In Part 1 a couple of weeks ago I wrote about Hommeles, the brewing branch of the Houtens Brouw Collectief. Part 2 today is about another successful venture: organizing the Utrechts Beerbrewers Festival, which this year will be held for the 5th time.
I myself have remarked about this wonderful festival, one of the nicest beer festivals on the calendar. I asked Kees Volkers why he thinks the festival is as successful as it is and he gave several reasons:
- Location, location, location. Though located in the middle of an Utrecht neighborhood, the area itself is a windmill and surrounding public land. A little green haven inside the concrete and stone structures in that part of Utrecht.
It is a ten minute walk from the train station and Utrecht is the hub of the national railway grid. This makes it is easier to get to, with often only a few or no changes, from any part of the country. Rotterdam and even Amsterdam are harder to get into this easy.
- Setup and atmosphere. You don’t really need more than stands for the brewers, live music and good food. The area feels enclosed and the people owning the terrain are very involved with the festival. The wooden structures, windmill and farm animals make you feel like you’re something where there is a lot of space.
- Utrecht has a vibrant beer culture and has a large number of brewers. To remain a specialty beer festival, and keep away a certain type of beerdrinker, no pilsners are served.
- All three are well known faces in the local and national craft beer scene so getting the word out was easy, though I doubt that is even necessary, the festival itself is a gem.
But I have noticed that the more popular the festival gets, the more crowded it gets as well. Isn’t there a fear that the festival will become too big?
“this is something we will discuss in the coming year. This year we will keep things as they were, with some new measures. The number of visitors isn’t immediately a problem, we will just had out a maximum number of glasses. We don’t necessarily feel the need to grow. A small scale festival at a great location is perfect, but we realize that the reputation of the festival and of brewers from Utrecht is rapidly growing and the attendance shows this. One problem is that the area surrounding the mill is public terrain which can’t be closed off.
The biggest problem right now is the growth of commercial brewers from Utrecht. At the first festival there were seven, this year the number will be 20 or 21. There will come a time when we won’t be able to house all of them. If the attendance stays the same this also means that the brewers will sell a lot less. So something needs to change, and we would like to get the brewers involved too to look for a solution. “
For Utrecht the number of brewers is of course great, people are still realizing that brewing is fun, hip and that you can even sell what you make. With the number now at 21 the end isn’t in sight yet.
Could this festival be the first one to crumble under the weight of the craft beer revolution? Could well be, but I trust that the HBC men will find a solution. This festival is one of the few you really should have been to at least once. In fact, my wife and I postponed the honeymoon for one day so we could visit two years ago, and left for the Alps straight after. That’s how great this festival is.