Archive for the ‘Beer Store’ Category

Buying Beer in Utrecht

The last two years I have written mostly about the beer scene in Amsterdam. Six years ago when this blog started there was almost nothing apart from one good brewery, one great store and a few great bars. But the capital didn’t offer more than other cities or regions. In fact it was somewhat later on the scene. Utrecht and the surrounding province with the same name was more interesting.

But Amsterdam has been through a craft beer. The number of breweries has risen dramatically and some of them are now Major League breweries like Oedipus, Pampus, Two Chefs and Walhalla.

But Utrecht is fighting back. It still has the best beer café’s within just a square mile (will write about this is an upcoming post). There are great breweries in the city, let alone the rest of the province. With Maximus and Oproer the city has two great brewpubs, with a third one opening last month. But I will write about De Kromme Haring soon. The Utrecht Beerbrewersfestival had over 30 breweries this year, brewers from this relatively small province alone.

A major shakeup has taken place in the Utrecht beershop world. The city was never rich in a lot of beer stores, apart from the amazing Bert’s Bierhuis. This store is still around in some capacity, but the last four months have been very exciting. I visited 5 stores, 3 of them new. They are all different in concept, location, atmosphere and specialty. Here, in Dutch Beer Pages tradition, I have picked out my four favorite ones.

This list is in the order of when I visited them. I got off at the Zuilen railwaystation and started at

Slijterij Zuilen (Amsterdamsestraatweg 595)

A good place to go after or before a visit to Oproer, which is next to the railwaystation.

The only real liquor store of the five. You have to pass the wine and hard liquor before you get the beer section. Slijterij Zuilen is on a busy street that has more than just this store . Zuilen alone is worth a stroll with interesting city history. Information boards for tourists are everywhere.

But back to the store. It has a surprising amount of beer in the back of the shop. And from good beer countries like the USA, Estonia, Spain and of course Holland, which takes up around 30%. One of those stores where even seasoned beer hunters will find new things every time. A few shelves are dedicated to beer from Utrecht. If you haven’t had many beers from the rest of Europe this is a great place to go to. Also, from the beers I checked out and was able to compare to the other stores they seem to be a little cheaper.

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Mad About Malt (Troosterhof 15-17)

I first heard about this store when NeoBosski released their new beer here the weekend after I posted about them. Turns out this isn’t the only Mad About Malt store! There is also a MaM in Rotterdam, which the fairly large line of beers from there. I got a good bottle from Noordt here. The store started as a wholesale Spanish wine importer and seller, but has lately moved into the beer business with two stores but also the import of Spanish breweries like La Pirata. They even helped them out at the Borefts festival.

It is located in a small mall with a supermarket and another liquor store next door, but one that specializes in wine. It all looks under construction and that is correct, as it will undergo a major overhaul soon. The quality of the beer is great. If you like Mikkeler, Thornbridge or La Pirate this is the store for you. They also have a cooler. It is a little out of the way if you’re a simple tourist to the city, but it might be worth the detour. The website mentions that stores will open in The Hague and Amsterdam soon.

Bert’s Bierhuis (Biltstraat 46)

The Bert in the name of the shop once had the famous shop I talked about in the first paragraph. This store was simply one of the finest in the country. The street itself, the Twijnstraat, is now a typical narrow Dutch street with beautiful stores, mostly with organic food. For a while there were two stores, but only this one remains. A large and roomy store with a superb selection from all over the world. I especially like the section with beers from exotic countries not particularly known for beer. If you remember the old store, you will feel at home again here too. Oh, and especially the German beer and cider section is quite good. More than enough Dutch breweries here too, with a great selection of local beer. The store will get a new name in the coming months, and we will keep you posted about that once the new name is certain. But it is good to see Bert and his shop are still here.

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De Bierverteller (Twijnstraat 47)

Saving the best for last. I had heard of this store already and knew about owner Thomas a little bit. The visit did not disappoint. When I first read that it opened in the Twijnstraat my first reaction was: “why is he opening a store in the same street as Berts Bierwinkel?”. Turns out they knew that store was closing. It was only logical to start a beerstore where people expected one. The Twijnstraat has some great stores for cheese, fish and other great food.

De Bierverteller is the natural successor of Bert’s Bierhuis, not only because it is housed a few spots over from where that store used to be. It is a beautiful old timey store with bottles all the way up to the ceiling. Ordered by taste (refreshing, dark etc) but with a special section for Utrecht beers.

bierverteller

Some of the local beers at De Bierverteller

Another plus is that the people working here know everything about beer (they had previous jobs at other beer places) and can recommend anything you want. De Bierverteller goes further than just selling bottles, they also offer workshops about beer, food pairings etc. Thomas is a beer sommelier so you know there is a lot of knowledge.

Unique too is a growler station with usually three beers. Selection is large and there will always be something new. They even have some Cascade bottles and other special brews.

The store is simply fantastic. I always imagine candy stores looking like this 100 years ago. And I felt like a kid in candy store, but for grownups.

The other three stores are fine and I will definitely visit them again when I am in the neighborhood, but De Bierverteller is a store worth making a trip for just for this. It is on par with stores like De Bierkoning, Melgers Haarlem and Burg Bieren in Ermelo. He might have made Utrecht more interesting, but in the process also gave the country a new gem.

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Amsterdam-West:Buying Beer, Drinking Beer and Eating (with a beer)

A piece about beer in Amsterdam five years ago would be one blogpost. There just wasn’t much to visit when this decade started. Oh things have changed my friends.

Much of it was centered on downtown Amsterdam with places like De Bierkoning, ‘t Arendsnest, Brouwerij ‘t IJ and In De Wildeman. But a lot more is going on in other parts of the city. New enterprises have started, and older stores have hooked onto the craft beer hype by adapting to the new type of alcohol consumer.

