The city of Groningen is located in the far north of the Netherlands, dominated by a large student population and a medieval tower next to the main square. Though not known for its beer tradition and breweries it was nonetheless the stage for one of the better beerfestivals we have visited. The tower, the Martinitoren, is part of the church which was the setting of this festival, held because Groningen was the ‘capital of taste’ and the organizers thought it would be a great idea to hold a beerfestival as part of it. Groningen has a few smaller festivals but this one made full use of the capacity of the large church hall.
Choosing this church as a location was a brilliant idea. First of all it is located smack dab in the middle of the city. Secondly it was large enough for the 1600 people who came to the festival. The church also had multiple entrances, spreading out the people over the church. With its good acoustics and high ceilings it was a perfect building for a festival. It was a very well organized festival; ticket sales beforehand, a wide variety of stalls and screens for people tweeting about the festival.
A festival like this might not be for the true connoisseur, or snob, of beer. The range of beers served was too broad for that. People who just wanted a good time and drink a Palm or Duvel with friends could do just that. Fortunately the setup of the space was such that the biggest part of the church was for the bigger, more popular brewers. The medium busy part for was the medium sized brewers like Jopen and De Molen. The small microbreweries were all located in the back and were well visited. That the market for them is growing showed. Long, but never too long, lines for beers from for example Burg Bieren from Ermelo, Apeldoornse Stadsbrouwerij, Ramses, Maallust or debutant Kromme Jat from Groningen. Both their triple and blonde were tried by us and got high marks, showing that they have a bright future ahead of them. For quality this might not have been the best festival, but with the big assortment of beers there will always be something of your taste. It does help of course when De Molen has a Rasputin on tap to finish your evening.
But it wasn’t just brewers. The local restaurant and bars also had their own part of the church, showing once again that beer is a perfect supplement to other good things in life like food. Besides this there were also masterclasses about beer, booksellers and a few beerstores and importers who served beers from all over the world. Great idea was the competition for the best Triple from Groningen. The winner came up with the quite brilliant idea of using ingredients from the famous Groninger Koek (a cake), in his beer. The prize was well-worth investing time in because he won space on the shelves of every Mitra liquor store to sell his beer.
The festival was a success before the doors even opened. High ticketsales and good buzz has made the organizers realize that there is a future for this festival. Next year it will be held again, and this time over two days.