and winter beers) at Christmas and we love taking a coach full of like-minded people. For Christmas 2019 we are booked in for five nights at the centrally located Ibis Hotel in Antwerp and we have arranged a full day's entertainment on Christmas Day at the lovely Slot Oostende. The full timed itinerary is set out below.

We are based in Chelmsford, Essex and we usually use Eurotunnel at Folkestone to get to and from Belgium by coach. Most of our Travellers join us at our main pick up point outside The Woolpack, 23 Mildmay Road, Chelmsford. Many of our Travellers come from other parts of UK and abroad and stay the night before a Tour (and often the night of our return) at Chelmsford Travelodge only a few minutes walk from The Woolpack or Premier Inn near the Station, about a 10 minute walk to the pick up point at The Woolpack. We all usually pop in to The Woolpack the night before departure for a meet, greet and a few beers with Siobhan who is your Tour Manager, Tour Guide and drinking pal for the duration.

If you want to join us on this Tour please send Siobhan an email or call her on +44 (0)1245 354677 for details on how to secure a place and pay.

Day 1 - Sunday 22 December 2019

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 at The Woolpack, Mildmay Road, Chelmsford, Essex 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.

08.00hr Coach pick up Premier Inn, Eureka Leisure Park, Rutherford Road, Ashford TN25 4BN.

08.15hr Coach pick up Stop24 J11 M20 near Folkestone, Kent CT21 4BL.

09.20hr Eurotunnel from Folkestone.

11.00hr Arrive Calais.

12.15hr Arrive at De Vlaschaard Beer and Eetcafe in the village of Stene just inland from Ostend. The Flaxfield is a pretty restaurant café in a picturesque village next to the windmill and church. Here we will have a pre-arranged meal and a crack at their really good 70+ beer list with a strong slant to local breweries and a plentiful eight beers on draught.

14.30hr Leave De Vlaschaard, Stene.

15.30hr Arrive at Den Tseut Brewery (named after a local dialect word for pig) in Oosteeklo. This is a small brewery which started up in 2008 with old milk stainless steel equiment. They use all Belgian hops, which is becoming ‘a thing’ in Belgian breweries these days. We will have a brewery tour* and beer tasting of some of their beers*. Look out for these core beers:

• De Tseut 6.5%abv - their blonde beer.

• Den Mulder 8%abv - a strong blond with rye, oats and spelt.

• Bi3r 9.5%abv - a spicy dry-hopped tripel.

• Bras 10%abv - a strong roasty, dark ale.

• Belle Cies 9%abv - a barley wine with Champagne yeast.

Look out for the charmingly named Hoppesnoet 8.5%abv tripel IPA.

17.00hr Leave Den Tseut Brewery in Oosteeklo.

18.00hr 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 online Podge’s Antwerp City Bar Guide.

Day 2 - Monday 23 December 2019

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast in our hotel* we board the coach for a day south west of Antwerp along the mighty River Schelde. We may fit in a stop before:

12.00hr Arrival at Cuyteghemhoeve Café & Petting Farm in St Amands near a bend in the mighty River Schelde. This is a children’s petting farm and café in an old farm which once had a brewery. The Seger’s family run it today and have done for generations. It offers a whopping 200 beers on the card (at what the Belgian’s call ‘democratic prices’) and have a house blonde and dark brown beer brewed by Brouwerij Malheur in nearby Buggenhout, so it should be good.

14.00hr Leave Cuyteghemhoeve Café in Sint Amands.

14.30hr Arrive at the beautiful Den Duiventoren in Bazel for a leisurely lunch stop. This restaurant is in the grounds of the beautiful East Flanders castle Wisserkerke with the oldest surviving wrought iron suspension bridge in Belgium and as if that were not exciting enough, the restaurant is in the brick tower dove-cot of the castle with room for 700 pigeons. The iron suspension bridge was built in 1824 and spans the castle moat. I am hoping we can have a peek at it since its recent restoration and it has been a protected monument since 2004.

17.00hr Leave Den Duiventoren in Bazel.

