From Mill to Factory. Utrechts Beerbrewersfestival 2016

In a move that was bound to happen, the successful Utrecht Beerbrewersfestival moved from its old spot in downtown Utrecht to a larger location. Like the industrial age in the 19th century the windmill is now replaced by a factory. A former factory that is now an entertainment complex called De Fabrique.

The move was inevitable. The former location was great, close to the railway station yet rustic. But the number of breweries kept growing, and so did the stream of beer lovers making their way to the windmill. Last year they sold out their glasses long before the festival was finished, leaving many disappointed.

I was somewhat afraid when I heard this was their new location. Factory buildings conjure up images of concrete slabs of drabness. It was also 1,5 km (about a mile) away from the nearest railway station.

Boy was I wrong.

_DSC0896The setup was great. Some brewers had outside stalls, the rest was placed inside. There was room to sit inside or outside, a problem at the previous location. Though concrete the building has a retro feel to it, like they never really tried to make it into one perfect space, but rather a collection of previous additions. Old beams on the ceiling, defunct electricity units were still there. Useless, but it did add a certain warmth.

The number of breweries present this year was 27. But were all these new breweries also better in quality? Well, unfortunately new breweries tend to come out with beers that are anything but renewing, too many blondes and tripels. The market is already swamped with these and it doesn’t offer anything new. There is nothing wrong with his per sé, but I tend to try to more unusual styles. As I have noticed before the cream of the crop is getting better, the gap with the rest seems to be widening. Duits & Lauret and VandeStreek were conveniently placed outside, but it is no surprise that they had long lines. Rock City from Amersfoort is improving every year and they brought some nice barrel aged beers along with many other styles.

New breweries, no old styles

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Neobosski

If you really want to stand out as new brewery, come up with something new. A new brewery for me, and one I appreciated, was Neobossky. They have one beer, a Black IPA type with inspirated by Duits & Lauret and Emelisse. Could be worse right?

So tell me, are porters making a comeback? I had quite a few good ones in Utrecht. Oproer had a porter called Leftöver, made of you guessed it, leftovers. It’s typical that their beer made from what was laying around was better to drink than other beers. SpierBier from Mijdrecht brought a Baltic porter aged in red port barrels. One of the highlights for me and apparently also for others because they made the top 5 of most coins sold. There were other barrel aged projects that were worth trying from VandeStreek and Rock City. I didn’t even get the StapZwan porter I had last year that was amazing, and a good example of a new brewery starting with something slightly different.

Or come up with something old. De Dikke won the Most Appreciated Beer of Utrecht award with a Kuyt beer, a nice historic beerstyle that needs to be made more. It wasn’t the best beer in my view, but having the balls to make this earns a lot of bonus points. Congratulations.

Other improvements

So the new space is better. Apart from more room the food has improved too with great hotdogs and fried chicken. People walked around with Belgian fries too, a lovely touch. A pop-up Mitra store sold bottles from breweries present at the festival so you could take with you what you weren’t able to taste.

Blueprint for the future

If it is at all possible to stay at this location the festival has room to grow. I had a feeling the turnout was little less than previous years, but that could just be because they were spread out more. There now is room for even more brewers and visitors, and they only used a quarter of the available space. I will be back, I hope you will too.

P.S.

Oh, remember how I told you that I was worried about the distance from nearest railway station (Maarssen) to the festival? Not a problem, if you didn’t want to walk or weren’t able to, a shuttle brought people to and fro all day during the festival.

Heineken: Ruining small brewers for over a century

Recently I walked into a supermarket I had not been to for a while to see if there were new beers. Hurray for me! I took home bottles from Hawaiian brewery Kona, Guinness and Monteith from New Zealand. The Kona beer was fine, the Monteith not so much. It made me wonder why bottles from the other side of the world were shipped to supermarkets in Northwestern Europe where there is plenty of good beer to begin with. Then a little bird whispered to me… Heineken. Indeed, this brewery is owned by Heineken and as part of their Beers-of-the-world portfolio they pump even more of their stuff into our supermarkets. Unfortunately for the beer lover these beers are often bad, malty beers that bring absolutely nothing new. I cannot imagine anyone preferring beers like Monteith or Cruz Campo over any of the other beers for sale. Even Heineken itself is better I think.

It made me wonder why this space cannot be used for Dutch breweries, or least quality breweries. Surely if they can sell their beer here this will only be better for local business.

I am not advocating Dutch beer only. Recently the supermarket in my little village got bottles from breweries like Meantime and Goose Island. You cannot say that this is bad beer, and I for one was happy with the new offerings. Diversification is good for beer, more malty water isn’t.

I know that shipping containers from Australia and New Zealand is relatively cheap and not as much as burden on the environment as a plane, but I cannot imagine it being great either.

