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Belgium Bike and Beer Adventure

“He was a wise man who invented beer.”

Plato

Belgium is a world of scenic landscapes, castles, stone-built villages, multiple languages and cultures, gourmet restaurants, beautiful walking and cycling paths, and really nice people. Since the first Crusades, the church allowed abbeys to brew and distribute beer as a fundraising method. Consequently, breweries and beer cafes now abound in Belgium! Trappist monks carry on those deep traditions now with their dark, sweet, complex ales while Belgian craft brewers create their own rich brewing history and traditions by experimenting with other beer flavors.

We’ll be traveling through the region known as Flanders where the primary language is Dutch. Throughout our tour, we’ll bike through rich, agricultural landscapes on well-maintained, easy paths, and explore remarkable and historic Belgian cities and villages by foot. (Note: there is a significant amount of city walking on cobblestone streets so you’ll want to bring the proper shoes!)

Our evenings are spent in accommodations that range from quaint family-owned B&Bs to charming award-winning hotels in the city centers of Bruges, Watou, Ghent, and Brussels. Each day we stay active on foot and by bike and visit over ten different breweries and abbayes. Your guides will share with you some of their favorite biking trails and off-the-beaten-path beer cafés and restaurants. They will also introduce you to some of their favorite people in Belgium’s beer culture, and of course, help you sample the beers they love so much!

Details

Other Info: Bike rental is 25 Euros/day for five days

A minimum of 10 people is needed to run the trip. Each person will receive a 10% discount if the group reaches 14.

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Trip Highlights

  • Spending time in Belgium with a local guide who knows his homeland’s history, culture, languages, food and beers and thoroughly shares it all
  • Biking through the fields of Hoppeland, past castles and along rivers (and crossing them on bikers-only ferries), on some of the smoothest flowing trails we have ridden in Europe, and starting and ending at unique breweries
  • Exploring and enjoying cultures, history and food in cities and villages across Belgium like Brussels, Watou, Ghent, and Bruges and not having to drive to each or navigate train schedules
  • Visiting, touring and tasting at breweries and abbayes such as Rodenbach, St. Sixtus, Cantillon and De Halve Maan; and tasting so many other wonderful beers with our meals at amazing restaurants and cafés.
DAY 1

Welcome to Belgium! Our adventure starts at 1:00 PM, allowing you to arrive in Brussels this morning or the day before (which we highly recommend). After a quick orientation, we head straight to Bruges, a wonderful city with lots of history, impressive architecture, good food, culture and beer cafes.  We will whet everyone's whistle with a visit straightaway to Struise Brouwers, where they have 30 Struise beers on tap!  Next up is a tour and tasting at Brouwerij Fort Lapin, named after the fortress built in 1664 to protect Bruges’ commercial hub and the "home brewery" of our trusted beer guide Yannick. We end our day with a delightful beer-paired welcome dinner at Brewery De Halve Maan.

DAY 2
This morning we travel to the lovely coastal town of Ostend. We’ll hop on our bikes to explore Ostend’s famous seaside esplanade, Royal Galleries of Ostend, pier, and fine-sand beaches. We’ll break for a light lunch around town and make our way back to Bruges for the afternoon. Upon our return to the city, we’ll enjoy an educational tour and blending session at Bourgogne des Flandres, a new brewery that defies tradition with old and young beer being mixed judiciously to achieve a perfect balance. After dinner tonight, we’ll stop into the famous t’ Brugs Beertje and taste some of their 300+ Belgian Beers. If you’re looking for something uncommon or hard to find, this is the place to try it.
DAY 3

After breakfast we will shuttle south to the Rodenbach Brewery for a tour and tasting. Rodenbach has a rich history that extends back to 1821. We’ll have a chance to taste their well-known barrel-aged sour beers that are brewed in the Flemish red style. Next, we drive to ‘t Hoppecruyt for a lesson in hops as well as a lovely picnic lunch. We then “hop” on our bikes for a ride through the fields wheat, barley, and hops and past Saint-Sixtus Abbey of Westvleteren, famous for its spiritual life – but to us more so for its brewery, and making of the much sought-after but difficult to obtain Trappist beer. We then head to our accommodations for the night – which happens to be attached to the Saint Bernardus Brewery! We’ll be certain to taste a few of the dark and blonde abbey ales that Saint Bernardus is known for.

DAY 4

This morning we will enjoy a scenic 20+ mile bike ride from St. Bernardus through pastoral landscapes and quaint villages. Watou lies in a varied, wooded landscape with hop fields, wide views and hilly roads and is in West Flanders – the only Belgian province that borders both France and The Netherlands. We convene in the town of Ypres where we’ll enjoy lunch and a private tour at Kazematten. Though Kazematten is a newer brewery that opened up in 2014, the buildings where the brewery and brasserie are housed have quite a bit of history. It was originally built as part of Louis XIV’s fortress back in the 1680s and used for storing ammunitions and weapons up into the 20th century. After lunch, we drive to one of our favorite cities in all of Europe, Ghent, where we have planned a little free time to explore the city on your own before our beer-paired dinner.

DAY 5

We begin our day by shuttling out to a 130-year-old brewery in Herzele. Brewery De Ryck is a 4th generation family-owned brewery whose current brewmaster, Anne De Ryck, is one of Belgium’s first (and few) female brewmasters. We’ll also have the chance to explore the ruins of the Herzele Castle, whose original wood structure was built at the beginning of the 7th century. Its current stone structure was built in the 11th century and withstood many battles and turbulent times. From there we’ll take another scenic bike ride back to Ghent. In Ghent, beer brewing went hand in hand with religious life. We will discover the city’s incredible history during a three-hour beer walk and beer tasting through the city, starting out at Gruut brewery. Their beers are unique because they use special spices (gruit) instead of hops to flavor and preserve their beers. All that walking will build up an appetite for dinner at a wonderful gastro-pub called the Belga Queen, located in an 18th-century landmark building.

