Sunday May 3

Hopefully everyone will have arrived and checked in to the hotel by early afternoon, as we kick off our trip with a 4 p.m. tour and tasting at Brussels’ finest new-century brewery, De La Senne. Following the tour guests will have the choice of joining us as we seek out frites (and more beer), resting up for our travels beginning the next morning, or wandering the beautiful old town on their own.


De La Senne Brewmaster Yvan de Baets is arguably the premiere authority on Belgian brewing science and history, and, in contrast to the extra-strong and malty styles many American drinkers associate with Belgium, his flagship beers are inspired by the country’s nearly lost classic hoppy blond ales. Keen to revive such once-predominant styles, he started out as a gypsy brewer, but having soon earned a worldwide reputation for quality, was able to fire the kettles at his very own Brussels brewery in 2011. De La Senne has more recently begun offering mixed fermentation beers to complement its line of superbly drinkable classic Belgian ales.


Monday May 4

The area just south of Brussels is known for its beautiful villages — and lambic beer. Our private coach will drop us off just a few miles outside of the city at the famed Drie Fonteinen, formerly the world’s most famous lambic blender and today a legendary brewery in its own right. Here we’ll get a special private tour and sample some rare bottlings. After lunch at nearby Boelekewis, we’ll head further southwest, for a tour and taste at De Ranke, revered by enthusiasts for its extra-hoppy ales. Later our hosts at the brewery will prepare for us a rustic meal — with more beers! In the evening we’ll cross the border and arrive in the beautiful French city of Lille.

  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen

Once revered equally for its expert lambic blending and traditional Belgian country café, Drie Fonteinen has more recently joined the ranks of the world’s top spontaneous fermentation breweries. A major 2016 upgrade for its facilities means that the brewery is now offering the first substantial batches of “new” multi-year blended lambics. Overseer Armand de Belder is a legend in the beer world and a great friend to Shelton Brothers, and a warm welcome is guaranteed at both the modern 3 Fonteinen lambik-O-droom and the original old brewery.

Grill-Resto Boelekewis

Set in a raftered barn that was once a beer hall, the upmarket-rustic Boelekewis is a Zenne Valley must-stop thanks to its freshly-prepared regional specialty dishes as well as its impressive list of authentic lambics.

Brouwerij /Brasserie De Ranke

In the mid-‘90s former homebrewers Nino Bacelle and Guido Devos, in an effort to recreate the hoppy blond Belgian beers of their youth, teamed up to create XX Bitter, which became an immediate sensation as the hoppiest beer in Belgium. The much-loved XX, along with a subsequent, slowly expanding range of De Ranke (“hop bine”) beers, were for years brewed exclusively on weekends at nearby Deca Brouwerij. By 2005 consistent high quality and perseverance paid off as Nino and Guido opened their very own brewery in Dottignies. Cult favorites from the beginning, De Ranke ales are now highly regarded in beer circles around the world.


Tuesday May 5

We begin our first border-hopping day with a breakfast in Lille, but soon enough we’ll be back in Belgium, visiting and drinking with the eccentric brewers at De Struise. We’ll then head a few minutes down the road, towards the Saint Sixtus monastery. While we won’t be able to enter the abbey, we will have lunch and sip the abbey’s elusive ales in the brewery’s outlet café, and without further ado we’ll cross over into France again, for a visit and tasting at the fantastic Brasserie Thiriez. Just when you thought you’d seen it all, we’ll finish the evening at the town of Cassel’s favorite little bistro, Kerlshof. For the heartiest, who may require EVEN more stimulation, Lille by night awaits.

  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included

De Struise Brouwers

This quirky brewery’s name has roots in the Flemish word for “ostrich” (the brewers manage an ostrich farm near the French border in West Flanders) and the Dutch word for “sturdy” — hence the brewery’s bird logo and moniker: the sturdy brewers. Urbain Coutteau is one of the more affable, colorful characters in the Belgian brewing world, and his varied list of ales run the gamut of Belgian and European styles, though with a slant towards cheeky, often-whimsical, extra-strength specialties.

