Exploring the Netherlands and Belgium by river with AmaWaterways 1

This ‘Tulips & Beer’ cruise
 was unforgettable

Whenever the opportunity arises, I emphasize that traveling is one of the best things to do in one’s lifetime. Seeing the world, its marvels, interacting with people, indulging in fare, and simply breathing air in a completely different environment is unmatched. I fortunately had the opportunity to do all while spending eight days with AmaWaterways’ inaugural “Tulips & Beer” cruise during the spring of 2015.

Renowned for their exploration of the world via its picturesque river routes including Asia, Africa, and Europe, my years of extensive beer journalism under the alias “Ale Sharpton” granted me the opportunity to experience a significant portion of the latter continent. Specifically, sailing down Dutch and Belgian waterways inside a luxurious ship boasting fine dining, unlimited beverages, smiling service, fellow wide-eyed explorers primarily from the U.S., and yes, Wi-Fi, this was an unforgettable trip. What made it even more monumental was that everyone onboard began to develop a family-like atmosphere due to the intimacy of the 360-foot long, four-deck AmaLyra that carries up to 148 passengers as opposed to a colossal cruise line that hosts a virtual mall-like experience on a Saturday. Certainly, beer tastings and lectures run by fellow beer authority, author and columnist from Philadelphia, PA—Don Russell aka Joe Sixpack—along with dinners, and group activities made our ship that much more cohesive as well. (I did my part to orchestrate epic, late-night bottle shares as well.)

The eight-day journey began in Amsterdam, followed by the exploration in Arnhem, Nijmegen, Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent, Willemstad, and others. While the emergence of gorgeous flowers—especially tulips—and indulging in exotic beers were the main themes, I made it a point to shoot anything I could to demonstrate how wondrous and enchanting this adventure was. I trust you will enjoy what I selected from the few hundred of my portfolio. Again, make it a prerogative to explore the world whenever possible; by sea with AmaWaterways is an obvious recommendation.

For more information, visit AmaWaterways.com.

Brouwerij Gruut, Ghent, Belgium

Besides extraordinary beers made with brewing methods dating back centuries including using spices in place of today’s popular hops, Gruut’s frequented urinals were also worth a photo.

A Bottle Share at the Brink Bar in Nijmegen, Nijmegen, Netherlands

Following an insightful tour of De Hemel Brewery based at the municipality of Nijmegen in the Netherlands, our group set up an impromptu tasting at a very accommodating bar loaded with quality selections called Brink. Awesomeness.

The Top of the AmaLyra

This is the top floor of the 360-foot long, four-deck AmaLyra during one of the gorgeous nights along the quiet river routes during the trip. With a slight chill, a clear view for miles, and the uniform chairs surrounded by the track, I had to take this one.

Belgium Waffles in, well, Belgium

You can’t go to Belgium and not have one of their world-famous waffles! Fresh whipped cream, powdered sugar, and recently picked strawberries in a small Brussels café will make anyone’s morning, afternoon or evening. You choose. Housemade Belgian chocolate syrup, bananas, and other delectable toppings are optional.

Cantillon Brewery, Brussels, Belgium

Cantillon is one of the most renowned and sought-after breweries globally. Popularly deemed the father of the increasingly popular “sour” beers due to their unique wild yeasts and bacteria used with spontaneous fermentation, this family-owned marvel is a self-proclaimed time machine and for good reason: They use the same equipment and methods to brew Framboises, Gueuzes, Faros and Krieks to name a few since its debut in the 1900. This photo gives a feel of its praised absence of modern technology.

The Beer Temple

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Beer is big (among other things) in Amsterdam, but there are very few bars that carry U.S. craft beers—especially the bitter, aromatic and extremely popular American India Pale Ales. This is where you go to preserve your patriotism with 30 craft breweries on tap and more than 60 in a bottle pouring everything from Grand Rapid’s Founders, to Athens, Georgia’s Terrapin and Stone in San Diego, California. Oh, and look for an Ale Sharpton sticker or two while there. They definitely showed me love.

Dennis Malcolm Byron aka Ale Sharpton is a world-renowned beer authority, award-winning journalist, blogger (AleSharpton.com), photographer event planner, show host (Cruisin’ For A Brewsin’) and gourmand. He proudly resides in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter @alesharpton and Instagram @realalesharpton.