Heineken has breweries all over the world, driving out competitors and in some cases monopolizing local beer markets. In some cases like Congo even using rebels and armed militia to get things done (Dutch only). And let’s not forget their long history of racism and misogyny.

But let’s stick to what Heineken has done in the last 100 years to make work difficult for smaller brewers.

Some examples.

Heineken’s growth is the small brewer’s demise

Heineken started in downtown Amsterdam as De Hooiberg (the Haystack) but changed the name to Heineken and opened a brewery just outside the canals in the building that today is the Heineken Experience. The early history of Heineken is quite fascinating and is worth checking out.

mozac3afek-gekroonde-valkWith some good brewing knowledge and savvy business sense they expanded. Rapidly. To fortify its position in the Netherlands it opened new breweries and started buying other breweries. Not to expand their beer portfolio but simply to close the competition: if you can’t beat them: buy them and close them. Gone were famed breweries De Gekroonde Valk in Amsterdam or De Zwarte Ruiter in Maastricht. This led to (almost?) no stouts being made in this country anymore. No more special beer styles but only lager, only Heineken.

They became a worldwide monstrosity when Heineken made a really big splash when just three days after the end of Prohibition they landed on the shores of the US with Heineken beer; one of the most impressive stories in beer history. After the war most breweries were closed in the Netherlands, but Heineken kept growing and merging (with Amstel and Brand to name just two) to become a giant.

Cafes

Since the 60s they started to behave like banks. People wanting to open café’s often could not get a loan from a bank. Heineken provided this and often paid for the beertank in the basement. But, as you can imagine they weren’t too happy with beers outside of the Heineken family being sold here and they demanded a minimum of liters to be tapped of their beer. It was hard for a brewery outside of Heineken to get a tap. So there wasn’t much room, not many places to sell.

The contracts themselves… well, you could complain about it. They were hard to get rid of mostly and the bar was stuck to it for a very long time. In fact, the big Dutch brewers were deemed a cartel by the European Committee and were slapped with a E 274 million fine. Things are better these days and it is getting a lot easier to get local or unknown beer in a bar now, but the big breweries still block many smaller ones from entering the market. Sure, this is normal business and not something that happens in beer alone, but it makes for fewer choices for the consumer, and isn’t that really what we deserve?

Future

Does Heineken still buy smaller breweries to then close them? So far that hasn’t happened here yet. Only now have there been some small collaborations between big breweries and smaller, craft if you will, breweries. Duvel Moortgat and ‘t IJ and De Molen and Bavaria are two examples. The only ones so far but more is bound to happen in the coming years. Let’s just hope Heineken won’t resort to tactics from its history to obstruct the increasingly more knowledgeable beer drinker from what is good in the world. And supermarkets, give the small guys a shot. Heineken’s ads for James Bond probably cost more than the entire Dutch craft beer brewers earn. Let’s leave the bottles of mediocre beer in New Zealand and let that nice guy in Haarlem or Utrecht drive his van a few kilometers to your store.

Groningen Beer Festival 2016: Musings and Questions

Since I have written about this event multiple times, I decided to opt for the ‘4 things I noticed’ approach.

Session Beers

It wasn’t too long ago that the only decent beer under 4% in this country was the Emelisse 2.5. For me this was a groundbreaking beer because it showed that limits could be stretched downwards as well. The session hype that came in later years gave us even better things. Nothing is wrong anymore with a low alcohol, but incredibly tasty, beer. At the festival in Groningen there were plenty of low alcohol, let’s say under 5%, beers to sample. And this is what I did for one session

The Rodenburgh Slimme Rhakker and the VandeStreek UK Pale ale were both great pale ales. Oersoep brought another type with a great Berliner Weisse. I tried the Berliner Kindl a few years ago that completely turned me off that style for a while but it made a great comeback. In Holland Oersoep and Oedipus have made some brilliant ones. Talking about Oedipus, their Gandalf beer with cherries, brett and barrel aged was worth the extra coin.

Having these low alcohol beers will only attract more people to specialty beer. Of course the blondes, triples will remain part of what is on offer, but the tasty 10% beers will find people who previously thought beer was pilsner and nothing else. The range of percentage was around 18 by the way, ‘t Uiltje brought the amazing Old Enough To Drink, clocking in at a whopping 21%.

Groningen Beer City

At the first installment of this festival only 2 breweries from Groningen were present: Grunn and Stadsbrouwerij Kromme Jat. Well, 1,5 to be honest because Grunn cannot really be called a brewery. This year 7 breweries were eager to showcase their brews to their provincial comrades.

Grunn was sort of there as the Kruisheren brewers from Ter Apel. The Kromme Jat was back again as well. You should know by now that we here are big fans of Bax Beer. Their stand, and their group of helpers, is growing rapidly every year. In the wake of its success Groninger Craft, Rockin’ Ludina, Martinus, Corviri and Pivo started turning out some good beers. Martinus started operations late last year in a former print shop and Pivo opened just a week before the festival. Their setup and philosophy is very interesting, so check out their website (Dutch only). Hopefully I can return to them in a future post.