In de Vrede / Westvleteren

In 2012, the Shelton Brothers had the unique honor of serving as Saint Sixtus Abbey’s importer for a one-shot Westvleteren export batch designed to raise funds for monastery repairs. Since then, and until who-knows-when, the only place in the world to purchase these elusive ales is at the In de Vrede café across from the abbey. As we’ll be in the neighborhood, and need to get lunch too, we’re popping in.

Brasserie Thiriez

The tiny town of Esquelbecq, in the rolling countryside of French Flanders, was once home to five breweries serving 84 pubs. Today, the revivalist Brasserie Thiriez is the municipality’s sole brewery. Homebrewer-turned-professional Daniel Thiriez plies his craft in a former family farm brewery which, similar to hundreds in the area, had closed after the Second World War. Befitting the brewery’s location near the border, Thiriez’ beautifully rustic, complex, and earthy beers straddle the line between French farmhouse and Belgian saison styles. Many of America’s most well-regarded craft farmhouse ales are fermented with the brewery’s much-respected Thiriez French Farmhouse yeast.

Estaminet de la Fontaine Kerelshof II

A characterful local favorite in the quaint small city of Cassel, the Kerlshof (“Rebel’s Inn”) features a wonderfully cozy old-world ambiance, a traditional menu, and an excellent range of beer — classic regional bière de garde as well as newer offerings from small, artisanal French and Belgian brewers.


Wednesday May 6

Today we’ll explore the countryside of France’s most northerly region, where farmhouse breweries once dotted the pastoral landscape. Several enterprising revivalists have reinvigorated the country’s brewing tradition in this area, and the first we’ll visit is St. Germain, whose Page 24 beers are named as a direct reference to medieval hophead St. Hildegard. Following a private lunch at a refurbished maltery, we’ll ramble eastwards, arriving at La Choulette, a delightful family operation that rose from the ashes of its ancestors’ pre-war farmhouse brewery. In the evening we’ll dine at a traditional restaurant in the city of Valenciennes.

  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included

Brasserie St. Germain

Brasserie St. Germain is located near the Belgian border, in the heart of the traditional Bière de Garde region of French Flanders, but it also sits fortuitously in the heart of northern French hop-growing territory. Since 2003 brewing brothers Stéphane and Vincent Bogaert, having found typical bières de garde too sweet for their taste, have specialized in revamped, more balanced versions, adding generous doses of locally grown Brewers’ Gold and Strisselspalt hops to their line of Page 24 beers. More recently they’ve also delved into brewing sours, wine and spirit barrel aging, and distilling.

Salles de Colonnes

In the village of Aix-Noulette, a mere five minutes’ walk from Brasserie St. Germain, lies an old farmhouse maltery that doubled as a hospital during World War I. The maltery survived the war but not the onslaught of modern industrial brewing, and it closed in 1986. Happily, in late 2018 the historical landmark was given a new lease on life as the Salles de Colonnes (Column Rooms), a banquet hall and event space. Here we will have a private meal prepared by local chefs.

Brasserie La Choulette

Taking its name from a wooden ball used in an old French sport, Brasserie La Choulette gives further nods to tradition with its location in a formerly defunct brewery and long family pedigree. The Dhaussy family were prominent brewers in the area from the 1800s until the mid-20th century, when the proliferation of mass-produced beers forced them to close. Twenty years later, Alphone Dhaussy and his son Alain purchased an old brewhouse and relaunched the company, in the process playing a major role in reviving the historic bière de garde. Today, Alain is considered an authority on the region’s brewing history, and the family tradition is further carried on with the assistance of daughter Florence and son Moïse in the brewhouse, which produces the most classic versions of local farmhouse styles.


