A Different Kind of Ronde - the Rondje Roodbruin
I love the Tour of Flanders! With their hoards of rabid fans waiving giant yellow flags emblazoned with the over-sized Lion of Flanders, the winces of pain from muddied racers slogging up 20% inclined cobbled bergs, its highly unpredictable nature making it near impossible to predict a winner, the race most certainly makes for spectacular viewership (sorry, not sorry TDF)! And this Sunday, April 1st brings the 102nd running of De Ronde Van Vlaanderen. But while I'd love to continue to revel in De Ronde and all its glory I'll leave it up to the plethora of other bloggers and media outlets, and chart a different course. You see there is another pass-time that rowdy Belgians, and the world over, might enjoy just a little bit more than cycling and that's beer! Come to think about it, who doesn't like beer, and Belgian beer at that? Belgian beer and cycling... it's a perfect marriage made in cycling heaven. And just as we have cycling's version of a Flanders tour, we have beer's version as well, this one aptly named the Rondje Roodbruin. Rondje Roodbruin loosely translates into Tour of the Red-Brown, referring to the beer's reddish-brownish coloring. Held every other year the tour is put on by the four Flemish breweries that make this fine ale to help highlight their craft. These breweries comprise of De Brabandere, Omer Vander Ghinste, Rodenbach, and Verhaeghe.
Just incase you're a novice (like myself) when it comes to this hyper localized beer, here's the skinny. Flemish red-brown ales - often referred to as "Flemish Reds" - are beers of mixed fermentation - a blend of young top-fermented beer and old spontaneously fermented beer which then matures in upright oak vats (called foeders) for at least 18 months. Yes you read that correctly... aged minimum 18 months! This process yields a very smooth almost red wine-like flavor, slightly acidic in nature but also sweet in taste. Its character makes these ales ideal thirst quenchers, which leads me to believe they're perfect for cycling!
Held this May 6th, the Rondje Roodbruin festival is not only an opportunity for visitors to sample numerous Flemish red-brown ales and see the four breweries first hand, but also to enjoy the entertainment, including guided tours, jazz bands, specially curated sour blending and other regional delicacies. So if flogging yourself in an effort to retrace your cycling hero's Tour of Flanders pedal strokes over iconic bergs like the Koppenberg and the Oude Kwaremont doesn't sound like your cup of tea, then I suggest taking on a slightly less punishing and perhaps more imbibed tour; the Rondje Roodbruin. And hey, the tour even has a bike route to boot!
Want to know more? More practical information can be found at the Leiestreek tourism board's website: Toerisme Leiestreek