17.20hr Arrive at Café Plato in Beveren. This is a great cafe at the centre of town life on the square which at this time of year has an outdoor ice rink. Expect exposed ducting, rafters, brick and plasterwork. Shopping list for Screwfix? No, just a downtown Belgian bar with 150 beers on the card including picks from Boelens, Van Den Bossche, Dolle Brouwers, Het Anker, De Ranke, Boon and Dilewyns. Nine beers on tap. Bound to be something dark.

19.30hr Leave Café Plato in Beveren.

20.00hrish Coach drops at our hotel in Antwerp for an evening at leisure in the city, or an early night after a nightcap in the hotel bar!

Day 3 - Tuesday 24 December 2019

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

10.45hr Arrive at and get dropped off in the centre of the town of Lier. Podge Tours have been visited here before but 12 years ago! We are coming here for two things. The famous Zimmer clock and Belgian Beer.

The amazing clock was built by local clock maker and astronomer Louis Zimmer who worked in his dad’s watch and clock shop in town. He made the clock in 1930 and it was installed in the ancient tower which was once part of the towns defensive walls. This is not just any clock. It consists of 12 clocks around a central face and the whole thing has 57 dials. It gives the time on all continents, they day, month, season, the rotation of the earth, the phases of the moon, the time of the tide, which bit of the Zodiac we are in and the metonic cycle on a dial which revolves once every 19 years. At noon daily doors open in the sides of the tower and local and national personalities pop out including three Belgian kings, the Belgian lion and six Lier mayors. Can’t wait!

We’ll be dropped off near the clock tower and we’ll proceed to the visitor’s centre/clock museum/planetarium and we’ll have a visit* and a look at the inside of the Zimmer Tower and the several floors which house the clock mechanism*. For those who are thirsty, it is near all the central beer cafes in town and you can go straight for those if you like armed with a copy of Podge’s Lier Bar Guide and Map* copies of which will be handed out on Tour.

There is plenty to see in Lier and we’ll have some time here to rest or see the sights, have a beer and get something to eat if you wish. You will notice lots of references to Sheep-Heads in Lier. The local people are known as sheep heads and seem quite proud of it. You’ll see chocolates, cakes, pies and statues all in the shape of sheep heads. Reason: in the 1300s Duke Jan II wanted to reward the city of Lier for helping him fight the people of Mechelen city. He offered the residents of Lier to build either a prestigious university or a livestock market. They chose the animal market and the Duke reputedly sighed at their low-brow choice saying “Oh those wretched sheep heads" (Schapenkoppen). It stuck. Today a herd of bronze sheep near the Zimmer Tower, opposite to the Zuster Agnes Café (on our bar guide) are a modern reminder of this historical episode. You can sit on the sheep for a selfie.

16.30hr Leave Lier.

17.15hr Coach drops at our hotel in Antwerp for an evening at leisure in the city.

Day 4 - Wednesday 25 December 2019

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. Slot Oostende brew their own beers and also the great Emelisse range. Their own beer range includes:

• Mosselbier - German-style Heffe Weißen, 4.5%abv

• Blonde Jacoba – a fruity, bitter blonde beer, 5%abv.

• Straffe Non – an IPA of 6.5%abv.

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

• Poortwachter, a porter at 7%abv.

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

The Slot Oostende beers have the “Zeker Zeeuws” regional quality mark which guarantees their product are truly Zeeland. This means that the products are made with ingredients grown, fished or produced with Zeeland raw materials, sustainably. Nice.

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 5 - Thursday 26 December 2019

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast in our hotel* we leave by coach for a day in the province of North Brabant in the Netherlands, principally in and around Breda.

10.45hr Arrive at De Zevenster 'Bij De Paters' on the Belgian side of the Belgian-Dutch border at Hoogstraten. This is a brief stop for a beer at this bar in the grounds of the Capuchin Monastery Meersel-Dreef. There is a small beer list but with two outstanding beers on draught being Westmalle Dubbel and also De Drevenier, an artisanal blond beer brewed exclusively for the Capuchin friars in Meersel-Dreef by De Koninck Brewery of Antwerp. This is also the site of a Lourdes Grotto and a sculpture garden which has been a place of religious pilgrimage by Belgian and Dutch people for over 100 years. There is a new Padre Pio statue which was brought back from Italy in a van by Capuchin monks which is much revered here. Padre Pio, now Saint Pio, was an Italian Capuchin monk. Siobhan will tell you more should you wish to know, on Tour, and you'll have the opportunity to visit the Grotto and the peaceful park during our stay if you so wish.

