While in November, HIM, M, Kat & I signing up for the Saturday tour – “Hops & Poppies” – a few days of Arnistice Day, so pretty fitting as far as we were concerned.
Jan (the owner & guru behind the concept) fetched us from the Ypres station (a mere 2hr train ride from Brussels) & whisked us off for a day of sombre remembrance followed by joyful beer tastings at 2 different breweries.
Our first stop was in Ploegsteert, where soldier left their trenches to play a bit of football for the 1914 Christmas Truce – we stopped at both the “field” and then onto the memorial site in the area to watch a video & absorb the surroundings.
While in the area – we also stopped at the Irish memorial
and walked along a wooden path towards the NZ memorial site (a few hundred metres away) which afforded us with gorgeous views of the area.
Sadly – the weather was seriously miz (aka “miserable”)… cold, wet and entirely appropriate for war site visits…. and due to this – plus a traffic jam (an agriculture vehicle had stopped in the narrow road for a few minutes) – we ran out of time to visit the Pool of Peace (which is normally where a picnic lunch is served) & instead we headed to a farmhouse of one of Jan’s friends to settle down for a warm & tasty lunch … cleverly served in military mess tins. (Washed down with local beer & wine)
And the final war related stop (after lunch) was Lijssenthoek, which is just outside Poperinge, and was the site of a very large field hospital. (HIM even spotted that there was ONE unnamed South African soldier buried there).
And then it was time for beer!!
De Plukker is a small brewery run by Belgium’s only organic hop farmers – 2 guys using their spare time (and resources) to bring 100% organic Craft beer to their customers! They also informed us that all beers are brewed with their own hops & are brewed/bottled on site.
HIM is not a big beer fan – but he walked out having purchased beers to bring home!! (That is a compliment if I have ever seen one from him)
And we finished off the day at Struise Brouwers, a story of Belgian guys who flew over (in a plane) an army of ostriches… thinking it would be the next BIG thing… and finally turned themselves over to being craft brewers instead. The ostriches are gone – but the name remains. Housed in an old school – with one class room dedicated to the on-site “brewery”, another to an office and the 3rd (and final) focused on being a tasting room – we settled down to drink & nibble on bread with their home-made beer paté.
The cost for the day (excluding train tickets) was 50€ and includes full day tour in an mini-bus (collection/return to Ypres Station); Entrance to the Ploegsteert Memorial; lunch; beer at De Plukker & Struise Brouwers.
We took the 08h36 train to be there at 10h30 & returned on the 18h39 train which got us back to Brussels at 20h30. The day is long – but full & fun at the same time!
We have also heard rumours that Jan will be adding a few more other foodie tours to his agenda – so keep a firm eye on his website for more details!