For a while the beer scene in Amsterdam was remarkably uneventful. Het IJ en De Prael were quite visible but for interesting craft beer you had to go somewhere else. But things are looking up and the number of new brewers from the capital is rising steadily. In this new series we will discuss a few of these brewers, and will look at what challenges they face.
Of the Amsterdam brewers in this series De Vriendschap has been around for a little while longer. De Vriendschap means ‘The Friendship’ and is the result of the long comradery between Aart van Bergen and Peter Harms who have known each other for more than half of their lives. In yet another convergence between beer and good music they first played in their own rock band and music still plays a big part in their lives.
Peter was the DIY guy and had made wine with grapes from their own garden before. In late 2011 they were drinking Belgian beers and above his head an imaginary lightbulb shone bright: “One day I want to make my own beer.” Aart replied affirmatively and a few weeks they were stirring in a pot in their first attempt to make beer.
This stirring led to small batches out of which now three recipes got a wider release. The commercial start of the brewery was in early 2013. They have now released The Hop-Blond, Puike Pale Ale and latest brew De Zwoele Stad. The connection with music remained in the design of the labels: A CD-sticker on the bottle.
Friends with cafe’s wanted to start selling the beer. This led to a start as contract brewers, but there are plans for their own brewery in Amsterdam-North soon.
De Vriendschap uses social media like Facebook and Twitter to get out the word and they also used Untappd. Distribution of the beer is done by the pair themselves mostly.
The general public’s interest in new flavors helps. The local bars also recognize this trend: fed up with the big brewers, they now want something new to drink. But, the contracts some establishments have can be a hindrance, some have contracts that only allow beer from one brewery with no room for other, smaller, brewers.
Their location in Amsterdam-North means that for now they are the only ones there. North is a part of the city that can be easily reached by ferry or tunnel and will be even more part of the city when the subway line will be finished. But for most people on the other side there is no reason to visit this part. This is changing however. The North now has a filmmuseum, music venue Paradiso has a location there called the Tolhuistuin and the NDSM wharf is attracting people too. This attracts new businesses who are eager to sell local things, and Vriendschap beer is just that.
Time is not on their side
The biggest stumbling block while setting up your own brewery for Aart and Peter is time. Aart is still a jazz musician (in the band Crescent Double Quartet) and Peter works as a brewer at De Bierfabriek. It costs a lot of time to produce, distribute and promote the beer. Administration, events all costs a lot of time, so it’s hard work to get a start.
Contract brewers now, own brewery later
Aart and Peter now brew their beer at the Sallandse brewery from recipes they design at home. The first batch was a daunting 1000 liters. There was fear that this would be too much. It took 12 days and it was all gone. Since then they brew multiple times a month.
They are hard at work to start their own brewing location in North. At the city farming project NoordOogst (North Harvest) (http://noordoogst.org/). Now it’s still refurbishing an old canteen of a soccer club and getting the right permits. Hopefully this summer they hope to start brewing already. It will be a very small installation so that the guys can experiment a lot with new ingredients and ideas.