Thursday May 7

We’ll enjoy our final taste of wonderful, rustic country French beer and cuisine at family-run Brasserie Au Baron, immediately afterwards crossing back into Wallonian Belgium, where we’ll pay a visit to family-run Blaugies and their equally wonderful, rustic Belgian ales (there will be no room for more cuisine just yet). Will we be beered out by then, or wanting even more? That’s up to you, as we then have a free evening back in the city of Brussels, to either wind down or wind right back up.

  Breakfast and lunch included

Brasserie Au Baron

The Au Baron café was once one of 50 in the tiny village of Gussignies, right on the French/Belgian border. By 1973, when it was bought by Alain Bailleux, it was the last survivor. Here Alain and his wife opened a restaurant that featured a wood-fired grill made of an ancient brew kettle. In 1989, Alain and his father, a retired brewer, installed the small revivalist Brasserie Bailleux, next to the bistro kitchen, and began creating beers inspired by old farmhouse styles. Today the brewery, only slightly expanded, and since rechristened with the café’s original name, is in the hands of Alain’s son Xavier, who creates bières de garde that show a strong affinity with the refreshing saisons of their southern Belgian neighbors.

Brasserie de Blaugies

Genial wife-husband team Marie-Noëlle Pourtois and Pierre-Alex Carlier were beer-loving school teachers when in 1987 they began brewing in their garage in Blaugies, a tiny village near the French border. In the beginning, and until very recently, Marie-Noëlle, the brewer, would back up a tractor to the garage door to transfer the spent grains to livestock, and the family has always consumed much of its own product, whether by drinking or using in cooking (their other passion). Their sons now also work in the family business, one as a brewer and the other running their restaurant across the street. Blaugies’ rugged and hearty beers, inspired by traditional farmhouse styles but very adventurous, have been highly rated from the beginning, and the family has just completed construction of a free-standing brewery next to the house.


Friday May 8

The beginning of our final day presents two delightful options: a train trip out to the Kerkom brewery and its beautiful garden café, or free time to relax, sip a coffee, or sightsee in Brussels. But the dual grand finales of our trip are absolutely not optional — a special tour of legendary lambic makers Cantillon, followed by a private dinner with members of the brewery’s Van Roy family, at Brussels’ finest traditional restaurant, Les Brigittines.

  Breakfast and Dinner included

Browerij Kerkom

Kerkom’s is the quintessential old farmhouse brewery, set amid cherry and pear orchards in the gentle countryside of East Flanders. Brewer Marc Limet and his wife Marina live here and formerly brewed here, and on the weekends, offer sustenance to throngs of visiting beer lovers. People come from all over Belgium to sit in the great courtyard, sipping the brewery’s briskly bitter and refreshing Bink Blond, the warmer, satisfying Bink Bruin, or the darker, stronger Bink Bloesem (Blossom).

Brasserie Cantillon/Museé Bruxellois de la Gueuze

Generally considered the most important spontaneous-fermentation brewery in the world, Cantillon has been brewing authentic, unsweetened, unfiltered, unpasteurized lambic in its original Brussels location since 1900. On the verge of closure just 25 years ago, before the micro/craft movement and subsequent “sour beer” explosion, the brewery, and brewing family Van Roy, hold a special place in the hearts of serious aficionados around the world, their classic Gueuze and various fruited lambics the benchmark for fellow brewers. A visit to Cantillon and its working museum is both a piece of history and an inspiration for all modern-day wild-beer/barrel-aging enthusiasts.

Les Brigittines

To celebrate the last night of our tour, we are honored to be joined for dinner by the Van Roy family, makers of Cantillon and, more importantly to us, great friends of the Shelton Brothers. When we first asked them for a restaurant suggestion, they offered one choice: Les Brigittines. Small, cozy, traditional, friendly, and supporting the best local breweries, this was already our favorite place in Brussels.


Saturday May 9

With our six-day tour having come to a close way too quickly, we encourage guests to further explore on your own — you can, after all, get anywhere in the world from Brussels. But whether you’re keeping the exploration going or heading back home to work or family, we will be available to assist this morning with transportation to trains, planes, and maybe even automobiles.

  Breakfast included

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