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Belgium and sometimes its neighbours

Branch trip, every Easter, in  2002,  centred on Leuwen. Visits were  to -  Brasse Temps, Louvain  la Neuve. a new brewpub with beery food; De Cam Gueuzestekerij at Gooik, first new gueuze blender in many years; Brasserie d'Oleye at Oleye; brouwerij de Graal  www.degraal.be The 2004 trip used Charleroi as a base, not Ghent as originally announced. Breweries visited were Caulier at Péruwelz, Brasserie du Brabant at Baisy-Thy, Fantôme at Soy, Saint-Monon at Ambly and Blaugies at Blaugies in Western Hainaut. 

2005 was centred on Oostende, staying  at the Ambassadeur Hotel, Wapenplein 8A, 8400 Oostende, with visits to De Ranke in Wevelgem, West Flanders, de Ryck www.brouwerijderyck.be , la Brasserie des Géants www.brasseriedesgeants.com, Old Bailey at Sint Eloois-Winkel near Kortrijk (nice kit - looks hardly used) and  Cazeau at Templeuve. A cask of Special De Ryck was one of the three Belgian beers on offer, unpressurised at Merrie City 2005.

2006 was centred on Mons. A visit was made to Friday at the Brasserie Dupont at Tourpes, Western Hainaut, where La Moinette and Saison Dupont are produced. On the Saturday at 11.15 we had a trip around the Biercée Distillery, then it was back to Mons for a visit to Dubuisson's second Brasse-Temps brewpub at 14.30 (the first was in Louvain la Neuve, visited in 2002). Easter Sunday was spent in Philippeville, and included a visit to the tiny new  Brasserie Mortal's at nearby Jamagne at 11.00 plus lunch there. On the Monday the group visited the Brasserie Brootcoorens at Erquelinnes, producer of Angelus beers, then on to eat sumptuously at the Fermette des Pins in Buvrinnes.

The 2007 visit was centred on Mechelen view Mechelen Photo Album where on the Good Friday a visit was made to the precinct of the Brouwerij Het Anker plus its bar and brewery shop - brewery visits were temporarily suspended as the brew hall was a hard hat area at the moment for the installation of new plant - view (1) Anker Brewery Photo Album (2) Anker Beguinage Photo Album. On the Easter Saturday a visit to Cantillon Brewery - view Cantillon Photo Album at Brussels, famed producer of gueuze, was followed by a call at Beer Mania where over four hundred artisanal beers are stocked, then a session at the beer festival at Aarschot, view Aarschot Beer Festival Photo Album where an impromptu visit to the Brouwerij Loterbol at Diest was fixed up to finish the day - view Breweries of Diest Photo Album. Easter Sunday's brewery visit was to the Brasserie Grain d'Orge - view Grain d'Orge Photo Album. Final visit on Easter Monday was to  the Restaurant Gastronomique et micro-brasserie "Les 3 Fourquets" at Courcil, an initiative of Pierre Gobron and Chris Bauweraerts, founders of the Achouffe Brewery - view 3 Fourquets Photo Album  with a call at the renowned Le Vaudrée ale café in Liège on the return journey view photo.

The 2008 visit was centred on Ghent, staying at the Hotel Ibis Gent Centrum OperaIbis Gent Centrum Opera

On Good Friday, the stop on the way to Ghent or Gent was at Picobrouwerij Alvinne at Ingelmunster-Heule http://www.alvinne.be/ website in Flemish only but you can get the gist; then op zaterdag we had a trip around the Huyghe brewery (if I've done it right you should get the English version of their website) then calling at Gulzigen Bok at Vurste http://www.dengulzigenbok.com/home.htm on the way to the Waregemse Bier Happening (beer festival at Waregem). Easter Sunday found us at the Dochter van de Korenaar brewery in Baarle Hertog at 11am. Cost for 2 beers plus visit 4.50. On Easter Monday it was the new Brouwerij Den Herberg near Halle at 11 am then aiming for the town of Aalst by late afternoon. 

Alvinne Web Album If the link does not take you directly to the Picasa Web Album, copy or type these key words into the Photo Search: brewery Heule
Huyghe Web Album where we learned that Huyghe pretty well rhymes with burger If the link does not take you directly to the Picasa Web Album, copy or type these key words into the Photo Search: Tremens expansionist
Dochter van de Korenaar Web Album where we learned that it means the Daughter of the Corn Ear If the link does not take you directly to the Picasa Web Album, copy or type these key words into the Photo Search: corn microbrewery exclaves 
Den Herberg Web Album If the link does not take you directly to the Picasa Web Album, copy or type these key words into the Photo Search: Herberg large hall
Belgian Cities Web Album If the link does not take you directly to the Picasa Web Album, copy or type these key words into the Photo Search: Wakefield 2008 trip Baarle
Ale Cafés Web Album If the link does not take you directly to the Picasa Web Album, copy or type these key words into the Photo Search: Wakefield delight Belgian 2008
Note that you do not need to sign up for Picasa to view the pictures.

