The end of January means one thing in beer loving Holland, on Sunday we all take the train to Gouda for the Winterbierfestival. This year it was held for the 24th time, making it one of the oldest running festivals in the country. The number of beers to sample is amazing, sometimes over 80 different ones. And because winter means darker beers with more flavor (and often a high alcohol percentage) we were not disappointed.
Time for some more information about this festival. We asked Martijn Stockmeijer of Pint Zuid-Holland a few of the questions we had about the festival.
In comparison to other festivals it is not the brewers who pour the beers but a large number (around 20) volunteers. Why this setup?
“One of the mindsets of Pint is to offer beers unbiased. It is also impossible to have all the brewers come to the festival, this might lead to the idea of bias as well. Pint festivals mostly work with volunteers for this reason .”
The organizing team of 5 people try all the beers before offering them. This is not a tasting to see if they are good enough for the festival, they merely look at the technical side. If here is too much acidity the beer will not be poured. This is for both the visitors but also for the brewers who might get a bad name this way. In the early years there were only a few Dutch brewers that could offer some winter beers, but the festival in Gouda shows the almost meteoric rise of new Dutch breweries, which Martijn agrees is a very good development.
Why this location?
“The festival started in Delft, then moved to Rotterdam for a few years before settling in Gouda. First at a few other locations until the school was found. This location is ideal because it is close to the station and has good facilities like toilets, water, chairs, tables, wardrobe etc.”
Some of the beers
So what did we sample when in Gouda. I was interested in the new Maallust beer 1818. It did not disappoint, a good tasting quadruple and my favorite from them so far. Brouwerij Liefde debuted with the Teder that shows promise. SNAB was there with the known Speculator that is always nice. Berghoeve came with a Scottish Ale called Mirrwinter. Winners apart from the 1818 were the Winterstout by Maximus, made by guys who really know how to make a good tasting beer. Emelisse brought a Jack Daniels White Label Winterstout which was, as almost all Emelisse beers these days, simply divine.
The festival keeps attracting people, this year they estimate about 800 people showed up to try the beers.