Archive for November, 2013

Texel: Island of Beer and Lamb

Longing for a short, relaxing holiday in our own country we decided to travel to Texel, the largest of the so-called ‘Waddeneilanden’, a collection of islands that stretches from Texel in the west all the way to Denmark. Maybe not the best time of the year to visit an island considering the sad weather and cold winds but autumn has its own charms. Besides enjoying the countryside, the sea and beach which we had almost entirely for ourselves, we wanted to experience local food and drink. When you are visiting this 170 km2 of land you have to eat lamb (in almost every meadow you can see grazing sheep). You can have it in a stew, on a sandwich or covered with sauce. In every way it’s delicious. Texel benefits from the sea too. In Oudeschild, an old fisherman village on the east side of the island, we ate some fresh mussels and fried cod in the Oude Vismarkt.

In the tasting room

In the tasting room

And what is the best drink you can combine with all that delicious food…? Yes, that’s beer. You can’t avoid beer even if you want to. Of course we heard of the Texels brewery and as soon as it was possible we went here. For € 8 you will get a short talk from the guide, a film and a small tour through the brewery. After the tour the guide will supply all the guests with four tasting glasses with De Goudkoppe, Skuumkoppe, Tripel and the Bock.  The Skuumkoppe (named after the frothy tops of the waves) is their bestselling beer.  The movie is interesting, yet somewhat unfulfilling since you can already watch it in its entirety on their website.

The brewery started in 1999 as a hobby but when the former owner quit because it didn’t make any profit it was taken over by someone who realized that you need a financial and commercial wizard to take the brewery to another level.  Things really started to become professional. Nowadays many tourists decide to visit the brewery. They have a large tasting room including a little shop. Even on a sad autumn day we saw many fellow tourists enjoying a beer.

Tickets to the tour

Tickets to the tour

Texels is not a brewery that brews only for the islanders. Their ambitions has taken them to the mainland where they are promoting their beers and you can buy it in lot of shops. No effects of the economic crisis so far,  in fact the brewery is doing well. They are proud of making beer with Texels water, renowned for its softness, and proud of using grains grown on the island. Their yeast is the secret ingredient and is patented. If it was possible to grow hops on the island, they would have certainly used it but the soil is not good for this. Being an island the winds are also a problem for a plant that grows quite a few meters. The islanders seems proud drinking ‘their’ beer and the brewery is a part of the community. Texels brews according to the German purity laws and you could label their brewery German in that they rely heavily on their wheat beers, even though they have a dubbel and triple as well. It is also German in that a beer from them will always be good, but never earth shatteringly awesome.

De 12 Balcken in Den Burg

De 12 Balcken in Den Burg

If you had enough Texels beer than you can get a Mikeller or a De Molen if you like in ‘De 12 Balcken’, an  ABT café and number 66 in the cafe top 100 (that announcement came at the day we were visiting). You can find De 12 Balcken in the centre of Den Burg. The food, especially the sateh, is great but their knowledge of beer unfortunately is limited. There were a few small things that we noticed: Using the wrong glass for a Mariage parfait, a Flying dog became a Brewdog on the menu and said menu was not up to date. We can forgive the glass and rest is only unfortunate but the ambiance and food still makes a perfect evening.  If you want to be sure you will choose the right beer than pick one yourself from the fridge and tell them which glass you prefer. But these are just minor inconveniences for an otherwise wide range of choices.

Another place on the island where they brew beer was closed, but we were lucky to find a Windkracht 8, one of the last bottles ina local liquor store. This beer was better than we expected. Spicy notes and again that soft Texels water. The estate ‘De Bonte belevenis’  nearby Den Hoorn is opened from February till mid-November. The brewery is just a small part of this estate which also includes a candlemaker, soapmaker and bakery. Maybe next time we will be able to visit at least we could try their beer.

Texel isn’t the only island with a brewery and a good beercafé but its size means there is enough to do for a week, even if it is just beer you are interesting in. And lamb.

Wendy Buisman & Martijn Buisman

Tasting paddle at Texels

Tasting paddle at Texels

On the Beer Barrel!

I don’t usually use this blog to promote my personal opinion too much. I take a more positive stance in that I applaud every effort to make the Dutch brewing world more interesting. One article however has made me climb on my soapbox (or beer barrel) for a few hundred words.