Easter 2009 saw us based in Namur staying at the Ibis again and here's what we did:

When the hyperlinks to new Web Albums become active they will show as blue.

Friday: Brunehaut Brewery at Rongy near Tournai  http://www.brunehaut.com/ should have been 10.00, but due to fuel system problems with brand new bus, (which fortunately did not recur) a bit of a lightning tour. View Brunehaut Web Album.

Saturday: Millevertus Brewery, Toernich (Arlon)  www.millevertus.be who did us a special commemorative-labelled bottled beer, and fed us on local products including bread made with their own beer (no additional yeast needed!). Millevertus means a thousand virtues. View Millevertus Web Album.
Afterwards to Vaudrée 7 (seventh Vaudrée concept restaurant-cum-microbrewery), Wolkrange for Lunch http://www.vaudree-concept.be/
Then to Arlon, close to Luxembourg border and famous for Maitrank, a wine drink flavoured with Asperula (=Woodruff) cafés D’Alby and Forum (for Binchoise)
Finally arriving at the Station Buffet, Marbehan unofficial brewery tap for Rulles. See Marbehan Web Album.

Sunday: Bellevaux, Malmedy for brewery visit http://www.brasseriedebellevaux.be/. Tour approximately 30-40 minutes followed by a sampling of their three beers. As the brewery had a café where food is available and considering that this was Easter Sunday when the whole of Belgium seems to go out for a meal it was decided to eat there. Next on to Grain d'Orge, Hombourg http://www.grain-dorge.com/ where our 2007 visit was evidently remembered. The Brewplant vas now moved out to another building in the village. Thence to the new café in the mill at Val Dieu Monastery, Aubel http://www.val-dieu.net/  the newer brewery tap of the Val Dieu brewery. Final call was the Swaen s'Gravenvoern, a beer café in Kinkenberg, Fourons http://www.herbergdeswaen.be/, definitely worth a return visit!

Monday: the new Den Heischter Brouwerij, Heinerscheid , Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, founded 2008 visit http://www.heischter-beier.lu/   and click on infobrochure. Not many cafés were open in the capital of the canton, which is Wiltz (Wolz in local language) but folk were able to get snacks such as croques or spring rolls. Impressive was the tower built to commemorate citizens who had been persecuted by the Gestapo for striking against conscription into the German army in WW2. Final call was back in Belgium at a buzzing Bastogne, where almost everything was open - something to bear in mind for future Easter Mondays. Most popular ale café was Lamborelle.

In Namur most people managed to find their way at some time to Chapitre, where there's a good beer list and you can also often find Michaël Vermeren who brews his Forestinne beers at the Brasserie Caracole, Falmignoul. http://www.forestinne.be/ 

Easter 2010 sees us again based at Antwerp with scheduled visits (Good Friday) to the Den Triest microbrewery http://www.dentriest.be/ (Easter Saturday) Hopperd Brewery, Westmeerbeek http://www.flickr.com/photos/belgianbeerspecialist/sets/72157604183913385/ and a return visit to Loterbol Brewery at Diest, (Easter Sunday) De Vlier Brewery in its new premises http://www.brouwerij-devlier.com/ and a nice little beer festival at Aarschot previously attended in 2007, finally (Easter Monday) Smisje Brewery, Oudenaarde http://www.smisje.be

In Easter 2011 the base city was again Leuven and trips include Jandrain Jandrenouille brewery, Brasserie de la Senne and Boon at Lembeek.

Easter 2012 is expected to be centred on Kortrijk.

Earlier Days of the Belgian Trips

above: loving care from the proprietor of the Abbaye des Rocs brewery (Easter 2000)

CAMRA Belgium Trip Easter 2000 - A Virgin's Guide (from O-K edition no.4)

As this was our first trip with CAMRA to Belgium we were asked to write a `virgin's' guide, so that future visitors might be more prepared than we were! We could have written about the breweries and cafés we visited and the different beers we drank but that would have turned into a very long list- instead, from our first experiences of Belgium, we have provided you with a few light-hearted words of advice if you are thinking of making the trip next year.

1) Ensure you purchase the Good Beer Guide for Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg. This book provides all the information on the breweries and their beers. Don't forget to take a highlighter pen to mark the ones you drink, plus a little notebook for any new beers not listed in the book. We bought the book after our visit and are still trying to remember all the beers we sampled!

