Cycle tours themed around beer breweries are the way to go this holiday time, says Beautiful Beers owner Ren van den Oort
Holiday time. . . time for a beer!
As schools break up for the summer everyone is looking forward to some time out from the daily grind and do something different. Whether you’re planning a far-flung holiday or decide to stay a bit nearer home, holidays are a time for rest, play and relaxation.
A lot of people prefer to do absolutely nothing, spend a couple of weeks on a sun lounger and read a book. Personally, I like a more adventurous approach. Having spent my youth in The Netherlands we, inevitably, spent a lot of time cycling, either just a short trip through the forest or a longer cycle as a day out. Especially in the summer, the whole family (all 9 of us!) would get on our bikes, the smallest ones in child seats on the back or on the handlebars, and go to a local fun park called Efteling.
Needless to say, I still love cycling and do so on a daily basis. And even now, when we’re on holiday as a family, we tend to hire some bikes and have a little trip in the area we are staying. In The Netherlands and in Belgium cycling is a way of life. And especially in Belgium where not only cycling is part of their culture, but so is their love of beer. In fact, there are dozens of organised cycle tours that are themed around beer breweries and rest stops.
Having been in the Westhoek of Belgium many times, with its beautiful, gently sloping landscape, quirky villages, rich history and many breweries, I always look forward to a return visit. This beautiful area of Flanders also has the Saint Sixtus Abbey, which brews the illusive Westvleteren beers, regarded by aficionados as the best beers in the world (probably). And what better way than to explore this area by bicycle. There are lots of cycle paths and quiet lanes to safely cycle around and discover the hidden gems of West Flanders. There are numerous places to stop over and enjoy the liquid delights of this region as well as some very special delicacies such as white asparagus, Hennepot (three types of meat in jelly), paté and the famous Paterskaas, a semi-hard cheese made by the monks of the St.Sixtus Abbey.
And there are no worries about ‘Who is Bob’ for the day, so you can enjoy a few beers without breaking the law. In case you wonder who on earth Bob is; when out for the day in Belgium, the person appointed to drive and not drink is called ‘Bob’! You may notice the large placards along the motorways. And if you’re in the area, don’t miss the following local beers.
This is my Westhoek Top 5:
5. St Bernardus Triple 8% abv from Watou
4. Hommel Bier 7.5% abv from Poperinge
3. Grotten Santé 6.5% abv from Ieper
2. Struise Brouwers Cuvée Delphine Barrel Aged Imperial Stout 11% abv from Oostvleteren
1. Westvleteren Blond 6% abv from St Sixtus Abbey Westvleteren
As always; enjoy, but drink responsibly.
René van den Oort is owner of Beautiful Beers
1b St John’s Street, Bury St Edmunds