DAY 6

Our ride today is again on seemingly perfect bike trails along the River Scheldt. We just love exploring these trails and seeing people of all ages and walks of life using the trails for recreation and necessary transportation. We end our ride at Brouwerij Huyghe, known for its pink elephants and world-famous Delirium. After our visit, we’ll shuttle back to Brussels for a private tour and tasting at Brasserie Cantillon. Cantillon uses natural yeasts that are present in the air around us for fermentation. The entire brewery experience is outstanding. We’ll end our final night together with yet another delicious Belgian dinner and for those who might be interested, stopping into a few of Brussel’s extraordinary beer cafés after dinner can be a great way to bring an evening and in this case, a tour, to a close.

DAY 7

We bid each other farewell today as we make our way to the airport -- or not!  You may want to extend your stay in Brussels and attend Belgium Beer Weekend which begins today!

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Trip Accommodations

NIGHTS 1 & 2 >> IBIS BRUGGE CENTRUM / BRUGES

Located in the historic city center, this ancient medieval building is surrounded by canals and cobbled streets and is within walking distance to many of the places we visit during our stay.

NIGHT 3 >> ST. BERNARDUS / WATOU

This charming B&B is attached to the St. Bernadus Brewery just outside the town center of Watou. Though it is a very simple accommodation, what could be more fun than spending a night in a brewery? Our charming hostess, Jackie, will ensure you feel like you are right at home here. We rent out almost the entire place.

NIGHT 4 & 5 >> HOTEL ONDERBERGEN / GHENT

This small family run boutique hotel is situated on a quiet street in the middle of the historic town of Ghent.

NIGHT 6 >> HOTEL DANSAERT / BRUSSELS

Newly renovated, this smallish hotel is conveniently located in the trendy part of Brussels, and is only a five-minute walk to Grand Place.

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Arrival & Departures

You are free to arrive in Brussels anytime you like prior to our after-lunch meeting on Day 1. This allows you to travel the day before and arrive even that morning. However, we highly recommend arriving at least a day ahead of time to recover from your travel and any potential delays. Our adventure ends the last day of the trip in Brussels after breakfast. You may choose to extend your stay in Brussels or continue your travels via a high-speed train to Paris, London or Amsterdam, or fly home. The Brussels airport and train station are easily accessible via our hotel via the cities metro, foot or taxi.

What's Included?
  • Two Zephyr guides accompany each trip.
  • Double occupancy lodging is included. If you are traveling solo, we will match you with another traveler of the same gender. However, you may pay a single supplement to have your own room.
  • All of your dinners and breakfasts are included. Gratuity for these meals is also included. We have left some lunches open so that you have time to explore and enjoy the local flavors en route.
  • All your transportation is included once you meet your guides on the first day.
  • All formal beer tastings are included.
  • NOT INCLUDED Beverages, desserts, some lunches, gratuities to your guides, personal expenses and travel to and from the destination.
Weather

September in Belgium brings nice mild temperatures with an average high of 66 degrees Fahrenheit with temperatures dropping down into the low 50s at night. You'll want to bring light layers that can easily be put on or taken off. Additionally, Belgium is a surprisingly rainy country so you'll want to bring a waterproof layer as it may rain.

Bikes

You will see that everyone bikes in Belgium! Ironically, the quality of bikes available in Belgium is not as good as many of our other tour locations and the bikes are rather basic models used for everyday transportation such as 7-speed cruisers rather than road bikes or mountain bikes. That said, they are perfect for what we use them for – leisurely rides along mostly flat paved bike paths!

Ability Level

This tour is rated For All Abilities and is a moderately active trip but with relatively easy biking on mostly flat, traffic-free paths. Daily mileage varies depending on beer tastings and other activities for each day but is roughly 10 – 15 miles per day (but as little as 6 and as much as 25). While you will get daily activity either by biking or walking each day in the beautiful cities we visit, this is not the best trip for someone looking for a major workout and tons of mileage (check out some of our other biking trips for that!). Conversely, this is not the best trip for someone not interested in being active on vacation (check out our Taste Vacations for that) or somebody who doesn’t bike! Being comfortable with bicycling is a MUST!

Belgian Cuisine

Much of the Belgian cuisine revolves around cooking with beer. Which is awesome for beer lovers! Many dishes consist of a variety of meats ranging from beef, rabbit, and even horse braised in a variety of Belgian brews. Green vegetables are not commonplace and may not even be an option on a menu, however, some places have excellent, large salads.

Beer

Belgium is one of the great beer cultures of the world, and they have a very wide variety of brews for nearly anyone. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “Beer Drinker” don’t rule this trip out! Belgian beers bear little resemblance to many American brews. They range from light sweet abbey style brews to dark spicy Cuvee Royale to bright, fruity and sour lambics. That being said, if you don’t drink at all, this may not be the trip for you as it does revolve around visiting and touring a lot of beer meccas.

Changes to Your Itinerary

While everything under “What is Included” will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed in our itineraries are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common – a restaurant closes or loses its awesome chef, a winery changes its visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, a road or trail undergoes construction. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes (even at the last minute, during the guides’ scout trip) to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience. If there is any one experience that is going to make or break your trip, please discuss this with us in advance! We will attempt to keep our website itinerary as current as possible and communicate any major changes with you in the weeks prior to the tour.

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