Last weekend the annual Brussels Beer Challenge was held, a prestigious competition with breweries, and judges, from all over the world. Medals were awarded in several categories, making it an interesting competition because most brewers these days don’t start brewing with the intention of making for example a triple. They make what they want to make, even if it makes the beer harder to categorize. Thinking in terms of beerstyles isn’t really something that fits to way we think of beer anymore in these post-modern beer days, but the organization came up with such a wide of array of categories that most beers could find a place. And if you’re doing a competition like this, it is the way to go.
It is interesting to see what other countries are starting to win medals. Most medals went, as was to be expected, to the US, Germany and Belgium. The group behind this is getting larger with Italy, France, the Netherlands and Spain winning quite a few. Brazil was a pleasant surprise. It is no secret anymore that their craft beer scene is growing fast, and now they have the medals to show for it. It also means it is getting harder to win. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and even the U.K. won a small number, although that could be due to hardly any brewers sending beer in. Smaller brewing nations like China, Greece, Malta, Colombia, Poland and Argentina won medals too, a sign of the broader rise of craft beer around the world.
And how did the Dutch breweries fair? Well, every year the number of medals rises, and 2015 wasn’t any different. Some breweries won medals again after winning last year and the years before. But because the panels change every year this can be seen as a different medal. Winning it multiple years just means you made a really good beer.
The medals we are most excited about were won by Bax Bier, a brewery we have followed ever since their first two beers were released, the beers that also won. Silver for the Kon Minder and a gold medal for the instant classic Koud Vuur. We wrote about them a year ago and expect more on Bax next year when we will describe the burgeoning beer scene in Groningen, with a leading role for Bax Bier with a new brewery and brewpub. The fact that this is an up-and-coming city can now be shown with medals!
Not in Groningen but a similar brewery in age and ideas is Eindhovens Van Moll, winning bronze for their red ale Pastorale.
Another brewery we interviewed earlier this year was Houtens / Utrechts own Hommeles who won silver in the German-Style Dunkel Bock/Doppelbock category with their Bokkepruik. Utrecht brought in more medals as usual with Maximus’ Brutus winning bronze in the Speciality Beer : Hybrid category. You can read about what a cool brewery Maximus is here. And what is becoming a usual thing at challenges like this is a medal for Duits & Lauret, a silver for their stout this time after winning metal for their bock last year. They have been an early favorite here at home, and the plans for next year are amazing, and you will read about that soon.
Alfa has suffered somewhat from being seen in the eyes of some as a brewery that only makes cheap supermarket lager. But the quality is better than expected and they won a bronze medal with their Super Dortmunder in the German-Style Helles-/MaiBock/Doppelbock category. Bigger Limburg brewery Gulpener has been working hard on becoming the most environmental friendly of the big guys. Fortunately for us the beers are as good as their views with a bronze for the Ur-Hop and gold for the Wintervrund. And while we’re on the subject of the big guys, even Heineken won a medal (silver) for their light beer in the light lager category.
Another favorite of ours is of course ‘t Uiltje. You can read the interview with Robbert when he just started here, with news about the brewpub here and here. The Bosuil won bronze in the Dark Ale : Dark/Black IPA. Noord-Holland was represented further with SNAB winning gold for their Ezelenbok and ‘t IJ’s IJwit. Jopen had the biggest total haul, winning no fewer than 3 medals. Other large Noord-Holland brewery Texels took home 2 for their dubbel and bock.
One brewer that surprisingly won a gold medal was the Heidebrouwerij with their Edelhert Donker. For a small brewery like this a medal can mean a lot and let’s hope it will steer them into the path of even greater things.
You may think about competitions like this what you want, but it is good way to spot trends, and Dutch beer winning medals means things are well in beer land.
You can find the complete list of winners on the Brussels Beer Challenge Website.