Archive for October, 2014

Ratebeer and the man of 10,000 ratings

rblogo04201310.000. Ten Thousand. A nice round number, the first  whole 5-digit number. A number that has gotten more attention since Malcolm Gladwell applied it to the theory that you need 10.000 hours of practice to achieve a mastery in something, whether it is music, technology or knitting. On these pages we talked about someone who reached a 10.000 number when Harry Pinkster collected his 10.000th beer label, drinking all those 10.000 in the process.

Someone else who reached the 10.000 mark caught my attention when he entered his 10.000th rating on the site Ratebeer. Whenever I add a rating of a Dutch beer the chances are high that the first rating there is done by someone who calls himself ‘bierkoning’ and who on his profile is kind enough to mention straight away that he is not in any way connected to that great store in Amsterdam. Who is this king of beer? His name is Edo van Bree and he lives very close to the German border in Lattrop-Breklenkamp in Twente, another hotbed of great Dutch beer culture. I asked Edo some questions about his beer drinking history and his experiences with using Ratebeer.

The days before Ratebeer

Edo started using Ratebeer way back in 2002 but that doesn’t mean that was the first time he started rating. Between 1990 and 1995 he wrote his tasting notes in a book about Belgian and Dutch beers by Peter Crombecq. This wasn’t the only place: “Before that I had a notebook with some ratings from the 80s and 90’s but that unfortunately got lost during a move.”

The advantages of Ratebeer

Edo: “it is a great source of information about beer because it has all the essential information. Where can you get beer, what breweries and beers are there and it also gives ratings of these beers and places. Though the ratings are of course a matter of taste, the real good beers tend to shine through. It is also a way to keep track of what you have had and to show others. The real advantage is the group of people you meet who share your hobby.”

The Hunt

Edo is not a beer-hunter in that he hunts for hunts’ sake. The ‘white whales’ are great when you encounter them. From the ratings it shows that he likes his framboises and he thinks it’s a shame that he could never taste the 3 Fonteinen Framboos or other one-off Cantillon or 3 Fonteinen beers. But spend hundreds of Euros to travel to the US or Finland for a special beer, no, he won’t do that. And maybe it helps that even for people like Edo it is getting harder and harder to keep up with the beers from Holland alone.

Any disadvantages?

“I often hear from people who know about these things that the technology is outdated, but I cannot Judge that. I do think the site is often very slow and I am afraid that one day if will be hacked, because of that I have a backup file just in case something happens. Another thing I don’t particularly like are the awards given out after reaching some milestone”. Ratebeer does indeed do what a lot of sites do these days, but at least they are not going overboard like Untappd where you get one almost every 5 beers.

Inflated figures – the tasting group problem

Whenever I am festivals I see a big group of people tasting different beers, often on the basis of just a few sips. I personally avoid doing this. For starters the rating I leave behind on Ratebeer are mostly for myself and not to show off. Also, good beers can change during drinking with changing temperatures. Edo agrees but sometimes has to give in at festivals like Borefts or when he is at a tasting. And sometimes it turns out that his rating on the basis of those few sips wasn’t too bad after all.

The scoring system

The scoring system has come under some scrutiny. You rate according to 4 categories: Appearance (1-5), Aroma (1-10), Taste (1-10) and Palate (1-5). After rating the beer on these characteristics you add an overall score from 1-20. For me the Appearance and Aroma cause some trouble. A very good beer might be ugly and have no aroma, and this will lead to a lower rating though the beer .

Edo thinks the system works fine, he places the emphasis on the Overall score because this can correct some of the score. The real rating is in your head and pen. The other categories just help out a little.

A shift in beer

Because of his experience of drinking beer over the last three decades he has seen the beer landscape in the country change: “In the last decade the enjoyment of beer has totally changed, and so has the group:  a lot more younger people and women are now enjoying beer. There is a shift from Belgian beers to Dutch, Danish and American beers, which really means a shift to more sour and bitter beers.“

Why Ratebeer?

Ratebeer for me is a great tool to keep track of what I have tried and what I thought of it. It’s certainly not tight fit because my taste has changed and some of the beers have changed as well. Yet it is always something I look at when I am in a store or café to make sure I am not having something bad a second time. When a box is not ticked, hurrah for me and the new beer I will have. Another advantage is that when I go to a new country or city Ratebeer will have a list of beer places there. The database is filled by the users which I enjoy as well when you can add a new places. This can actually help the brewers because they can track the places their beer is sold. And I have to thank the ‘bierkoning’ Edo van Bree, often new beers, places and breweries are added by him, he is one of those people who is one of those little cogs in the machine that is powering the Dutch Craft Beer Revolution.

I am at 1600+ ratings now and even though I think that that is not bad for a 5 year period, it is dwarfed by what other raters have done so far with numbers easily over the 10,000 and even 20,000.

Ratebeer main site

bierkoning‘s account (as of posting this he is at 10381),

or dutchbeerpages for this blog (1633, I really have some tasting to do…)

Amsterdam’s new beer scene episode V: The Cinema Strikes Back

And you thought we were done with the new Amsterdam beer scene! Well, you’re wrong there buddy, there’s still a lot more to talk about. New brewing initiatives are popping up in Amsterdam faster than I can keep up with writing about them. One of those new initiatives is one that has been getting some attention in the press lately are the Cinema Brewers. New brewers with a different angle on beer; because they come from the movie industry they bring ideas from that art to the brewing world.

