The idea of a brew-inspired romp around Belgium or the Netherlands invokes daydreams of golden ales frothing to the rim of bulbous tulip glasses and sitting around long wooden tables in historic Trappists breweries.
It doesn't make one think of cycling through European countryside and cities. Yet these two contrasting pastimes seem to be a match made in beer heaven, and one company – the aptly-named Beercycling – has mastered the craft.
Whether a tour is led by founder and American beer enthusiast Even Cohan or Dutch guide and hop farmer Henk Wesselink, every Beercycling journey brings forth a contagious passion for beer and the regions that create it.
There's no doubt you'll earn your drinks. Most tours cover an average of 32 to 64 kilometres a day, typically at a leisurely pace with regular stops and very little up-hill riding. The 9-Day Adrennes Challenge Tour is the only exception, featuring hilly terrain and a more intense cycling schedule.
It's all part of the immersive experience, offering you more opportunities to take in the less touristic sides of Belgium and the Netherlands while getting to know your fellow beer lovers.
While cycling may be the means of transport, the main focus of every tour is the renowned craft beer. Each day includes a visit to at least one renowned brewery, Trappist Abbey, restaurant or local farm brewery.
With all the tastings, lunches and dinners, you'll have plenty of opportunities to drink, but it's not the only way the experience the region's beer. Brewery, abbey and hop farm tours let you discover more about the process and history of beer making, with some opportunities for hands-on learning.
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Although realistically you wouldn't book one of these tours if you hated beer, you don't necessarily need to be a devout drinker to enjoy a Beercycling journey. Other highlights include diverse Belgium or Netherlands nature, historical excursions and free time in certain cities, which you can explore however you wish.
There are five tours to choose from: two 10-day journeys, the aforementioned nine-day Adrennes tour, and another two four-day trips. The 10-day Flanders Adventure Tour is the most popular, covering a range of cities and villages, along with the 'holy grail of beer', the Abbey St Sixtus.
Beercycling also hosts a bottle share night during a couple of the tours. If you're booked on one of these, it's recommended you bring a couple of beers along from home (if you can). These nights are an unexpected highlight, providing a great opportunity for you to further share your passion for beer and discover additional brews from around the world.
The essence of Beercycling is simply a chance to see more of Belgium or the Netherlands; meet people from around the world; discover history, traditions and the craft of brewing; and of course, drink some of the world's tastiest beer.
Combining drinking with cycling brings up the legalities of intoxicated bike riding. Similar to most countries, being drunk and riding a bike is a punishable offence in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Beercycling approaches this slight hiccup with some straightforward thinking. Most of the brewery visits where you're invited to drink a lot occur at the end of the day and the hotels are usually within walking distance.
Some days on tour will include a mid-day brewery visit, so riders need to implement a little self control to avoid becoming over intoxicated. One of the promoted techniques is to share beers with one another, which saves money and limits alcohol intake.