Discover Europe’s Beer Trail by Train: Rotterdam, Leuven, Nuremberg, Pilsen
Updated: Apr 21
Today's train travel makes continent-hopping easier than ever. Take the 8:55 am Eurostar from St Pancreas Station in London and you can be sipping Noort Dubbel, dark craft beer in Rotterdam before lunchtime.
Follow this fascinating rail journey through Rotterdam, Leuven, Nuremberg and Pilsen to taste some of the finest beers in Europe.
Rotterdam – A Springboard of Innovation
Thoms Brewery - Photo: Creativebloom
Rotterdam is the most innovative city in the Netherlands, with new and exciting small businesses spawning, adapting and growing at a rapid pace. Blue City, (previously the Tropicana), a former sub-tropical swimming complex converted into a creative hub for new entrepreneurs, and location of the craft brewery ‘Vet & Lazy’. Try ‘Bean Me Up Scotty’, a Porter styled beer made from coffee beans sourced from an organic coffee bar within the complex.
A water-taxi ride away is Thoms Brewery, located behind the beautiful City Hall. Award-winning young brewmaster, Jazze Post, will take you through a tasting of the Thoms Pilsner, Pale Ale and IPA, unpasteurized and unfiltered, and tapped directly from the huge tanks suspended above the bar. This ‘Stadsbrouwerij’ boasts the longest bar in Rotterdam.
We recommend a meal at De Matroos table d’hote, with its set menu and excellent service, before heading to the landmark ‘Centraal Station’ for the next leg of the journey; the Capital of Beer, Leuven.
Leuven – Capital of Beer
Oude Markt Leuven - Photo: visitflander.com
The traditional pursuits of brewing and higher education go hand-in-hand in this Capital of Beer. The oldest university in Belgium, the 15th-century Katholieke Universiteit, includes the 13th–century UNESCO-listed ‘Great Beguinage’. Now home to AB InBev, largest of the world’s brewing companies and producers of the famed Stella Artois, this once cloistered community of pious women has been incorporated into the university campus.
Join the flow of students making their way from the Leuven Train Station along the historic Bondgenotenlaan to the Grote Markt (town square) where you can work up a thirst while marvelling at the late-Gothic St Peter’s Church and the statue-adorned facade of the Stadhuis (City Hall). The Oude Markt (Old Market) area is home to numerous bars, including the ‘longest bar in Europe’. Just a short, gabled, stroll away is the beautiful Flemish-Rennaisance library, the University’s oldest building, which was completed in 1636.
On the outskirts of Leuven, in the revitalised Vaartkom & Sluisstraat district, you will discover the home of Brouwerji De Hoorn dating back to 1366. Sebastian Artois was appointed the brewmaster in 1708, and his name is honoured by the famous Stella Artois, first brewed under that name in 1926.
The brewery plays host to the annual “Leuven Innovation Beer Festival’, a historic platform for craft breweries from around the world to show, promote and educate beer aficionados in the art of the perfect brew.
Visiting ‘Hof Ten Dormaal’ is a fascinating journey into artisan brewing. This family-run brewery grow their own grains and hops for their range of craft beers, and master-brewer, Jef Jannsens, is not scared to experiment with new trends and ideas, which include ‘Summer of 67’, a Hemp-based beer, and a 12% alcohol content, limited edition, Belgian Blond Ale that gets its unique flavour by ageing in Whiskey barrels sourced from the Scottish Hebrides Jura whisky distillers.
Nuremberg – The City Saved by Beer
The 580km journey from Leuven to Nuremberg is a scenic treat offering the traveller chance to relax and enjoy the landscape while catching glimpses into the daily life of passing villages and towns that can only be experienced by train.
During the allied bombing of the city during the dark days of WWII, the locals (Nuremburgers) sought refuge and safely by sheltering in the 13th–century underground cellars, carved from the subterranean rock over a 400-year period. “Beer saved us”, explains a local tour-guide, ”just as it saved us in medieval times when beer substituted for the near-undrinkable water and became the favoured beverage of the day.”
Joining a tour of the historic Beer Cellars is an essential beer-lovers pilgrimage. One enters the tunnels from behind the statue of German painter and printmaker, Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528), and the excavation extends for kilometres beneath what once was the most important royal palace of the Roman Empire, the Imperial Castle, with its lofty view over the city. The tour ends by emerging from the gloom of the tunnels into the bright courtyard of the ‘Hausbrauerei Altstadthof’. Here you can enjoy their famed Rotbier (Red Beer), and an interesting single-malt whiskey which is the product of the beer-distilling process.
Head back to the Nuremberg Train Station on Bahnhofspl for a journey taking you through the pine forests that form the border between Germany and the Czech Republic, and the final destination, Pilsner. Pilsen – The Home of Pilsner Urquell
Republic Square - Photo: Trio-Points.com
Although the city is steeped in a history stretching back to the 10th-century it is mainly known amongst beer aficionados as home to the world-famous Pilsner Urquell. The Pilsen Urquell Cellar Tour is a fascinating one-and-a-half-hour journey through time, stretching through kilometres of 14th-century beer tunnels and vaults, while an experienced guide reveals the medieval artefacts and water wells that once connected with the cellars of the famed Pilsner Urquell Brewery.
Popular history tells that in 1838 prominent local residents staged a protest against the poor quality of local beer by emptying 36 kegs into the main square. This act of rebellion was the impetus needed to found a new brewery, and under the guidance of Bavarian brew-master, Josef Groll, history was made on 5th October 1842, when he perfected his now-famous beer. Since that day, beer-lovers have enjoyed the country’s favoured beverage directly from the brewery’s giant oak barrels.
Considering that the Czech people consume more beer per capita than any other country in the world, it should come as no surprise that one can actually bathe in beer at the Purkmiste Microbrewery on the city’s outskirts. Submerging oneself in litres of unfiltered and unpasteurized beer mixed with crushed hops and yeast (supposedly improving blood circulation), may not appeal to everyone, but is a fun, and healthy, way to end any excursion into the world of beer.
Photo: Purkmiste website
Article compiled and written for Red Flower-UK
© Andrew Knapp – The Design Train
NOTE: The author does not own the copyright of photos and images used within this article and credits have been given where possible