Archive for September, 2015

Borefts 2015 and the frontline of brewing

If you believe that adding orange peels and coriander in a wit, cherries in a geuze, or sugar in a bock is already pushing the limits of the definition of what beer is, than Borefts is not for you. If you get fits of anger when strange fruits, herbs and vegetables show up in the list of ingredients of some newfangled beer from Estonia, than Borefts is not for you. If you believe beer was so much better 15 years ago when it was all much more simple, you should probably put on your cardigan, take off your reading glasses, replace them with your regular glasses and take your ideas back to 1999. Because once again Borefts showed Europe what is going on in the front lines of brewing, and it is nothing like beer brewed before the turn of the millennium. And I for one, and thousands with me those two days, welcome it with open arms and mouth. Borefts has become the Paris fashion week, or Austin’s South by Southwest festival, or the Sundance Film Festival. A place where mostly independent artists showcase their work for an audience that is ahead of the curve and interested in everything new and exciting.

borefts2015aLocal Farmhouse Beer

The theme this year was as postmodern as always. Brew a saison (classic) but add something local (modern). The chances are that if you go through all the green herbs in your spice rack there was a beer brewed with it by one of the brewers at Borefts. This is really what the brewers of today do. Where Ferran Adria or René Redzepi look at the edible world around them, so do the new (post)modern brewers. Beer is the basis, the rest is all open to personal taste and interest. Not everything will make it to the larger public of course, but it was interesting to see how brewers look at beer these days. Was it all great then? No, with this many beers there are bound to be some misses. And even though I personally welcome experimentation my favorite beers were still an Export Stout from Redchurch, a Jim Beam Barrel Aged Hel & Verdoemenis from De Molen and an excellent sour ale from Belgian Alvinne. But Omnipollo’s desert themed beers (yes, there was a raspberry smoothy beer) or the many sour ales with strange fruits and herbs made clear some new words need to be added to the standard beer review vocabulary. Words like ‘funny’, ‘interesting’ or ‘strange’

But I have only been able to taste a fraction of what was on offer, there is just too much supply, even for a fairly experienced beerhunter like myself.

International

That more nations are joining the ranks of top craft brewing was evident again. More British breweries this year and a bunch of Scandinavian as well, also more before it seems. In fact, some breweries weren’t even making beer when the first Borefts festival was held 7 years ago, and that isn’t even that long ago.

Another region that is very much up and coming is the Baltic State area and they finally made the big show with the appearance of Latvian Labietis at Borefts with some excellent and most of all interesting beers with local ingredients. I had an interesting wit with caraway seeds, inspired by Latvian bread. With brewers from the UK, Belgium, Latvia, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Holland and Germany and the United States this year and brewers from Italy and France in previous years the state of craft beer in Europe is strong and diverse and the end not yet in sight.

National

Every year Dutch brewers are asked to be part of the festival as well and for a Dutch brewers there is no higher stage, it is the same as headlining Glastonbury or Bonnaroo. This year Oedipus from Amsterdam and Brouwerij Kees were invited. Oedipus rise in and around Amsterdam has been meteoric with a new brewery, tasting room and shelve space in supermarkets. Kees has been to Borefts many times before while still brewing for Emelisse, but now that he has gone solo nothing really changed for Brouwerij Kees is again easily one of the best breweries in the Netherlands. Since Kees has just started who knows what else we can expect.

borefts2015bLogistics

Every year it seems Borefts has reached the limit of the number of people the premises can hold, but every time the setup changes for the better. This time the former children’s indoor playground was in use for half of the brewers, a great view to see them stand in front of the rows of barrels with beautiful De Molen beer aging just for us to taste in a year. Signs asked people not to smoke outside underneath the tents, though unfortunately we were too late. Inside there was enough room upstairs, another great find.

Borefts too finally offers online ticketing, and even though they are still able to let people in at the door this is the way forward. It is a lot easier to get your ticket and the line in front of the registers was virtually non-existent. The food is getting more diverse every year and the free distribution of water remains yet another reason why Borefts is the number 1 festival in the country, and maybe in Europe.

The nearby train station is still where most people arrive from the surrounding cities, though I started to see buses from Germany parked as well. And the festival is also a good boost for the surrounding cities with visitors staying in hotels in nearby Alphen and Gouda but also in Amsterdam and Utrecht. In the days after I saw many of them visiting breweries in Amsterdam and Haarlem for example, making Borefts more than just a De Molen festival.

One thing is for sure, as long as this festival brings together brewers and beer drinkers from all over Europe as it has done now for 7 years, the state of craft beer remains strong and will keep growing. Bring on the strange brews.

5 Beer Reviews II

5 Beer Reviews, Part II

It’s been a while since I last posted some reviews. Decided to approach this a little differently. I will post here after I have had 5 great Dutch beers that I feel you should try as well. So no negative reviews here! Long live positivity and great craft beer.

  1. Brouwerij Kees! – London Mild Ale

Kees is of course Kees Bubberman, formerly responsible for some of the finest beers this country has seen this century when still brewing at Emelisse. He has now started his own brewery and has released some great beers this year. My first Kees was a Citra Pale Ale at Bokaal in Rotterdam which was a great beer. The London Mild Ale is something else though. Emelisse has a great 2,5% session IPA which might be the best sub-3% beer I have ever tasted. This London Mild Ale clocks in at a hefty 3,5%. If you had told me it was 7% I would have believed you too. The roasted coffee and chocolate make it well rounded with the hops filling in any of the blanks still left in the taste. Never watery, never dull, a truly great beer. Hopefully soon more about Kees on these here pages .