2) Don't forget to pack extra sturdy bags or cases, or even better, fold up trolleys! You will find that most of the breweries sell gift sets of all the beers they brew. Beer glasses are also popular to collect as each beer tends to be served in its own particular glass. Include a stop at Calais on the way home for shopping and you soon end up with loads of bottles and glasses. Finding ourselves lacking in extra bags, we had to bag a couple of boxes from the local supermarket.

3) Eat well at breakfast, as you do not know when you will be eating during the day. We recommend to slip some bread rolls in your pocket for a nibble on the coach! Getting lost is not uncommon as the breweries and cafés tend to be in remote places.

4) At the end of each brewery/café visit, make sure you go to the toilet before boarding the coach. A trip to the toilet onboard can be a nasty experience, especially during three point turns!

If you are not familiar with the language, take a phrase book with you. As we stayed in a Flemish region on our trip, it posed problems especially when

5) trying to translate food menus. We only recognised the words pizza and spaghetti bolognese. Four days of eating just these can get a bit tedious!

6) Bring some good indigestion tablets (ask your friendly pharmacist, i.e. Jo, to recommend some!) If you forget them, then try and grab some from a seasoned Belgium drinker (thanks Steve!). These tablets will come in very useful if you decide to sample the delights of Gueuze, a brew with a full sour traditional style.

If you decide to come on the trip next year, we hope you find these top tips useful. We had a good time and hope to be sampling the delights of Antwerp next Easter. If you fancy coming along get in contact with Wakefield CAMRA.

Kev and Jo Fitzpatrick, the Belgian Virgins!

"BELGIUM" WANDERINGS one of Daren Nightingale's letters from America

Part 6. Brasserie D'Oleye - Belgium

Visit of : Monday 18th April 2002.

Yet again 'Petite' John had done a crap job in getting us all hopelessly lost. So much so, that we arrived early at the first visit of the day,

Brasserie d'Oleye. It is in the Liège province, beautiful countryside spoilt only by the occasional farm. Although the Brewery was basking in the early morning sunshine, see picture , was I the only one who noticed an eerie similarity to the Bates Motel?!.

The Brewery, housed in a renovated Mental Institution, now has a new roof, fresh pointing and recently bricked-up windows. But that's where the 'new' bit ends, "We have worked very hard to keep the original filth ", "tourists are no longer impressed, and are fed up of sparkly clean places like Orval", the Brewer went onto explain in detail. "We have proper muck in our Brewery, it's been tested in a laboratory and we have a Certificate to prove it" he proudly boasted.

Brasserie d'Oleye is one of a handful of the new so-called Agricultural Micro-Breweries (AMB's) that have recently sprung up in Belgium. "The idea is to get away from the sterile clean beers that punters are used to ", explained the Brewer. People need more dirt and filth in their diets - it's good for them", he explained.

Whilst the Brewery is located in the new buildings, it is closely allied to a nearby Farmyard, which houses an interesting collection of animals, some human. After the brief tour, nearly all conducted in some strange local dialect (bloody Johnny Foreigners - can't they speak English round here, or what?), the Brewer then invited us for a morning coffee, before the beer samples, to be taken in the new Multi-Million Euro Oleye Visitor Centre, literally just a 30 second walk around the corner.

We were welcomed by René and Renata, known locally as the Two Ronnie's. They worked with Igor, all of whom had been institutionalized since birth, and lived with the other animals in the farmyard. As we arrived, they were busy scraping the cobwebs and dirt off of some cream coloured (but originally white) cups, which had been hastily assembled for the Coffee. This was not Nescafé, but a local specialty; Café Oleye. It is made by using four litres of concentrated washing-up liquid, one granule of instant coffee and a hand full of local farmyard dirt, all mashed in 64 litres of luke-warm water. It's good to have at least one cup of some Café Oleye" the Brewer explained - It lines the stomach before drinking". He wasn't kidding!, the oily film, only found in this type of coffee, really does help the beer `slip' down easily. "The broken cup handles and cracks in the glazing on the Cups are intentional", one of the Two Ronnie's explained. "They aid the growth of the microorganisms like streptococcal legionellae and cryptosporidium in the Coffee,' it's just like Lambic brewing. In fact, when it gets really warm - we even get Anthrax if we are lucky", Igor explained as he twiddled with his webbed fingers. So we moved on to the first house beer. A Brown Amber Beer (?!). A very, Very, brown Amber beer. The Two Ronnies had carefully rolled a fresh cask of the beer all the way down the road to the Visitor Centre just before we arrived. Infusion of all the shitty bits gives it flavours not found in filtered beer", one of them was heard to mumble. I want you all to get some yeasty bits in your beer; can you taste the hops malt and farmyard.?". "Yes" we all choked enthusiastically.

