Brew Your Own readers including Publisher Brad Ring recently spent a week exploring Belgium’s breweries, beer cafes, and scenic countryside. With visits to five Trappist abbeys (Westmalle, Achel, Rochefort, Orval, and Chimay) and several more abbey breweries such as Grimbergen where Father Karel showed us their brand new brewery, the BYO tour explored the long-running relationship between the church and brewing in Belgium’s storied beer culture. We also visited a broad spectrum of breweries from the tiny 26-gallon (100-L) nano brew system of the Microbrasserie Zythologist to the impressive brewing campus of Duvel Moortgat. No beer trip to Belgium is complete without a visit to a traditional sour beer producer and we all enjoyed sampling young gueuze right from the aging barrel at De Lambiek Fabriek. All along the way we had the chance to meet with friendly local brewers from Belgium’s growing craft beer community and ask plenty of questions while trying their beers.
Each day we also took to the trails for scenic hikes and bike rides to earn those chalices of beer through the beautiful, rolling hills and farmlands of the French-speaking Wallonia region of Belgium.
From tripels to saisons, it was a special chance to enjoy classic beer styles at the source. Plus, all that beer had plenty of great Belgian food paired alongside (often using beer as a key cooking ingredient) giving plenty of fuel for hiking or biking to the next stop. It was a treat to have Orval’s Vert patersbier served on draft at the abbey cafe (the one and only place it is served), spend the night on the brewery grounds at Het Anker’s hotel, bike up to the neighborhood co-op brewery Brasserie de la Lesse to learn how locals banded together to run a brewery for their small town, talk with homebrewers turned pro brewers at Brasserie Minne and Het Nest, see the ultra-modern new brewery tucked inside the ancient wooden rafters at Val Dieu Abbey, and sit down to a special historical saison tasting at Brasserie de la Senne. And it was a week made all the more special by sharing it with fellow homebrewers passionate about beer and exploring the incredible towns, countryside, and culture of Belgium.
Our next BYO brewery trip with space available is in our home state of Vermont during the peak of fall foliage October 11–16, 2023. Details on this upcoming trip can be found at byo.com/trip. We hope you can join us on a future beer adventure. Cheers!