Archive for August, 2013

Something’s Bru’wing in Amsterdam

Opening a bottle of beer from a new brewery is always exciting. Will it be bad or a nice first start or will it be something good. In most cases it’s the former: nice enough to find in the good stores but not good enough to try other beers any time soon. Better beers are harder to find, but usually leave me interested enough to try more. And then there are the bottles that knock you back so much you think you just witnessed a miracle. Something similar to hearing the first Weezer or Arcade Fire album for the first time. In books about music you often read how people pull over to stand still and listen to a song they hear from the first time. If that was true the highways of the fifties would be littered with stopped cars alongside it, but that’s another topic for another day. If it was me that was driving and it wasn’t a song but a bottle from Bru’d, I would have stood there too.

For now they only released one beer that is unique already: a highly hopped Kölsch. Yes, you read that correctly. A German style Kölsch with American style hoppiness. A very international brew indeed. Go to their website and you will find that it, like this blog, is in English. And that for mostly the same reason we do: because of the many English (or at least foreign speaking) speakers in Amsterdam. (That a brewery in the middle of the tourist part of the city and with many people interested, it amazes me that the De Prael website is still only available in Dutch, but that rant should probably be left for another time).

The answers we received were for that reason already in English and written so well I took the lazy way and posted them verbatim.

Beerdrinkers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your Heinekens and Buds

Who is behind Bru’d?

Aike is a freelance organisation and management consultant. With a background in information management he does most of his projects in sustainable supply chains (think coffee, cacao, tea, palm oil, cotton). In his spare time he is treasurer of a community supported agriculture initiative with 1300 members near Arnhem.

Chiel is a freelance marketing specialist, having worked previously as a marketing consultant and as a digital marketer at a consultancy company in Amsterdam. Currently, he is starting his third life as an entrepreneur. Currently he is in the start-up phase for a platform that aims to help small local food makers and communities to work together to bring local food to consumers. We can’t divulge much more than that now, but it surfs on the same trends that Bru’d is surfing on too. 

How did the start of the release of the first Bru’d go?

Honestly, it went a lot smoother than we expected. We are not planning to make this into anything big, basically we wanted to experience whether we could actually develop and bring a beer to the market. And preferably one that people liked of course. And that seems to have worked quite well. Of course you need to plan ahead and know what you want to do. But we assumed we knew what would be involved, from developing and tweaking the product at home, to finding a partner who could help us boost our production and sell it. I guess the trickiest part is finding the time to actually do it in between the other jobs we both do, which can be quite demanding. But in the end, that fact also lowers the pressure a bit. Fortunately we are not dependent on beer sales to sustain ourselves because we are working other jobs. So the worst scenario was that nobody would like our beer, and we would have had to drink it ourselves. Actually, a bit of a pity that sales are going so well, because we wouldn’t mind having a few more bottles left…

First reactions

We were quite surprised about the number of positive reactions really. We were fortunate enough to be able to deliver our first beer to the best and most respected beer sellers in Amsterdam. We are currently available at de Bierkoning shop (in Paleisstraat), and we have been (and soon will be again) on draft at Gollem’s Proeflokaal (Overtoom) and at In de Wildeman (Kolksteeg, in bottles).  And we’ve passed the city limits recently, and are available at the ABC Beers shop in the Hague as well. 

Of course we’ve been luring our own friends and family to these bars to have a taste, and they are really enthusiastic. But hey, we bought them a beer, so that’s not that surprising. But quite a lot of people have rated us favorably on Untappd and Ratebeer as well. So that’s very encouraging to us as newcomers.

Communist Theme

When you are on that website you will notice the communist symbolism used. And there is a good reason for this:

The background is that we believe that there is a lot of mass-produced beer out there. Some of them are fine, but for the majority it’s just a bit boring. Luckily over the past decade we have witnessed the surge of craft and microbrews.  We feel part of that craft movement. We’re just 2 guys brewing beers in our spare time without a big production facility, we are just passionate about the brews we develop. In the end, there are many more people just like us who are creating original beers in their own garages or kitchens. So it’s sort of like bringing back the means of production in the hands of the people. From there on, a link with a communist theme is quite easy to make. 

