Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours

Christmas in Ghent 2023

Saturday 23 December - Wednesday 27 December 2023

We love Belgium (and winter beers) at Christmas and we love taking a coach full of like-minded people. For Christmas 2023 we are based in Ghent in East Flanders. Our hotel for our five day, four night Tour is the Ibis Ghent Centrum St Baafs Kathedraal Hotel, from where we will explore Belgium at Christmas-time.

Dark Beer

A nice black beer - go on - it's Christmas!

Ghent is one of the Flemish jewel cities and is fabulous for beer cafes as well as historical sites. Just have a look at our Podge's Central Ghent Bar Guide which gives an idea of the hand-picked beer bars we have included on the map within a walk of the hotel. We will manage to fit in a brewery visit or two, some great meals in top beer/restaurants and plenty of visits to interesting cafes across Flanders. All from the comfort of ourt luxury 49 seater coach. Join us.

We'll be spending Christmas Day in Ghent this year, having an afternoon meal at De Witte Leeuw restaurant, on the pretty Graslei waterfront. On Christmas Eve we will be going on a river cruise* in Ghent at 11.00hrs, with a beer tasting included on board*. Later on, also on Christmas Eve, a visit has been arranged to Ghent's latest brewery, Artevelde, for a tour* and an included beer tasting*.

Ter Dolen Brewery Tour

A Group of Podge Beer Tour Travellers in their natural habitat, on a Brewery Tour

We are based in Chelmsford in Essex and we use a UK hired coach to travel. We try to use Le Shuttle (Eurotunnel) from Folkestone to get to and from Belgium, but if not available we go by ferry from Dover to Calais. Most of our Travellers join the Tour at our main pick up point outside The Woolpack Pub, 23 Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0DN and most come from other parts of the UK, and some from further afield, especially USA. Lots of our Travellers stay the night before a Tour (and often the night of our return) at Chelmsford Travelodge only a few minutes walk from The Woolpack or at the Premier Inn near the Railway Station, about a 10 minute walk to the pick up point at The Woolpack. We all usually pop in to The Woolpack the night before departure for a meet, greet and a few beers with Siobhan who is your Tour Manager, Tour Guide and drinking pal for the duration.

A group brewery tour, at the Kroon Brewery, with Freddy Delvaux.

Our Galloways luxury coach (49 seater coach with toilet) starts from Suffolk and on the way to Folkestone/Dover and picks up at several points, as agreed with Siobhan, as below:

Ipswich, Bus Stop, Tesco Store, Pinewood, Ipswich IP8 3TS.

Colchester, McDonald's, Tollgate West, Stanway, Colchester C03 8RG

Chelmsford, The Woolpack, 23 Mildmay Road, CM2 0DN.

Dartford, BP Garage (formerly Esso) 474 Princes Road, DA1 1YT. On the return leg we drop off at Dartford Railway Station DA1 1DR

Swanley, Unit 4, Moreton Industrial Estate, London Road, BR8 8DE.

Ashford, pull in Outside Dobbies Garden Centre, Opposite Premier Inn, Ashford Eureka Leisure Park, Rutherford Road, Ashford, Kent, TN25 4BN.

Folkestone, Shell Garage, Stop 24 Services, J11, M20, Kent, CT21 4BL.

Stationsplein, Adinkerke, Belgium.

This Tour is currently being built so keep an eye on this web page or subscribe to our monthly email newsletter for updates - there is a form to do this at the foot of this page. The final detailed and timed itinerary will be posted here at least four weeks prior to departure. If you would like to join us please send Siobhan an email or call on +44 (0) 7722 724 558 for details on how to secure a place and pay the £145pp deposit for this Tour, or if you have any questions about this Tour. Should your plans change, we are happy to return your deposit to you in full provided the date of the return request is more than six weeks before the departure date of the Tour.

A nice selection of beers in De Planck, a boat Cafe in moored up in Ghent

Nice selection of beer in De Planck, Boat Cafe in Ghent.

