29 March 2010

The Drinking Tour of Flanders

Good beer and bicycling go hand in hand. In America, there's nowhere that serves as better evidence than cycling/craft beer capital of Portland, Oregon. Portland not only has the most breweries/brewpubs per capita in the United States, it is also well known as a cycling mecca, and despite 55 days with measurable precipitation a year is ranked first in bicycle commuting among the 30 largest cities in the United States.

If you were to imagine Portland as a country, perhaps your best choice would be Belgium. Bad weather, bicycling and fantastic beer are all part of the Belgian identity. Once a year Belgians gather to celebrate the combination of those elements in the Ronde van Vlaanderen (or Tour of Flanders) spring classic bike race.

The Ronde (along with Ghent-Wevelgem and Parix-Roubaix) is perhaps most famous for its route on the cobbled backroads of southern Belgium. These brutal cobbled sections break men and bicycles alike, leaving only the hardest of hard men at the front in battle for the title of Ronde van Vlaanderen champion. Perhaps it is fitting that this year's Tour of Flanders will be held on Easter (5pm ET, Versus):
"Only those who are in top condition can say that the Ronde is not hard. For everyone else, it's the Way of the Cross." -Andrea Tafi
We are not professional cyclists. We are fans and drinkers. Drinking along with the Tour of Flanders route is our own way of the cross.

Beer 1) The route starts just outside of Brugge, namesake of Indiana's Brugge Brasserie, so perhaps a bottle of Brugge White, Black, or Tripel might make for a fitting introduction.

Beer 2) Route continues through Hooglede, just 17 kilometers from Esen, home of De Dolle Brouwers.

Beer 3) The route passes through Lendelede, just 6 or so kilometers south of Ingelmunster, home of Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck, makers of Kasteel Rouge.

Beer 4) Route passes through the region Wallonne and heads north at Russeignies, about 26 kilometers north of Pipaix, home of Brasserie Dubuisson Frères, makers of the Scaldis lineup of beers.

Beer 5) Route passes through Brakel, just 32 or so kilometers south of Melle, where the Brouwerij Huyghe produces Delirium Tremens and Delirium Nocturnum.

Beer 6) Race finishes at Meerbeke, a 21 kilometer straight shot from Brussels' Sint-Jans-Molenbeek neighborhood, home of Brasserie Belle-Vue (which I could have sworn I've seen in local liquor stores). But since we can't get that here in Indiana, we'll look north (still only 52 kilometers from the finish) to Breendonk and Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat, makers of Duvel.

If you've kept up with the race, hopefully you'll be with me in celebrating a win by Cervelo Test Team. And if you've kept up with the beer, there's a good chance you passed out and didn't make it to the end of the race. No need to worry, Paris-Roubaix (the king of the classics) is only a week away.

Having never been to Belgium, I can't say this is entirely accurate. I definitely appreciate any comments or corrections. In this case I stuck to beers and breweries with beer available in the United States (Indiana in particular).


  1. This is an awesome post. I want to ride the Ronde van Vlaanderen now. Not necessarily competitively.