When I moved to Amsterdam in 2000 Amsterdam-West (or to be more precise Oud West or Old West, adjacent to the center of the city) wasn’t much. Maybe a few good places to drink coffee or eat, but not a neighborhood you’d base your visit to Amsterdam on. Though it is still not a Jordaan or De Pijp, it is changing. Like all the other neighborhoods this part too has been through a positive renewal.

So here I want to focus on some beer places in Oud-West, and in the area from De Clerqsstraat to the Overtoom. There are more places to mention, but I chose my favorite two in each category: buying, eating, drinking.

Buying Beer

IMG_8029Avondwinkel Sterk (De Clercqstraat 7)

Let’s start here, just outside the Centrum district. Take tram 13, 14 or 17 from wherever you are, or just walk from Dam Square past the Westerkerk. Sterk bills itself as a store that is open late and yes, 1:00 at night is late. It also open year round.

Sterk now is a shop that sells stuff for expats, mostly from English speaking countries. What they especially are is a high class liquor store, with a focus on craft beer. The selection is huge, I mean really huge. I don’t think any store in Amsterdam can match what they have, apart from the Bierkoning naturally. More than half I think is beer from the Netherlands, and almost all of the local Amsterdam brewers have a spot on the shelf.

‘t Fust (Bilderdijkstraat 203)

When I first visited this little corner store it had some shelves in the corner with beer, mostly Belgian, some local things like De Prael. Well, things have changed, now the majority of the store is beer, and great beer too. Good selection of De Molens and an Emelisse White Label is always a good sign. Store might be a little crowded and messy, but you won’t be disappointed by the things you can get here.

Drinking beer while eating

Foodhallen (Bellamyplein 51)

In between drinking tasty beer and schlepping around your increasingly heavy bag of bottles you need to eat. Let me suggest the Foodhallen, a must visit for anyone digging the small scale, food truck scene. It is close to the outside Ten Catemarkt, off the Kinkerstraat.

Built in what once was the garage for the trams on this side of the city, it now is a combination of shops, businesses, manufacturing, a movie theater and a food hall. Like any good food hall there is something for everyone. For the less adventurous there are burgers and pizza. But there is more interesting food like Spanish meats, Korean kimchi, oysters, ‘bitterballen’ filled with several ragouts or cheese fondue. It is a food lovers paradise and the prices aren’t even that absurd.

We had a perfect pulled pork sandwich, quinoa sushi, a nice slice of pizza with figs and goat cheese and Vietnamese rolls. What completes a trip to the Foodhallen for you the beer lover is that there is a beer bar. It is perfectly fine to buy a bottle of beer to eat with your burger here. And what is even better, it’s not your typical big brand beer but local brews from the likes of Oedipus or Two Chefs, and probably more in the future. I was able to have an Oedipus I hadn’t had before, so things were well.

There are plenty of other great places to eat, but if you are with a large group, this is perfect.

Bar Brouw (Ten Katestraat 16)

This place might be #1 on my ‘to eat at’ list. From what I have seen and heard this restaurant is a meat lover’s paradise with great smoked meat dishes. What sets it apart is the .Unfortunately it wasn’t open during the day on weekdays, but I will plan a visit soon. Based on recommendations from others this sounds great.

Drinking Beer!

I didn’t get around to visit Gollem on the Overtoom,  but from previous experience I know that this is nice too. It seems to be still focused on mostly Belgian and some German beers, but Dutch beer is available there too. Nice and roomy.

IMG_8040The Finish: Craft & Draft (Overtoom 417)

I promised two bars here, but this place is so good it counts as two. Any visit to this part of town should end with a visit to Craft & Draft. In fact, every visit to Amsterdam should contain at least a few hours here. Craft & Draft is part of the trifecta of amazing beer bars that also includes ‘t Arendsnest and the Beer Temple in downtown. This bar opened last year and is amazing. A little bit outside of downtown but easily accessible with tram, bike or a nice walk through the Vondelpark. 40 taps with things from all over the world, but mostly Scandinavian and American. There will be something for everyone. There is also a little store where you can buy some of the things. The interior is sleek, calming and at times funny and it is roomy. Downtown café’s might be small and cozy, but it is good to have some space now and again. This is one of the places where every time you come back the beer menu will be radically different. And, there are always some great Dutch beers on tap as well.

Travel

If you are a traveler just looking for some places to eat and drink West will suffice, but doesn’t stand above other neighborhoods. It doesn’t have a brewery (yet) but a high density of stores. If you can only visit two things though go to the Food Hallen and Craft & Draft, it will make your Amsterdam trip tastier.

Eindhoven had an idea and it was beer.

Ask anyone to describe a Dutch city and you will hear about gabled houses, canals and histories that go back deep into the Middle Ages or even before. This is mostly correct, with two notable exceptions. Rotterdam, though old, is now a modern vibrant harbortown unlike any other Dutch city. The other exception is the southern city of Eindhoven. Around the year 1900 it was  a tiny town of barely 5000 people, now it is the fifth city in the country.

Historians like to look for all kinds of factors that make a city grow, but in Eindhoven’s case it is a simple one. It was here that the brothers Philips started a small factory to produce light bulbs. Their bulbs were world class and people came from all over the country to work for them. The company grew rapidly and with it so did the city. Philips went from bulbs to transistor radios, televisions and household appliances and ventured further into all kinds of electronics. It made Philips a multinational company and Eindhoven a city.

Philips attracted companies that were related to their businesses and today it is a high tech town with its own Technical University and companies like microchip maker ASML. Philips moved its headquarters to Amsterdam about 20 years ago and nothing is manufactured in Eindhoven anymore. Only the Research and Development people stayed. The holes that Philips left are now filled up and Eindhoven is going through a double renaissance. First as a city, second as a brewing town.

