Archive for February, 2015

Houtens Brouw Collectief Part I: Hommeles

Frequent readers of the blog will know that I consider Utrecht to be the Oregon of the Netherlands: a small part of the country with some of the best brewers in the nation. The home of a vibrant craft beer culture with great brewers and pubs. Today’s article will be the first about the Houtens Brouw Collectief, the Houten Brewing Collective. The HBC is the driving force behind three things that make Utrecht an even better beer destination.

  1. They brew craft beer and call it Hommeles.
  2. They organize the Utrecht Beerbrewers festival, one of the best festivals in the country that I discussed in a blogpost a few years ago.
  3. They aim to advance beer culture in Utrecht, and one of the ways they do this is by holding open brewing days every first Saturday of the month at the same windmill the festival is held at. If they are not there you might find them around the area at tastings, regional markets and other gatherings.

I asked one of the three people behind the HBC, Kees Volkers, a few questions about Hommeles and the festival. To make reading a little easier I have decided to post separate articles about them, today we start with…

Part I: Hommeles

You already met Kees, now let’s introduce the other two men making up the HBC: Jan Ausems and Jos Eberson. The three met at a brewing course back in 2007 and found out they were all living in Houten, a town close to Utrecht City. Ever since they met they have been busy brewing. But don’t think that they only started with beer then, their beer resumé started way before 2007.

Jan for example runs cambrinus.nl, a website loaded with great information about beer. If you want to find out which breweries started in what year, this site is the place to be. It’s easily one of the best resources for Dutch beer information online, unfortunately for some of you only in Dutch. In his daytime job he is an IT man for the BOVAG, an automotive branch organization.

Kees has written a book about the history of beer in Utrecht called “Wandelen over de Bierkaai [walking along the Beer quay]” , and this led to initial contact between Jan and Kees. He makes his living as a self-employed historian and author.

Jos has experience with flavors in general as a beer lover, but also as a cook and wine salesman and home liqueur maker. Right now is a manager at a large furniture store.

The Beer

Hommeles have around 10 beers for sale, ranging from a beer with honey to an IPA. Their best beer is called Molotov and clocks in at warming 9%.

As almost every brewery these days they have collaborations as well. A Pumpkin beer made with the boys from Epe, and a Green Ale with Ruud from Eem. This beer highlights another thing that the HBC does, maintaining their own hop garden in a town called Odijk. They used their own fresh hops for this beer, a tasty Red Ale or ‘Rat Ale’ as they call it. With limited hop fields in the Netherlands it makes this beer a rare one.

Sallands

They brew once a month at the windmill De Ster in downtown Utrecht but this is just for demonstrational purposes. The Hommeles beer itself is made at the Sallandse Brewery. Raalte is quite a long way from Utrecht but very welcome to contract brewers. Besides Hommeles it is also the brewery where De Arn, De Vriendschap, Eem and Eanske have made at least some of their beers, if not all. Finding a place to brew is getting more and more difficult and brewer Ruud van de Gevel is a cool and patient guy who is open for all kinds of experiments. He is now helped by Oscar Moerman, also a good brewer. Though it’s usually Ruud and/or Oscar who brew the beer according the recipe, they don’t mind at all if you help them out. Something Kees tells me they haven’t been doing a lot lately. When they are making a new beer for the first time they always make sure they make the trek to Raalte.

Success

Of the ten beers they put on the market 6 were introduced in 2014. The Dorstvlegel and Bokkepruik won awards. The Ondeugd (a smoked beer) had the distinction of being bottle of the month at the ABT-cafes all over the country.

Hopefully this has spread the name Hommeles among beer drinkers in the Netherlands, and hopefully beyond as well. Their beers deserve the attention, and I for one can’t wait what else Jan, Kees and Jos will bring is in 2015.

One of the things they will definitely give is this year is the 5 year anniversary of the Utrechts Beerbrewers festival. This will be the topic of the second installment about the Houtens Brewing Collective.

HBC op Internet

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Groningen Part 2: Shop update and a new place to drink beer.

Last year on this very site I published a piece on Groningen and it’s beer stores and specialty beer café’s. Last weekend I was back in my hometown and made another visit to the stores again to see how much things changed since last year. What I encountered in the shops is another sign that the revolution is still going strong, and Groningen is catching up fast.

New beer distributors have started delivering up north, greatly increasing the variety of beer in the stores. For example, it seems that a shipment of Mikkeller and Brewdog came into town and it now sold in the stores mentioned below. The prices of the bottles seem lower compared to the Western part of the country. This is another reason to visit, but bring a car or a sturdy crate, you might be coming home with more than you wanted.

The owners/managers of the stores too have seen the value of varied and changing selection of specialty beer and every single one of the stores mentioned below has only gotten better since the last time I wrote about them a year ago. A short recap of the visits.

IMG_6129 De Roemer

De Roemer’s core business remains their excellent stock of wine, whiskey and other heavy liquor. Their space for beer hasn’t grown but is, though small, excellent and rotates frequently. Since my last visit in December it seems half of it was new again. A good place to find some special barrel aged De Molens or an Emelisse White Label. The owners’ beer knowledge is also getting better and better but he also keeps his mind open for suggestions.


IMG_6134Van Erp

My encounters with the shelves in Van Erp’s store in downtown Groningen have been varied. Sometimes the selection is so wonderful you are not able to take everything you wanted back with you, other times you walk out of the store with only 2 or 3 new ones. This I found out has a reason. I was lucky because the day before I came in new De Molens had arrived. But word of mouth and the internet disperses news fast and it usually takes only a week before it is all sold out. So my apologies to Van Erp. In the first article I lamented the sometimes lack of selection, it seems now that they are selling their stock so fast that sometimes they just can’t keep up. So the only thing I can still blame them for is that they don’t have enough on stock J. For those willing to take a trip, in their second store in the town of Roden (about 20km away) they also have a good selection of beer.


IMG_6135Mitra Vismarkt

In last year’s article I named the Mitra on the Vismarkt the number 1 destination to fill your crates with good specialty beer. And manager Bas has no plans of stopping and is planning to increase the number of bottles in store even more. His ideas about where he wants to go with the store are wild but if they pan out it will become a haven for beerlovers. More on that hopefully in the coming months on this blog.


Extra addition: The Dog’s Bollocks

In the last article I wasn’t too happy with De Pintelier, a Belgian beer bar where the staff doesn’t know what brett is. Jeroen Bax told me about a new place that was checking out, and we did. The Dog’s Bollocks is a bar/restaurant that has a more than decent beer menu, and a few special beers on tap (‘t IJ and Thornbridge this time). It offers beer menus so you can try 4 different IPA’s or Triples. Bigger bottles can be shared and the menu outside the regular one is very fine.

IMG_6138What sets it apart from the other specialty beer places in Groningen is the food. Especially the burgers seem mighty fine and a favorite since the staff was carrying them constantly from the kitchen to the hungry guests. Their huge burger that you can share with friends rivals the size of the infamous De Molen tosti. The menu is meat oriented but has vegetarian options. We didn’t get a chance to try the burgers, but next time I will definitely order the smoked burger, that is served under a glass dome filled with flavorful smoke. And what better to wash down a culinary delight like this with a good De Molen, Maximus or Bax beer while watching a football match on the screens.

I’m getting more and more proud of the city I spent my youth in, keep up the good work.

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