So day two of Toer De Geuze. Again, another hearty breakfast before heading out in the car to meet up with Seth and Casey at Mort Subite in Kobbegem, Asse. The Sunday starts an hour early at 10am and as the brewery (De Keersmaeker) was the furthest one away from our final destination it made sense to head over there. De Keersmaeker was founded in 1869 at a brewery site which originally dated from 1604. After a merger with Brabrux it was acquired by Alkaen-Maes in 1971, who were bought out by Scottish Newcastle in 2000. They are now part of the Heineken portfolio. They also produce another range of syrupy-sweet lambics – BUT I was interested in trying the limited edition Oude Kriek which was promised to be available.
In all honesty I was gob-smacked at how beautiful this brewery is. We took a great self-guided tour through the blending and maturation rooms with a taste of their superb lambic from the casks. Then off to the temporary bar where we received more tasting tickets so we could get a taste of the Oude Geuzes.
In between beers we also had free rein of the brewhouse which is simply stunning. The gleaming mash tuns and kettles sit within a tiled brewhouse which has a glazed wall that looks across the courtyard to the maturation room. The copper grant had recently been used too and this was such a treat for a brewery buff (read bore) like me.
In the bar the range of sweet fruit lambics was available alongside the wonderful Oude Geuze and Kriek plus other special brews for the occasion. A truly lovely surprise was to bump into old friends from Brugge who had come up on a special coach for the day. We managed to make time for a photo which Casey kindly photo-bombed for us. Quality!
The weather was behaving itself so we headed off to Gooik to check out the De Cam blendery. I was really looking forward to this as De Cam are a truly traditional blendery and when they opened in 1997 they were the first new blender for almost 40 years. The site was a former brewery and is now owned by the local community and also houses a tavern, museum and community centre.
The blendery offered regular tours around the site and ran through the process of fermenting the wort which they receive from Boon, Girardin and Lindemans. Frank Boon and Armand Debelder supported Willem van Herreweghen from Palm Brewery when he set up De Cam 23 years ago. When he went back to Palm in 2000, Karel Goddeau took over. Karel combines De Cam with his day job as brewer at nearby Slaghmuylder, the reason for Big Dan’s early night on Friday. We seemed to miss the free tasters of their lambic but the boys made up for it as there was a bar serving the full range. I definitely want to return.
Onwards to Geuzerie Tilquin, the only location of the Toer that sits – just, at 200 metres – in Wallonie. Based in Rebecq, Pierre Tilquin founded his blendery in 2009 and is the only one to use wort from Boon, Cantillon, Girardin and Lindemans. By now breakfast had worn off but Tilquin had a number of food options available in their courtyard including a hog roast or ‘pig on a spit’ which did nicely thank you very much. Unfortunately this is when the weather of the previous day decided to return and pay us another visit. Even the beautiful beer on offer struggled to lighten our moods so it was time to head back into Flanders and make our way to Beersel and their eponymous lambic brewery, Oud Beersel.
Oud Beersel was founded in 1882 and passed through generations of the Vandervelden family, the last being Danny Draps, nephew of Henri’s grandson. It closed in 1991 and didn’t re-open until 2005 when Gert Christiaens and Ronald De Bus took it over. The beers made here are also fantastic though their non-lambic Beersalis range is made by Huyghe.
We couldn’t get on one of the organised tours as the place was rammed though we did manage to get into the now closed tasting cafe where the boys got themselves some bottles. It is rumoured that Gert is hoping to re-open the cafe sometime in the future. Beersel town is definitely worth a visit with a number of cafes to choose from – In De Oude Pruim being a personal favourite. You also have the Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen and their excellent restaurant plus the Biercentrum De Lambiek museum.
It was now getting late and everyone was keen to make the most of the time left at the last of our stops – Hanssens Artisinale blendery in nearby Dworp. Converted from a dairy to a brewery by Bartholomé Hanssens in 1896, the site was known as Sint-Antonius and didn’t produce lambic but a brown beer. Production ceased during the 1st World War and when the war ended Bartholomé (who has also become town mayor in 1914) decided to cease brewing as the brewkit has been taken by the occupying German army, and re-launch his site as a geuzestekerij.
Since 1997 the blendery has been run by fourth generation Sidy and her husband John Matthys. The site is rarely open to the public so we were keen to spend as much time there as possible. Great tours available throughout the blendery where you can check out the barrels from Boon, Giradin and Lindemans.
A major bar set up – we were all keen to get the Very Special Oud Red released specially for the occasion, plus many others. Food and even llamas! A real party atmosphere so when you go to the Toer make sure that you give yourself plenty of time on the Sunday to wring every last drop out of the experience. With a heavy heart it was finally time to bid Hanssens farewell and drop Seth and Casey off at the train station.
Time for Dan and I to head back to Ninove and get stuck back into Brouwerij Slaghmuylder’s finest. For some reason we also thought that it would be a good idea to have another go at that 1.5kg cote a los. The drive the following day was going to be fun!
Homeward-bound Dan and I took in a number of breweries to help me get a grip on the distances between them for future tours. This included Slaghmuylder, Roman, Verzet, De Feniks, Gulden Spoor, Omer and St Bernardus. Wonderful.