Day 1 - Saturday 23 December 2023

Very early! Coach departs from Galloways coach depot at Denters Hill, Mendlesham, Suffolk, IP14 5RR.

05.00hr Coach pick up Bus Stop, Tesco Store, Pinewood, Ipswich IP8 3TS.

06.00hr Coach pick up The Woolpack, Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0DN.

06.45hr Coach pick up at Howdens, Unit 4, Moreton Industrial Estate, London Road, Swanley, Kent BR8 8DE.

07.30hr Coach pick up at the pull in outside Dobbies Garden Centre, Opp. Premier Inn Ashford Eureka Leisure Park, Rutherford Road, Ashford, Kent, TN25 4BN.

07.45hr Coach pick up at Shell Garage, Stop 24 Services, J11, M20, Kent, CT21 4BL.

08.15hr Arrive Dover ferry terminal.

10.05hr P&O Ferry Crossing from Calais.

12.55hr Arrive/Disembark Calais.

14.00hr Arrive at our first stop which is the very special beer cuisine restaurant (H)eerlijk at Raversijde near Oostende airport. The concept of ‘beer cuisine’ is relatively unknown in the U.K, but the Belgians do this very well, and the food here is fantastic. Vicky and her husband chef Kevin moved here from further down the coast in 2017. They wanted to concentrate on beer and food pairing, rather than pairing with wine. The great feature of the restaurant is the big beer fridges which take centre stage. They offer around 160 beers, including all the Trappist beers in the world and more than 60 Oude Geuzes/Lambics including offerings from 3Fonteinen, Oud Beersel, Eylenbosch, Boon, Lindemans, Devillé, Girardin, Hanssens, Timmermans, Cantillon, Lambiekfabriek and De Cam. They get in new beers every month and like to support smaller breweries too and are very proud of Belgian beer. I have arranged with Vicky a selection of four main meals which you can choose from and we’ll stop here for our first meal in Belgium and slake our thirst with a fresh beer.

16.00hr Leave Heerlijk, Ostende.

16.40hr Arrive at the famous De Dolle Brouwers in Esen. Three brothers formed the ‘Mad brewers’ in 1980 forming the spearhead of the renaissance of Belgian brewing. Here we may get an opportunity to have a peek at the beautiful old brewhouse with its ancient kit and tiled roof and then we’ll have a taste of their beer*. My favourite is the strong blonde Arabier, but some of you black beer fans might go for the De Dolle Stout – a big, lush winter beer. They also have a shop for merch and beer takeouts. In the First World War this brewery was owned and run by the Costnoble family. The village was occupied by the Germans from autumn 1914 on their push through Belgium and at a time when atrocities were committed against the Belgian population. Parts of the brewery have survived from WW1 and several local inhabitants were shot whilst seeking shelter in the cellars.

17.50hr Leave de Dolle Brouwers, Esen.

18.55hr Arrive at our base for the next four nights Hotel Ibis St Baafs, Ghent which is in a fantastic position next to the cathedral and a square with a fountain and loads of cafes and restaurants around it. Christmas sorted. The evening is free for you to explore this beautiful city with its Christmas Markets for a hot Glühkriek perhaps, armed with a copy of Podge’s Ghent Bar Guide* and accompanying map*.

Day 2 - Sunday 24 December 2023

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast in our hotel* we leave our Hotel on foot for the short walk to the beautiful Graslei waterfront in the centre of the city for our boat trip.

11.00hr Embark from the Graslei jetty on an Aperitif Boat City Cruise* with Gent Watertoerist. This is a guided cruise through the historic centre of Ghent and its waterways. Ghent lies at the junction of the canalized part of the great River Leie (Fr. Lys) and the mighty Schelde (Fr. Escaut) and is the centre of an urban complex that includes Ledeberg, Gentbrugge, and Sint-Amandsberg. The city cruise includes two glasses of local beer* onboard.

11.40hr Disembark boat and walk the short distance to Ghent’s newest brewery, the Artevelde Brewery.