IMG_7868[1]A completely new brewery for me was Vechter who brought a good wit and saison. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to try their Cluyn beer, a regional historic recipe. Things are looking good with the opening of Bax’ tasting room and brewery this summer and more to follow. The Groningen Beer Festival is now also a festival by the people of Groningen, not only for.

 

IMG_7867[1]More than beer

The whole beer culture before the term craft beer was invented was about one thing and one thing only: the drinking of beer. With the growth of the culture and the rise if interest in old and social media this culture is changing too in its appearance. It now attracts people not only because of the beer.  These different sides of the culture were present. It wasn’t only the brewers pouring their beer but also distributors, specialty shops and cafés.

Some homebrewing stands were there as well. Betuwe cider had a table as well, and it nice to have a good glass of cider once in a while to mix things up. Bob van Dijk, who you might have read about in an article I wrote about him last year, was there with his Craft Beer Shirts.

This festivals remains very good with social media. With special hashtags on twitter your message could make it on a very big screen in the middle of the church.

A widening gap?

At my first beer festivals the goal was often to try beers from as many different breweries as possible. Lately I tend to try fewer beers from new breweries and stick to ones I know and love. Years of trying mediocre blondes, triples and IPA’s seem to have that effect.

Is it just me? Is this what happens after a decade and a half of trying new beers every time? Somehow I am more interested in what the really good breweries have to offer. This year I tried a lot of beers from Oersoep, Uiltje, Pampus and Oedipus, breweries that are at the top of the scene. Because of both their quality and that they make new stuff all the time I always feel that I will get something good, or at least interesting there.

Is the gap widening? Are we getting a Champions League of great Dutch breweries who are running away from the pack in leaps and bounds. Is this the beginning of a new phase? Already some smaller breweries, almost all of them contract brewers, are folding. The big breweries now are moving away from contract brewing towards a full setup: their own brewery and tasting room. Maybe the market is now really too full with established names. I would rather try a new Uiltje than a new blonde from a brewer from a town I have never heard of. I could just be me, but it’s a thought I will expand on in future posts.

The Times are a Changin’ indeed.

 

Stadsbrouwerij Eindhoven

DSC03736In the late 19th century Eindhoven was not the big city it is today. In the previous article you read about how Eindhoven had 5000 people before Phillips made it into the fifth city in the country. What Eindhoven did have was a number of breweries. In part of one of them the DAF motorcar builders started out with some throwbacks to this history in what is now the DAF Museum.

It was the search for Eindhoven’s brewing history that led to the start of the Stadsbrouwerij Eindhoven. Stadsbrouwerij means city brewery. There is nothing official about this title, but it often means that the brewery brews everything within the city limits, and that is what this brewery does.

During the historic search interested parties came together and decided to reestablish brewing in Eindhoven. They all invested in the brewery and saw their dream open in September last year.

Textiles and lightbulbs

The building they found to put the brewery in was a historic textile mill. Before the lightbulbs went on in Eindhoven it was a textile town. Some of these buildings were still standing, including the former Schellens building. Old pictures of what the inside once was still adorn the walls. The logo of the Stadsbrouwerij is the building itself.  They went all out with the total concept: a brewery and tasting room. And not one small brewing installation but a fairly big setup to start off with. The occupy just part of the building, other smaller companies are their neighbors.

DSC03743Brewer Rob Bours has enough tools to make beer. They didn’t start out with just a small brewing installation but went all out with huge vats. Rob has experience brewing with Reuzenbieren and  his own name  when he released some tasty ‘Brasserie Bours’ beers. Some of these beers, like the Euforie, are now Stadsbrouwerij Beers.

The names of the beers are also somewhat historic. They have names that everything to do with lightbulbs and are called 15 or 40 watt. Stronger stuff are beers like the 400 volt, a Russian Imperial stout. The different starts of the brewery means that there are different lines of beers. The former Bours beers and new recipes can be tasted, but there is also a range of ‘historic’ beers that hark back to the history of Eindhoven. You can get a glass of Witte Dame, a witbier, that is named after the former Philips headquarters or a Heeren van Eynthoven, named after the castle that was the beginning of the city.

Success

The story of the brewery so far is much like other breweries / brewpubs. More successful than anyone every expected. This is helped by the friendly and open space that attracts both beergeeks, but also people who go for beers on Friday after work. Youri of the Stadsbrouwerij who we talked too was also surprised by the great number of Belgians coming over. Belgium is only a short ride from Eindhoven but they can find beers, and styles, here that are not easy to get in Belgium. Belgium might be a great beer country with the beers they have, they are struggling still with the new beer scene in Europe and Eindhoven with the Stadsbrouwerij and Van Moll offer a more exciting alternative.

