Archive for March, 2014

Brewery review: Brouwerij Troost

Breweries have lately been occupying buildings that have lost their old function. Windmills, factory buildings, churches and other buildings are now kept intact on the outside while on the inside giving us new beer. This has also happened in a monastery located in De Pijp, a great neighborhood in Amsterdam where once the Heineken brewery stood.

IMG_1906New brewery Troost moved into such a building that was once a monastery and before it became Troost it was an unemployment office on the roomy Cornelis Troost square that also gives the brewery its name, although the literal translation of troost (comfort) would have been a good name as well. The building is huge with the brewery just occupying a wing. It still holds the local police and a hotel, it also is an example of the pre-war Amsterdam architecture style.

So Amsterdam has a new brewery, one of the many that started in the last two years but this one actually brews on site and sells on site too. The brewing vats make up a big part of the interior and even some of the exterior because they stand behind glass.

IMG_1907It has only been open a few weeks but it has been a success. They apparently underestimated the demand because they were already out of their weizen. The blond and IPA were still available. Is it beer to make a trip for? The short answer is no. The beers are decent but the most interesting feature is that they are unique. The blond had good palate but no discernible taste, the IPA was better. It lacked some of the bitterness I like but had character. The weizen was replaced by Maisels which is both surprising and disappointing. The people running Troost have another bar (Kostverloren) with a good beer menu that offers many other Dutch beers. Another replacement was Jopen, something we can only applaud. Considering their new position offering a good Dutch white beer would have made more sense.
So the beer isn’t great, but does this mean you should ignore Troost altogether? Absolutely not. While the beer is average the location, room and menu are great. Being in de Pijp it is easy to reach and great to combine with the many things that neighborhood has to offer. The menu is eclectic, focused on burgers but with much more than that. Soups, sandwiches, snacks and enough other beverages for the non-alcohol drinkers. The furniture in the room seems to have been lifted out of school buildings from 50 years ago but it makes it light, open and fitting. The terrace wasn’t open yet but the courtyard seems perfect for a late afternoon beer.

Troost has Wifi and you can pay with debit card only.

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Utrecht to Portland: Dutch Craft Beer’s Breakthrough?

Portland

Portland

In earlier blogposts I described Utrecht as the Dutch Oregon. Not for the nature but for the disproportionate number of breweries with a level the rest of the country can only dream of. With Utrecht I mean the province and surrounding areas, the region between Bodegraven, Utrecht and Amsterdam called ‘t Groene Hart, the Green Heart of the Western part of the country. Just like Oregon is only the center of a larger area of great brewing stretching from San Francisco to the Canadian border.

A few years ago their capitals Utrecht and Portland combined forces as sister cities. The start of this cooperation happened when Portland’s traffic specialist visited Utrecht, a city of similar size and similar traffic problems. From this small start the cooperation grew  and since 2012 the cooperation is official. Beer was the last thing on both cities minds at the start but it was a inadvertent byproduct of the two cities coming closer together. Now it is a match made in heaven for the beer aficionado.

Rogue in Portland

Rogue in Portland

Why I want to live in Portland.

The majority of you might never have been to Portland. Shame on you! When visiting friends in the U.S. in 2008 one native Oregonian wrote down some names of bars and breweries in Portland I should visit. In the 3 days I was there I had lunch and dinner in a different place every day. For lovers of craft beer Portland simply is amazing, it is the new capital of the beerworld and the American Pacific North West  the new Belgium. It leads not only in beer but also natural, organic food as well as a new music hub with a lot of great bands coming either from Portland are relocating there. One other non-beer related reason is that Matt Groening, the creator of the Simpsons, is from Portland and named some of the Simpson characters after streets in Portland (Flanders, Lovejoy, Quimby). Also, Powell’s is the best bookstore I have ever been to.

The Oregon Brewers Festival

The beer link between both cities has now led to the Oregon Brewers festival inviting a number of Dutch brewers to come to Portland to be the international delegation of this immense festival. Because this could turn into the biggest showcase of Dutch beer abroad, I had to ask the organizers of the festival some questions. Thanks to Chris Crabb for great answers!

Vote Quimby

Vote Quimby

The first edition of his festival was held in 1988 and has grown every year since. Right now the number of attendees is about 85,000, about half of those from outside Oregon. A staggering number indeed, all the festivals in the Netherlands combined do not even get close to these numbers. This year it will be a mix of local beers, beers from neighboring states and now also 11 from the Netherlands. The Dutch beers will be poured in a special tent until the allotment per brewery is exhausted. The festival has been instrumental in showing the world the Mecca Portland has become. Chris sees the addition of the Dutch brewers as a natural progression, a celebration of great craft beer.

Portland and Utrecht, a natural beer match

It was through the city relationship that the director of the Oregon Brewers Festival, Art Larrance, became aware of Utrecht. Members of the Travel Portland organization mentioned to him that Utrecht also had a growing craft beer movement and he was introduced to Mark Strooker of Rooie Dop and the De Molen Borefts festival in 2013.