Eindhoven and beer

Eindhoven was late on the craft beer scene compared to the center of Dutch brewing, an area roughly between Haarlem – Amsterdam – Utrecht and Bodegraven. The first time I noticed Eindhoven as a spot for good beer was when Van Moll opened its doors three years ago. It was mentions on social media and associations with other breweries that gave it fame before most of us had even had a taste. Van Moll has placed itself among the Major League brewers of the country and will be discussed in part three of this Eindhoven series.

Another brewery started last year and calls itself the City Brewery or Stadsbrouwerij. They have a different setup, different ideas but the same passion for craft beer and they will also be dealt with in a separate post.

So is there anything else worth visiting? Apart from these two breweries there certainly is. A number of excellent shops and bars to be precise. Let’s have a look.

20160303_152808Bottle Shop Eindhoven

Close to the Stadsbrouwerij a new store opened up called the Bottle Shop. The guys running it had an online shop for a while but now opened a physical shop in a street that seems to be changing from chain stores to smaller, one-of-a-kind niche stores. The selection is great with some good Dutch, English and America beers and even Icelandic bottles of goodness. They have opted for the seemingly old-fashioned ‘sort-by-style’ shelving, but they added a twist. Sure, they go from light and low to dark and heavy but they have chosen to do so not only with the beer bottles but also the wine bottles. The sparkling white wines will be next to lighter weizens while darker red wines stand next to the Russian Stouts. Definitely worth a visit for this novel concept alone.

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De Bier Brigadier

This shop is also conveniently located close to a brewery. Van Moll is around the corner. If you are looking for a local beer this is the place for you. Almost all Eindhoven and surrounding cities are represented. But there is a lot more than just this with shelves of national and international beer. They also sell starter kits for homebrewers and some merchandise. It is very different from The Bottle Shop. It is a dark place, although that could be because we were there at 4pm, but one that feels like the old record stores of days gone by, a place with warmth and people who know everything you want to know.

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Mitra van Bergen

Mitra is a chain store that does a lot of good for the Dutch craft beer scene. All shops will have a good selection nonetheless but in some cases the owners can basically decides on their own what they want to sell. This Mitra is one of the best I have been to so far, the other one being the Mitra on the Vismarkt in Groningen.

Though  Mitra is a liquor store and not a beer store, beer takes center stage in this shop. The selection is as good as you might expect with again a great selection of local, Dutch and international beers.

The location is one you have to take a detour for because it is in an area with other shops, but outside of the city center.

Website

IMG_0416Veem and the Strijp

When most of Phillips turned their backs on Eindhoven they left behind a huge area the city called the Strijp. For years this was a bad part of town around empty office and factory buildings. A holding company bought the buildings in 2004 and started work on a new boost to the city, including holding the Dutch Design Week. A visit now will see you enter a hall with small shops but no walls, but the most interesting for our sake is a building that is being turned into a big food hall, not unlike the Markthal in Rotterdam or better yet the Phoenix Food Factory where the Kaapse Brouwers are located. Chocolate, Italian, Local deli meats, bread, burgers and also a beer pub and shop. Very soon a small brewing installation will be put up here to brew for Brouwerij Veem. 24 taps with maybe not the most exciting beers but good enough to merit a visit, especially for the entire food hall.

Brewers Pub

After our visit to Van Moll we planned on visiting this place. Mostly because every single person we talked to named this first. Unfortunately it was late in the evening and the place was packed with no room to sit. But I believe everyone who told us this is the place to go, so I will make sure that when we visit Eindhoven again this will be the first stop on the tour.

Eindhoven

I was one of those people who didn’t have a good idea about Eindhoven. But for beer enthousiasts Eindhoven is definitely a good place to go to and as in the list of biggest cities Eindhoven now also is a prime destination for beer with the breweries, shops and bars. The number of breweries and brewers is growing too. And they are anything but bad. If you come across Oldskool, Loc, Lux, Papa Brews are the paperwrapped bottles of De Mouterij grab hold of one.

 

 

Rotterdam: Kaapse Brouwers, nothing, nothing, and some decent bars

Revolutions move at different speeds. This is clear when you look at rise of craft beer in the Netherlands. Utrecht started, and Amsterdam followed soon after and in the last two years more cities are joining the bandwagon: Eindhoven, Nijmegen, Groningen, Haarlem and more saw the opening of new bars and breweries have. Rotterdam, the second largest city, has been lagging behind however. Sure, Rotterdam has some decent Belgian Beer Café’s and some good stores but for a long time De Pelgrim was the only thing beer related worth going to in this huge city. Our visit two years ago was enjoyable with decent beer and great food. But cities like Haarlem and Nijmegen have more interesting bars in a square mile than Rotterdam has in the entire metropolitan area. And with the world largest harbor next to the city, this is surprising. DSC01438

Kaapse Brouwers

But like many other cities Rotterdam too is finding the way upwards with new breweries and cafés. The most significant boost came a year ago when the Kaapse Brouwers opened as part of the Fenix Food Factory, an instant success. In an old factory building on one of the islands in the river food producers (cheese, meat, beer, bread, coffee, cider) came together in a cool, and tasty, collective. It really is a collective with open doors or no doors at all. If you want coffee and your friend wants beer and together you want a cheese platter you can sit wherever you like. The local / homemade / organic scene has found a new to-go place here at the Fenix Food Factory: food made by craftsmen, not people looking to sell the most stuff for the most profit. 20150529_150450Two weeks ago I wrote that the Uiltje Bar in Haarlem has become a new pilgrimage site for craft beer lovers. You can add Kaapse to the list as well. Like at the Uiltje Bar the choices are vast with apart from their own Kaapse brews, beer from good breweries across Europe. And like any good beerplace these you can get a tasting board? Block of wood? Anyway, you can get the Kaapse Beers. You can also get a board with lighter beers or with heavier beers, and with 30 taps to choose from that won’t be a big problem. The big Kaapse beers are still made at De Molen, so that should give you an idea of the quality. They do have a small brewing installation in the back where the day we were there Ramses and De Bebaarde Brouwer happened to be brewing.