Future

As with all new breweries they are still starting to find their position in the local beer scene. Distribution is still mostly local and the pub is going to change slightly too with added outside space when the sun starts coming out.

Website.

 

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.

Website

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.

Website

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.

 

 

Translating the Dutch Beer Label

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Label of ‘t Uiltje’s “Met Je Cascade Groene Trui”. Taken from Harry Pinkster’s Website

This blog owes much of its existence of me translating websites and beer labels for American friends. So why not start a blog about Dutch beer but in English I thought!

In five years information has become better and sites are now often in both Dutch and English and in some cases only in English even. I got an e-mail last year that made me decide to write this article. A gentleman from abroad now living in Haarlem wanted to know what Cat II and Cat III meant on the labels of the beer bottles he had at home. So I grabbed my beer label collection (yes, I have one too), looked at them and here it is: a description and translation of Dutch Beer Labels, Part I. Part II will be about what the government dictates should be on them.

Basic vocabulary

If you have heard or read any Dutch at all you will notice that with a good grasp of English you can translate most of the words. If for some reason you also have knowledge of German this will be even easier. The Dutch language is like on the map, stuck between English and German. This also explains why tourists coming here have a hard time finding anyone who doesn’t speak English. We are not known as a people that give foreign words Dutch translations. Computer, Manager, Smartphone all mean the same. In beer lingo it isn’t any different. Stouts, porters, IPA’s, DIPA’s, Saisons, Russian Stouts are the same here as they are in most of the brewing world.

But here are some of the words you will almost always find on a label, with the translation.

Bier = beer. Surprising isn’t it?

Brouwerij = brewery. See the resemblance now?

Ten Minste Houdbaar Tot literally translates as ‘at least preservable until’. It is the best before date.

Another pointer for storing the bottle is ‘koel en donker bewaren’, keep cool and dark.

Statiegeld = bottle refund. Most bottles now can be thrown in the glasbak (glass container found often near supermarkets), certain types of bottle still offer a ten cent refund and in rare cases 25. The bigger craft breweries like Jopen, Uiltje, De Molen and Emelisse use non-refundable bottles. If you live here, take all your bottles to the supermarket and try feeding them to the bottle return machine. Even labels that say there is no statiegeld might give you a return of 10 cents. After a while you will figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Bier van hoge gisting = is a beer with top fermentation. If the description is lage instead of hoge it means the opposite.

Kan gluten bevatten = May contain gluten.

Inhoud

Beer in Holland is mostly bottled in 33cl bottles. That’s little over 11 oz for you on the other side of the ocean. Occasionally you will find larger ones like 50cl and 75cl. Some of the more commercial bigger breweries may have smaller bottles of 25cl. The size will be translated as ‘inhoud’.

Good labels will have IBU (bitterness) and EBC (color), the same as in most countries these days. More about this in Part 2.

Cat I, Cat II, III and Cat S

Now this was the main reason for the e-mail. What does this actually mean? This is a purely Dutch categorization and done for taxation purposes. Taxes are paid according to the height of the Plato, but the actual Plato cannot be mentioned on the label. Why is a different story and will be talked about in the follow-up to this article. The four categories are:

  • III = Plato 1-7
  • II = 7-11
  • I = 11-15.5
  • S = 15.5 and upwards

Ingredients

It is here that the words start to become a different. Water and hop are Water and hops. The grains used are different.

Gerst = barley

Tarwe = wheat

Rogge = rye

Boekweit = buckwheat

Mais = corn

Spelt and Emmer are the same.

Mout = malt. A good brewer will mention the specific malt or malts used, but these are almost always directly taken from the country of origin. Same goes for the hops by the way, no complicated Dutch translations of Saaz or Cascade. Only pilsmout is Dutch as far as I have seen, but it won’t take a 160+ IQ to translate that.

Suiker = sugar. Rietsuiker = canesugar and kristalsuiker = crystallized or granulated sugar

Yeast may be the hardest beer word to pronounce in Dutch and it is gist. It is pronounced like ‘jist’ if that was a Spanish word.

Other ingredients:

Other ingredients I have come across:

Zeewier = seaweed

Zoethout = liquirice root

Sinaasappel = orange

Geroosterd = roasted

Jeneverbes = juniperberry

Korianderzaad = coriander / cilantroseed

Kruiden = herbs

Specerijen = spices

Citroengras = lemongrass

Honing = honey

There are of course more ingredients that are used in certain beers. If you want a translation let me know, or check google translate.

 

Thank you all for 100 posts.

And so we arrive at another milestone: 100 blogposts. 100 times that I, sometimes with help of others, have posted about the still growing Dutch beer scene. A small scene when I started 6 years ago, bigger now with the end not yet in sight. A great scene, a great culture of people who all share a love for well-made craft beer.

