Christmas Beer Festival & Markets Tour of Belgium

six days, five nights | One DEPARTURE A YEAR
• December 14-19, 2016
• December 13-18, 2017

Essen Beer Festival & Beer Tour
from 400.00
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Beer and shopping at some of Belgium's most magical Christmas markets...what could go wrong? The Essen Christmas Beer Festival is a very, very special and merry festival featuring many delightful seasonal Belgian brews, which are only available in Essen and in limited quantities. The official name of this event is the Kerstbier fest and is held in Essen, Belgium, near Antwerp.  It is organized by O.B.E.R. (Objective Beer Tasters of Essen) and has been going for more than 15 years.  This is a pay-as-you festival, where you get five ounce pours for 1.8 Euros. The Christmas Beer Festival is one that needs to be experienced at least once by all true beer enthusiasts.  This unique tour begins in Bruges and culminates at the famous “Kerstbierfestival” in  Essen.This is paradise for Belgian beer lovers. Also front and center will be the charming Christmas markets of Bruges and Antwerp. Ornately decorated, ice skating and Christmas music in the background, I can taste the hot-spiced wine now!  

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“My brothers and I had an incredible time with you beer hunting through Belgium. Thank you for setting up the private tour (Great Chicago Brothers Beer Tour of Belgium). It was an amazing experience we’ll treasure for a lifetime.”
— The Valdez Brothers and Eduardo, Chicago.

Tours Include

  • Five nights accommodations in nice, friendly, centrally-located hotels in Bruges and Antwerp.
  • All breakfasts, two lunches and three dinners with gratuities.
  • Beer during brewery tours, taproom visits, festivals and company meals as listed on the itinerary.
  • Ground transportation via rail.  Leave the driving to the engineer!
  • Professional and courteous BBM! guide services.
  • All tours and admissions.
  • An instant group of interesting and fun, beer-loving friends you haven’t met yet.
  • Guaranteed tour price the moment submit your deposit.
  • Plenty of unstructured free time to relax, shop and explore on your own.
  • Custom BBM! name badges.
  • Souvenir BBM! luggage tags
  • One souvenir BBM! soft-sided cooler per household.
  • Flexibility in the event you need to transfer or cancel your tour.

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Not Included

  • Airfare
  • Airport transfers.
  • Some meals and beer on your own. Free-time sightseeing.Our guides are available to provide suggestions.
  • Fine Print: You are responsible for the costs of your free-time sightseeing.  Be sure to read our Terms & Conditions Agreement for important details.
  • Gratuities, at your discretion, for brewery tour guides and coach drivers.

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Tour Cost

Deadline to sign up is one month before departure. 

SALE PRICE $1395/ per person. Save $200. Regular price $1595/per person + Air, $325 single supplement*
* Prices based on double room occupancy.  If you are a solo traveler and would like to have a private room all to yourself there is a single supplement fee of $325 in addition to the base price of $1595 per person. We can also work with you to pair you with other single travelers to avoid the single supplement. Better yet, recruit a friend to come, too! Unless, of course, like Rick Steves says, you prefer to “snore alone.”

We require a minimum number of guests for each tour to be guaranteed to go, so it’s important to sign up ASAP, as opposed to waiting until the deadline. Also, tours can fill rapidly and suddenly, so signing up early ensures that you will go and not be disappointed.

Please share  BBM! tours with fellow Belgian beer enthusiasts, your friends in general, and encourage them to join the fun!

map of overnight locations

SOME OF THE BREWERIES AND ATTRACTIONS WE HAVE VISITED ON THIS TOUR IN THE PAST:

  • Halve Mann Brewery & Museum
  • Cantillon Brewery & Museum
  • Grand Palace in Brussels
  • Cafe Trappisten at Westmalle 
  • Bruges Carriage & Boat Rides



Christmas In Belgium as explained by Shelton Bros. Importers:

"Consider, for example, the normally straightforward matter of Santa Claus.  In the merry month of December, there are at least six different Claus-like figures gadding about Belgium.  Around December 6th, children in the Dutch-speaking part of the country are visited by Sint Niklaas and his violent sidekick, Svarte Pete.  (Niklaas sorts the good kids from the bad.  The good are rewarded with candy or toys; the bad end up with a shoe-full of seemingly useless twigs).  Meanwhile, in the French-speaking part of the country, Saint Nicholas and his evil pal Pére Fouettard are out running the same ‘stick or treat’ racket, and, in the German-speaking part of the country, Nikolaus, with his companion Ruprecht, are doing the honors.

