A Beer Hike to Bodegraven
This is the fourth blog post in a series: the Best Beer Hikes in the Benelux. During previous beer walks, travel companion A. and I visited La Trappe, De Leckere and Gulpener. Today our target is brewery De Molen (The Windmill) in Bodegraven.
It’s a 21,8 kilometer hike to De Molen’s brewpub, through a variety of landscapes. The route can be followed on the map, which, as usually, is clickable, zoomable and pannable. Click here for a larger version.
The walk starts at Gouda’s intercity railway station. The city is famous for its cheese and stroopwafels, but that’s something for another excursion. We leave the northern suburbs of Gouda via a green route, through Park Atlantis and along the rural Bloemendaalseweg.
A few hundred meters after the underpass under the highway we turn left, into the polder. The Polderpath first runs straight through the meadows between the cows. Then it becomes a narrow trail over a strip of land with wide ditches on either side. Even in this dry summer, the Green Heart of Holland is still remarkably green.
On the border
The route continues on Middelburgseweg. Here we walk on the border between two completely different landscapes. On the left are the colorful nurseries of Boskoop, with greenhouses and fields full of plants of a very diverse nature. To the right, about four meters lower, is the peat meadow landscape around the village of Reeuwijk.
We graze the suburbs of Boskoop. Also on the north side, the transition between nurseries and meadows is very abrupt.
On the first part of the hike we regularly had to share our route with cyclists and cars, but the second half is almost entirely on hiking trails. Hops grow wild on the path along a canal called Toeganswetering; how appropriate for a beer hike!
We reach the cosy, picturesque and somewhat sleepy village of Zwammerdam, located on the banks of the river Oude Rijn. After 15 kilometers it’s high time for a pit stop at café ‘t Geluk.
You would almost forget, but if we cross the Oude Rijn on Zwammerdamsebrug, we are in fact leaving the Roman Empire. After all, this river, at that time the main stream of the Rhine, formed the northern border of the Empire.
Following the Rhine upstream it would be only 2.5 kilometers to Bodegraven. But we opt for a slightly longer route, with a detour through the meadows. A beautiful path, along dikes, ditches, surprised cows and narrow bridges. This route is closed during the breeding season, from mid-March to mid-June.
When we reach the outskirts of Bodegraven it is only a short distance to the center where we cross the Rhine again. The windmill that gave the brewery its name can be seen from the bridge, a few hundred meters downstream.
De Arkduif is a scaffolding mill from 1697. In 2004 Menno Olivier, who previously worked at the Rotterdam city brewery De Pelgrim, started brewing here. These days, De Molen brewery produces between 50,000 and 90,000 liters per year.
Since a few years, the brewery has been owned by Swinkels (formerly Bavaria). But the brewers of De Molen remain in charge of the development and production of their craft beers. And hopefully it will stay that way until the end of time. Because they obviously put so much enthousiasm and craftsmenship into their products. In addition to a permanent collection of twenty beers, they make experimental beers on a regular basis, promote regional products and enter into collabs with other breweries.
Production no longer takes place in the mill itself, but in a shed across the street. On a previous visit we took a very informative tour here, and we were especially impressed by the barrel aged program. Beer matured in oak barrels that were previously used to store whiskey of wine. The result is very special, but one really needs to take the time to enjoy.
The mill itself is now used as a shop and brewpub with a pleasant terrace (open Wednesday to Sunday). The beer choice is, as you may expect, overwhelming. We choose an English porter, Hamer en Sikkel, and a Belgian tripel, Heen en Weer. Both taste excellent.
After those 22 kilometers of walking we also like to have a bite to eat. Vegetarian A. is enthusiastic about the aubergine with filo dough and blue cheese. I myself am very pleased with the chicken satay.
And unlike on previous beer walks, there’s no need to limit our beer consumption because of a follow-up walk of several kilometres. Bodegraven’s railway station is only a few hundred meters away. But of course as beer connaisseurs we like to drink responsibly.