  1. Dochter van de Korenaar – Passe-Partout.

Before you started spewing your hatred, in my eyes DvdK is run by Dutchmen in a tiny enclave surrounded by Dutch soil. His address might be in Belgium, but we can claim him for us as well. Anyway, since we are talking about low alcohol beers this Passe Partout is very different from the first one mentioned here. It is bitter and doesn’t have the nice little flavors that the Kees has but I can definitely see this beer being your thing. I have had much worse in this age of session IPA’s, well done. Another example of a brewer who is just as at home at 11% as 3%.

  1. Uiltje CC Porter.

I’ve always hated the Bounty Candy Bar. There is just something about the texture of coconut that ruined everything for me. Up to this day I cannot stand it. Het Uiltje finally made it possible to enjoy one and a lot more with its CC Porter. Some of it gushed out of the bottle unfortunately, although my kitchen smelled great for the next 20 odd hours so it wasn’t all bad. It is a well made porter so has all the nice coffee and chocolate flavors it is supposed to have with the added bonus of coconut. It apparently is a one-off beer but Robbert, can you please make more of this?

  1. Brouwerij Kees Export Porter 1750.

In part 1 we have established that Kees Bubberman is excellent at making low alcohol beers. If you are under the impression that this is the only thing he is good at you are sadly mistaken. He can do whoppers of 10% and over as well and this superb double porter shows just that. Thick, dry, sweet but also bitter with hints of some herb, might be laurel and liquorice. It had no head but who cares when it brings you a fraction of a second closer to tasting this. Perfection in bottle.

  1. Bax Bier Ketter

It took the release of just two beers to make Jeroen Bax and cohorts  their Bax Beer the best brewery in the north by miles. More and more I see bottles of Bax in other parts of the country and his stock keeps rising. One of the two beers he made his debut with was the Koud Vuur (Cold Fire), a smoked beer as balanced as that dude walking on a wire between the WTC Towers. As with most Bax Beers extra credit for the name. Ketter means heretic. ‘Roken al s een ketter’ means smoking as a heretic. Balance is Bax’ strongpoint and the Ketter is no different. It is higher in alcohol, but also higher in taste and awesomeness.

Oersoep Craft Beer Festival

—  Another collaboration, this time Florian from German blog HopfenLiebe.com translated the article he placed there for our website. He went to the first Oersoep Festival, here is his report —-

glas-flyer-oersoep-festival-2015-648x486The first Oersoep Craft Beer Festival was hosted in Nijmegen last weekend. It was organized by the Microbrewery Oersoep at the beautiful ‘Het Zomerkwartier’ (an artificial beach area next to river Waal) directly next to the brewery. The venue was the first thing one positively noticed when entering the festival site: There were not just some tables and benches standing around, but a nice beach with comfortable chairs, sun loungers and sofas. The whole location added a nice and smooth summer atmosphere to the festival!

But one was not (only) there because of the location, but for good and handmade beer. Oersoep invited 15 breweries from the Netherlands, England, the US and Italy to Nijmegen.

Breweries at the Oersoep Craft Beer Festival 2015:

  • Jester King Brewery (US)
  • Wild Beer Co. (UK)
  • Brew By Numbers (UK)
  • Birrificio Dada (IT)
  • Brouwerij Kees (NL)
  • Oedipus Brewing (NL)
  • Van Moll (NL)
  • Brouwerij de Hemel (NL)
  • Het Uiltje (NL)
  • Kaapse Brouwers (NL)
  • Donderwolk (NL)
  • Tommie Sjef Wild Ales (NL)
  • Rooie Dop (NL)
  • RUIG Bier (NL)
  • Brouwerij Frontaal (NL)
  • Katjelam (NL)

Form an organisational point of view; the event was overall well managed. You could either buy a ticket online or at the box office on site. The entrance to the festival ground was free but you had to have the official festival glass to taste the beers. The glass was really nice and looked at first glance exactly like the glass that is used in the BrewPub of Oersoep STOOM. However, this optics was kind of misleading, as the craft beer glass was in fact made ​​of plastic. That might was the better choice, as a large part of the location was covered with sand and we all might now what happens when we combine sand, bar feet and broken glass.

Each brewery had brought different beers to Nijmegen and served two at the same time, which meant the kegs were changed ever now and then. Some of my beer highlights at the festival include the Grätzer from Katjelam.  Brewed with Weizenrauchmalz, the beer had a great smoky and ham aroma, but was still not too heavy and pleasant to drink on a warm day. Also delicious was the Brettalicious of Oersoep, a saison with great acidity and fruity hop aroma.  Wild Beer Co.  from England, poured also a saison called ‘Cool as a Cucumber ‘, and yes, there was real cucumber involved. Great and refreshing!

In addition, I really liked the Tazara Pepe, a saison that was brewed with different kind of peppers by Birretta Dada from Italy. My overall favourite of the festival however was the Suave from Oersoep and Van Moll from Eindhoven: the Gin and Tonic Pale Ale. This beer was partly brewed with real tonic water and after the fermentation they added even some gin. The finished product was nice and round with great fruit flavours and a very pleasant juniper finish.

Craft beer events like this festival are a great opportunity to try special beers, which you otherwise only can buy (if you can buy them in your region at all) in big bottles. Also the conversations with other beer lovers and the brewers are always very informative and entertaining.

Nijmegen is always worth a visit, even if there is no craft beer festival. Visiting one of the 6 breweries and brews, or one of the countless great beer cafes is a must, as well as checking by the great beer shop De Bierhoeder.