Checking in at a modest 79km, this is one of the longest Beer & Bike rides that I have done. But it is also one of the nicest since it combines two namesakes for Belgian abbey beers, one very nice fietscafe, and beautiful scenery from the Kempen forest on the Netherlands-Belgian border.
The ride starts from the Mol train station, zips up the Kanaal Dessel Kwaadmechelen, right along the Kanaal Bocholt Herentals, then up into the Netherlands and the Kempen. As mentioned in a previous blog, all along the border between the Netherlands and Belgium are reminders of the electric fence (“Dodendraad”) the Germans installed in World War I to keep Belgians from fleeing into neutral Netherlands. One of these spots is located on this route.
After passing into the Netherlands and the Kempen Bos (forest), we come upon one of the great joys of bicycling in Belgium and Netherlands, the fietscafe. Grabbing an uitsmijter and a new beer for lunch at a fietscafe is part of the joy of the Beer & Bike ride. In this case, it was Herberg in het Wilde Zwijn. One of the lovely characteristics about cafes in Belgium and Netherlands is that once you have a table, it is yours. There is no rush or pressure from the waitstaff to hurry you out.
On this beautiful August afternoon in 2015, it was tempting to sit and relax in the sun, but it was still early in the bike ride. So onward thru the Kempen forest and wrapping back into Belgium for the first beer pilgrimage, De Abdij Van Postel.
The Postel Abbey was started in 1140 (noted on the beer glass) and as with most abbeys, the canons brewed their own beer for many years. Today the Postel beer is brewed in the Affligem brewery in Opwijk, but it is served at the abbey cafe, which is where I stopped to enjoy a Postel at Postel and read a few pages of the book I was carrying along. I chose the Postel bruin (or dubbel), a very characteristic and rich abbey beer.
Further along in the bike ride is the second beer pilgrimage, the Priory of Corsendonk, well not exactly a priory. Today the property which used to be the priory is a hotel. But between 1398 and 1784, it was a priory. A priory is more or less a lower ranking abbey. As can be judged from the year it which it ended, it would have been vanquished by the French Revolution. But in this case, contrary to other institutions such as Postel Abbey, the Priory of Corsendonk never recovered.
The Corsendonk abbey beer is not a traditional abbey beer, but a marketing invention in 1982 when the local tourist office sought out a local brewer to develop a beer named Corsendonk. This beer is contracted out to Brasserie du Bocq. The best place to have the Corsendonk beer is the nearby cafe, Corsendonks Hof.
79km + 3 beers is not always the best combination. Arriving at the destination in Turnhout, which is a nice small city, I skipped the photo opportunities and made my way to the train station for the first train back to Antwerpen. The first half of the route was incredibly nice. After Postel, the route was more farmland and less interesting. Next time I will take a little more time to visit Turnhout. This route comes highly recommended for the Beer & Bike enthusiast or those seeking a scenic ride in the Belgium-Netherlands borderlands. I created the route on the Fietsnet website. I tried to map out the waypoints for this post, but the markers have changed in the last year. Below I show the route which I recorded with the Strava app.