My beef is with an article that was published on the otherwise excellent blog dossierhop.nl. And I mean that, they often share my stories and they do good work. Opinioned, yes, but that’s what a blog can be for. And a good opinion should challenge your belief in how you think the world is like.

One of their contributors however seems to live in a retirement home for the elderly autistics, scared of everything new. The beer world is a fluid world and we should be grateful that the beer world in Holland is developing as it is. His article reads like someone who was once at the forefront, but now hates that he isn’t the only one anymore.

It is about the article ‘Top 5 – tenenkrommende bierontwikkelingen’. In English: a Top 5 of excruciating developments in beer. Here is my retort. And it’s a blog people, not the editorial of the New York Times so take it lightly.

‘And another pilsner’

This is about the release of a new Grolsch beer called Kornuit. OK, granted this beer tastes like nothing and the matching commercial on TV is even worse. A tough bearded guy is one of the main brewers apparently. My gut tells me he goes to bed after drinking an Emelisse White Label Coal Ila and not his own beer. And I have seen brewers dear readers, though highly skilled in the craft of brewing, Brad Pitts they are not. Anyway, back to mister grumpy old man. Is it really that bad that bigger breweries try new things? Let them, spend your 90 cents or whatever it is on a bottle and then never buy it again. We both know we will not find this beer in ten years. But the bigger brewers might see the danger lurking behind them in all the new brewers coming out with way more interesting stuff. Do they finally realize they might have reached the limit? Again, the beer tastes like water that has gone bad, but remember the days we only had 6 decent pilsners? Now we can choose and as a consumer I applaud that.

uiltje2‘The Tap-Takeover’

Yes, Mr. Anal has a problem with this too. I say, please rise and applaud the bar owners brave to open a few taps for a (starting) brewer. This is a great way for a brewer to share his beer with people and come in contact with them; most of all with people who might otherwise not come into contact with specialty beer. We shouldn’t forget that most people still don’t know where to find that really special beer. But here is what I think is the crux in his lament: he is probably afraid that one thing of that he was once one of the few to might actually reach the masses.

And who cares if the bar owner makes some money? Seems a win-win situation to me. Well, if it’s good that is what is bound to happen. Me, I hope Menno Olivier and Kees Bubbermans become millionaires and that their beer will be served right alongside Heineken and Carlsberg. I know your ‘special thing’ will become a little more known, but shouldn’t that be a feather in your ass? That means you were one of the first! You saw the Beatles in Hamburg! You were one of the 97 people in Vera Groningen watching Nirvana! (to the author: the Beatles and Nirvana were popular music combos from after the war).

‘The Bockbeerfestival’

Yes, there might be too many. But that’s economics. If there is a demand there will be supply. I know people who don’t go to other festivals might only go to these, but it’s a start. I’d rather have an IRS or IPA festival but are these festivals really that bad? Again, that is what happens when things are going good! I know it was probably really special that you were one of the first and I wish I could have been there. But the world changes. Don’t you get more people at your Wednesday afternoon bingo games when the prices were upped from a deck of cards to tape decks? (I think a portable CD player might be too complicated with more than 6 buttons).

13-11-a‘Collaboration Brews’

Yes, what an awful thing if two good brewers try something great… Me, I am glad that our brewers consider it a craft, something that through interaction with other people in the craft might lead to even better things. This positive collaboration leads to more knowledge and therefore better and more interesting beers. Fill in any collaboration, even one time, in history that worked and there are many. Even better that these collaborations are cross-cultural. It shows once more that beer is a product that is enjoyed in a lot of places across this wonderful globe. But I am guessing our geriatric blogger here didn’t play well with others during those harsh post-war rebuilding years.

‘Single Hop Series’

If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. For me and other beer lovers it’s a perfect way to learn about how different hops work. But maybe someone should wake him from his mid-morning nap and tell him a few more hops have been developed in the last decades. It is series like this that make us more intelligent consumers, and isn’t that better than just drinking Amstel every night? Again, new isn’t always bad.