A couple weeks later, on Christmas Eve, a fellow known as Kerstman (Christmas Man) visits the Dutch-speaking households, dispensing gifts to all, old and young alike, while his counterpart,  Pére Noel (Father Christmas) hits the French-speaking joints, and Weihnachtsman (Christmas Man, again) services the German-speaking population.  Fortunately, the timing and the geography are such that none of these Clausians characters ever cross paths.  If they did—this being Belgium—they would curse each other, multi-lingually, and there would be punches thrown.

It’s all too much, isn’t it?  That’s why, in recent decades, the tradition of hearty Christmas brew has sprung up.  Enjoy an ale or two, and stop trying to figure everything out."

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Christmas Beer Festival & Beer Tour of Belgium Itinerary • 2014 Tour

Wed., Dec. 17 • Bruges  We meet at our hotel in Bruges. We’ll get checked in to our centrally located hotel, have a little free time and then meet for lunch.  Afternoon is free to explore.  Tonight, we have our welcome dinner at one of my favorite restaurants featuring delectable cuisine a la biére and first-rate beer menu.  Then it’s early to bed so we can be refreshed and ready to go on Belgium time.  I suggest buying a copy of Around Bruges in 80 Beers, which outlines the best beer places in town and suggest a beer in which to drink there!  (Dinner)

Thur., Dec. 18 • Bruges  Morning is free, and then we meet for lunch and a tour at Halve Maan Brewery and museum, home of Zot beer. This afternoon you have some more free time to take in the many sites of Bruges, rent a bike, take a carriage ride, visit museums, or just people watch, while savoring a Belgian beer in on a heated café terrace. You are on your own for dinner.  Later this evening we meet for an informal tour of some of the most interesting beer cafés in the city.  (Breakfast & Lunch)

Fri., Dec. 19 • Antwerp  After breakfast the morning is free for you to enjoy Bruges.  Lunch is on our own, then we board the train to Brussels to visit the classic lambic brewery of Cantillon and its museum. There you will see the brewery, its massive copper cool ship and the overall rustic nature of this cobwebbed institution.  Afterwards, you will get to sample these special spontaneously fermented beers of Cantillon.  Beer mythology and the lambic producers of the region purport the Senne river valley of Belgium, with its unique combination of naturally occurring airborne yeasts, as the only place in the world that can produce this world-class lambic and gueuze. 

While in Brussels, we’ll also see the picturesque Grand Place and several other beery highlights of the world’s capital.  After kicking around Brussels this afternoon, we'll transfer by train to Antwerp.  We check into our hotel, have some free time, and then later we meet at 5 p.m. in the lobby of our hotel to go to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Antwerp.  Afterwards, there is an informal pub crawl of some of the famous cafés of Antwerp, including the world-famous Kulminator. So much beer, such little time…  (Breakfast & dinner)

Sat., Dec. 20 • Antwerp   Morning is free to soak in more historic Antwerp, then we take the train directly to the Christmas Beer Festival in Essen, where you will have your socks blown off (so wear two pairs) by the delectable Christmas beers available here.   This is what the whole tour has been building toward and a decadent indulgence few beer drinkers will ever experience.  You will become members of a very small and elite club of beer enthusiasts.  This cannot be overstated.  We’ll spend the evening at the Festival, have dinner on your own there, and then catch one of the last trains back to Antwerp for a nice, peaceful sleep, where visions of Christmas beers dance in our heads!  (Breakfast)

Sun., Dec. 21 • Antwerp  Morning is free to sleep in or explore.  Then, we head to Westmalle to visit the famous taproom of the abbey, Café Trappisten.  We’ll have a leisurely lunch; sample the beers, including the “TripTrap,” which is a mixture of the Westmalle Dubbel and Trippel combined.  If we are lucky, we may also be able to sample the rare Westmalle Extra (3%), usually reserved for consumption by the monks.  Afterwards, we will see the beautiful exterior of the Abbey and its spectacular tree-lined driveway. You will have a little free time this afternoon back in Antwerp, then we have our farewell dinner tonight and do an informal pub crawl of the city’s many great beer cafés. (Breakfast, lunch & dinner)

Mon., Dec. 22 • Antwerp  Our grand Christmas Beer Festival Tour officially ends with breakfast.  You may catch the train from Antwerp a short ride to the BRU airport and just about anywhere in Europe.  Thanks for participating in the Christmas Beer Festival Tour of Belgium! (Breakfast)

* Itinerary subject to change.

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