Here at itsabrewtifulworld, it is sometimes not good enough to simply go to a pub and enjoy a beer. Remembering my motto that It’s not just a beer. It’s a Journey, getting to the beer is half the fun and should never be taken for granted. It is a fantastic thing that there are an incredible number of beer pilgimages right here in my backyard. Belgium is the home of Abdij and Trappisten beers so not only are there many breweries to visit, there are many abbeys and beer namesakes to visit as well. The Flanders part of Belgium is a spiderweb of well-marked and organized bike trails which stick close to scenic and historic places and away from busy roads. And with these bike trails, cycling trips to these pilgrim sites are easy to organize.
A good website to plan these cycling trips is fietsnet.be. The individually marked waypoints are called knooppunts. One can simply select the waypoints and follow the posted signs without really needing a map or gps, although they help because it is inevitable that I will miss a sign at least once and find myself off track. The local tourist offices also have maps of pre-arranged routes which usually follow some theme. One of these is the Brouwersroute and subject of this post.
This 51,3km route is designed to take one past three breweries and a couple of former ones. As I would find out, starting this route before lunch time on a Friday would prevent me from visiting two of the breweries and sampling their beer. My recommendation for doing this route during the summer is to start from Haacht on Saturdays around 13h00.
Below are screenshots of the total route using GPS Tracks. The final distance was 63km thanks in part to one wrong turn and that the route does not include the distance from the Haacht train station. My average speed is indicative of the fact that I’m not out there just trying to cover the distance as fast as possible but to actually stop along the way, take photos and take in some sites.
The first brewery on the route was Brouwerij Kampenhout which naturally can be found on Brouwerijstraat in Kampenhout. I arrived there around 12h30 (the associated pub is called Het Labo or The Laboratory) and they were not opening until 14h00. Tough luck. Couldn’t even find their beer in a local convenience store.
A bit of scenery along the way to the next brewery – my obligatory cow photo (can’t resist), my first sight of Belgian pear trees, and Boortmeerbeek’s World War Memorial.
The second brewery, Hof Ten Dormaal,is only open for tastings on some Saturdays, but nearby was an old tower,Toren Ter Heyden, which fancies itself to have once been a dungeon, built around 1350. For a time, there was a brewery here. But that closed in 1939 and now it is possible to do beer tastings on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of every month. For more info go to their website.
The final brewery is both the starting and ending point of this ride, Brouwerij Haacht. At this brewery, Primus, Tongerlo, and Keizer Karel are made. It is only possible to take a tour with a group reservation, but across the street, the beers can be tasted at the Brasserie Brouwershof. I tried two new ones, Primus met Gist (alc. 5,6%) and the Primus Export 8 (alc. 4,7%), both pilsners and low alcohol for Belgian beer – perfect for after a bike ride. Primus met Gist (yeast) is an unfiltered beer that is only available at Brouwershof. The history behind this beer goes back to when railroad workers used to show up to the brewery taps and fill their glass jars with the unfiltered beer knowing it had more flavor.
Every beer should be a journey and should accompany a great bike ride – a bike ride which should give one a look into the beauty, life and culture of places such as the small villages of Belgium. I am passionate about these ‘beer and bike’ rides – I have many to review from the past, many to repeat, and many more yet to accomplish. It is a brewtiful world…