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Bavaria beer tour

In the Middle Ages there were thousands of breweries in the Netherlands alone. This was a time when  safe drinking water wasn't available. Back then even children drank this alcoholic barley-water, though the alcohol percentage was considerably lower in those days. Unfortunately in 2010, only a scant few large breweries remain in the Netherlands. To find Brand we need to travel to Limburg, for Grolsch all the way to the far east, while Heineken, the Dutch national pride, has its head office in Zoeterwoude. Thankfully, the pride of Brabant is still available: Bavaria.

In the most recent blind tasting tests, this beer has consistently come out on top, so we decided it was time for a little taste. Tours of Bavaria start in Lieshout. This lovely village in Brabant could have easily been an inspiration for Guus Meeuwis, who, in his song 'Brabant', sang an ode to the most beautiful province in the Netherlands. You can enjoy a preview by having a look at its informative website (www.bavaria.nl) before you go, but the In Your Pocket team prefers the old fashioned approach of describing what they've seen - and tasted - themselves. Therefore we ventured into the heart of this picturesque village one Thursday morning. Searching for a dark brown pub (or so we thought) we reported to an establishment at 11:00 on the dot that is best described as classic, yet stylish. Having barely recovered from our surprise, we found that this brew-pub could put a thirsty smile on any drinking man's lips. The pipes of this comfy pub are in fact connected directly to the cauldrons in the nearby brewery, which means that there is a nearly unlimited supply of draught beer available day or night! But we were quickly awakened from our beer fantasy when our charming tour guides completed the headcount and took us to the real brewery, walking between different buildings. On one side were tanks, dozens of metres high, filled with the first stage of the world's most divine drink, which, unfortunately, is not ready yet for consumption by a long shot. On the other side of the road is the most beautiful view in the world. As far as the eye can see, we observed a bright blue horizon, only it was made up of the universally known blue beer crates. Thousands upon thousands of crates were lined up neatly like the North Korean army on parade day. Millions of beer bottles were filled right to the cap with the golden elixir. Once inside the complex, the smell dominates everything and is easily recognisable by any true beer lover. The aroma of barley and other fresh cereals is so powerful that apparently the people from Lieshout often smell it on a summer breeze. Still, there are hardly any complaints from at least half of the population. However, we didn't come all this way to indulge our sense of smell. Eventually we got to carry around our own tasting chalice. Unfortunately the first liquid that we got to taste wasn't beer. Different types of barley, mixed in water, was presented to us. It's this pure, clean water which gives Bavaria its special taste. The walk continued past a somewhat hidden door and ended in a kind of alien spaceship. If they ever come up with an award for Coolest Water Tap in the World, Bavaria would have a good shot at it, with this futuristic design. Naturally everyone is allowed to quench their thirst with the oldest and most consumed drink in the world. It tastes delicious, gorgeous even, but it's still water... a kind of beer-drinker's foreplay. Our eyes searched the big hall for the final goal of our excursion. The restlessness which we (apparently) emitted started to affect the other male participants of the group. Thankfully the ladies who guided us were accustomed to the whining of men, so they cheerfully continued their story about the copper kettles of Bavaria, unperturbed. For decades, these have served as ideal hosts to billions of litres of beer that were brewed here. But in 2010 they act as a multi-media teaching tool tourists. Those who look into these Leviathans no longer see any remains of foaming beer. Instead there's a series of flat screen TVs on which a flashing video explains the rich history of Bavaria. Because all of the information is in Dutch, including the videos, the tour guides take plenty of time to explain things to foreign participants. This is telling of the image of involvement and familiarity on which Bavaria prides itself. Although it was only just past noon, our restlessness continued, but quickly evaporated when we reached the final hall of the beer process. Here too we were generously allowed to taste this indispensable beverage. Such a cold pint was a slice of heaven, yet it seemed to taste slightly different than usual. As it turns out this wasn't due to the early hour, but to the lack of certain secret ingredients which are added in another hall. This happens away from nosy visitors or spies from other breweries. Just when we thought the fascinating tour was at an end, we were guided into one more, final hall. So Nirvana does exist. In this space the beer gets its last treatment and is squeezed into its corset. It's then distributed all over the Netherlands and abroad. Armed with our tasting glasses we made our way back to the starting point. Here we were allowed to taste to our hearts’ content and decide which Bavaria, out of all the glasses we tasted, was truly the best. This led to a heated discussion, but nevertheless, the final result was unanimous...

For more information about this tour visit www.bavaria.nl or call tel. +31 499 42 81 11.

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