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Earn that beer with walks and cycle routes to breweries in the green belt
What’s better than walking or cycling in the green belt around Brussels? Walking or cycling to a brewery. Flemish Brabant is aware that exercise always feels better with a reward at the end (or heck, during), so it has created walking and cycling routes that take in breweries – breweries that serve the beer they make.
Possibly the most beloved walking route of this sort is the Lambic Walk, a 16-kilometre circuit in Beersel that takes in two lambic breweries. Lambic is a beer that can be savoured on its own, but it is also the base of geuze and kriek. For the low-down on lambic, kriek and geuze, check out our recent article on these beers.
Lambic can only be made in the Zenne river valley because it relies on spontaneous fermentation, meaning that brewers leave the wort in big open vats with all the windows open so local bacteria and yeast can get to it. This process makes lambic producers some of the most interesting brewery tours in all of Belgium.
The Lambic Walk takes in Oud Beersel and 3 Fonteinen breweries, two of the best-known producers of lambic, geuze and kriek. Oud Beersel is currently offering tours for individuals, with a tour in English every Saturday.
Sample all of 3 Foneinen’s brews, including limited editions and vintage bottles, at the Lambik-O-Droom ©David Samyn
The 3 Fonteinen has not yet officially started up tours again following the corona crisis, but if you contact them they might be able to arrange something. Barring that, the brewery's bright and airy café, the Lambik-O-Droom, is open on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s well worth a visit; you can sample the beers as well as get a look at the barrel hall. There is also a terrace should the weather co-operate.
The Lambic Walk (Lambiek wandelpad) officially starts at, appropriately, De Lambiek, a visitor centre where you can learn about how the beer is made and buy all you want in the shop, which offers many labels. It is currently serving as a vaccination centre and so is closed until 20 November. You can still park here, however, and start the walk.
The Lambic Walk also takes you past some historical buildings that were once breweries as well as Geuzestekerij Hanssens, a lambic blender. As the name implies, blenders don’t make beer but they blend it together or with other ingredients to come up with their own unique brews. All the notable sites can be found on this map, published by the city of Beersel. But the walk also takes in a whole lot of beautiful countryside, including two forests.
Still, 16 kilometres is quite a walk, so no one would blame you if you shortened it up, which is easy to do using the map. Parking is pretty easy on these country roads, and both breweries offer parking. Signposts for the walk can be found near either brewery. And if you’re using public transport, there is a train station in Beersel, and it’s conveniently very close to both breweries.
If you are more inclined to cycle, Flemish Brabant proposes the Lambiek-Geuze route, which follows a similar trajectory, taking in Oud Beersel and 3 Fonteinen as well as two more breweries: Boon and Den Herberg. It follows the node-to-node cycling network, is 41 kilometres long and also starts at De Lambiek visitor centre.
Along with the countryside around Beersel, cyclists on this route get as far as the Hallerbos, which does not sport its purple carpet of hyacinths this time of year, but is certainly still beautiful – and less crowded. A warning: This part of Flemish Brabant is rather hilly, so be ready for a few steep climbs.
Flemish Brabant Tourism has put together other suggestions for beer-related cycling and walking routes, including the Hoppe Cycle Route, which takes in Alken-Maes and Affligem breweries and several fields of hops. It starts at the lovely Affligem Abbey.
The Flemish Brabant tourist website gathers all beer-related cycling and walking routes in one place, with information in Dutch. It also provides information in English on cycling and walking routes in the province in general. Internationals can download a free guide to walking routes in English, French or Dutch, which also includes beer-oriented routes.
Photo top ©Lander Loeckx