Archive for June, 2015

Crowdfunding, and why you should all help Proeflokaal Mout

Money, it is a subject we can’t ignore when it comes to the growth of the beer industry. The usual path goes like this: a brewer starts small at home, then expands by brewing somewhere else. It is here that (successful) brewers have to make a decision: do we keep brewing as much as we do now with the risk of not getting the potential profits or do we expand even further. When the latter option is chosen a new problem arises: how to pay for all of this? Do we keep brewing somewhere else meaning we don’t have full control or do we take matters into our own hands.

Starting your own brewery and/or tasting room is not cheap. We are talking hundreds of thousands of Euros, not something you make in a few years by just selling bottles of beers in small batches. And also not something people tend to have just laying around.

Following your dreams means looking for outside funds. The option often chosen is that of a bank who sees that the plan the brewer has will eventually work and will make them money as well.

A second option is to go look for investors. These investors generally like to take a little more risk, but often you as a brewer have more obligations towards them as well. Investors tend to have bigger chunks of change to invest.

A third, and maybe most in line with the craft-beer ethic, is to let the public fund you. Crowdfunding is a relatively new and popular way of looking for investments. Breweries in the past have worked with loan certificates, saying that the investor will get the money back, or will get the equivalent liters of beer, or a special brew every year. What is most important about this type of funding is that there is no outside meddling of banks or investors.

Online crowdfunding is these days the preferred method. For those of you unfamiliar with how it works: on the website the person/company needing the funding makes a pitch and gives the details on how you get the money back. Over how many years, the interest rate and if there are any other interesting perks like free beer, tours, discounts etc. You can give anything from in most cases €50 up to €1000s if you feel so inclined.

Lately, three initiatives were started on the website crowdaboutnow.nl. Two were for now well-known breweries Oersoep and Kompaan. Breweries that easily are in the top 20 of Dutch breweries, if not higher. But also breweries that convey a do-it-yourself attitude, who are in it for the art and not the bucks.

But it isn’t only breweries you can find on this website.

Mout

You might know Susan Heitinga and her Proeflokaal Mout from earlier collaborations on articles. Her dream is to open a Dutch Craft Beer only bar in Groningen, the second one in the country after the Arendsnest in Amsterdam. She already has experience in Beer Café’s and has traveled throughout the country the last two years to experience firsthand what the burgeoning Dutch craft beer scene is like. This was done with love and interest for Dutch Craft beer and its brewers. With the rising interest in Groningen and the Netherlands this bar would be a welcome addition not only to his city but to beer culture in the country in general.

So here is my pitch for Mout.

Brewers of the Netherlands! This place will be great for you, another bar that might sell your beer, and one that will be even more eager to sell Dutch beer. So no competing with those standard Belgian boring tripels or German weizens. Here you will find people not bound to any contract with a big brewer but with genuine interest in what you make.

And if you’re a lover of good beer, well, do I really have to tell you? Groningen was already a good destination for beer lovers, but it will become a great one if Mout opens. And for only €50 or more you can be a little engine behind the Dutch Craft Beer revolution, of which Mout will likely be a stronghold in the years to come.

So go to https://www.crowdaboutnow.nl/proeflokaalmout and help out.

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A Pilgrimage to the Uiltje Bar

It didn’t take long after drinking the first Uiltje beers to understand that this brewery was something special. Overnight Robbert Uyleman’s beers were ranked among the best beers in the country. Since then things went fast, production increased, the line of beers increased and het Uiltje could be seen at festivals not only in the Holland, but also in the U.S.

Late last year we reported the opening of their bar, and we finally got around to visiting it on our way to the festival in Den Haag, where incidentally Robbert was picking up an award for one his many beers.

DSC01171And we were not disappointed. A huge drawn owl laughed at us from the wall when we walked in. The mostly black and white interior front part make it light and artful, the booths in the back have more of an café feel with bottles of other breweries all lined up overhead and T-shirts hanging on the walls. Het Uiltje’s owl logo is everywhere and the simple drawing is effective because very recognizable.

DSC01162The one thing I had no doubts about was the beer. 30 taps with delicious stuff from het Uiltje and likeminded breweries. In this case for example beers from The Kernel, Redwillow, Emelisse, Brewdog and Lervig. But the good bar that it is, this can change any day. This also means that this is one of the few places in the country (with the Beertemple and Craft&Draft) where even a seasoned beerhunter will find more unknown than known brews.

But it is easy to sample a lot of these by getting the paddle, 4 little glasses for €12,50 and including a glass of water. The tasting paddle is custom made and has a glass of water. If for some reason you have had everything on tap, there are still a lot of bottles and cans you can drink as well.

And if you’re hungry you can get pizza, yes, beer and pizza, that combo from heaven that also give the bar a homely feeling. Nothing wrong with fine dining, but sometimes you just want a good IPA and a pepperoni pizza.

IMG_0072Extra credit for the wonderful sausage made by local sausage maker Olijck, often made with Jopen beer. Someone should really start a blog about all the great new sausage makers…

The Uiltje bar will from now on also be on my itinerary everytime I am in Haarlem, and fortunately for me Haarlem isn’t too far away. It is definitely one of my 5 favorite brewery based bars in the country. Well done sirs, you’ve added a new pilgrimage site to the Dutch beer scene.

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A Burger and Beer at Bret

Sloterdijk, an area of Amsterdam once so drab and grey that the only thing you wanted to do is get the hell out of there and go home. Once this was area had only office buildings with an occasional hotel in between. Trees and grass were sparsely placed in the jungle of concrete but could be seen from behind your desk just too far to go there in your lunch break.