The Hoppenheimer

The Hoppenheimer

Why a name like Hoppenheimer and Bru’d?

The communist theme allowed us to go pun-crazy on the label. While there are people that regard puns being the cheapest form of humor, we regard every pun (especially the cringe-worthy kind) as high art. As Hoppenheimer is the first and only beer on the site, it still has the communist allure. However, more themes are coming. No cow is holy enough that we won’t make an udderly ridiculous pun on it. Yes. I went there.

As the previous point on the communist theme might indicate, we are quite immature. And that seems to manifest itself in laborious and cringe-worthy pun-runs. We like to play with words, as we like to play with worts. Bru’d is just a play on words of Brewed. Initially we had a version with an Umlaut, but we decided against that. Truth be told, we had quite a shortlist of different names, which we thought were funny.  

Why a highly hopped Kölsch?

Well, to start with, we were shooting to release the beer in springtime. So we wanted something which was a nice thirst-quencher, but yet quite firm and full-bodied. Plus, Aike is originally German, so he has had good experiences with Kölsch beers. And in the end it fits quite well with the Communist theme, because it is ideal after a hard day in the mines…or the office.

And the extra batch of hops: that’s just our own personal taste really. We are both hopheads. We love big hoppy beers, we both like the recent IPAs coming out of the States for example. 

Bru’d brews there beer in Amsterdam at De 7 Deugden. Why?

At home we are experimenting with brewing our beers in small batches (up to 40 liters), that’s a great way for us to learn and test out stuff. But when we decided we actually wanted to sell our beers, we knew we had to find a partner, who could help us boost our production and produce it against local rules and regulations. We both live in Amsterdam, and we like the idea of local collaborations. So we quickly came to a shortlist of suitable craft beer makers in Amsterdam, and we decided on de 7 Deugden. Partly because we like the way Garmt produces his beers, but also because de 7 Deugden is a social enterprise which employs people with learning difficulties. That’s a very commendable approach these days, so we were happy to choose de 7 Deugden at a partner. And we are very happy with our choice, Garmt is very knowledgeable and surely credits go to him too for the quality of the product. 

A new Bru? (‘d)

There always is! We can’t tell everything yet, but we are developing a Porter-styled beer. Of course, there will be a little twist, but it will be true to the heritage and nature of Porter beers. And of course we will be playing with the political and economic themes a bit…

The Bru’d Website

Bru’d on Twitter

More about the social mission of the 7 Deugden

An Owl flies in Haarlem

Haarlem once was a city that had hundreds of breweries. They all vanished over time until Jopen started brewing to become one of the biggest breweries of the smaller ones. Jopen’s logo can now be found all over the city. But from its ranks sprang a second Haarlem brewery: Het Uiltje.

Owlman

Robbert Uuiltje1yleman is an example of how being around good craft beer is infectious. His job and his love for highly hopped American style beers made him start brewery Het Uiltje. Robbert was working behind the bar in the Jopen Kerk in Haarlem because, well, he just liked working there one day in the week. On one other day in the workweek he  was an accountmanager for a company specialized in audiovisual techniques, something he had studied for. But the call of the beer was louder than techniques for the eyes and ears so he bought the gear and started brewing with two friends at home. Of the three he was the only one to persevere and that perseverance gave us Het Uiltje. The rest is the usual story of a starting brewer. Jopen had already asked Robbert to substitute as brewer  when one of them sick or to make the third brew of the day. When in February one of the brewers left, Jopen needed a new one and turned to Robbert, a logical choice. He gave up his job and started working for them fulltime, already being familiar with the installation and way of working. Brewer at Jopen is  now his fulltime job, with het Uiltje being extra work besides it. But Het Uiltje is 100% his, as we will see.

The Owl

Robbert’s last name is Uyleman. Uil is the Dutch word for owl. Using an owl as logo for his own beer was only logical. When he had decided on an owl he started drawing some owls.  The first try was the best and that is now the simple but effective logo of Het Uiltje. Robbert designs everything himself: the labels on the bottles, the photography, building and keeping up the website, the texts on the site and labels. For him running a brewery is a creative outlet in more than one way than just brewing great beer.