Art’s trip to Utrecht was the culmination of a trip starting in Brussels to taste sour beers, to the beaches of Normandy and ending at Borefts. The festival was an eye-opener for him. Apparently the Pacific Northwest had influenced brewing in the Netherlands without him knowing about it. A lot of Dutch IPA’s are hopped with Cascade from Oregon. Even though he is more a sour beer lover he quite enjoyed the IPA’s because of their similarity. I say he is a beer lover, Art is actually the owner of Cascade brewing. Cascade pioneered the Northwest style sour beer movement in the U.S. so the man knows what he is talking about.

At Borefts he met people who had been to the been to the Cascade Brewing Barrel House – also known as The House of Sour and he met brewers aware of Cascade and its styles. Art then saw the many similarities between the Dutch craft beer movement now and the Oregon movement 20 years ago and decided to bring some of the Dutch brewers over to Oregon and the festival to share collective enthusiasm, knowledge and friendship to show the world why craft brewers are successful.

Mark Strooker was also involved with the Utrecht – Portland cooperation. He already had ideas for exchanges with brewers and breweries. At first it was just Rooie Dop that would go to Portland but this grew to 11.

Tasting Paddle at Bridgeport

Tasting Paddle at Bridgeport

The breweries crossing the pond

So which breweries are attending the festival? Well, make your own list of the 11 best breweries from the Netherlands and you will likely come up with many of the ones mentioned here. Because of Mark Strooker’s involvement Rooie Dop will of course be attending and so will De Molen, Oersoep, Maximus, Duits & Lauret, Brouwerij ‘t IJ, Ramses, Het Uiltje, Oedipus and Rodenburg. Emelisse will only send beer. The brewers can bring 5 different beers, one for every day.

Their visit won’t be limited to just serving beer. Each brewery will be coupled with a brewery from Portland. This to better get to know each other, and hopefully it will lead to some collaboration brews.

Logistics

Utrecht and Portland aren’t exactly close. Shipping bottles isn’t the problem but how do you get fresh beer that is not local to the festival? Kegs can be shipped but these need to be returned to the brewery at some stage, this is a costly adventure. At Borefts the organizers discovered the one-way disposable Key Kegs to ship the fresh beer to Oregon. Part 1 of the problem solved!

Part 2: How do you get the beer to Portland? Ooh, beer lovers in the Netherlands, you will love the answer that Chris gave us:

Shelton Brothers Distributing is able to work with a local Portland distributor, Point Blank Distributing, who is their affiliate in Portland, to get the beer from the Netherlands to Portland. This will also offer the opportunity to get more Oregon beers to the Netherlands through the distribution system established.”

A Breakthrough?

The Dutch presence at the festival might well be the breakthrough Dutch brewing is waiting for.

Mark Strooker:

“I think it will lead to a breakthrough in how Americans view Dutch beer. Hopefully it will be a start for more Dutch beer in the U.S. and that beer importers will get interested. It is definitely a boost for Rooie Dop, the beer is already for sale in the U.S. starting this week.”

And an exhange?

If the goal of the twinning of the two cities is more cooperation and exchanges on several levels it stands to reason to expect a similar festival in Holland. Mark: “In Portland we will look at the festival is being organized and hopefully we can start something similar in Holland. I will probably organize something and hopefully in the future brewers from Oregon can come to the festival here. The biggest problem is of course the finances.

The Oregon Brewers Festival will be held on July 23 – 27 in Portland’s Waterfront Park.

Thanks to Chris Crabb and Mark Strooker

The Beer Café, the other engine of the revolution

Last year I wrote about the role the specialty ‘beer’ store plays in the distribution of (Dutch) craft beer  and how much that segment has grown in the five years. The Dutch craft beer revolution has one other foundation and that is the specialty beer café. Beer cafe’s 20 years ago were almost always Belgian Beer Café’s with maybe a few other breweries from nearby countries to spice things up. But the role of the beer café has changed and they mirror what the beer store: more Dutch beer and more beer from countries not named Belgium. But is this true? We asked around to find out and send out a questionnaire to Jasper from Doerak in Delft, Marjolein from De Koffer in Groningen, Simon from In De Wildeman in Amsterdam, Erik from DeRat in Utrecht and Peter from Het Bierhuys in Woerden. Here are some of the conclusions.

Growth

The famous In De Wildeman chalkboard above the entrance

The famous In De Wildeman chalkboard above the entrance

Simon (In De Wildeman) is reminded of the first Dutch beer week In De Wildeman organized back in 1990. It was hard in those days to get a beer from Dutch craft breweries on all the 18 taps, let alone with decent quality. 35 years later and now he can pick and choose the nice ones. Taps that used to pour Belgian beer are now being switched to Dutch ones, a logical conclusion from all that we have seen in the stores. The café’s don’t only sell the beer, they also actively promote Dutch beer with some even having a special ‘Dutch beers’ section on either a wall or on the menu. In De Wildeman still has quite the selection of Belgian beers but the Dutch beers are pushing the Belgian beers of the chalkboard above the entrance. De Koffer’s list on the wall is a visual piece of art.

