Since the late 90s, Lambic Breweries and Blenders have opened their doors on a set Sunday every 2 years to welcome fans of Lambic, Gueuze and Kriek into their buildings. Despite 2015 being as busy as ever, it was still a very intimate affair. The 2015 edition took place on May 3rd with all breweries except Girardin and De Cam participating. Cantillon being an obvious absentee but as they are not a member of HORAL, they don’t participate / are not invited to join in the fun.
Much of the promotion of Toer de Gueuze is handled by HORAL and Yves Panneels (Head of PR and co-owner of In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst). I’ve been to many Lambic events since 2012 but this is my first time at Toer de Gueuze. I didn’t bother with the bus route system as I wanted to visit as many breweries as possible so I rented a car. A lot of Americans ask me how to get around these small lambic spots in Belgium on public transport. I have no idea. Rent a car. No special license is needed, most have a built-in SatNav (sometimes a TomTom) and remember to have an AMEX or MasterCard so you can use the self-serve pumps around Belgium with ease. I also highly recommend opting for a Diesel vehicle for the mileage savings.
Our route that day was simple. I was with 2 other RateBeerians, one of which had attended TdG in 2013. Here’s where we stopped:
- In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst: Frans Baetensstraat 45, Eizeringen, Belgium 1750
- Brouwerij De Troch: Langestraat 20, 1741 Wambeek
- Brouwerij Mort Subite: Lierput 1, 1730 Asse
- Brouwerij Timmermans: Kerkstraat 11, 1701 Itterbeek
- Brouwerij Lindemans: Lenniksebaan 1479, 1602 Vlezenbeek
- Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen: Hoogstraat 2A, 1650 Beersel
- Geuzestekerij Hanssens Artisanaal: Vroenenbosstraat 15/1, 1653 Dworp
These breweries didn’t make the cut because they were too far away or we showed up and the crowds were too outrageous to get in and out quickly.
- Brouwerij Boon: Fonteinstraat 65, 1502 Lembeek
- Gueuzerie Tilquin: Chaussée Maïeur Habils 110, 1430 Bierk (Rebecq)
- Brouwerij Oud Beersel: Laarheidestraat 230, 1650 Beersel
The top list is the most efficient Toer de Gueuze route for the most time savings.
Grote Dorst is open all day during TdG instead of their normal 3 hours so you can drop in at any point during the day. At 7PM, they were hosting a BBQ. I’m not a fan of Belgian BBQ so I passed on that one but we did go there first and I had the greatest unblended KriekenLambiek ever. Mort Subite had a 6 year old cask of Kriek they sold to the cafe and it was so jammy, fruity and oaky. Hard to describe too well as it was so long ago (in beer drinking) but very memorable. The bottle list at Grote Dorst is not as ‘rare’ as it used to be but I’ll keep going because the 4+ Unblended Lambik they keep on draught is very nice.
Among all of the breweries, Timmerman’s and Mort Subite were most interesting simply because their size. Mort Subite was a straight up factory with millions of gallons of lambic in stainless steel tanks (most of their product does not see any oak) and the one room with 20+ 200L Foudres for the Oude Kriek and Oude Gueuze product was a good showing that they are still doing some things the old-fashioned way but this is mostly because they have to in order to call their products Oude Gueuze/Kriek.
3F is always my favorite brewery to visit but the crowds were insane! Tilquin I had visited the night before during their English beer festival. A bit far out there away from other breweries but a very peaceful setting in the rural area of Belgium.
I think it’s possible to visit every single brewery during Toer de Gueuze if you drive yourself and are at the first place (De Troch) as soon as the doors open. Don’t take the tours if it’s not optional, sample some beers and be out in under 40 minutes and you can do it all.
I probably won’t return to TdG for the 2017 celebration but 2019 I do plan on visiting again. It’s a good way to rate some unique one-off beers and see first-hand just how much the Lambic world is growing.
A lot of attention is given to Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen but every brewery I listed has an Oude Gueuze and Oude Kriek product made with the exact same standards as 3F and Tilquin. There are standards in place and I actually am a fan of the Oude Kriek products from Timmerman’s, LIndemans (Cuvee Renee) and Hanssens. If you’re an American with little Lambic knowledge, TdG is a great way to become fully immersed in the style and try a lot of unblended Jonge and Oude Lambiek at the source. I should have gone to this in 2013 but I attended the Weekend of Spontaneous Fermentation instead and that was one of my first Lambic festivals and introduced me to Unblended Lambiek. If you’re a huge fan of these kind of beers, make it over to Belgium during one of these festivals.
Tilquin English Beer Festival (top and bottom)
Unblended Lambiek @ Grote Dorst (top and bottom)
De Troch Brewery (top and bottom)
Mort Subite (top and next 3 photos)
Timmerman’s (top and next 3 photos)
Brewery Lindeman’s (top)
Brewery Oud Beersel (top) that has recently opened a Lambic museum
Hanssen’s, a very small member of HORAL operating out of a barn / house.