Archive for March, 2013

Love and the struggles of a small brewer

When Antoinette van der Schriek brought her beer to festivals and shops it was the name that stood out. No last name, historic name or geographic name. Antoinette named her beer “Liefde”, the Dutch word for love. A name like that caught our eye and merited an article on the Dutch Beer Pages. We received great answers to our questions, answers that gave us more than we asked for actually. Antoinette is honest and told about the love of brewing, but also the struggles that a small brewer has to cope with. The economy of small brewers will be a separate article soon.

The woman behind Love

Antoinette is educated as a math teacher, though not currently employed as one. Besides brewing Liefde she is mostly spending her days as a fulltime mother, housekeeper, cook, painter, mechanic etc. This is all done from a rowhouse in a town in the province of Brabant. Too small for her own brewery, so she brews at Anders in Belgium.

liefde1Inspiration

Antoinette gets inspiration for new beers from the magazine Brew Your Own and online discussion forums like the Dutch site hobbybrouwen.nl. One of the reasons for starting Liefde was that she could not find great beers in the country. Her favorites are sour beers like Liefmans Goudenband, a beer she cannot make herself. Other favorites are the Scheldebrouwerij and Fullers’ London Porter. A Dutch beer she does mention is Jopen’s Ongelovige Thomas. She has a lot of contact with the Natte Gijt guys and with Martin of Muifel who give her tips on brewing. This has led to four beers so far: Stoute Liefde (playing on the translation of the Dutch word Stout meaning naughty) and Intense Liefde. The latter one is a combination of the first two Liefde beers: Intens and Teder (Tender).

The economy of brewing

So what does someone do when starting a brewery? Antoinette:  “Getting the beers on the shelf was the first goal and the easy part because people are very willing to buy the beer. But here is where the tricky parts of owning a brewery begin. Goal number 2 was to have a nice side profit from making the beer, so far this has been unsuccessful. The profit margin is quite slim. The initial buying of the products is very expensive as it is and you don’t want your bottles to be too expensive. This means the margins are too small to be a profitable company. Unless you can make and sell more which of course means further traveling and higher distribution costs. Besides all of this I have to rent storage space which also eats into the turnover I have and want. This was something I had not expected beforehand. This all means Liefde will have to be smaller and more local.”

liefde2What will 2013 bring?

2013 will be Liefde’s second year. She bought a few kegs for her own and will make smaller batches (about 200 liter) at other breweries. This beer is meant for festivals and won’t be available in bottles. First of these will be a blonde that will be made with the help of Wesley from the Brouwcafé in Scheveningen (near The Hague). 2013 will mostly be about looking at the present lines of distribution will be enough to sell the 1600 liters she is contractually obliged to brew at the Anders Brewery where the Liefde beers are now made. Hopefully the local cafes, bars and restaurants will do that. If that turns out to be impossible the batches will have to become smaller and the problem then arises if there is a brewery that will allow that. But whatever happens, she will be on festivals with the Liefde beers, since that is the most fun to do. The kegs can be stored at home, for hundreds of bottles the house is too small.

But let us hope that these bottles stay on the shelves of our favorite beer stores. Why not try a new beer once in a while and help the smaller brewers at least make some profit. And most of all, do it for the love that we have for the beers who are loved by their brewers.

As a wise man once said: All you need is Love.

Links

Brouwerij de Liefde Website

Liefde on Facebook

Noord-Hollands Bierfestival in Alkmaar 2013

For quite some time now the Mare Nostrum school in Alkmaar has hosted the Noord-Hollands beerfestival. This festival only features breweries from the province of Noord-Holland and it was evident once again that the number of Dutch breweries is still growing. Even though this province has the advantage of having both Amsterdam and Haarlem within its borders, the rest of it offers more than enough for the beerlover. Besides the growth in numbers it also showed a rise in overall quality.

Museum and Cafe De Boom

Museum and Cafe De Boom

Alkmaar itself is one of those nice, quaint, Dutch towns. Gabled houses, canals and small streets surrounded by a moat. As all Dutch cities this one too had breweries, but none or left these days. It does however have a beer museum located in the middle of town. Though small the museum is always worth a visit, especially for the low admission. There is information about the brewing process, some history of Dutch brewing and a lot of old bottles and signs. Added bonus is that it is located in an old brewery. Underneath the museum is beercafé De Boom, an ABT café with quite a selection of beers. Maybe not the most interesting selection for specialty beer drinking scouring the country for unsipped beers, but the location on the waterside merits a visit nonetheless. Unfortunately not a lot of the beers at the festival could be found there. You can buy beer at liquorstore ‘t Hekeltje on one of the main streets (Laat), impressive range of De Molens here and some other nice beers, including local ones.

The weekend of the festival was hopefully the last of the cold winter weekends. This did not stop people from coming. The breweries present ranged from mainstays like Jopen, Texel and ‘t IJ (who brought along the first beer brewed at the new location) to smaller ones like De Bierderie, Heyloo, Vijfhuizen or the Noord-Hollandse Bierbrouwerij who debuted with their Uitgeester Duveltje.

The Main Room at the festival with all the breweries

The Main Room at the festival with all the breweries

This was my first time at this festival but it won’t be the last. However unromantic a school might be, it does provide space. Minor gripe is that is far away from a railway station and you have to take a bus there, but I won’t complain when Noord-Holland offers this much great beer. Regional television was present as well to make an item, hopefully once again showing the rest of the country there is more than Heineken and Amstel. PINT Noord-Holland staged yet another well managed festival, their part in spreading the Dutch craft beer word is instrumental. The only thing they should really work on is the weather, no more snow and cold please! (that is a joke).

Beers tasted:

Butcher’s Tears Lipreader on Parole – maybe my favorite by them so far. Please guys, reply to the questions I sent!

Heyloo Ter Coulster Dubbel – I loved their Blond but I wasn’t too impressed by this dubbel.

‘t IJ No. 1 – if you were blind tasting you’d automatically know this was from ‘t IJ. This by the way is a very good thing.

De Natte Cel Whiskey Honey – very special, maybe a little too much of everything but a very interesting experience.

Noord-Hollandse Bierbrouwerij Uitgeester Duiveltje – the first beer of that day, a very good start, hope to taste more from them in the future.

Vijfhuizen – De Generaal – Surprising, also a brewer worth checking out more.

Bottle Collection at the Museum

Bottle Collection at the Museum