12.00hr Pay a visit to the Artevelde Brewery in Botermarkt. This brand new venture was opened in 2023 by local Huyghe Brewery, of Delirium Tremens beer fame. It is the latest of their discreet, small breweries away from the huge parent plant in Melle, adding to the Averbode Brewery and St Idesbald Brewery. The brewery is named after Ghent born Jacob Van Artevelde, and you can see his resplendent statue in the Vridagmarkt. In the mid-1300s he was a rich cloth merchant who rose to become very powerful in Ghent and all Flanders. One of his successes was a strong commercial treaty with England to export wool to Flanders, which may be why his statue is pointing at England. He is depicted as the shadowy figure on the brewery logo, beer pumps and all merch. As this is a micro-brewery installed by Huyghe, it is going to be slick and tasty. They know how to brew and the Delirium Pink Elephants show their marketing department are no slouches, either. In fact, Huyghe brewery have effectively renamed themselves the Delirium Brewery. They have been brewing a 5.7%abv amber beer called Artevelde for many years, but this has had a big makeover. They now brew here in-house a Pils and the following:

• Artevelde Leute 6.2%abv. This is a blonde with a fresh and fruity taste, and a bit spicy too. This is their White Label beer. By the way, Leute means ‘fun’.

• Artevelde Wijze 8%abv. This is their strong blonde with a dry and bitter aftertaste. It has a black label, and wijze means ‘wise’.

• Artevelde Grand Cru. 7.2%abv. This is a red-brown Ghentse Grand Cru with a creamy head, caramel, toffee notes and a sweet fruitiness. This goes under the Gold label. Here we will have a tour of the microbrewery* which has much shiny copper, and a beer tasting* of some of their beers. The brewery advises “drinking beer with other people”. I second that.

14.00hr Leave Artevelde Brewery in central Gent.

15.00hr Leave on coach from Ibis hotel for the journey to Antwerp.

16.15hr Arrive at Bier Central Café and Beer Restaurant near the fabulous and ornate rail station in the great city of Antwerp. Here we will have a meal in this spacious café, and a beer or two from their huge list of 33 Belgian beers on tap and 333 beers in the bottle.

17.00hr We begin our meal here, chosen in advance.

19.00hrish Leave Bier Central in Antwerp.

20.00hr Arrive back in Gent and drop near Ibis Hotel.

Day 3 - Monday 25 December 2023

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast in our hotel* we have the morning at leisure for an extra nap or a wander around the beautiful city, cathedral and winter markets. Make your way to and meet up for a meal at:

13.30hr (for 13.45hr) De Witte Leeuw, 6 Graslei, Ghent. The Graslei (Grass Quay) was formerly the wheat-loading quay in Ghent on the right hand bank of the River Leie, close to the mouth of the River Schelde. The quay opposite is the lovely Korenlei (Corn Quay). Both quays formed part of the medieval port and are now the cultural and tourist hotspot of the city, with lots of cafés and restaurants with terraces. These grand houses date from the Middle Ages but have later restored frontages and the impressive row of historical buildings is now a protected cityscape. We are having a meal at one of these houses, number 6, which is De Witte Leeuw or The White Lion. It is described as a Burgundian restaurant, and to the Flemish the Burgundian lifestyle is to eat, drink and be merry. So we’ll do that here, then. This is a large restaurant which specialises in typical Ghent dishes, and in handling big groups. They say that they have a great hall on the upper floor which is perfectly suited for groups visiting Ghent and “You'll think you've returned to the Middle Ages.” The food choices we can go for are choosing between a starter of Fresh Soup of the Day or Cheese Croquettes. For the main dish we can opt for Ghent Flemish Stew with frites (of course!), or the delectable Creamy Ghent Waterzooi Stew with Chicken, or the Exotic Salad, which sounds incredibly good. Dessert is that Flemish classic, Dame Blanche, Vanilla Ice Cream served with a warm, dark Chocolate sauce, much beloved of some of our travellers! They have some beers too, so we can spend some time being Burgundian here.

16.00hr Leave De Witte Leeuw Restaurant in Ghent.