So is there really nothing else in Rotterdam? If you want Belgian Beer there are apparently a few places you can go, but since this blog is about Dutch beer and we don’t want to dwell in the past we went looking for something else and found two bars through the magic of Ratebeer and the Dutch BeerApp that seemed to be ok.

DSC01397Proeflokaal Reijngoud

A downtown bar that serves quite a lot of food. Unfortunately they didn’t have the pulled pork sandwich I had set my eyes on. Quite a lot of taps, but no extraordinary ones. The Boulevard Brewing was the most exciting one next to mostly Belgian and some Dutch taps (Jopen for example). They have quite a few bottles of Kaapse, but the other Rotterdam breweries were not to be found. The high ceiling and nice interior does make it a fairly nice place to go, but I doubt I will return any time soon.

Bokaal

Now this place was quite good. Was it good because of the choice of beer? No, let’s be frank about that. The huge outside terrace mostly had people drinking Belgian ales, German Weizens and Dutch pilsners, but the staff seemed to be a little more exciting about the other things they had on tap and they were eager to tell me they had a Citra Pale Ale made by Kees Bubberman (Brouweij Kees) on tap and were then eager to know what I thought about it. They also had a bottle by a small Rotterdam brewery called Kaf & Koren which was fine, good to see Bokaal somewhat supports local brewers. So Bokaal does have room for good Dutch and local craft beer, but I doubt that it will ever turn into a specialty beer café. The Heineken propaganda book had an interview with the owner who announced his favorite beer was a glass of Brand. Not bad I know, but no craft. Worth a visit? Definitely, you might find a beer gem and if not their platters of meats and/or cheeses are very fine.

Shops

We didn’t go to any shops because of baggage constraints, but I had been to Bierenzo before and that is more than ok, from word of mouth and the book of faces I have a clue that Plan B is more than excellent so next time I will go there, but I can already give you advise based on just that to go here. DSC01457

Future A new brewery will open in the north, so hopefully that will give another boost to brewing in Rotterdam, because it needs it. Rotterdam is a fascinating city with old neighborhoods but with a very modern downtown area. You can easily spend a weekend there and more. And maybe in one year the weekend can be interlaced with brewery and bar visits too. But when the local bars open their menus for local beer, that can grow too.

Craft Beer In The Supermarkt or The Change We All Saw Coming

Specialty / Craft beer in the supermarket. A topic that lately has led to a discussion between those are for and against it here in the Netherlands. Does it lead to the end of the liquor store? Will it lead to the end of small breweries or will it only give the revolution a new boost? An short overview of the most overheard (overread?) statements.

It’s the economy stupid!

That craft beer was going to make onto the shelves of the supermarket was only a matter of time. Anyone with just the slightest of knowledge of craft beer and some general economic principles could have seen this coming years ago. Whenever something sells, supermarkets step in to offer it, and often for a lower price.

supermarktWhat’s actually in the supermarket?

It is definitely not the case that the shelves in most specialty beer stores were just copied into the supermarket. Bottles I have seen so far were either from abroad (Brooklyn, BrewDog, Goose Island, Bass) are the Dutch breweries you’d expect to be in the supermarkets by now, the likes of Jopen, De Prael, Brouwerij ‘t IJ and Texels. Breweries that have been paving the way the last 15 years or more, are getting a bigger presence on the supermarket shelves. Something that again follows economic principles: If you do something right and people buy your product, you will be rewarded. The other 280 or so Dutch breweries? Still in the specialty shops. Only when they reach the same quality, and maybe even more important consistency, can they start thinking about being in the Albert Heyn from Zierikzee to Delfzijl.

New role for the Specialty Beer Store

Three years ago I wrote about the role of the Specialty Beer Store in the Dutch Craft Beer Revolution. They are what the local music club and record store are for the music scene. A place where smaller, starting breweries can find a way to reach new customers. The first presence on the market. Some of these customers will give them feedback, from which they can continue.

The people working in the store can already tell you more about that bottle of Jopen than anyone in the supermarket, not including reading what’s on the back of the bottle. In the store they can tell you more about the style, the brewer and increasingly what food pairings would be great with the beer. They can also suggest similar beers in case you want to try something new.

More room

What some stores are afraid of, and have already seen happening, is that it will get harder to get a hold of the same beers that the supermarkets now sell. This might lead to the loss of some buyers, but it also frees up space to highlight the smaller, more unknown breweries who now have more chance to at least enter the market or the more special, or one-off, editions of the bigger breweries.

Does the appearance of craft beer in the supermarket make it harder? Yes, but they were already on the frontlines as the ones who lead the change before anyone else. The new role of liquor store owners means that it is more worthwhile to keep coming back. The smarter ones are already changing the selection often and listen to what the consumer wants. The margin at the top might get a little thinner, but again, this is something they could have seen coming.

The consumer

The biggest winner of this new move is the consumer. They have easier access to craft beer now. Not everyone in the country has a good specialty beer store nearby and now being able to get your Jopen in the local supermarket is only a good thing for them. Some of the regular beer drinkers might get introduced to the wonderful world of Dutch Craft Beer, leaving them searching for more of what the country has to offer.

For the craft beer consumer the opening of space in the specialty stores is good as well. Where previously the Texels and Jopen stood new and unfamiliar bottles will come. And isn’t the average reader of these here pages a craft beer fan in general? And not a fan of a particular brewery?