Social media

And one more things, the author often remarks on the use of social media to showcase the things we mentioned here. Unfortunately the old media is still highjacked by the big corporations with money to spend. A commercial will cost time and local newspapers don’t reach enough people anymore. With social media for almost no cost brewers can get their beers known among the lovers. Again this might chip away somewhat from his ‘special’ status but we did reach the 21st century some time ago. I hope he got the irony of posting his old man ramblings on a blog…

It is great to see that some of the newer brewers are relatively young and they will use the tools they grew up with. This generation just wants to learn and get better at their craft and everything here will help them on their quest. So please brewers of Holland, embrace the 21st century and keep evolving. Don’t listen to the ‘things used to be so much better’ crowd or those who actually think less of you if you don’t have your own brewing installation. Keep making those beautiful beers and keep experimenting, you are in the middle of a revolution in craft beer that is like no other in our history! I for one am happy to be a small part of it.

The beers we couldn’t try, but at least we shared the stout

My personal obsession with craft beer started about 6 years ago when I was deep into my 20’s. I didn’t live in my hometown anymore so I didn’t see my family very often. But I knew my father liked beer. He was a drinker like most are; a bottle of Grolsch during the week, maybe a Duvel or Westmalle in the weekends and occasionally something else. Open to new flavors, but not the very experimental kind. As with most children when you start liking something some of the first people you want to share your new found obsession with is your family. Distance prohibited us from doing that full-fledged but I have some great beer memories.

When my father turned 50 I gave him a case of different beers and the book “Beer for Dummies”. This was in 2006 so my knowledge of beer wasn’t as it is now. I tried to fill the case with different styles: a stout, a barleywine, some trappist ales etc. If I had known more beers I might have added that too, but remember  that in 2006 the number of Dutch beers for example was still so much lower than it is now.

Two years ago I took him to the beerfestival in Groningen in the Martinikerk. We shared some beers and we talked. We had some local beers  and a De Molen. I once gave him a Hel & Verdoemenis and he later told me he enjoyed it very much so this was a natural choice. I was very happy that he liked my favorite beer too.

And then last year in February we got the news that he was sick. A tumor was found in his brain and removed, but was never the same. He still drank some alcohol though throughout the times he had both chemo- and radiation therapy. This all ended when he had to take more medication. He did try and find a substitute and he tried different low- or non-alcohol beers. Wieckse Witte turned out to be his favorite. A few times I brought some too. He tried some and found the Erdinger to be the best.

Occasionally he broke the doctor’s orders and tried some beer or wine. The most special beer I shared with him was the Duits & Lauret Stout that my wife and I poured on our wedding day instead of champagne. He didn’t have much because he wasn’t allowed to drink alcohol anymore because of the medication he was taking. He did tell me he enjoyed it a lot and I wish he could have had more.

Earlier this year he and his wife took a little holiday to Limburg. We couldn’t come  but I suggested that they visit a place that was dear to both me and my wife. When we were traveling there we took a very long walk through the hills of Southern Limburg to end up at ‘t Hijgend Hert, the most beautifully located specialty beer café in the country overlooking a part of the hilly countryside. And yes, all of sudden around dinner time I received pictures of him enjoying trout on the terrace. Even though he didn’t have any beer the simple fact that was there was special to us. It was a place I would have loved to take him myself, but this was close.

There are so many other beers I would have loved to try with him and festivals and bars to visit. Would he enjoy the Emelisse White Labels I enjoyed so much, did he ever try a good IPA? Was a Rooie Dop Double Oatmeal Stout more to this liking? Maybe he would have wanted to come to Borefts one year or at least visit In De Wildeman while was visiting us in Amsterdam.

But it wasn’t to be. On October 24 this year the cancer won and he died at the age of only 57. Some non-alcoholic beers still left in the fridge. I will think of the things we didn’t do, but I will also remember him liking the Duits & Lauret Stout on my wedding. It’s a good beer memory don’t you think?

Post script.

At my father’s funeral I spoke for a little while with a former neighbor. He was also at my father’s 50th birthday and on that night we spoke for quite some time about beer. He told me that he would ask my father to come over and have some special beers. His birthday was in October and he drank bockbeers a lot on and around this day. One he remembers is the Kruisheren Constantinus, a beer from our home province of Groningen. They also drank more beers from Kruisheren, mostly because they were local. He wanted to let me father try some beers from the province, though he quickly found out he knew them already. That however did not stop him from trying. This and other beers from Grunn interested them, like most people love trying local things.

Thanks HJ for sharing this with me, it is something I was unaware of but makes me proud to read!