We sat and literally soaked-in the surroundings of the Barn through our trousers, as we ate our first Beer. To be a true Agricultural Brewer, "the appellation controlée is the fact that you can, Taste the Beer in the farm, and the Farm in the Beer. And you can certainly taste the farmyard in my beer!!” the Brewer bellowed. The unique Visitor Centre is not from the mind of an idealist Architect. Lots of thought have been put into it.

"The straw is soaked for at least two weeks in stale horse urine, and the shit on the walls is also real". "We decided to keep the animal feeding troughs on the walls and have just started to put the pigeon droppings in and around, the roof trusses for added atmosphere". "The cow's placenta in the corner - covered in the fruit flies - is just our little internal joke!" he laughed.

They also have a First Class Lounge. It’s just like a traditional English pub, a Snug and a Lounge". Our resident fumiture expert, Richard "Marigold" Allsop, tried out this facility. Marigold stated “If you sit down really, really, really slowly, hardly any dust comes up at all. I’m hungry, Are we leaving soon ?"

Unfortunately later, the Brown "Earth" Amber Beer had taken its effect on Marigold, and emergency surgery was deemed necessary to save his life. Steve and Jim, see picture left, two First Aiders from Wakefield CAMRA are always on hand at times of need, and were called upon to help out. One of the Brewery Drays was used as an operating Table, as well as a local bandsaw. It was close, but with clinical precision we cut him open and removed the lump of hair-ball that he had accidentally swallowed whilst eating his first beer." Apparently, it was that close. I haven't been so scared since I farted, and almost shit myself after the legendary Beeersel Gueu:e Session a few years ago", First-Aider Steve added.

To me, To you, To me, To you......."

By now, nearly all of us had plenty of time to leave, hide, lose or throw away our first beer. Unfortunately, the second beer was not far behind the first.

But this second beer had to be delivered, as supplies had been exhausted. Running out of the draught brown beer, meant that the Brewer had shouted at the two Ronnie's to immediately replenish supplies, and quite literally within almost 15 minutes, the rumble of the two Oleye Brewery Drays could be heard traversing the tight country lanes. They were literally packed high with at least 3 crates each of the blonde beer. They were a sight to behold, and the brewer proudly showed us round his two Brewery Drays, "the Wheel Barrows are originals from the long gone Belgium De-Schmaerskee factory, one is from 1923 and the other a rare 1932 model. They have never been cleaned, or oiled. Occasionally we have to put new rubber handles on - but that's it".

The Brewery Dray Fleet

Bitterly disappointed with the clean looking filtered Blonde Beer; we valiantly forced it down, made our excuses and decided to leave as soon as possible. Thank God - It was soon time to go on our way to Verviers anyway. How we were all looking forward to not being to able to find a place to eat, or wait 5 hours for a boiled egg sandwich in Boule Rouge. Again !!

The Brewer and his entourage bade us farewell. “Safe trip back to the Big Town" they all shouted as they waved at us. I left the village once in 1980, and I’ll never do it again", he boasted to the friendly gathering of all of his Uncles, Brothers, Sisters, Wives and Nephews. Oh, how they laughed as they played their banjos.

If you have never tried Brasserie d'Oleye Beers - you are lucky!. Don't bother! They're Shite! .

Surfs up Dude !

The 2003 Trip based at Namur in the South actually took in 3 Luxembourg and one French Brewery as well as 3 Belgians, Brasserie d'Ecaussinnes, ambitiously www.ecaussinnes.be, Val de Sambre brewing in copper vessels at the beautiful Abbaye d'Aulne, Gozée www.valdesambre.be (and Long Beach Bum eulogy), and the rustic Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles, a plucky 1½ man operation whose trademark bears a scary resemblance to a certain Flanshaw brasseur artisanal. www.larulles.be  is their website.

In Letzebürg as we now learn that they call it, the Brasserie de Redange (Okult) producing everything from blondes to stouts, the hoppy Ourdaller beers brewed by a former Bitburg brewer at the Cornelyshaff rural co-operative in the Naturpark Our,  the soft unfiltered beers (and wondrous cooked meats) of Brasserie  M & T S.A. (Béierhaascht) at Bascharage, www.beierhaascht.lu just up the road from the Bofferding Brewery. (The Long Beach Bum gives an overview of the Luxembourg scene)

and near to Dunkerque our first ever French micro-brewer, Brasserie Thiriez (prop. Daniel Thiriez) at Esquelbecq, a producer of traditional bières de garde, twinned with Swale Brewery at Sittingbourne. www.ifrance.com/brasseriethiriez  (own "cheapo" site with annoying pop-ups) or http://www.lachope.com/thiriez.html

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