The ten day period in the middle of May is turning into a great week for lovers of Dutch beer. Bars serve more Dutch beer and host tastings or food pairings. Breweries all over the country open their doors to the public, all in an attempt to spread the word of good craft beer among the ignorant masses. And these masses are willing to try that beer they don’t know yet in greater numbers.
The kickoff of the Dutch beer week is a three day festival in the Grote Kerk in The Hague. It is a true showcase of Dutch beer, with stands of the Great 8 of Dutch brewing like Brand and Grolsch to tiny contract brewers like Two Chefs, Bax or Ceaux.
It seemed at times that the division between the Great 8 and the rest is still a large gaping canyon. Even though they are also trying to make more ‘specialty’ beers what they spill a year is probably more than what the rest brews. Grolsch was promoting its new Kornuit and Brand some of its heavier beers which are I have to admit not at all bad. What does surprise me is to see people pay a fairly large amount of money to get into a festival and then drink the same Kornuit they could have gotten for less than a Euro at their local supermarket. Oh well, if next to the Hertog Jan and Brand beers they tried a Kompaan I guess that’s a plus. But as on any trade fair it showed that they had more money to spend on huge stands where the smaller ones were limited to one table and a tap.
More a trade fair
For the brewers the three days didn’t end up being great days for sales. They viewed the festival more as a trade fair. It was a way to get a little more known to the public and strike up conversations with fellow brewers and others in the profession who could be beneficial. People owning stores or starting them are looking around for nice beers to sell, and it seems to be a good time to start a beer related business.
Some of the brewers were in Utrecht a week earlier at a festival that is threatening to succumb to its own success. Great for sales but no time to talk to people interested in your beer. This was different in Den Haag on Friday. It wasn’t crowded and busy so there was plenty of time to have a fairly long conversation with the brewers if you wanted to. And the good brewers want nothing more than to talk to you (and thanks for that Bax, Gooische, Duits & Lauret, Vandestreek and Ceaux). Again, it seems that the best beer is sold by the most enthusiastic people with a great passion for their craft.
Utrecht was again well represented with Duits & Lauret, Ceaux, Vandestreek and Rock City Beers; showing once again that this province still leads in the best craft beer of the country, though Amsterdam is breathing down their necks with a growing number of good breweries. ‘t IJ and De Prael are established names and with brewers like Two Chefs coming up the area Amsterdam-Utrecht is becoming a more interesting by the week.
Beer and more
It wasn’t all the drinking of beer. A side trend these days are beer- and food pairings and there were a lot of opportunities to do so. Were you interested in Dutch Beer and Indonesian food, well there was a demo for that, as there was for pairings with chocolate or with cheese. Once again beer shows itself to be a very versatile product or as Jeroen Bax said: isn’t it amazing that something with the same four basic ingredients can turn out in so many different ways. It will take some time before this catch on but the seeds are sown.
The Grote Kerk is a spacy church, good for handling big crowds. As you well know, European churches were built also with acoustics in mind in the days of unamplified preaching. For the festival it meant that the otherwise fun folk band playing in the middle bounced their banjo sounds off the walks and between the conversations I was trying to have.
The festival got some things right. The huge space is one, enough sitting arrangements another. Enough tables for to sit at and drink or eat, something often lacking at other festivals. The food was another thing that seemed to be well organized. I saw people walk around with big plates of food, and not just a ham sandwich.
The cost of entrance: 12,50 for which you got 4 coins. Not too bad of a deal considering the location. A novelty for me at least was the chance to have a one token or two token glass. One token was halfful, great for tasters like me. Entrance with PayPal or Credit Card in advance only or pin at the door. The Dutch Beer week also has an App for both Android and iPhone, this is definitely the way to go and the app worked perfectly. Besides a list of the available brewers and breweries it give information about the entire 10 day period.
The main reason for coming was still the new beers. It was all good with my personal winner Het Uiltje once again. Both the coffee stout and barleywine were simply amazing. Vandestreek’s Spring Bock was a nicely cascaded beer. It took me a little while to warm up to them but this beer and one of their Hop Art beers (a limited edition series of special beers) were the right medicine to tow me over the line, helped by the brothers Vandestreek whose enthusiasm makes it so much easier to like them. It is the same enthusiasm with which Ceaux (the most complicated way to write the brewers’ first name Ko) sold his beer to people with empty glasses. My first introduction to his beer was a bottle of which half ended up outside of bottle of glass. The newer version of the Bastard is an improvement over a previous version and I am looking forward to seeing more from Ko/Ceaux.
Some of the brewers you see every time you are at a festival (Ramses, Reuzenbieren, Duits & Lauret to name just three) but there were some debuts for me too. New names means a healthy evolving brewing culture so it was great to see Bax Bier (link), The Fiddler (from just across the street), Two Chefs and Gooische. I have been a fan of the Gooische brewery since I wrote about them years ago since I had their Schwarz. A newer version of that beer is even better and there’s new stuff coming I am looking forward to and I hope to see them again at festivals.
A ten day week
With the still growing Dutch brewing industry and the greater public that is now picking up on it (quite some attention in the media) this beer week has the potential to keep growing and next to Borefts all the activities all over the country having to do with Dutch beer could attract newer groups of tourists from in- and also outside of the country.
Earlier Articles about:
Photoalbum on Flickr