Winners and losers

Any change in an industry leads to winners and losers. Some breweries might overproduce or build more capacity that might remain unused if the rise of craft beer should ever falter. But we have seen in other countries that the breaking point hasn’t been reached yet, and in a country where maybe only 20 to 25 breweries make grade A, consistent craft beer, there is still a lot more room for growth and it again falls to those on the forefront, the stores and the bars, to keep up their already excellent work. Sure, for some this change in the market may mean the end, but the fact remains: YOU KNEW THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!!

We will have to see in let’s say a year to see what the actual change has been. There’s more to be said about it, and more has been said too, I only posted the most often heard words.

And if you are traveling to Holland one of these days to get a taste of the beer scene, you could walk into the Albert Heyn. If you really want to see what’s going on at the forefront of this wonderful scene, go to any of the places on my beermap.

 

Thanks for answers, inspiration and insights: Harm Nap (Drank van Nap), Richard Spierdijk (Spierbier), Marjolein (De Koffer), Peter Jongejans (Bierwinkel Leiden), Sepp Janssen (Bax), Slijterij den Gouden Aar, Drinkery ’t Bierhuis, Edwin de Zwart (De Zwart Dranken), Fred Schiphorst, Fiona de Lange and anyone else I might have forgotten.

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.

IMG_6142

The Owl spreads his wings!

It didn’t take long for Robbert Uyleman and his brewery Het Uiltje to become one of the leading voices of craft beer in the country. His barrel-aged Meneer de Uil series is a classic and his other, mostly hoppy, beers are so good that it is hard to look for equals. The “Met je Cascade Groene Trui” (you and your Cascade green sweater) has been getting rave reviews and will be made again. He has made the anniversary beer for the Beer Temple and this will be the house beer. So when you are over in Amsterdam and are going to the Beer Temple, try it.

This is all good news, but it pales in comparison to this news:

Het Uiltje will open a bar and bottle shop!

That’s right. The success has led to het Uiltje having its own space in downtown Haarlem. In February a bar will open in the Zijlstraat. And it won’t be just a small bar with two beers on tap. You will be able to choose from 30 different taps. That’s right, thirty, dreizig, trente, XXX. 12 of those will be for het Uiltje beers, and some of those will be for beer that will only be sold here. Think more Meneer de Uil beers, single hop IPA’s and more. The other 18 will be for other Dutch breweries and from the rest of the world. My guess is the experience will be like the Beer Temple. Every time you’re in the bar, there will be more beers you have never had than beers you once tasted and you feel so very very small, like a speck of dust in an ever expanding universe.

If you can’t wait for the bar you can get your Uiltje beer bottles in a new store that will open next to it. This shop will open in December. Expect the same thing as in the bar; all the Uiltje beers and great ones from Europe and the U.S. You can also get your Uiltje gear here and merchandise from other breweries. The IPA’s will be cooled as Robbert is adamant that these are consumed as fresh as possible.

Growler

Het Uiltje bar and shop will be one of the first in the country where you can fill a growler. You can choose from any of the 30 taps or you can use that same growler to walk over to the nearby Jopenkerk and fill it up there. This means there are around 45 different beers at any time to buy.

A new owl

This expansion means that there would be too much to do for Robbert alone. Het Uiltje is now joined by Tjebbe Kuiper who will be in charge of the bar and shop while Robbert will keep making those awesome beers.

It’s another big step in Dutch brewing, and it’s great to see that someone who has shown the passion and craftsmanship like Robbert will get more outlets and attention. Het Uiltje has been one of the best things to happen to Dutch craft beer, and it shows no sign of stopping for now.

A Post-Modern look at Dutch brewing

Is brewing a craft or an art? Both? The dictionary calls art: “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”, and a craft as “an activity involving skill in making things by hand”. A brewer can be both, but he can be just a craftsman. The brewers we appreciate today are definitely artists.

The craft brewer uses his creativity, experience and craftsmanship to create something new, something that is indeed beautiful and evokes an emotion. The craft brewer therefore is an artist. Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria or Heston Blumenthal take a totally different and new look at food. They change how it is made and play with your senses and make you look at food in multiple ways. The consumption of food, and also beer, takes on more than one meaning than just a tasty beverage.

If beer is an art-form it can be analyzed like art. The modern brewing world is behaving a lot like other post-modern art. For a deeper understanding of what post-modernism entails, I refer to sites like Wikipedia. In this article some of the characteristics will be mentioned, and hopefully it will give you a little more understanding. I have looked mostly at music and used it to look at brewing.

4 main characteristics

Many lists of characteristics will mention at least 10. Since many of these overlap I have compressed it into these four main characteristics of post-modern brewing:

  1. No boundaries between styles. Styles are in effect meaningless.
  2. Challenges what is a high or a low style.
  3. Has no problem looking at past, present and future for inspiration.
  4. Challenges the idea of a brewer(y).

Does this cover everything? No, but for what I want to highlight it will suffice.

1. No respect for boundaries between styles. Styles are in effect meaningless.

The supermarket shelves show you the rigid borders between styles. There are pilsners, weizens, blondes, dubbels and tripels. Easy to understand styles that don’t mix. With the influx of English and mostly American styles these borders are fading. The IPA made its entrance but also the DIPA, the Imperial stout, etc.. Good brewers these days just start brewing without a clear style in mind. In some cases the beer can even be a vehicle of another ingredient, which we will see later. Since for them it is not the market that prescribes the overall flavor they can, and will, do whatever they like.

A post-modern brew? The De Molen Open & Bloot, Double IPA-ish

A post-modern brew? The De Molen Open & Bloot, Double IPA-ish

A while back that De Molen started putting styles on their labels because people asked. They did, hesitantly, but kept calling their beers ‘IPA-ish’ or other ‘ish’es. Styles really are just a guideline for the consumer, not the aim of the brewer. So if someone next to you in the bar says that a certain beer falls a little outside ‘the style’, get the nearest blunt object and smack them on the head. It is in essence no different than someone saying ‘I don’t like beer’ when they mean Heineken.