But Sloterdijk lost its position as the center of business in Amsterdam. Zuid (South) attracted a lot of company headquarters and businesses in Sloterdijk vacated their buildings too for the move south. At the same time Amsterdam was looking for more space for new hotels, something there is a big lack of in the capital. The old office buildings in Sloterdijk are now converted into hotels. A convenient location because both downtown Amsterdam, Zaandam and Haarlem or 10 to 15 minutes away by train.

It is here that a group DSC01150of architects and young ambitious restauranteurs decided to build Bret, with support from local government. You may remember an earlier story I wrote when Thomas Boonstoppel of Nordman Beers led me around what was then still a construction site. It has now been open for about a month and a half and it is going better than expected.

It is going great in that a reservation is needed for lunch and dinner, which I am glad we made. While we were sitting there people kept coming, most were able to sit but some had to be turned away because the container structure was completely full. Good for Bret, unfortunate for the guests.

DSC01155And it’s not because Bret is the only available place to go in that area. It is a good restaurant with a good menu. Because they open at 8 a.m. already you can get breakfast, lunch and dinner apart from the wide selection of beer. Getting a coffee-to-go is a good choice. We started a three day holiday to Rotterdam here but I had my best coffee on the first day here at Bret.

DSC01154They attempt to have the food as fresh and local as possible and it shows because it looks good. We had a burger (with awesome onion relish) and a lentil salad. The menu isn’t pages long but varied enough so that most people can find something they like.

The beer

Beer is of course the reason we went to Bret in the first place. Their beer menu might not rival that of other places in the city but is quite good for the area it is in. Because the guys from Nordman are part of the team running Bret you can find all or most of their beers on tap (3 in our case). It is possible to get 4 small glasses in a tasting paddle, and that is a great thing always and everywhere and something every bar should do.

DSC01151Gulpener is the big contributor so you can find their beers on tap as well, but it is the bottles that are most interesting. Again, nothing you can’t find anywhere else but they try and have beers from most of the bigger Amsterdam breweries so ‘t IJ, Prael, Two Chefs and Oedipus you can find here, as well as a good selection of beers from the country like Emelisse, Uiltje and Jopen.

Their effort to promote Amsterdam beer will have a highlight when this weekend they will host the first Amsterdam Craft Beer Festival in and around Bret. The garden and surrounding area are well suited for this.

Future

Because Bret has barely been open it is hard to say what the future will bring, but things are looking great so far. The building already seems to small! And with the plot of land across the street under development as well we can only hope that it will be yet another highlight in the Dutch beer revolution.

Conclusion

Is Bret worth the trip to Sloterdijk? Yes it is, but for the overall experience of the organic building, the food and the coffee. The beers as I said are decent but nothing unique, it is however a very nice place to drink your Oedipus Mannenliefde. If you are in Amsterdam and want to visit Haarlem or the windmills north of the canal Bret is a perfect starting point. It is well worth visiting this nicely stacked sea container structure.

Dutch Beer Week 2015 Festival in The Hague

The Week of Dutch Beer is a ten day national event where breweries open their doors, bars have special tasting sessions and festivals are held all over the country. A great way for the public to see how far Dutch brewing has come in the last twelve months, and if they are even a little perceptive they will see a lot has changed. It also brings reluctant beer drinkers into contact with craft beer, and this can only be a good thing.

DSC01195Festival

The beer week opened with a three day festival in the Grote Kerk in The Hague. Before the opening for the general public brewers and people working in the industry came together. Most of them stayed and this led to an interesting mix of people on the festival floor. Like last year the ticket could be bought online, so no disappointments standing in front of a full church after traveling all the way from Weert or Ter Apel. And spreading it out over three days meant opportunity enough, even though the €12,50 price tag (two coins) was a little steep. Churches are perfect for events like this like the festivals in Groningen and Alkmaar have taught us. There is usually room enough and the acoustics often fine as well. The tables in the church was set up in such a way that it never felt too crowded, though I can’t say what it was like on Saturday when it was sold out.

The floor 15 minutes after opening.

The floor 15 minutes after opening.

The big guys and the little guys

What sets this festival apart from the others is that is half festival, half trade fair for the national beer industry. It is for both selling beer to beerlovers, but also making contact with people in the industry: the designers, distributors, salesmen etc. This meant that people from Heineken and Grolsch were walking around in their 3D-suits between the craft beer fans with Rooie Dop T-shirts and Uiltje caps. Brand and Grolsch were selling their multinational mass produced beer next to the guys making beer in their own kitchen or garage. And if you like it or not, this is what the Dutch beer landscape looks like these days. Big guys at the top, a very small mid section (Jopen and a few others) and an increasingly large group at the bottom. Of course it’s the bottom group that I, and likely most readers of the blog, are interested in, but the big guys have their role and fans too. Craft beer maybe booming all over the world, over 85% of all the beer sold is still made by the Budweisers and Heinekens of this world. Tasty? Not for me, but their economic impact is too big to be ignored by craft beer fans. And their attempts to appeal to the craft beer crowd by releasing IPA’s, Pale Ales and Amber like beers should only strengthen craft beer’s claim that they make good stuff and that big brewing is getting afraid of the future.

Duits & Lauret

Duits & Lauret

The beer

A festival that has many debuts can unfortunately mean that the level of beer quality wasn’t superb. Of course as a seasoned visitor of these festivals I skip the ones I know and go for the untasted breweries or new releases by established ones. Crooked Spider and Brouwdok had decent beers, Het Kwartje from Den Haag one that was a little more than decent. They will be the before now unknown brewery I will start looking out for in the coming weeks. But hopefully some visitors were smart or lucky enough to try Bax, Kompaan, Maximus and Duits & Lauret to get a good taste of the awesome things available in the country today.