Two changes: local and style

People are more interested in local products, also because there seems to be more. With the rise of non-Belgian beer (mostly American) the tastes of the consumer change as well. Newer styles like IPA’s and stouts are getting more attention and people seem to like this more than the usual Belgian blondes and triples. Peter (Bierhuys) tries to offer a wide variety of specialty beers, mostly in styles. It is no use having 15 stouts and no blondes. Apart from the Hertog Jan beers he contractually has to pour he prefers smaller breweries because they won’t sell in the supermarkets where people can get their beer anyway. Simon (In De Wildeman) shares the same view, people ask mostly for the smaller Dutch brewers, they can get the bigger ones at home as well.

A Menu in De Koffer

A Menu in De Koffer

Marjolein sees the change in the visitors to De Koffer: “A Lot of People, including many foreigners, prefer to drink Dutch beers and even more precise local beers. This is probably due to the trend that people want to know where their products come from.” De Koffer also actively promotes the local beers, mostly because they know the brewers the best.  This connection with the brewer is important for them. A good bond makes it easier for them to come to agreements about price and delivery. De Koffer has no problem going to the brewers themselves to pick up the beer. Naturally the beer has to have a certain quality, something they themselves decide.

Distribution of the smaller breweries is still not the easiest. Often they will bring the kegs (or bottles) themselves to a local place. It also means that this distribution isn’t constant. Jasper (Doerak) mentions that is also a reason why he won’t have more of it on tap.

Woerden and Utrecht are fortunate enough to be in a region that has a staggering amount of great beer. The Bierhuys’ own beer is made by De Molen for example and they have many Utrecht beers for sale as well. Same goes for DeRat. The popularity of Utrechts beer has reached Groningen too where I have seen more beers from that province than local beers. Unfortunately the north still lags behind the rest of the country. DeRat is excellent in its offering of Dutch beer and the people who come to this place enjoy it. Erik from DeRat decides whether a beer will be sold or not and he has three rules that make perfect sense: 1. Don’t be too expensive 2. Be tasty. And 3. Get sold to the customer.

Future

Erik had one last thing to mention when I asked him if he had anything else to say about the rise of Dutch beer. It is a sentiment that I have heard more people share and one I agree with.

“the market for small brewers will eventually level out. There will be great beers and beers that won’t be that great. It’s up to the consumer to decide what they like. I as a bar owner can help in this, also in educating my guests who are not yet at home in the world of craft beer.”

Erik hits the nail on the head, and that is why his bar and all the others that have the courage to sell Dutch beer are that other engine of the Dutch craft beer revolution!

Numbers

Here are some numbers for the statistically minded:

Café Number of Taps Dutch
Doerak, Delft 12 3 or 4
Bierhuys 11 4 or 5
Koffer 10 4
DeRat 6 5 or 6

Bottles

Café 5 Years ago Now Dutch
Doerak 20 180 40
Bierhuys 80 (20 Dutch) 135 50
Koffer 23 Dutch 180 63
DeRat 120 65

 

-Martijn Buisman

Thanks to the following café’s

In De Wildeman (Amsterdam)

Annually In De Wildeman will end up in the Dutch café top 10. Located in the center of the middle of downtown Amsterdam Simon and colleagues run a gem. First thing to do when you come in is turn around and look above the door you just came through to see the list of beers on tap. A few times a year there is real ale too. Hangout for both locals and thanks to mentions on Tripadvisor and similar sites tourists come here often as well. Extra score for having their own app.

Doerak (Delft)

Also have their own app. Located on a canal close to the main square this also is one of the many great beer places in the town of the Royal family and the painter Vermeer. Boardgames, big wooden tables, knowledgeable staff, a place to go.

DeRat (Utrecht)

The small size of this place, located within the city walls but outside of the main walking area, is compensated by its excellent menu. Focused on the many great local beers this bar is worth a visit. I have visited this place way to few times.

Bierhuys (Woerden)

A relatively unknown beer hangout that I only came across about 4 years ago because I live close to Woerden. Since then they have organized bokbeerfestivals in Woerden. Located downtown as well, but like DeRat you have to look for it. Local beers mostly, Belgians and other Dutch beers. Their housebeer is from De Molen, Bodegraven being one town further on the railwayline.

De Koffer (Groningen)

Great place on the edge of the Groningen city centre and conveniently placed on my way from the railway station to my parents’ house. Awesome selection. They have Hel & Verdoemenis and White Label beers! They try to have as many local beers as possible, even though there aren’t that many. Visited by locals (mostly students) it seems this is a great place to hang out and enjoy good beer.