Rooie Dop has this to say about one of their beers:

At Rooie Dop, we don’t really care about styles. But this is our version of an American IPA. Classic example of the style? Fits perfectly into the category? No. Does it need to be? It just needs to be pretty tasty! Chinook and Cascade hops dominate this beer and are assisted by a biscuity malty backbone”

On menus in beer cafe’s and on shelves of specialty beer shops you see them struggle with this new idea. Some shops and café’s will sort the beer according to style, which is getting increasingly difficult. The better shops and café’s have stopped doing this at all. De Bierkoning and Bert’s Bierhuis sort their beers according to country and then brewery. They have correctly seen that people nowadays tend to follow a brewery more than a style. If there is a new brewery in the store, often all the bottles of said brewery are bought. For café’s it’s still a slightly different story. Many consumers still think in old terms of pilsners and anything else, it’s up to the barman to try and describe his way through it all. At least to good bars give you a taster.

With the rise of the internet, social media and the open market it is now easier to travel and try beer made from all over the world. Brewers will also get their inspiration from other cultures. Beer from non-Western European countries will not even fit the old ways of pigeonholing. Modern brewing is eclectic and crosscultural, with no borders of style.

From style to ingredients, a form of deconstruction.

There is a shift from style to ingredients. A beer made with brett and Cascade will give you a better sense of what it will be than knowing it’s a stout or dubbel.

Now let’s look at additions to the beer. Let me be clear, I am not talking about additives to keep to beer fresh or the foam firm. This is not about chemical elements put in mostly for show or commerce. I am also not talking about the usual additions of citrus or orange peel or coriander in Hoegaarden or candied sugar in bocks. They are there to make elements already part of the beer more pronounced. I am talking about the addition of things way out of leftfield. Hot peppers, melons, cucumber, or a variety of herbs and spices.

Oedipus Thai Thai. Galanga, Orangepeel, Korianderseeds, Lemongrass, Chili Peppers. A very postmodern, crosscultural eclectic beer.

Oedipus Thai Thai. Galanga, Orangepeel, Korianderseeds, Lemongrass, Chili Peppers. A very postmodern, crosscultural eclectic beer.

At Borefts a few years ago they had beers aged in vinegar barrels. Go figure. With every ingredient added many more beers are possible. The best examples of breweries who don’t limit themselves by ingredients but are using them as new opportunities are Oersoep and Oedipus, though Emelisse and De Molen have great examples as well.

Single Hop

But in a clearcut example of post-modern contradiction they can just as easily deconstruct beer to one main element and highlight this. All the releases of special beers highlighting hops or yeast are a good example. It makes a certain kind of hops the star of the show.

2. Challenges what is a high or a low style.

Pilsner is often seen as a low style for the masses. Joe Sixpack wasn’t drinking six cans of barrel-aged Baltic Porter with juniper but cheap generic lager. Beercafe’s will mostly serve stronger, more interesting styles even though a pilsner is in fact not an easy style to get right. It is much easier to score with an Imperial Stout than a pilsner, yet the former is seen as a high style.

Modern brewing challenges what is or what is not a high and low style. In fact, just as with styles there is no distinction apart from personal taste. Brewers will make whatever they want from pilsners to IPA’s to fruit beers.

A great example of a more democratic, fluid way of thinking about high and low styles are this year’s Borefts festival. Every year there is a theme, a style that the brewers present at the festival will make in a sort of contest. This year they will be making radlers. A style generally thought of as a sweetened, watered down version of already boring German lagers. Yet the country’s premier brewery thought it was a good idea and from what we have seen already the result will be unique and amazing. People will still think that this is a bad idea, but the people at De Molen know what’s going on. A strawberry IPA? Yes, please.

3. Past, present and future

Look at the list of beers from Dutch craft breweries. Apart from finding most of the styles from the traditional beer countries newer styles appear as well. The typical Dutch beer Kuyt has been making a comeback, backed in part by Jopen who have this as a staple beer. Many interesting things are happening and I have seen gose, mumm and braggot on menu’s, all beers that originated well before most of you were born in other parts of Europe. A new look at historical documents might give us even more new, yet old, beers.

The present is clear, whatever is made now they can make and often will make. The future is that great undiscovered country. Because post-modern brewers tend not to think in styles the future is open for even more inventions and ingredients. Thinking in styles is thinking in traditions, and traditions usually are not the best engine for progression. I have already said that styles are relative and that high and low are, add time to the list to.

4. The Modern Brewer(y)

Many brewers are, or at least start out as, contract or gypsy brewers. This is mostly for financial reasons. They almost use the other brewery as a sort of pop-up installation. Some brewers are fine with this and see no need to have their own kettles. The recipe is there and there might be some changes with every brewery but if you are brewing at the right brewery who recognizes and respects the recipe there is no problem. If anyone is complaining that the beer wasn’t made in their own brewery, please tell them it’s an empty and outdated notion. It makes the production of beer easier, people who have great ideas might not have entered the market but now they can.

Many brewers are only interested in crafting the recipe in the first place. Once the recipe has been fine-tuned to their liking they often leave it alone and let others do the actual producing. Very similar to a composer who just finished a sonata. Does him being there make it better?

A Dutch/Brazilian collaboration, made with coffee.

A Dutch/Brazilian collaboration, made with coffee.

Craft brewers are part of a movement. The Impressionist painters often painted together or each other. Picasso sometimes teamed up with others to create art that was truly the result of combined efforts. In brewing the collaboration brew is a great example. They have a common cause, making great craft beer and you need the help and expertise of others sometimes, it’s a win-win.

