My first encounter with the beers from Oersoep was in De Bierkoning in Amsterdam where a big dark bottle with yellow print stood out between the many others. A dark bottle, a cork and a tiny booklet about the beer bound around the neck. A bottle that, like for example Duits & Lauret, shows class. I drank the chocolate stout that I bought that day around Christmas time and was not dissappointed. Oersoep is a brewery with some unique viewpoints and concepts interesting enough to write about. We asked Sander from Oersoep some questions and the pages of answers that were returned shows that Oersoep is very serious about their craft.
First off, the bottle. Why did you chose to do this?
“We wanted to show the care that we put into our beers. A 75 centiliter bottle is not that important for the flavor of the beer, but it does add something to the experience of drinking and this subconsciously influences the flavor. In our view beer is a product that brings people together, and therefore drink together. We also think it is important to be able to serve a beer as a good companion for a meal.”
Oersoep puts its beer mainly in bottles, only for special occasions can you get in on tap:
“Because we brew small quantities we think it is a waste to put most of it in a keg.”
The price of a bottle from Oersoep is higher than the usual bottle found at a beer store. Why?
“The reason our beers are somewhat more expensive that the average specialty beer is a question of work and time. We are a very small brewery that makes unique, often one-off, products. Our way of brewing is very labor-intensive. We brew six different beers in batches of 100 liters, four days a week. We fill the bottles on the fifth day. We make what we like to call ‘Slowbeer’; we have a love of wild yeast and aging the beers with wood so some beer take more than 6 months before they are finished.”
Sander assures me that my initial fear of the beers being too expensive is not true at all. People will buy a good and unique beer with a story.
The people behind Oersoep
The backbone of Oersoep consists of Kick van Hout and Sander Kobes. Kick used to own a specialty beer café. Sander got experience from brewing in the kitchen at home. The rest is a story found in the history of so many other breweries. Together they decided to making brewing as a hobby more than just that and moved to a building where besides brewing that could also sell. Demand grew and the brewery along with it. Besides Kick and Sander volunteers also help along. As we already saw they do not shy away from the experiment. The beers are every changing, taking into account the changing of the seasons, the yeast, the wooden barrels. Within those broad limits they look for new flavors. As any good new brewer should Sander knows there is still a lot to learn.
The name Oersoep
Oersoep, if you speak Dutch that name might not immediately conjure up images of beer. The literal translation of Oersoep is ‘Primordial Soup’, that little puddle of organic matter and water from which life on earth sprouted. In Sander’s views what a brewer does is similar: making a soup of malts, water and yeast from which beer comes. The word ‘Oer’ can also be read as meaning the older brewing methods like wild fermentation and the blending of old and new beer and the souring of beer in wooden casks.
A local brewery
Oersoep is located in Nijmegen, a city on the Waal river, close to the German border. The region around Nijmegen is rich fertile land and the brewers used some local ingredients for their beers. Some of their Saisons were brewed using local wheat milled by a still working local windmill. Close to Nijmegen is the Betuwe, a region around the big rivers known for the many fruit orchards. Starting July 2013 they expect to offer the beer drinkers of Holland local fruit beers like cherry stout. But they have something else in store: “we are also going to ferment some of spontaneous wood aged beers with local fruit”.
God is Great
Oersoep divides its beers into four separate categories: Saison, Donker & Diep (Dark and Deep), Bruisend en Blond (Alive/bubbly and blond) and God is Goed (God is Great). The last name was chosen for the beers that are made with wild yeasts. This name has a historic source: “’God is Great’ was the name given to yeast far into the 19th century. Until the scientific discovery of yeast by Louis Pasteur in 1875 brewers did not know a lot about the workings of yeast. They used yeast from earlier brews or took yeast from nearby breweries. This was not single strand but a combination of several types of yeast, including those that lived in the old wooden barrels. The unusual way yeast operates was of course attributed to the Almighty, therefore the name “God is Great”. The Oersoep beers in that line are also made with many types of yeast, bacteria and a little bit of God.
Oersoep is a very new brewery, what will this year bring: “The new year starts on January 19th with a tasting in the Bierkoning and a day later we will fly to Italy for a small festival where we will brew an IPA with wild yeast together with Birrificio Endorama. Besides that we want to experiment more with the Brettanomyces yeast, not much is being done with this yet in the Netherlands and we want to experiment more with it. Starting February we will release our barrel ages beers.”
“we are currently working on improving and enlarging the brewery with a 1000 liter installation. We want to finance this in part with crowd-funding, more about this soon on our webpage and Facebook page.”
Because of the intensive way they brew there is not a lot of time for festivals, apart from the beer festival in Nijmegen in May and the opening weekend of the Dutch beer week in The Hague.
But dear reader, the Oersoep bottles are worth making a trip to Nijmegen or a specialty beer shop.