This century of posts was a big tribute to all of you.

The readers, the fans.

Wow, people actually read my blog! A thank you to you all more than appropriate. You the reader are the ones who want to know more about what is going on with beer in the Netherlands. It is because of you that more and more beer is made. So thank you!

The shops and cafés

Thank you beershop owners and specialty beer café managers. Thanks to you the public has had more choice than ever. Thanks also for those who have welcomed me in their place of business and have taken the time to talk to me and answer my questions. It was very insightful.

Festivals

Thank you festival organizers. I see a growing number of people at a growing number of festivals. Festivals now so big they have to move to new spaces to accommodate all the visitors. If you organized crappy festivals this wouldn’t happen. A great way to try new beer and for brewers to showcase their beer to a large audience. A great way for beginners to understand there is more than Heineken and for those from outside the country to show what great things are made here.

The sidemen and women

This thank you is for the special people who operate within the scene without actually making or selling it. The collectors, the teachers, the graphic artists, the tourguides, the historians that make beer into a bigger cultural phenomenon. You add the dimension that makes beer more fun.

The brewers

The biggest thank you is for you: the brewers. Without you none of this would have been possible. You make that one thing that all of us love: great craft beer.

Many of you have taken the time to answer any questions I had. What I have concluded is that the best brewers also give the best and most encompassing answers. The great brewers have a lot of enthusiasm and it take their time to convey this. It hasn’t always been possible to go wherever I wanted to ask you things because of work, family and location. Your e-mailed answers have been insightful and helpful. It is no wonder that the best articles were after I e-mailed the likes of Duits & Lauret, Rooie Dop (now Oproer), Bax, ‘t Uiltje and Oersoep. And I forgetting others for sure. There were many more but their answers and subsequent articles showed they are going in the right direction. When I interviewed them they were still start-ups, now they all have great ideas and a bright future ahead. You are the front runners, the examples for others, the ones leading the way for the next generation of brewers.

So thank all of you, it has been a blast. I hope you have all enjoyed what I wanted to write about. It was never my mission to make this into a blog with just opinions but to actually tell you something new about what is going on in this country.

I am ready for the next 100 posts, I hope you are too.

 

Oproer, a brewery insurgent

An hour before leaving for Oproer I get a message from Mark. He has something to do before meeting me in his new brewery and might run late. When I walk in 15 minutes after the doors opened he indeed isn’t there. Other people are getting ready for a new day at their new workplace.

Twenty minutes later Mark walks in, carrying a new oven for the kitchen. It’s a new role for him, no longer is he the sole owner of Rooie Dop, but one of four guys running their new venture they named Oproer. A new place means new responsibilities, especially because they oproer1do everything themselves. The beer is brewed and bottled here and 5 meters from the brewery it will be served in the brewpub. Everything Oproer does will be under one roof in a non-distinct building in Utrecht that also houses storage units. And that new oven? That will be used in the vegan kitchen that is part of Oproer as well.

It is a new and exciting time for all them, but how did we end up meeting here? Let’s travel back in time.

Beginnings

Oproer is the combined effort of now former Utrecht breweries Rooie Dop and Ruig together with experienced people from beerretail and the restaurant/bar business. Of the breweries Rooie Dop was the most known and has been featured on this blog more than once. Mark Strooker started out with two friends brewing Rooie Dop beer but after a while was the only one who remained. Rooie Dop was a contract brewery that brewed at De Molen and made American inspired beers. The beer itself was loved by many but he also added a new chapter to the book of Dutch beer history by helping to bring over ten Dutch breweries to the Oregon Brewers Festival in Portland, Oregon, still the biggest showcase of Dutch craft beer abroad.

But brewing at De Molen ended and Mark was now left to find something else to be able to continue Rooie Dop. He teamed up with smaller Utrecht brewery Ruig and since late 2015 they morphed into Oproer.

Oproer

Oproer is a continuation of the best of both breweries. They are an off-kilter, against the grain type of brewery. Not because their businessplan says so, but because that is who they are. Googling for the translation of Oproer gives you several suggestions: insurrection, revolt, rebellion, and mutiny being the best. The Oproer team’s sympathies can be found on the left side of the political spectrum. A group that has more in common with the squatters community of the late 1980s and 1990s. When I walked in the Pixies were playing, and I doubt there was a Michael Bublé CD in sight. One of the beers on tap was called IPA Über Alles. If you think this is a reference to the pre-war German national anthem think again and ask the music geek next to you what is meant and he will not hesitate to mention the Dead Kennedys.

oproer2Oproer has a similar punk ideology in that it is a do-it-yourself enterprise. No outside funding as of yet, and with stuff from all over. The furniture is from another brewery and they found the couch somewhere else. The brewing equipment s divided from the rest of the room by a guardrail of a highway. Why spend hundreds of Euros when you can just as easily find it second hand that does the same job just as well.

