Archive for June, 2013

Dutch Beer Pages Revisited Part II: Wispe

Last week I wrote about Carl Stapelbroek and his transfer to De Prael in the first of the two-part series of ‘where-are-they-now’.

The second article I wrote was about Wispe, a cacao blonde beer from the town of Weesp near Amsterdam. Back then Wispe was just up and running for about one year and I am happy to report that the Wispe guys are still making beer! I again sent some questions to see how the business was going.

4 years and counting

Wispe started in almost exactly four years ago in July of 2009.In this period many brewers / breweries have started but sadly also fold. Why is Wispe still around? Remko gave the 4 main ingredients for a successful brewery.

Ingredient #1: Passion

This goes without saying. The passion of the brothers behind Wispe is brewing but also running their own business. Lots of passion and fun goes into inventing new beers and selling those to a new public.

The brothers Jitze, Jerrit, Remko

The Vellenga brothers Jitze, Jerrit, Remko

Add #2  Belief

Besides passion they have belief in what they are doing. Therefore they run it like a business: setting goals and trying to achieve those. Keeping positive is their best motivation when things aren’t going as planned but those who keep positive will prevail.

With some #3 Time and Energy

When talking about this Remko mentions a saying: ‘een brouwerij is een sjouwerij’, meaning that having a brewery is a lot of hard (physical) work. He says that because they are brothers they complement each other’s weaknesses. In this way they are a strong team with a good synergy where things go automatically.

And finally some #4: Luck

Wispe started at just the right time. In the four years that they started the interest in locally produced food and beer has only increased. Dutch beer is getting more and more attention and Wispe being in the market is good for those seeking this new way of consuming.

Tales of the unexpected

A brewery is a lot of dragging stuff from A to B. The logistical side takes up a lot of time as does the taking care of bottles, the promotion, glassware, the website etc. It is however what makes the beer a brand. Because the profit margins on beer are small they have to continuously keep an eye on the costs. But then again, that is also a creative challenge. Remko gave me more great answers on the economics of brewing, but I will save that for a later article about that side of the business.

A local success

People in Weesp are enjoying Wispe a lot: the locals drink it, the bars and restaurants serve it and the local media  are giving them a fair share of attention. Wispe have just released a new beer (more about that later) and that again led to more orders and attention on social media and other media outlets. The Weesp county stimulates initiatives like this and even orders some of the beer from time to time. The mayor of Weesp mister Horseling received the first bottles of Wispe back in 2009.

Wispe is being served in an iconic Dutch building: the Muiderslot in Muiden, next to Weesp and is the only specialty beer on the menu. Tourists come here from all over the country so it is a great way to introduce people to the beer. They are still waiting for greater  successes but stories in the national media, both newspapers and radio are of course always fun. They are most satisfied with the local attention and the media that target special groups like beer lovers. Remko also mentions the Dutch Beer Pages ;).

Wispe’s production has been steadily rising. At the start they made 40 hectoliters and this year they expect to produce between 120 and 140 liters.

The new Wispe Wit

The new Wispe Wit

Wispe’s New Beer

As written earlier Wispe just released a new beer next to their blond. It will be a White called Wispe Wit. They call themselves a specialty brewery and feel that they need to have more than one style, even if it is only one for every season.  It has taken so long because they first wanted to see how the first beer would do. After it became clear that Wispe (Blond) was a success and different enough from other regional beers they started to develop a new beer but with the taste  they wanted. The new beer took four years to develop and release, but a third one won’t take that long. It might even be released at the end of this year. They are cautious businessmen, but I think that they are taking the right steps.

 

Jitze Vellenga holding the new Wispe Wit

Jitze Vellenga holding the new Wispe Wit

Where are they now?

The brothers now have a better idea of what Wispe is and where they want to go. I can only applaud their efforts. Wispe shows that making beer entails more than just brewing and their meticulous way of looking at the business of brewing might make Wispe a brewery that will stay for a very long time.

Martijn Buisman

From Vat. 13 to De Prael

Vat 13’s ends but De Prael gains.

It has been more than three years since I first started posting articles here on the Dutch Beer Pages. The reactions so far have been great, both from the makers of the beer and those who then drink it. Looking at the stats I see that the readers are from all over the world. I have learned a lot about the Dutch brewing world and in the short three years that I have been working on this blog have seen Dutch beer grow in popularity.

This is helped significantly by the enthusiasm of the brewers (and awesome beer of course). Almost every time when I send them my questions I get answers back that show the passion for their craft. I revisited some of the earliest articles to see what has changed in the lives of two of the breweries since the first posts on this blog. Next week you can read how Wispe is doing. But now we turn our attention to one of those people whose passion for brewing made me believe I was on the right track in writing about Dutch beer (In English). Carl Stapelbroek started his own brewery called Vat 13. Spoiler Alert! Vat 13 itself is no longer in existence, but he has found himself a new position at de Prael so he is not lost to the wonderful world of barley and hops.

A Collecter's Item

A Collecter’s Item

The end of Vat 13

The first article came about after I had tasted his wonderful Schwarz called Moriaentje. Th release of this beer and the Dolle Tinus led to some attention. Carl could be spotted on festivals around the country and his face even ended up on the cover of Pint’s magazine. But in March of 2012 Carl ended Vat 13. His normal job working at De Leckere and a difficult year privately were too much of a strain and he felt he could not give it the attention that it needed.

Looking back

Looking back at the Vat 13 period Carl notices that there never were big financial difficulties. As so often said good beer sells itself and with clear goals it is your own hands how it will go. When I asked him if there was one thing he might have done differently it was letting the selling and distribution to someone else. What Carl misses the most is the actual design of new beers itself, and that includes everything: the recipe, the name, the label. What he misses least is all the red tape; all the paperwork that also goes into having your own beers for sale.

A new start at De Prael

Once in a while I see a picture on Facebook that Carl made standing on the front steps of his new surroundings. He now works at De Prael, right on an Amsterdam canal in the middle of the city. Certainly one of the better places to work if you are a brewer.

Carl about his new job:

“So far working here is going very well. It is a great installation and there is room for experiments. Apart from that De Prael is a very warm and friendly place to work that has no equal I think in the Netherlands. And it also never boring since there is always something happening here.”

Brewing at De Prael also means being closer to the actual work, closer at least then being a contract brewer when there is less time to brew.

A restart of Vat 13.

The Moriaentje has made a comeback of sorts in the form of the ‘Afschot’ from the Epe Bier Collectief. Henk Wesselink of EBC asked Carl if he could develop and brew a beer for them and he did, using as his basis the Moriaentje. I haven’t tried it so far but will be on the  lookout for one.

In the current Dutch craft beer boom that we are in it is inevitable that breweries will come and go. Let us first of all be happy that there are still a lot more starting that folding! Vat 13 may be no more but we still have De Prael.