I love visiting breweries. It never gets old, and to see and meet the brewers of a beer, and to hear them talk about their craft always makes me appreciate beer that much more. In Belgium, where beer is the norm, I'm constantly impressed at how gracious small family-owned breweries are when they open up their breweries and take time to give you a personalized tour. Nieuwhuys brews one of my favorite darker beers, Alpaide, a porter-esque dark beer with a hint of hops, and a neutral malt backbone.
Karl surprised me with this visit in June. We rode, along with our bikes, on the train from Leuven to Tienen, and took the fietsnet bike numbered trail that connects all of Flanders. It's approx. 11 km round trip, and the ride goes through Tienen before taking you through beautiful country-side. If you are coming there from Leuven or any surrounding towns, make it a full-day beer-bike Belgian country-side tour. Round-trip from Leuven is 45 km. Summer is excellent for long bike trips with the daylight lasting until 10 pm. Fruit trees of apple, cherry, and plum fall lazily into bike lanes. Hoegaarden is small; there is a cathedral, botanical garden with a nice terrace, a Saturday market in the middle of town which you can't miss, 2 breweries, and mostly homes. The visitor center is in the middle of town and can suggest sites. I almost forgot, of course, there are places to sample frites met curry mayo too!
To use the Fietsnet (bike net), type the location you want to go into the right hand side search box labeled Zoek op plaatsnaam (search a place). So in this instance, Leuven. The map should zoom or hover to that location. Click the red number. Then in the Zoek op plaatsnaam type where you want to go, e.g. Hoegaarden, or wherever it is you want to end up. Click the red number. A route will appear under Wegbeschrijving (or route details), located just under the search box. Fietsnet generates a route based on the route. When you're on your bike you follow the numbered trails. If you need to make any changes to the route, for instance to only be on paved bike lanes, then you can select it on the map manually. You can export to a gps, save the map on your iphone, print it, or just write down all the numbers. The Fietsnet does not have any maps for the Brussels region, or Wallonia, but it connects up with Holland. The Fietsnet is the best thing ever, and shouldn't you be shaking your fist to the sky and screaming why don't I have this where I live?!?!?! The bike trails can vary immensely, mostly it is paved, but you can end up on cobblestone, or dirt paths, but nothing too crazy.
The brewery is located in a converted, modernized, and revamped farmhouse. They have a couple of small-scale fermentation tanks, which they also use to distill genever. Nieuwhuys invested in a small bottling machine, but they still do a lot of the transfer of bottles by hand. In between the bottling area, and the fermenting and mashing quarters, is a fancy fully-equipped brewers lab. The owners and brewers of Nieuwhuys were both into their careers, when the husband began brewing beer full-time. They set up their brewery to literally exist in the shadow of the larger brewery (Hoegaarden), but to serve as a place to get together and enjoy the finer things. It is a charming, welcoming, and friendly brewery. Pick up bottles of the Alpaide blonde or dark, and the Rosdel, and perhaps a few of their fine Speculoos genevers?
To set up a visit, call ahead. You'll probably be given a time, and when you arrive, you'll do the beer sampling first. The Cafe Nieuwhuys serves food, so you can sit down to a fine meal inside or out (I recommend the Thai curry). The Nieuwhuys beers aren't too widely available, although beer cafe's with a monster beer menu will likely have it. In Leuven, I've found it at De Weiring and DeFiere Margriet. Nearby, it is stocked at ABS beer store in Winksele.
Alpaide, blonde and regular
Speculaas genever, essentially gingerbread flavored liqueur
The lab looking towards the bottling areas
Fietsnet numbers for the fietsknooppunten
Typical bike trail on the fietsknooppunten
Exploring some old cathedral and abbey ruins in Tienen