 

Beer and Food

oproer3The foundation of Oproer is, and will be the beer. Too often we see a brewpub start with good food but beer that is still a work-in-progress towards something worth going out of your way for. At Oproer it is the brewpub that is a work-in-progress but has the beer to rival any brewer in the country. We knew the beer was great and with some tweaking the former Rooie Dop and Ruig beers are still classy.

A big cooler will be placed in the back where the beer will be served from around 20 taps. Not only their own Oproer beer but also collabs and space for friendly brewers. Rooie Dop has been brewing with breweries at home and abroad: Brew by Numbers, Buxton, Hair of the Dog, Cascade and Ilkley to name just. These connections, together with friendships made at the Portland Brewing festival means a big chance of finding good guest beers on tap at Oproer. It will become one of those places where even the most avid beer hunter will find things for the first time. Oproer will be the first brewery in the country to fill only 66cl bottles and not the standard 33. Bigger, sure, but more good stuff in one glass container.

But it is not only beer. A wide range of sodas, local wine and local spirits can be found as well. The tea and coffee are all green and not by any major food producer. It has always bugged me that some restaurants take pride in having local and pure ingredients while at the same time serving Coca Cola and Heineken. Don’t worry, you won’t find that here.

Toys and children seats are being collected. Oproer has to be a place for the entire family and the food and drinks match that plan.

Food, or why beer shouldn’t automatically be paired with meat

oproer4The menu at Oproer is vegan. This wasn’t a fundamental/ideological choice. Three quarters of team Oproer are vegetarian so for them it is easier. Bart-Jan, the other brewer and formerly of Ruig, does believe that the idea of automatically pairing beer with meat makes no sense. Sure, it can be great but the level of vegetarian cuisine has risen. The chef has made a limited, but diverse menu that keeps changing. The pumpkin soup I tried was wonderful. Hopefully it will show a part of the beer drinking culture that vegan food can be great.

A new jewel

Oproer has all the ingredients to become yet another new world class beer destination in the Netherlands. Not only is it superbly located next to railway station Utrecht Zuilen, and therefore easy to reach from both Amsterdam and Utrecht, it is run by people who know their way around beer and have the track record to show for it. But it is more than beer alone and that is the way to go in this particular time. Utrecht has gotten competition from other cities lately but this a big step in maintaining Utrecht’s position as one of, if not the, best city to go for beer.

The website is here.

2016, a promising year

Happy New Year

Hello you lover of craft beer, you fan of Dutch beer. 2015 is already two weeks behind us, and 2016 promises to be another good, if not better, year for beer. I will again write about this beautiful product, as much as time and finances will let me.

Because dear reader, I am glad to see that you keep visiting my blog. Last week it reached 50,000 views, 49,999 more views than I ever expected. And because of it I have seen, and became part of, a growing culture in this country. Because of it I know more people. Because of the festivals and breweries we have seen cities and parts of the country that I had never been to before. I have been to bars and shops I otherwise would have passed by. This revolution doesn’t just lead to having more different beers, but has given me so much.

So what will I write about on these pages this year? There is much to look forward to. New breweries, new bars, old breweries in a new form and a city that will be a premier beer destination in 2016.

The Next Step

Most of the brewers I interviewed share a similar history. They start brewing at home, and when it is not just them that seems to like it, they approach a brewery where they can make bigger batches. Contract brewing is still how many brewers operate, especially the smaller ones who just started and who are still doing this as a side hobby/business. Some of these brewers who started out like this at the beginning of the Dutch Craft Beer Revolution about 5 years ago are moving into new territory this year.

20151109_123318I have already blogged about Duits & Lauret and their move into an actual fortress this year. This is the most prestigious project in beer so far and I will be writing more about it when it opens. Another veteran that deserves a mention is Ruud van Moorst of Eem, who finally will get his own brewery. A well-deserved spot for someone who has given the Dutch brewing world so much already

logo-oproer-brouwerij-light-on-dark-250pxOproer!

The first major event on the calendar is the opening of Oproer! The name is new, the people behind it certainly not. Oproer! is the combining of forces of Utrecht breweries Ruig en Rooie Dop. Mark Strooker of Rooie Dop has already been doing great things for Dutch brewing in the last 5 years. Not only was Rooie Dop one of the better known breweries abroad, he also organized the Dutch delegation to the Oregon Brewers festival two years ago, which led to a slew of collaboration beers and the confidence that what was happening here in Holland meant something.

Oproer! Will be a brewpub. The brewing will take place here and besides the beer you can have a vegan/vegetarian meal. It will be another boost for Utrecht, already one of the best places to go for craft beer. The opening is today and since it is close to where I live it will be one of the first things I will be writing about on the blog.