The future of (Dutch) brewing

At the moment we are experiencing a time of rapid growth. New breweries start every week and not many are folding. How long this will take is anyone’s guess, but I reckon the beer scene being very different in a decade. The smaller ones will have vanished again and if the public gets more beer savvy they will start to recognize what is good and what isn’t. With limited space in stores and bars only the good ones will survive, but the good ones with a strong foundation behind the ideas.

There are many good things happening in the Netherlands right now having to do with beer. The best ones that we have shown us and most of all the world what the way forward is. Style rigidity and making beer like it was the 20th century won’t hold anymore, post-modern brewers of today are looking at the past and will because of that still be with us in the future.

Drinking beer in Groningen

Groningen, that jewel in the north, the city I lived in until I left at age 20 to see other places on this planet. But it is still the city the majority of my family calls home and the city I am proud of to be from. In the years I lived there beer wasn’t on my mind, but music was. Groningen is an excellent city to grow up in if you love music. And now when I come back the concert venues and record stores have made way for beer café’s and good liquor stores. Time then for a Guide to beer in Groningen!

Beer in Groningen

As mentioned before the beer scene in the north is underdeveloped compared to other parts of the country. Where I live now I have more brewers within a 35 kilometers radius than the entire north (about a quarter of the country in size) has. But with Bax Bier the city got a quality boost and their bottles can be found all over the city within just 5 months.

The city and surrounding area might be low on breweries but the city has some advantages, like the students at the local university. Groningen has 3 ABT café’s, only a few cities in the country can say that. What follows is a review of those 3 café’s and the best places to buy bottles of beer.

The Café’s

Before I start with the café’s, here’s a short aside. When I moved to Amsterdam I had to get used to the bars closing a few hours after midnight. The bars in Groningen often open late, but stay open deep into the night. This can be a disadvantage for those of you visiting Groningen for one day. On a weekday the earliest bar to open is De Pintelier at 3 pm, with the others following at 4. In the weekend it is slightly better but don’t expect to find a bar to drink beer and have a nice lunch at noon, apart from De Toeter in the weekend.

So, here are the ABT café’s, rated worst to best:

#3 De Pintelier (Kleine Kromme Elleboog 9) – The Orval ambassador, unaware of what brett is.

Once upon a time Belgian beer was king. Yet some people are unaware of the changing landscape in beer and stick to a remnant of a world they know, afraid of anything that’s new and scary. For these people there is De Pintelier. To be honest, this place wins the award for nicest looking beer café in Groningen hands down. A nice little building surrounded by mostly university buildings. Students also seem to be the main visitors. Wood everywhere and beer paraphernalia on the walls. What they have to offer is impressive, but 99% Belgian. Jopen is the only Dutch microbrewery on the (bottle-) menu. And Jopen isn’t exactly small anymore. Other than that you have to hope there is something interesting on tap.

And what about beers from Groningen like Bax, Kromme Jat or even Maallust from neighboring Drenthe? Nowhere to be found. De Pintelier does not adhere to the saying “support your local brewer” but more “support your local InBev supplier”.

The knowledge of the staff seems to be of the level of a small diner run by some old ladies. These ladies have every right to know nothing about what they serve because they run a diner and serve scones and not 100+ different beers. I asked the bardude about a special bottle they had for sale, a Straffe Hendrik Wild. If you are into a beer a little bit the word Wild automatically makes you think of brett, like all the other Belgian beers with that word. When I asked him what kind of beer it was he started talking about a beer made with different hops. If I was unaware of different beerstyles I would have thought it was hops that make beers sour, because it was indeed a brett triple.

In a good bar either the people behind the bar know what they are selling or will at least say they will look it up. A beerbar like De Pintelier that offers Belgian beers should have staff that know this, being such a Belgian style to begin with. To make matters even more interesting, they pride themselves on being an Orval ambassador and if you have to name one beer as an example of brett, chances are it’s going to be Orval.

I could end this bit by saying that if you really like Belgian beers and/or whiskeys this place might be worth a visit, but I will be honest, the next two bars have this as well, and just as good.

#2 De Toeter (Turfsingel 6)

De Toeter’s selection of whiskey and beer is more international. This place has the most students as guests so Fridays and Saturdays in the evening may not be the best times to visit. What they offer is good and will sometimes be from smaller breweries. The majority is Belgian but their selection of Dutch beer is growing, and not only with the bigger ones. At the moment I write this you can get Bax, Ramses and even Reuzenbieren here. On a good day you can sit outside and look over the canal. This is a decent place to go to, but I don’t like their own blond beer. At least De Toeter seems to have a sense of the growing beer culture in Holland. Seems to be a little more pricy than the:

A Menu in De Koffer from fall of last year.

A Menu in De Koffer from fall of last year.

#1 and runaway winner: De Koffer (Nieuwe Blekerstraat 1)

I will be honest, to drink good beer there really is only one place and that is De Koffer (The Suitcase). A bar that has so much to offer that I will always find something I haven’t tried yet. The owners know what they sell and their knowledge is unsurpassed in these parts.

It is also the best place for Dutch beer with a huge blackboard with a list of also smaller Dutch breweries, as we wrote about earlier. The prices are also great with a Wesvleteren 12 for under 10 Euros. They also promote Dutch beer with tastings once in a while like VanDeStreek and Kompaan.

The guests are mixed, students, locals and people finding it on Tripadvisor. Read of the books they have here or strike up a conversation with the people behind the bar, they enjoy their work and it shows.

