This morning I had the privilege of visiting Abdij Onze Lieve Vrouw van Koningshoeven, better known as De Koningshoeven to fans of La Trappe.
Koningshoeven itself, means “King’s Farmhouses,” a reference to the open heath once populated with a sheepfold and farmhouses, owned by King William II.
Since the late 19th century the Monastery’s impressive spires have reached towards heaven, while below Monks generate revenue by brewing.
To this day, sales of La Trappe are the main source of income for the Abbey and its numerous benevolent projects.
Inside the gift shop rests a selection of La Trappe product not easily found elsewhere, including an Oak-aged Quadrupel and a Belgian Pale Ale called “Jubilaris.”
Unfortunately there is no tasting room, so visitors are required to buy full bottles to go. I have two weeks of my life saddled to my bike, so not a lot of extra space, but my panniers made room for bottles of Witte, Bock and Quad. The €10.70 barrel-aged beauty, however, stayed behind. One day…
Today is the first day of my official @BeerCycling tour, so I knew from my preordained schedule I was to vacate the hallowed grounds no later than 1:30. In fact I left far earlier because I also started earlier, in a different town (Den Bosch) than what the official itinerary suggested (Amsterdam, then a train to nearby Tilburg).
For me it was the right move. Having my own bike in Europe has given me so much opportunity to see amazing sites and sights at my own pace, without dealing with the limitations of tracks and timetables.
Today I commuted 20 km more than BeerCycling prescribed, but since the whole of the ride was still less than I’ve moved myself on other days, it felt really good to start early without dealing with the railway.
The day’s second stop was Heusden, a beautifully restored, fortified city with one hell of a past. Dating back to the 13th century, it’s been an historic stronghold for half as long. William of Orange gets credit for having built up its defences.
The town’s castle was devastated in 1680, by a lightning bolt igniting 60,000 pounds of gunpowder. Centuries later, retreating Nazis blew up the town hall where 170 residents were taking cover. 134 (more than 10% of the town’s population) were killed when the 40-meter tower crumbled down on them.
The restoration of the town is inspiring however, and I’m incredibly grateful my BeerCycling coordinator, Henk, suggested I stop in its Vismarkt for a break.
That’s where I had a Gulpener Korenwolf Witbier, which, at 5.0%, was just fine for me to continue cycling. I’ve been trying to taste more from this nearly 200-year-old Dutch Brewery, which strives to be carbon-neutral. I quite like their Pilsner, and I’m not typically a Pils kind of guy.
Another score for BeerCycling was the decision to continue the trek along a stunning canal route, rather than the more direct one. The scenery along the last 25 km of today’s ride was a breathtaking array of thatched cottages, boats, sheep, goats and greenery.
Today’s destination, where my head now rests next to my glass of La Trappe Witte, is Woudrichem.
Another ancient stad – this one dates back to 1356 as a recognized city – it’s not a place I would have picked on my own (I still can’t even pronounce it properly), but as with Den Bosch, I sure like its Coat Of Arms.
Again, full marks to BeerCycling, not only for reserving my accommodations in Hotel Woudrichem – an absolutely charming inn, built within a former post office – but for putting a note in my file that says I’m vegan. The staff weren’t the least bit flustered by my dietary preferences, and in fact seem to take pride in knowing exactly how to satisfy them. Bonus marks to the hotel for asking what style of beer I was drinking when I asked for a glass to take to my room. I said Bock, they brought a stemmed bowl, with a nice, wide mouth.
Unfortunately tomorrow looks like another day of rain, so I’ll try to be out as soon as my vegan brekkie is in.
Destination: Brouwerij De Molen, which ships most of its product stateside. Its guest area is headquartered inside the windmill (FYI: De Molen translates to “The Mill”) that still brews some of the smaller batches.
But more on that tomorrow.