Down the River

De 4 Vaargetijden is on its way again — down the Leie River to the next stop in the town of Deinze. Our small group all decided to stay aboard for at least one day to experience what it is like riding the waterways in Belgium, enjoying a beer or two. It turned out to be a great way to see some beautiful countryside as the river wound its way through the outskirts of Ghent, under bridges, and through historic locks that date back centuries. We also got to witness our intrepid crew (Maurits and Olga) in action expertly putting the old barge through its sailing paces.

This is the final part of a four-installment series of stories about a beer, bike, and barge experience in Belgium.

Part 1: Series Overview
Part 2: Beery Explorations in Brugge
Part 3: Delirious in Ghent

Deinze area – click anywhere on map image to open an interactive Google map

The dense urban feel quickly gave way to patches of open countryside punctuated by riverside communities. Robotic lawnmowers were frequently seen clipping the lawns of houses that lined stretches of the river. The stretch was home to abundant bird activity and the birders among us stayed busy scoping them out. I relaxed and tried out a beer or two that had been collected along the way, but not yet sampled. The transition from the bustle of the cities to the rural Flemish countryside was a welcome wind down, and had me waxing poetic:

The Leie River

The sun shines down on the Leie
As the barge slowly plies the channel.
The water is calm and clear,
And the banks are lush and green.

We pass through a lock,
And the water rises high.
The barge creaks and groans,
But it continues on its way.

We stop at a country inn,
For a beer and a bite to eat.
The sun is setting now,
And the sky is ablaze with color.

We sit on the terrace,
And watch the world go by.
The birds are singing,
And the air is filled with peace.

I take a sip of my beer,
And close my eyes.
I can hear the river flowing,
And the wind in the trees.

I am content,
And I know that this is where I belong at this moment.
I am at peace,
On the Leie River.

A Ride from Deinze to ‘t Oud Sashuis

After mooring in the center of Deinze at the foot of a beautiful church, there was still plenty of time for a bike ride in the country back up the river to the historic ‘t Oud Sashuis, a delightful country cafe and lock station along the Leie.

‘t Oud Sashuis across the bridge

‘T Oud Sashuis is fronted by an erector set-looking structure which is the works for manually raising and lowering a bridge over a lock in the river to let boats pass. Several times as we sat on the pleasant terrace, the ‘sasmeester’ who was also the proprietor of the cafe ran over to the structure and hand-cranked the bridge up and out of the way for a boat to pass.

He was a friendly and colorful character to watch in action. Bald as can be and sporting bib overalls, he seemed to be everywhere — serving beers, spraying customers at the tables with water to counter the heat of the day, leading his goat around through the tables, and running to operate the bridge. This man seems to enjoy every minute of what he does. He invited us to look around in the old house – kind of an informal museum. We strolled around unattended through bric-a-brac and stacks of old books, photos, paintings, boat stuff, and other artifacts.

load of fun

‘T Oud Sashuis’ considerable beer selection is displayed in a variety of repurposed tubs and vessels from an old rowboat to a wheelbarrow. They offer a house beer called Schobiak and the owner took delight in recommending a spicy blonde called Hete Klinke paired with a ballsy blonde called Klootzakskes. This place is a classic in my book, and not to be missed if you are lucky enough to be in the area.

The Ride to Brouwerij ‘t Verzet

The brewery stop while based in Deinze was a ride through the countryside (and a good bit of construction) to visit Brouwerij ‘t Verzet in Anzegem. We were warmly welcomed by one of the co-founders, Alex Lippens who introduced us to the brewery, company, and beer passion that is Verzet. Brouwerij ‘t Verzet is a place where passion, vision, creativity, and exceptional craftsmanship converge.

on the ride to Verzet

Alex and his two co-founders are known for pushing the boundaries of traditional brewing and their results have earned them a loyal following. After what had been a hot ride, I was thankful that Alex took us to a shady spot out back for talk and refreshment to start things off. Alex introduced us to Verzet’s range of beers. Each beer had a unique story that signaled the obvious beer passion at play here. These guys are BEER GEEKS with a vision. ‘t Verzet means “The Resistance” … a statement against following the path of the mainstream beer industry. At the same time, it is clear that honoring authenticity, building community, challenging the status quo, and environmental sustainability are also important undergirding for their vision.

Each of the beers in the Verzet range was excellent and their signature Oud Bruin is a complex and fruity sour beer – kind of a modern counterpoint to the venerable Rodenbach. Over time, oud bruins had come to be considered an old man’s beer and a goal when they started was to help re-establish oud bruins in the Flanders region it once dominated. This old man thinks they are doing fine with that. Alex says that Oud Bruin is the “coolest beer we work with” — learning about how to do it well and continuing to learn with every brew.

Alex Lippens talks about the Verzet range

Following the tasting we were treated to a tour of the small brewery. These guys put their time in apprenticing at various Belgian breweries and one of the founders even did a stint at New Belgium in Colorado. Verzet started out as a gypsy brewer but by now has built an attractive facility. They have an array of substantial projects with barrel aging, wild fermentation, blending, and collaborations with other breweries. The blends have chalked in names of rock stars on the barrels to identify them.

I noticed some monkey masks hanging around the place so I asked what that was about. Apparently, the owner of Mikkeller was quoted as saying that brewing is easy (Mikkeller is more a marketing company than a brewer). He said something like, “you can train a monkey to brew a beer.” That didn’t sit well with the Verzet guys so they took to wearing monkey masks when they brewed a beer they called Scandinavian Pussy as a tribute to the Mikkeller guy who isn’t a brewer.


Deinze seemed like a sleepy small town most of the time we were there, but on the weekly market day the place was in high gear. Deinze’s market is a vibrant affair that takes place on a wide main street in the heart of the town. It was just steps away from where we were moored next to Onze-Lieve-Vrouwkerk, a Gothic style Catholic Church dating from the 1400’s.

Entering the market you are surrounded by colorful stalls, enticing aromas, and the cheerful chatter of community. The market has been held for centuries and is an integral part of the town’s cultural fabric. An abundance of fresh local produce, prepared foods, and artisanal treats were on sale. Plump fruits, juicy tomatoes, creamy cheeses, and enticing pastries were on display next to more mundane fare like underwear and socks. Traditional Belgian dishes like waffles, chocolate, and speculoos cookies were also on offer. There were some crafts and artisanal items rounding out the mix.

It is a bustling place on market day with lots of samples on offer. We wandered through the stalls savoring the sights, sounds, and tastes. It was clear that the market is about more than just commerce. It is a place where friends meet, stories are shared, community is built, and memories are made.


A day before our final stop was to happen in Ouedenarde, the barge trip abruptly ended for my wife and me when she tested positive for COVID the night before the last day. We grabbed our stuff and started a new adventure of figuring out how to self-quarantine and follow all the other rules and precautions that the situation required. I am including a few images taken by friends who were able to complete the final day which included another bike ride and visits to Brouwerij Liefmans and Brouwerij Verhaeghe.

Brouwerij Verhaeghe is a small, family-owned brewery located in Vichte that specializes in red ales but brews other beers as well. They do a lot of barrel aging.

Brouwerij Liefmans is located in Oudenaarde and is more than 300 years in the making. They do sours including oud bruin, wheat beer, and a Belgian ale. Liefmans has been owned by the big Belgian brewing company Duvel Moortgat since 2008. 

So this was an abrupt ending to what had been an otherwise idyllic romp (if you can do that on a barge and bike) through beautiful cities, towns, countryside, and breweries. It’s not my normal mode of travel, but I can highly recommend the experience.

the gang

Read more stories about beer, hiking, biking, and travel in Belgium

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