12.30hr Leave De Zevenster in Hoogstraten.

12.45hr Arrive at the Beer Advertising Museum (Bierreclame) in Breda for a visit* and a beer. In 1990 collector Jan Hemmer opened the doors of the museum to the public. It is an exhibition of historical beer advertising and there are over 1000 pieces. It is said to be the largest collection in The Netherlands and perhaps in Europe. Enamel signs, posters, an old lorry, brewery machines, neon lights, glasses, beer labels, ash-trays, and beer mats are here dating from 1900 to 1960. Best of all they have a lovely old (working) bar where we can have some refreshment.

14.15hr Leave the Beer Advertising Museum in Breda.

14.30hr Pay a visit to the excellent Frontaal Brewery in Breda at their new location. We will have a brewery tour*, a Stout Beer Tasting* and a pre-chosen meal. This brewery was established by Roel Buckens who got a taste for beer backpacking in Australia when he was 19. On his return here he hobby brewed in his kitchen every week, then in 2013 he installed a microbrewery at STEK, a business area in Breda for creative entrepreneurs. Roel crowd funded and has now opened a brewery and tasting room and bar in this magnificent new factory site. They have a massive 31 beers on tap. 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.

17.30hr Leave Breda.

18.20hr Arrive at Café Mombasa in Antwerp. I have been wanting to visit this place for a while – it sound great! 60+ quality beers including loads of gueuzes and beers from De La Senne & Struise Brouwers. Come and find out why it is called Café Mombasa!

19.30hrish Leave Café Mombasa in Antwerp. We will go by coach but this cafe is about a 25 minute walk from our hotel for those who would like the exercise.

19.40hrish Coach drops at our hotel in Antwerp for an evening at leisure in the city.

Day 6 - Friday 27 December 2019

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

10.50hr Arrive at Dranken Geers in Oostakker, the best beer warehouse in East Flanders. Here we have an opportunity to buy beers to take home. The friendly family here do take bank cards for payment.

12.00hr Leave Dranken Geers, Oostakker.

12.45hr Arrive at De Leite Brewery in Ruddervoorde. This is a brilliant little brewery housed inside the posh Helbig Shopfitting factory. Luc started here in 2008 as a bit of a hobby and the brewery and its beers have grown into real quality players. Their labels are all drawn and designed by a family friend and these are superb. Recently the brewery redesigned their labels to continue to showcase the artwork, whilst displaying clearly the necessary information on style, strength etc. which is increasing required for foreign exports. Here we will have a brewery visit* and a taste of their beer*. They are all great and the names of the beers are themed on French two word phrases for a type of person/member of the family - Bon Homme, Femme Fatale, Enfant Terriple...and loads more.

14.15hr Leave De Leite Brewery in Ruddervoorde.

14.45hr Our last 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 Jim, his dad Didier, Sofie & 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 they are bound to have something wintry and dark on draught for us, or you could go for something from his brilliant selection of strong bottled De Struise Brouwers beers. Black Albert. Probably. If you can't get hold of Black Albert go for the Cuvee Delphine, you won't regret it. Here we will have our pre-arranged meal and a beer or two.

17.15hr Leave Bistro Nieuwege, Varsenare.

18.30hr Arrive Eurotunnel, 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.

21.05hr Coach drop off Dartford Railway Station DA1 1BP.

21.50hr Coach drop at Travelodge, 128-136 Parkway, Chelmsford CM2 7GY.

21.55hr Coach drop off The Woolpack, Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0DN.

22.10hr Coach drop off at Premier Inn Victoria Road, Chelmsford CM1 1NY.

23.25hr Coach drop Chapel St South Layby Southway, Colchester CO2 7BA.

23.10hr Coach drop Crown Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 3HS (opp NCP Car park).

23.40hr Coach reaches destination Galloways depot, Denters Hill, Mendlesham, Suffolk, IP14 5RR.

Tour Price is £795 per person sharing a twin or double room

Single Supplement: £225

We regret that we need to charge a single supplement for travellers who would like their own room. This is because increasingly there is no such thing as a single room price in hotels and room prices for a single person or two person occupancy are either the same or with very little difference. 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 payment of the Single Supplement.

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.

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