Also in Utrecht, VandeStreek is working on their own brewery and pub. We will of course report about that to when the time comes.

Amsterdam

The number of brewers in Amsterdam is still growing, with most of them still contract brewers. Writing about Oedipus has been in the pipeline for two years now and hopefully this year I will finally get around to visiting their place and write about this unique brewery. And then there’s Gebrouwen Door Vrouwen (Brewed by Women), two enthusiastic brewing sisters that deserve a post. Another post will be about Aart van bergen, formerly of Vriendschap, who has decided to start brewing on his own brewery.

The city itself will feature in several posts. The western part of the city has seen new bars and shops pop up and is worth a day trip on its own. Another tour is along the almost finished North-South subway line. On this street there are great old and new bars and breweries like Troost.

Other cities

While the Amsterdam-Utrecht area is still the axis of Dutch brewing the other cities are following in their footsteps. Rotterdam with Kaapse and The Hague with Kompaan have already shown to be good beer cities. Three other cities are also gaining ground. In Nijmegen several breweries make excellent beers like the superb Oersoep. The number of great bars here is high as well. Hopefully soon we will get a chance to visit the city for a weekend and write about it. Another city on the list is Eindhoven with Van Moll and a new city brewery. Good things are happening in Haarlem too. ‘t Uiltje is hard at work financing their own brewery. Once this is done the ties with Jopen can be cut and they can do everything themselves.

groningenbierbord

The Blackboard with only beers from Groningen at De Koffer

Groningen

But if there is one city that will be our focus this year it will be Groningen. It has for decades been a perfect place for specialty beer cafés, but has been bereft of quality breweries. The city got a big boost with the annual two day festival in the main church and when Bax Bier started selling its beer. After having their first two beers it was immediately clear that Jeroen and Sepp from Bax made beer that was miles ahead of the other breweries in the north. And I wasn’t the only one who spotted this. Their success has led to their own brewery/tasting room/restaurant which will open in Groningen this year. It will be one of the biggest buildings in the country. But Bax isn’t the only brewery that is active in the city. Late last year Martinus started in a beautiful old building in downtown Groningen. They started off with a new brewing installation and restaurant. I haven’t been there yet but will soon. City Brewery het Kromme Jat has been brewing for a years now but is not alone anymore. The Groninger Craft Brewery has been around for a year now with some success and last year also saw the start of brewers like Corviri, Rockin’ Ludina, Pivo and Jotner. In the provincial city of Wildervank, Jan Abbingh has been producing some decent beers already. The number of establishments where you can find this beer is growing as well, with its crown jewel Mout (we wrote about the crowdfunding campaign last year) scheduled to open in 2016 on the edge of the old city. So stay tuned follow this blog for more about the Groningen beer scene.

Leftovers, labels and geeks

I will be posting more articles about other things. I got a question from a read last year who wanted to know what all the symbols on the labels of his bottles of Dutch beer meant. This will be a two part article. One a translation guide to the labels, the other about the at times mystifying laws about what and what not print on a label.

In the coming weeks I will post something about the amazing facebook group BeerGeeks, a group of beerlovers who have shown that a love of beer unites people. And it is a union that encompasses more than just beer.

The page

The page will see some minor changes this year, I will keep updating the calendar and the map. I will also add a page with all the prizewinning Dutch craft beers.

2016 is going to be a great year for beer and I hope to meet some of you somewhere in this great country in a beautiful bar or at the festival.

 

See you then. Proost.

 

 

A Visit to Fort Everdingen, Future Home of Duits & Lauret

Introduction

When I started this blog over 5 years ago, Duits & Lauret were one of the first brewers I wrote about. Their stylish labels but most of all their well-made and balanced beers showed me that great beer was made in this country. And juries all over the world seemed to agree, not a competition goes by where they don’t win prizes for their stout, smoked double bock or blond.

All this hard work is paying off. The usual step for successful contract brewers is setting up your own brewery and/or tasting room. It is the same for Duits & Lauret as they will open their own brewery and tasting room next year. But as you might have read last year, it will be in a unique part of Dutch history. In case you missed it, the new brewery will move into a 19th century fortress called Fort Everdingen. In early November, when it was still warm, we took the train to Culemborg for a visit.

20151109_123318A short and explosive history

Fort Everdingen is named for nearby Everdingen, a small town on the river Lek. The fortress was part of the Holland Water Line, a defensive line of fortress along the rivers to defend the most important part of the country (Holland) from any invader. When the fortress was finally finished, technology had already caught up and it was useless for its original purpose. The fortress remained in use by the Army (or the Department of Defense), though the Germans occupied it for during the war. The last inhabitant was the Bomb Disposal Unit, whose most recognizable work is getting rid of World War II bombs that are still in the ground all over the country. You can still see thick earthen walls behind which they detonated explosives and parts of the bunkers have everything in place to withstand large explosions.