Robbert is in the Jopen brewery all day anyway so it was the most logical place to brew his Uiltje beers. That and living nearby. The Uiltje beers are all his own recipe and when the brewing is done, he buys the beer from Jopen and can do with it as he wants. He does part of the distribution himself but Melgers (the great store in Haarlem) takes care of some of it as well. Robbert is working on a more national distribution network.

uiltje2Debut

Robbert’s “debut” with Het Uiltje was in Haarlem at Café Briljant where he staged a Tap Takeover. In the crowded bar people could sample the beers and hear about his plans. The second beer (The Velduil) was launched during the Dutch Beer Week in May and was beer of the month at the Arendsnest in Amsterdam. The next two will be released shortly at different locations.

At the Takeover he let people doodle on het Uiltje coasters to get some funny plays on the logo. Twelve ideas were picked up, and these drawings can be found on some of the labels too! If you find one you can make a picture and send it to Robbert. This has already happened a few times and the best photographs will be put in the monthly newsletter. The winner was Uilbelix, a little owl dressed up as Obelix from the Asterix comic books. He enjoys the interaction with drinkers, so that it is not a stuffy old way of just boring labels with text.

Local boy

At the beerfestival in Haarlem I wrote about in the last article, I saw het Uiltje beer was also for sale in the café on the square. I wondered if he had help from Jopen with this but Robbert this is not the case, he does everything himself. As a true Haarlemmer he knows the local bars well and stepped inside them to try and sell his beer, with success. The bottles are already for sale in all of the eleven provinces, and he delivers the bottles himself so he has already put up many kilometers. His beer has crossed the border already too and can be found in Finland, Denmark, Germany and Belgium.

The Beer

So what does Robbert actually brew? He is definitely of the American school of brewing: beers with a lot of hops. My first beer from Het Uiltje was a Double IPA and that was everything an IPA should be. Great floral notes and a very nice bitterness. A bitterness even my wife liked and she is not a fan of IPA’s (yet).

The beers have the names of different owls. The Velduil, Steenuil or Dwerguil. Robbert likes a pun or two as well for the special releases; who wouldn’t want to try beers called Do Not Eat The Yellow Snow, Lekker Bakkie Kobi or Sai-so-niet dan toch? The last two are hard to translate into English but they are a coffee stout  and a saison. The Lekker bakkie Kobi was made with raisins and dates.

Robbert at the Botermarkt Bierfestival 2013

Robbert at the Botermarkt Bierfestival 2013

Hoot

The owl has long been a symbol of wisdom and some brewing wisdom reached the creative part of Robbert’s brain. As a brewer at Jopen and as his own separate brewer of Het Uiltje it is good to see yet another new face in Dutch brewing, and Robbert is one of the more talented ones. So walk into any Dutch beer shop and there is a good chance Robbert’s colorful label with the black owl is laughing at you, begging to bought. If you do, you won’t regret it.

Link to the website (Dutch only)

Botermarkt Bierfestival 2013

Right before this Dutch craft beer revolution started going to beer festivals was something to look forward to because there just weren’t that many. Now you can pick and choose. The weekend of the 3rd and 4th of August you could go to Ermelo on Saturday for the festival at Burg Bieren or go to Haarlem on Sunday, which is what we did.

It was a beautiful warm day in Haarlem for the Botermarkt Bierfestival 2013, part of the Haarlem Culinair foodfest. The engine behind this festival is local brewery Jopen, located not far from the marketplace. Invited were Duits & Lauret, Maximus, Butcher’s Tears, Klein Duimpje, De Molen, Jopen, Ramses, SNAB and Scheldebrouwerij.

Het Uiltje

Het Uiltje

It is an open air festival that has a lot of advantages. First of all you don’t have to pay to get in. You but the beer directly from the stand. The usual plastic coins might have been easier, but maybe this led some people to get a beer they otherwise would not have gotten. People who were already doing the Haarlem Culinair thing might also be tempted to try a special beer instead of wine and judging from the public this is what happened, it was different than a crowd at let’s say Borefts. Another advantage is that it is not closed off so you can come and go if you like to get something to eat, go to the shops that were open or get some ice cream. And thankfully we live somewhere where the police is not patrolling, stopping people who wandered a millimeter outside of the designated drinking zone. With weather like this these festivals are great, though a little more shade would have been welcome with only one covered standing table in the middle.

