Where to begin? Having just returned from our Brugge to Brussels adventure I am not sure how to convey just how much fun this trip was. Thinking about the cornerstones of what makes a good Beer & Bike Holiday it really comes down to a few things:
- Amazing Cycling
- Great Beer
- Fun People
Belgium has all of this and much, much more! Our Adventure was spent in Flanders. We started the trip off in Brugge. A UNESCO World Heritage city. Brugge is home to two breweries, De Halve Maan and Bourgogne des Flandres, and more beer bars and bottle shops than you could imagine. Our lodging was 1 block off the main square which has on any given day live music, farmers markets and just a general gathering of fun stuff. As we generally do we set off for a shakedown ride to make sure the bikes fit well. In this case we decided to ride to Sluis in Holland. After stopping at a bakery for a tort we rode back and made our was to De Halve Maan. De Halve Maan has an underground beer pipeline from the brewery to the bottling facility just out side of town. Crazy!
When we were not at breweries and cycling in Brugge we hopped from beer bar to beer bar. My personal favorite was the 't Brugs Beetje. There is a bit of special Fort Collins connection to the Beertje as it is mentioned on every New Belgium tour so I am in awe that it lived up too and exceeded the hype it receives. The best part is that it is a simple wonderful little bar devoid of hype and excess. We spent many an evening here.
After 2 days in Brugge we rode along the Fietsroutes to Ghent.
It is hard to explain if you have not been there but the cycling route network in Belgium, Fietsroute, is incredible. Each route is sign posted and numbered. Not only that but the signs are well maintained and easy to follow. With very little exception the routing works great, like anywhere there is an odd missing sign. Marco explained to us that it was designed by a miner who applied the same marking system used in old mines to bike routes making it easy to follow with out the need for names or landmarks.
Cycling along the countryside you will cross from tarmac, to trail and all sorts in between. It is possible to stay on pavement but you would miss out on little cobbled gems and cow paths all signposted to show you what Belgium is really like. Leaving Brugge we stopped for a visit at a small brewers shop named Prearis. Andy talked us through his beers and how his brewery is evolving. This is a brewery to watch out for. They are going to grow fast. As we rolled closer to Ghent you would begin to catch glimpses of the Belfort in the distance. Upon arrival we walked over to the Gentse Gruut Brewery and sampled some lovely beers brewed with Herbs instead of Hops. These were so smooth and good.
From Ghent we went on to Antwerp. In Antwerp we visited De Koninck before a Beer Walk around the city with our friend Hans. Hans is a native of Antwerp and assistant brewer at 't Pakhuis. "t Pakhuis has one of the most awesome beers in Belgium aptly named Bangelijke which is awesome in Flemish.
Riding out from Antwerp we were once again greeted by small roads, dirt lanes, and past potential hobbit homes on our way to the Wetmalle Abbey to sample some Trappist beer. The brewery is closed to the public but you can sample the goodness on draft at the Cafe Trappisten across the street. So yummy. You can even have a blend of the Dubbel and Trippel if you would like.
After a brunch beer we rode on to Mechelen for our Brewery stay and dinner. Along the way we rode through many small towns and villages. Some of which had buildings dating back to the 1300s.
At the Het Anker Brewery in Mechelen We learned about the history of Mechelen, women's role in Belgian beer, the distillery and this was before we even sat down for our tastings and food and beer dinner! Speaking of the dinner...it was Bangelijke! I cannot wait to visit again.
Our final day was a short cycle to Brussels with a calm visit to Cantillon Brewery in Brussels for some yummy wild yeast beer and to get ready for the Brussels Beer Weekend. With all intensions of documenting what beers we tried we digressed to wow this is awesome try this and hey is yours good? Mine too! So we laughed and joked our way through the final night of the tour. One of my highlights was being joined my Sarah and Simon. They are two of my favorite people and without Simon, Beer & Bike would never be, but that is a story for another blog.
So in summary what a great trip. Thanks to our guests, Myra, Rick and Megan, our brewery hosts, friends and very many thanks to Marco for helping guide us to the fun stuff that makes Flanders such a fun place to visit.
- Cheers, Bob Williams who is so thankful he gets to do this as his job!