You can read more about how Duits & Lauret got the fortress in the earlier article I wrote last year.I wrote last year.

Brewery

The fortress has a main square, a sort of courtyard which will become the main area for beer. You can see the huge dome of the fortress from here, you can walk into the store where they will sell beer and more while you are sitting outside enjoying a beer. The brewery itself will be in a large wooden shed on the square, where the tasting room will be housed as well.

20151109_124537This shed was built a few decades after the fort was opened so it is still quite old. Half of the shed will house the brewing equipment. Every process of brewing will take place here. The only thing that will be done somewhere else is bottling. A similar shed is located somewhere else on the premises and it isn’t in the same state as the brewery. This will need a lot of work before it can be used because it isn’t in the best of shape. The fleeting of time will do that to wood.

When we visited in early November they were still working on procuring a brewing installation. Duits & Lauret beers are balanced and delicate and it is no wonder that they keep winning awards at competitions all over the world. Right now the beer is brewed at Lochristi and Belgium and maintaining this quality means mean getting the right equipment.

Water

If the fortress was ever used in war time, it was supposed to be self sustainable for months. Rainwater could be collected in large tanks for further use. This system is still in place and the brewery will use the rainwater for the beer. For me this is the most spectacular things I have seen during our visit.

20151109_124811Storing

Duits & Lauret beers, stout and bock, are perfect for aging. The fortress offers a lot of room for doing just that. A fortress like this behaves like a wine cellar with temperatures that stay the same and with no influence by outside sources. Walls more than meter thick will do that. There is plenty of room still. I have had a stout from 2013 and a bock from 2014 and the difference in taste is noticeable. It will be interesting to see what aging will do in the coming years.

Not Just Beer

Beer will be the focus of Duits & Lauret but it won’t be the only thing produced here. A cheese maker is already at work making cheese and we saw some beautiful blue cheeses ripening already. They will themselves make mustard and vinegar. A room in the fortress had the tiles still from previous use and is perfect for this.

Campground in nature

Because of its location on the banks of one of the great rivers of the Netherlands, many tourists pass by on foot, on their bikes or in their cars. Tourist routes in this area often pass the fortress or even go right over it. This is a potential source of customers that might well be the bulk of visitors to the brewery. But in order to fit in even more into the countryside a big chunk of the area will be opened as a campground. There is room for a few RV’s and bunch of tents. The many bunkers and structures have been covered with earth again, making it a terraced campground. For people with hiking shoes or a bike this is a beautiful place to stay for a few nights and explore the surrounding riverlands.

The Rest

The fortress is huge and it would take ages, and a lot of money, to give every part a function for the public. Therefore this won’t be done and large parts of the fortress won’t be used yet. The most spectacular by far is the huge dome in the middle where D&L have planted their flag on. This was mostly used for housing the soldiers. You can still see the ground plans and pins for keys. Not much has been changed or damaged, but it did get new inhabitants when colonies of bats moved in. Because of laws they won’t be given newer living accommodations, but having them gives the fortress something extra, something awesome.

The Law and other obstructions

As an older structure the fort falls under Monument Care. This is in itself a great thing because you can get subsidy for certain things and there is free publicity. It also means however that changing something requires paperwork due to strict regulations. Monument Care means that the building should remain as is, as much as possible.

Another conundrum is that the Fortress is on the border of two provinces. And when I mean on the border I literally mean on the border. One half is in Utrecht, the other half in Gelderland. The brewery itself will still be in Utrecht, so we can still call them a brewery from Utrecht. But two provinces also means legislation from two different entities. And to make matters more complicated, because they are in two provinces, they automatically are in two different ‘gemeentes’, counties.

And then there’s the Fortress Green Preservation Society. Well I don’t know if there really is one, but the fortress has some flora and fauna that is varied and impressive. Some of the rooms in the main, domed, fortress part have colonies of bats and they are not to be disturbed. Fortunately the entire fort won’t be used all at once and with this much room the bats will be fine for a long time. The bats will be unseen but there is plenty of other animals walking and flying around. While walking around I saw a startled pheasant fly up from the bushes and on the way out some big waterfowl were looking for food in the moat.

Unique               

Danielle Duits and Marco Lauret won’t be moving into the fortress themselves, but someone will be manning the fortress day and night. Something that is necessary when then campground opens. But to drive to work in a place so unique as this must be worth dedicating their time to the brewery. The old jobs are gone, they will now be full time brewers. One of the countries’ most successful brewers have found a home, and what a home it is. There is so much more to tell about Fort Everdingen, but I am sure this wasn’t the last time we were here.

20151109_123616

Me and the brewers in what will eventually house the bottling line.