That was the festival, now the beer.

All of the names are familiar ones by now with the exception of Het Uiltje, a new brewery also from Haarlem. Their American influenced beers did very well. I myself started off with their Steenuil, a Double IPA that was immediately the best I had on the festival.

But none of the beers I had were bad. Not very tasty was the Spanish Inquistion from Jopen, a scotch bonnet (Madame Jeanette pepper) infused stout. This was one of those beers that was just fun to try. Starting out with the flavor of green peppers and ending with quite a kick almost in the throat. No actual good flavor but we love experiments! An experiment from Jopen that did work was a Kuyt IPA called Frans Hals.

Ramses getting ready to serve

Ramses getting ready to serve

A closeup of the Hops and Wood chips in the Stout Door Hout

A closeup of the Hops and Wood chips in the Stout Door Hout

Another brewer who never shies away from experimentation is Ramses. He brought a lot of good beer, including two very special experiments. One was a beer that first went from lime zest to give it a very refreshing taste. The other one a stout that went through hops and cognac and whiskey barrel chips. We are getting into the phase now where the beers on the whole are already good so now the headway can be made in unique things like this.

Around 15:00 things seemed to be in full swing with lines in front of the stands. We missed the 15:30 opening of some special barrels unfortunately due to bus schedules.

With perfect weather and good quality beer this festival will be on our calendar again next year. Hopefully with a little more shade!

Beers tried (grade from 1-5): Jopen Frans Hals (3 ½), Jopen Spanish Inquisition (2 ½), Kluim Duimpje Hillegoms Tarwe (2 ½), Ramses Stout Door Hout (4), Het Uiltje Velduil (4), Het Uiltje Steenuil (4 ½), Butcher’s Tears Misery King (3 ½)

The Dutch beershops: catalysts for the Dutch Craft Beer Revolution

In the Netherlands we are in the middle of a beer revolution. A revolution that can be seen in the many festivals we have today and the cafés and restaurants who now serve some Dutch beers next to the Belgians. The main source for our bottles and the easiest way for brewers to get their beer sold to the public is still the liquor store, and especially the specialty beer stores. We are fortunate enough to have a few very good ones.

The rise of Dutch beer can be witnessed in these stores. Where in the past only a few breweries would actually have bottled beer for sale, now more and more different kinds of Dutch beer can be found in these stores. The same goes for the chain stores like Mitra, even supermarkets like Jumbo and Albert Heyn might now on occasion sell local beer if they have a manager with a good heart. Let’s not even start with the specialty food stores and natural food stores.  But is my initial thought that Dutch beer is taking up more and more space on the shelves a right one? And if so, doesn’t that automatically mean that other  beers had to give way to these? I started investigating, asking four of my favorite beer stores a few questions. The interrogated quartet are De Bierkoning in Amsterdam, Bert’s Bierhuis in Utrecht, Melgers in Haarlem and De Bierwinkel in Leiden.

A selection of beers bought at De Bierkoning late July

A selection of beers bought at De Bierkoning late July

The Stores.

A short introduction to the questioned stores might be in order before we go on. If you do not know De Bierkoning I am guessing you either don’t like craft beer or just started to become interested. For those of you visiting Amsterdam it is a must visit place. Not the biggest of stores but in a great location behind the Royal Palace on Dam Square in the middle of Amsterdam, and therefore also the middle of the public life in this country now for over 25 years.

De Bierwinkel in Leiden is nicely located on a church square where Peter Jongejans runs it. It also is not the biggest of stores and is not exclusively selling beer. Lovers of wine and whiskey can also find what they are looking for in Leiden.

Melgers too is a more-than-beer liquor store on a very old backstreet of downtown Haarlem. Not on a main road so you have to look for the it on a map it’s worth the wandering through Haarlem’s small streets. With the Jopen Church right around the corner it is no wonder that you can find many Jopen bottles here but they have a lot more as we will see later.