The rest of the day is free in Gent, but at:

20.00hr Siobhan will be holding court at Bier Central in Botermarkt if you want to join her.

Day 4 - Tuesday 26 December 2023

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast in our hotel* we board the coach for a day out.

10.30hr Arrive at the great beer warehouse Dranken Geers in Oostakker for an opportunity to buy beers to take home. This is my favourite beer warehouse where Dominiek & Leen Geers and their family run one of the top beer warehouses in Belgium. He is well-respected in the beer world and this is a chance to get hold of any special favourites and rare beers from the 1500 choices he has in stock. Also a chance to experience the new Turbo-Square roundabout in Oostakker, Belgium’s first “turbo square”, which is like a roundabout but vehicles have to choose in advance where they want to go. As it is not possible to drive round it, it’s not called a traffic circle but a traffic square. This junction is a critical point in connections around Ghent and the port companies and is reported to be very effective in keeping traffic moving here.

11.30hr Leave Dranken Geers in Oostakker.

12.45hr Arrive in beautiful Bruges for a day out. Our coach will drop the group at the coach park at Bargeplein, as Bruges no longer allows coaches to drop people in the city. I have chosen a venue about 10 minutes’ walk away and this is the impressive De Halve Maan Brouwerij in Walplein.

13.00hr (Brewery Tour commences 13.15hr) Arrive at De Halve Maan brewery. Here we will first have a Tour* around the brewery (you pass the infamous beer pipe laid under the cobbles under a glass plate on the way in). This is followed by a beer tasting* and then we go to their comfy restaurant for a buffet meal. This place really knows how to put on a show. I have been visiting for some years and they have certainly gone from strength to strength.

Podge and I spent a good deal of time talking to the current owner Xavier Vanneste (a descendant of the founder Henri Maes) when we were researching for our book “Around Bruges in 80 Beers” and I recall Podge having a meeting at the brewery with Xaviers’ mother in around 2005. Podge said it was a shame that the brewery was not brewing its own beers. With a twinkle in her eye, Mrs Maes intimated that test brews were afoot. Soon after, Brugs Zot was born. And what a triumph. This brewery has gone from effectively being a museum in the early 2000s to being a major producer and exporter of beers. Their Bruges Zot (Bruges Fool) was cleverly designed to please most palates, not too sweet, not too hoppy…juuust right. Not only can the many tourists to Bruges now drink a Bruges beer, but its popularity has spread far beyond Bruges. The cute fool/jester is a great logo and the beer pipe leading underground linking the brewery with the lagering tank facility in the industrial complex at Waggelwater just outside Bruges, was a promotional masterstroke. They even put an image of the pipework on the glass and merch.

14.00hr We commence the buffet meal in the cosy restaurant (the brewery tour* and tasting* are included in the price of the holiday, but the buffet will be €35 pp).

16.00hr Free to have a late afternoon/evening stroll round this beautiful city, especially at Christmas, armed with Podge’s Bruges Beer Guide, a copy of which and a map will be given to each Traveller. See you in Brugs Beertje later then.

19.00hr Leave Bruges from coach pick up at Bargeplein.

20.00hr Coach drops at our hotel in Ghent.

Day 5 - Wednesday 27 December 2023

10.00hr Following a buffet breakfast* we check out of our hotel and head off for the last day of our Tour.

11.00hr Arrive at a new brewery for PBBT, the Circus Brouwerij in Zwevegem. The building is of some interest. Completed in 1913 it was a coal-fired power station on the Bossuit-Kortrijk Canal. It produced electricity until 1962 and then became a steam power plant for neighbouring industry and homes. Steam production was stopped in 2001 and the site was granted protected status. In 2004 it was bought by the municipality of Zwevegem to give it a new socio-cultural use. The chimneys, water tower, boiler house, generator building and fuel oil tanks were all preserved and the pedestals of the cooling towers are still there. The largest oil tank is due to be converted into a diving tank that can hold up to 13,000 cubic meters of water, making it unique in Flanders and Europe. Since 2015, an electronic music festival Voltage has taken place annually on the Transfo site. Now I fancy that. We are visiting the new brewery here, run by Tim and Bert and located in the old warehouse at the entrance, which was once a workshop at the electricity factory with supply via the railway line that ran next to it. The Circus brewers installed a brewery here, which of course also includes a tasting room and terrace. We will have a brewery tour* and we will then taste 3 different beers (15cl) in their tasting room*. Their beers have bright, snazzy labels with a circus theme – except the big fella at the end!