The Stores

#3 and sadly falling: Van Erp (Grote Kromme Elleboog 16)

For forever Van Erp was the only place to go to for good craft beer. In a narrow part of the store you can find a lot of Belgian, English, German and other international beers. The other side is for all the Dutch beer. All the local beer is here and there will always be a few from Het IJ, Emelisse, Jopen or De Molen. Apart from that there usually is more, but it’s not always the greatest selection. You can be here one day and go away with a bag full of new stuff but sometimes leave with almost nothing new. Van Erp also has a store in Roden and that one seems to have a slightly better selection most of the time.

#2 and in with a bang: De Roemer (A-Straat 13)

New store De Roemer occupies a beautiful building just outside the city centre. Focused mostly on wine and whiskey they sell quality things and they show their knowledge in the many tastings they organize. The beer section is small but of great quality. It is also always changing which in my view is a good thing. They are the first to say that beer is not their strongpoint, but they do seem to know what is going on and which styles and breweries are good or up-and-coming. They are learning, and learning fast. Het Uiltje, Maximus, De Molen, Emelisse, you name it, you will find it here. They started less than a year ago but have already surpassed Van Erp.

Some of the beers I found in Groningen

Some of the beers I found in Groningen

#1. Mitra (Vismarkt 36)

I never expected I would name a chain store the best place to buy beer. In this case I have to. In Groningen this Mitra is run by people who can decide for themselves what they want to sell. Any store with more than 6 shelves of only De Molen and Emelisse beer wins in my eyes. Of course you can find the locals here and a lot of other good stuff from the country (I found Ramses, Berghoeve and even Bad Hair here). The section of Dutch beer is bigger than the Belgian one, so they know quality and the market. They also know what they are selling. It’s a fairly big store with room to move and surrounded by a great food market and other fine stores

 


 

 

Is Groningen a good beer destination? Depends on what your reasons are for going. If you want to go to good places to drink and buy beer Groningen is fine, especially because this city has so much more to offer with its great downtown with shops and restaurants. For a weekend the city is perfect. Will you find things here you won’t find anywhere else? Probably not if you live or visit the western part of the country. The lack of local beer prevents it from being a destination to find things you won’t find anywhere else. But since it is my city, take the train and go here, as long as you visit De Koffer.

Detour

If you are traveling to Groningen by car and through Friesland, park your car in Joure and go to the Lekkerbier shop. Easily the best selection of beer in the north.

Beer Walks I: ‘O, dear that’s a gigantic tosti!’

Being outdoors on a lovely spring day enjoying the sun and awakening nature is a perfect outlook for a day off. Like all our walks through the Dutch countryside we have a goal that is related to beer and this time it is Brouwerij De Molen and the nearby Speciaal Bier Winkel in Bodegraven. Once a year Bodegraven is the Walhalla for beer enthusiasts from all over the world. We have visited the Borefts beer festival several times now but today we will visit Bodegraven without the masses around the mill although there is always a possibility of a full terrace when we will arrive.

DSC08640The starting point for our walk is Gouda. Within a five minute walk from the Gouda Goverwelle train station we enter the Goudse Hout: a very attractive nature preserve. A perfect example of Dutch (flat) landscape. Beautiful yellow rapeseed, water with all sorts of birds, especially geese, and around it paths only accessible by bikers and walkers. We visit the so called Heemtuin which is located within this preserve: herbs, willows carefully topped, little bridges and a pond surrounded by upcoming reeds all maintained by volunteers. Created for educational purposes, for us it’s pure enjoyment.

Reeuwijkse Plassen

Reeuwijkse Plassen

Leaving the Goudse Hout we continue our walk on the very small roads. Unfortunately regularly a car passes by forcing us to the small area of grass next to it. Soon we see the water of the Reeuwijkse plassen. In the beginning a lot of houses block our view at the water but after that recreation areas give us the opportunity to enjoy the view. The sun is warmer than we realized and the prospect of a cold beer and food becomes more attractive by each step. Passing through the Reeuwijkse plassen by a small path we enter the Reeuwijkse hout. Even though there is a warning for (harmless) snakes we see none. Here you can find a little beach and diving area. The last part of our walk is less attractive. A busy highway is splitting town from nature. Entering Bodegraven this way is necessary to achieve our goal and our pace is increasing.

At last we see the mill. My legs are tired and longing for relaxation. It’s not busy. We see tourists buying bottles from the shop, making photographs of the De Molen sign and enjoying a nice glass of beer on the terrace. The menu has enough choice to enjoy a good meal. The asparagus soup with beer and the salmon and trout sandwich are

Huge Super Molen Tosti

Huge Super Molen Tosti

delicious. The ‘O, dear I’ll never finish this super molen tosti’ we never heard of before. It was good to ask the waitress by forehand about the size of this gigantic tosti. Not put off by the answer we ordered it. At least four layers of cheese, together with ham and pineapple are between the two slices of bread. Maybe not recommendable for someone with a cholesterol problem. At least your hunger will be satisfied for half a day. For a drink we try the Pale Ale Citra and Brood en Spelen. Intriguing is the ‘Bommen en Granaten beer bonbon’ but there is no room in our stomachs left. Only de Molen beer mustard we take home with us for to use for dipping the delicious Vocking leverworst in.

If we leave the grounds of De Molen it is just a few steps further to the Speciaalbierwinkel of Jan Kraan. For a small town like Bodegraven there is a lot of choice in beer. The shop is not competing with De Molen but they complement each other. Here you can find more than 500 beers from Dutch breweries. Owner Jan Kraan tells us that his dream of having all Dutch beers available in his shop is unfortunately difficult because he sells not enough and expiration dates will result in throwing bottles away. We choose beers which we have not tried before and of course we want a beer from the owner himself, who brews his own Kraanwater. Carefully we lift our bags packed with the bottles. An important advice when beer is your hobby: a good backpack is essential and buy your bottles after the walk and not before. The sun is going down and it’s time to go home. We had a perfect day with lots of nature, beer and food and of course the photographs to prove it.

gouda-bodegraven