Bert’s Bierhuis is in one of the nicest parts of Utrecht. The Twijnstraat is one of those streets foodies love. Chocolate, fish, fresh produce and cooking stores you have to pass before reaching Bert’s Bierwinkel, and from there it is only a short walk to a good beercafé called Het Ledig Erf. Of all the stores I talk about here this store has by far the most room.

The Rise of Dutch Beer…

I started off with asking how much more Dutch beer they sell compared to 5 and 10 years ago. The averages over the shops seems to be a more than a 20% rise in the last ten years. Peter Jongejans (Leiden) thinks he offers about 15% more Dutch beer than a decade ago. Dennis of Melgers believes the number of Dutch beer right now in the store is around 35%. There is a shelf there that is quite impressive, about 5 meters of De Molen beer only. Their offering of specialty beer in general has risen from about 300 6 years ago to over 900 today. For De Bierkoning, manager Jan guesses that since the (Dutch) beer revolution really started about 5 years ago about a quarter of what the store offers is now from the Netherlands and that is an increase over the last decade. Besides being a bigger part of what is on offer, it is now also the best selling ‘country’.

…and the decline of the Belgian multiplications

Here’s a little math test for you all: If in a limited space something gains mass, something else has get smaller right? What do you think that something is? Did you guess Belgian dubbels and tripels? Then you are right. For a long time these were the only specialty beers available, including the ones that were ok yet not earth shattering or easily available somewhere else, as with the InBev Belgian beers. It is these bottles that have departed from the shelves to make way for the influx of Dutch bottles. It goes to show yet again that beerlovers these days seem to go more for the local, and newer beers instead of a mediocre Belgian one. The days of thinking: ‘it’s Belgian so it must be great’ are over. Beware neighbors to the South! That the Belgians are leaving is something you see in all the stores. Besides those the bigger Dutch ones (Heineken) and crates of beer have left De Bierkoning too and are being replaced by local ones and beers that are harder to find.

Going Local

It would stand to reason that a store in Utrecht sells local beer, and Bert does just that. De Leckere, Maxmimus, Rooie Dop, Duits & Lauret can all be found there. Peter of the shop in Leiden strongly advocates selling local beer. I personally have bought most of the EleganT and Leidse Brouwerij there and he has a good selection of De Molens, Bodegraven being only a few trainstops away.

Haarlem is also perfectly located. First of all there is the giant that is Jopen, but they are no longer the only brewery from Haarlem with the start of het Uiltje. Being located so very close to Amsterdam brewers from the capitol can be found as well. Beers from the same province like SNAB and Texel sell well, and also Ramses’ colorful labeled beers seem to fly off the shelf.

Most Jopen beers are also available in De Bierkoning, as are all the brewers from Amsterdam like De Prael, 7 Deugden, ‘t IJ etcetera. Whenever a new brewery in Amsterdam pops up (with an astonishing rate this year it seems) their bottles can be found here. But don’t worry, you can find an impressive amount of De Molens and Emelisse bottles here too. This raises the question: do brewers benefit from a good beerstore nearby? Maybe a question for another day.

Interest

People seem to be genuinely interested in local , or at least regional beer. Peter sees that the small, mostly onetime batches sell the best, especially the Leiden beer that he sells to non-Dutchies. He has a very strict rule for himself and that is no InBev beers and Jopen is about the biggest Dutch brewery coming in through the door. Jopen’s neighbor Melgers hardly sells beer from the bigger breweries. De Bierkoning also doesn’t sell a lot of beer made by what Jan calls the Big 8 (Lindeboom through Heineken). Their big sellers are ‘t IJ, De Prael, De Molen, Jopen, Texel and Emelisse.

Due to its prime location De Bierkoning attracts two major groups. One is of course the local beer lover but being in the middle of the country also means that tourists are coming. Holland is rapidly making a name for itself across the borders as an up-and-coming ­craftbeer nation. The fact that most of these beers are for sale here attracts many. If people are only in the country for a few days Amsterdam usually is the only destination. Besides the beer hunters from across the border regular tourists also drop by to find something local.

Yes

So the answer to my question is a resounding yes. The specialty stores do show that we are in the middle of a revolution of local beer. With the still climbing number of Dutch breweries we can do this survey again in 5 years and see what new Dutch brews are available.