    Juggler (Jongleur) a 4%abv session IPA with citrus notes.

    Piccolo an 8%abv Tripel containing 7 Provencale herbs.

    Ringmaster a 4.5%abv session Porter with coffee & chocolate notes.

    Cascadeur (Acrobat) a 6.8%abv saison with Lemongrass & Sage.

    Pirate Piccolo a 10%abv limited edition rum-infused-Piccolo beer.

    Trapeze Freeze a 5.8%abv strawberry beer.

    Black Mamba a mighty 10.5%abv Stout, which - brace yourselves - is figgy. A good one for Christmas, then!

12.45hr Leave De Circus Brouwerij in Zwevegem.

13.45hr Arrive at one of the best beer café/restaurants in Flanders, ‘t Molenhof in Vleteren. Brilliant beer list (much Se Struise Brouwers beers), look out for Podge Tour favourites Black Albert, Cuvee Delphine and loads of other big, black beers from the local master-brewers. We’ll have a beer and a meal here.

16.00hr Leave ‘t Molenhof in Vleteren.

19.20hr Arrive Calais Eurotunnel.

21.20hr Le Shuttle (Eurotunnel) Train Crossing from Calais.

20.55hr Arrive and disembark at Folkestone.

21.15hr Coach drop Shell Garage, Stop 24 Services, J11, M20, Kent, CT21 4BL.

21.30hr Coach drop at the pull in outside Dobbies Garden Centre, Opp. Premier Inn Ashford Eureka Leisure Park, Rutherford Road, Ashford, Kent, TN25 4BN.

22.30hr Coach drop Howdens, Unit 4, Moreton Industrial Estate, London Road, Swanley BR8 8DE.

23.15hr Coach drop Junction of Lady Lane & Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0EA.

23.30hr Coach drop Travelodge Hotel, 128-136 Parkway, Chelmsford CM2 7GY.

23.40hr Coach drop Premier Inn Victoria Road, Chelmsford CM1 1NY.

00.30hr Coach drop Bus Stop, Tesco Store, Pinewood, Ipswich IP8 3TS.

01.00hr Coach reaches destination Galloways Depot, Denters Hill, Mendlesham, Suffolk, IP14 5RR.

Tour Price is £965 per person sharing a twin or double room

Single Supplement: £285

We regret that we need to charge a single supplement for travellers who would like their own hotel room. This is because increasingly hotel room prices are quoted with very little difference between single person or two person occupancy.

Included in the cost of this Tour are:

Hotel accommodation and breakfasts;

Hotel city taxes;

Luxury coach travel on a 49 seater coach with toilet;

All brewery visits, tours and brewery beer tastings;

Entrance fees to attractions, museums and historical sites;

All items marked with an asterisk above and on the individual detailed tour itinerary when issued;

Copies of Podge’s City Bar Guides and Maps for the town where we stay or spend some time;

Still and sparkling water on the coach;

Pick up from one of our agreed joining points on the way to the Kent coast or even on the other side of the channel.

Courier Services from Siobhan McGinn, your Tour Guide.

Travellers are responsible for the costs of all food and drink apart from items marked with an asterisk on the detailed itinerary plus all passport and insurance costs.

All itinerary times are local and approximate.

Personal insurance is not included in the Tour price but is required to be taken out by Travellers on Podge's Belgian Beer Tours, as is carrying the free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which is the 2021 replacement for the old EHIC. You can still use your EHIC card so long as it is in date, then you need to apply for the GHIC replacement online.

All Tours are subject to our Terms and Conditions.