Feauturing

The Cinema Brewers are screenwriter Roelof Jan Minneboo and director Finbarr Wilbrink and yes, they have IMDB pages. Go ahead, look it up while I wait.

[intermission]

How cool was that! Roelof Jan and Finbarr are being helped by Naos Wilbrink and Bart Breedijk now that they are taking of.

Storyline

From movies they ventured into another art; brewing. Why beer? Well, beer is simple a product they enjoy more than coffee, fruit juice or the making and selling of hand carved statuettes of Elvis. Their beers are American influenced, meaning IPA’s with bold flavors.

Because they are filmmakers they combined their passion for both film and beer. The beers are named after classic films and they incorporate elements of those movies into the flavor of the beer. The way they do this is as far as I know unique. Let’s take for example their new beer Casablanca. This beer is made with American and Czech hops to represent the main characters Rick Blain and Victor Laszlo. Even more inventive is the way they incorporated the setting of Casablanca into the beer by using the typical Moroccan spices coriander (cilantro) and cardamom.

cinema2Shooting location

Right now the beer is brewed at the Noordhollands Bierbrouwerij in Uitgeest. The first beer, Breathless, in a batch of 1000 liters. The second one is called Lebowski in a batch of 2000 liters.

Art Work

So we covered film and brewing but their multifaceted approach doesn’t end there. Another winner is the artwork by Het IJzeren Gordijn and the illustrations. For every label a different artist was asked to draw it.

Distribution

We saw with the other brewers in Amsterdam that often they were part of a network of friendly establishments. The Cinema Brewers started by going to all the stores and bars that they think will sell the beer. Every so often there is a picture on their Facebook page of a new store that now sells Cinema Brewers beer. That some moviehouses sell it is only logical. They have moved on from delivering it themselves and the distribution is now in the hands of Dorstlust, a delivery service from Amsterdam.

cinema1A Sequel?

Check their Facebook page to see where in Amsterdam you will be able to find their beers. I wonder what they would make if they ever make beers after some of my favorite movies. What would a Rear Window be like? How would a Once Upon A Time in the West taste? Would a Magnolia be any good and can you add magnolia to a beer in the first place? And lastly, what would you flavor an Ernest Goes to Camp with? All questions the Cinema Brewers will hopefully answer in the future.

 

Links

Cinema Brewers Website

Cinema Brewers on Facebook

 

Amsterdam’s New Beer Scene Episode IV: Two Chefs Brewing

After some detours to Groningen and ino the realm of art criticism it is time to get back on track with our series on new Amsterdam brewers. So today we introduce you to two chefs. Indeed, Two Chefs Brewing is a two man team of Martijn Disseldorp and Sanne Slijper who were at one stage in their career making food for people for a living. This is an occupation where flavor is a good skill to have. In 2012 Martijn and Sanne took this skill from food to beer and joined to make new beers and experiment with new ingredients. The feedback was positive enough to start brewing commercially for the first time and the reactions to this were also positive. Two Chefs Brewing was born and in 2013 when it was still a side project next to their normal day jobs. In January of this year they took bigger steps towards a professional brewery with bigger batches and since August Two Chefs is their day job.

twochefsDistribution

It is a question that I keep asking, how do you sell and distribute the beer? The number of takers of Two Chefs Brewing’ beer has grown amongst café’s in Amsterdam. For now Amsterdam is what they are aiming for and you won’t find their beer much outside of the Capital. Next year they hope to expand and bring their beers to more parts of the country.

The two chefs stepped in at the right moment, Martijn says. He notices that the demand for specialty, especially local, beer is still growing in café’s and liquor stores. Visitors these days expect a local beer to be on the menu. The taste of the beer drinker is evolving too and Two Chefs has no trouble selling more complex beers like their Imperial Russian Stout.

Brewers as friends

In the article I published two weeks ago about post-modern brewing I wrote a few paragraphs about how craft brewers see themselves as artists with a common goal. When I asked Martijn if he sees the other brewers as competition or as comrades his answer could have been quoted in that article.

“We see the other Amsterdam breweries as colleague’s with whom we have to change the beer market. For the guest of a café in the long run it is better when there is a choice out of many beers from different breweries. Every brewery brings something else and this appeals many guests. You also strengthen each other by opening up the market with the smaller breweries.”

Stumbling blocks

The main stumbling block is one we see all the time for small brewers; the lack of their own installation. This automatically means your product is in the hands of a second party and the quality they can offer. Right now they do most of their brewing at Anders! In Belgium, the last batch was 400hl.Other Dutch brewers who brew or have brewed here are De Natte Gijt, Liefde and Oedipus.

The beers

The beers they have made so far are divers, with the Imperial Porter and the Imperial Stout (Dirty Katarina) getting the best reviews. They are now for sale in most good liquor stores in Amsterdam. As a hobby they were already doing a great job, but now that Two Chefs Brewing is their main day job, we can only look forward to more.

Two Chefs Brewing Website

One of the funniest labels ever.

One of the funniest labels ever.