This is a very brief post on the merits of planning…
One of the ideas that spawned our recent Belgian trip was a plan I have to organise a future trip taking in all the Trappist breweries in a week, so far I have looked at options, talked to a few folks and that’s about it. Nevertheless all that talk ended up in four of us making the trip over/under the Channel and we decided it would be a cracking idea to visit some breweries on our travels.
Now I’m not sure about the situation where you (the reader) are based, but in the UK pretty much most breweries are open and welcome visitors, even if it’s only to a brewery shop via the back door. This may be the case in Belgium too, but from our experiences, who knows?
First off on our journey from Watou (where St Bernardus WAS open), we thought it would make sense to drop in on Alvinne. Error. Nuls Points. Turn around where possible.. It was very much closed.
So much so that there wasn’t even so much as a bottle to photograph.. Epic Fail
The next attempt was on the journey from Brussels to Brugge, lots of options here but we narrowed it down to either taking a detour to Bosteels home of Kwak, Dues and Tripel Karmeliet. Or, to go to the lesser known Urthel and then on to Rodenbach which was pretty much on route. Being the driver I made the executive decision on the latter.
We arrived at Urthel on a beautiful day in blazing sunshine, this after driving through lovely countryside into a forested area. Taking the long single track drive to the one building on it, we saw two men beavering away and thought “yes they are open”! As we parked though, the two figures scurried inside (I think hoping we would go away). We pressed on regardless and started to mooch around before they finally reappeared, explaining the owners were away and they were just working on the building itself.
This though is where it got ever so slightly more interesting, as we could see they were working on a new bar area which will be open to the public (on weekends). It’s a lovely looking little place which stands looking all Hansel and Gretel in it’s forest setting. It’s a bit of a trek though so how many visitors will make it I’m not so sure, worth checking out though if you have a driver among you as Urthel beers ROCK!
We moved sadly on to Rodenbach where we thought we were bound to have better luck. Parking on a little side street near the brewery I almost walked straight into a chaps living room by mistake as he happened to live by the biggest Rodenbach sign I have ever seen and his door was wide open… You should have seen the look on his face…
Undeterred, we wandered around the huge brewery (where nothing looked open) until we found an office and thought aha! There awaited a receptionist (Gladys for the purposes of this blog), as we arrived Gladys was on the phone and thought nothing of the four weary travellers from the East that had plonked themselves in her nice tidy reception area and continued her chat.
After several minutes during which Gladys finally finished her chat and we had made use of the office washroom facilities we approached and in my very best Steve McClarenesque pigeon Belgian/Dutch hybrid English I asked “are you open for brewery visshits?”
“No” said Gladys curtly.
“What about a brewery shop, surely you have a shop?”
“Yes” said Gladys.
“Oh good can we go and take a look and perhaps by some beer?”
“No” said Gladys, “it’s closed, only open at the weekend”…
So that was it, another failure, everything well and truly closed. Which goes to show, piss poor planning means two hours wasted drinking time…
Ha ha! Literally laughed out loud (LLOL) at the bit where you nearly walked into a bloke’s front room. That sign *is* huge.
We’ve had similarly miserable experiences after schlepping up hillsides in the Bavarian countryside only to find that the ‘Ruhetag’ listed in our brand new guidebook has changed since printing. Gah.
Cheers Bailey, glad my almost faux pas raised a smile. We definitely need to plan better the next time we go and attempt something like this again…
You recognise the sign so I assume you succeeded where we failed? Was it worth the effort?
Great story. That was hilarious. This sounds like something I would end up doing. And that guy should just have some Rodenbach on hand in his living room and charge for “exterior tours and tastings”. He could even wrap the tour up with a short Q&A session with “Gladys”.
I like that idea, maybe I should buy the house, get myself all Rodenbach’d up and gazump all their visitors?
Oh, thats a shame you couldn’t visit all the breweries you went to. In true Belgian fashion they only open when they really need to!