The summer is coming to an end and so does this part of the beer festival season. When Borefts finishes at the end of this month brewers and beer lovers alike will turn their focus to the traditional bock beer season.
But before making the annual pilgrimage to Bodegraven there are other festivals worth a visit. Last weekend’s Brewda in Breda, now in its third year, is one of those.
A new type of festival
Festivals in Holland tended to be small affairs. Most of them organized by PINT, the national association for the promotion of traditional beer. With not as much happening compared to now, what they did was great and important in keeping the craft beer flame alive.
A different beer festival came with the first editions of De Molen’s Borefts festival. For me at least the first time I could come into contact in my own country with similar breweries like De Molen, but from Europe. Breweries that were hard to find. Just like De Molen often went to festivals in other countries.
But it wasn’t only beer drinkers who came into contact with new brewers. Dutch brewers too got to see what else was made in the world, leading to inspiration and great colabs.
This cross-cultural interaction got another boost when a number of Dutch breweries made the trip to the new promised land of beer, Oregon. This as part of the Portland – Utrecht sister cities program, something that has been repeated every year since.
The International Festival
It was only a matter of time before other festivals went international, and it is no wonder that it is the great number of breweries with international, mostly Portland, ties that are organizing them.
Festivals abound now at Van Moll, Kaapse, Oersoep or Oedipus. Last weekend was Breda’s own Frontaal’s turn with their Brewda, held for the third time. For the first time it was organized over two days, with different breweries on each day. We went for the Saturday, it had some of the finest Dutch breweries around these days. It didn’t seem a coincidence that the setup was International brewery next to a Dutch one next to an International one etc.
This was an invitation festival, meaning that the brewers were invited to come. With many festivals you actually sign up and pay for a stand. This means some brewers with a little money to spend and bad beer to serve can stand there as well. Good for exposure, not always great for overall quality. Quality wasn’t a problem here. Apart from the beer which I will get too, other things were taken care off too. Plenty of food stalls outside, they problem of not enough food seems to be over. Free water taps and plenty of room to sit inside as well. Seating was also a problem at many festivals, but organizers are taking care of that as well. Of course this was a festival with online presale, something that was special just two years ago but is now. Now to the beer!
Mojito Sour anyone?
The breweries from abroad came from the U.K., Spain and the U.S.A. It is always great to see Weird Beard bring their awesome beers. Their double coffee milk stout was wonderful. A new one for me was Oregon’s own Caldera, a brewery I had heard much about but had never had the privilege to taste before. Let’s just say I hope this wasn’t the last time.
A brewery that brought the strangest beers was Sheffield’s Lost Industry. Sour beers with daquiri, pina colada but their best one was a mojito. Just the right sourness for a sour beer and it works great in tandem with a mojito. Definitely worth checking out more so Dutch beer stores, get crackin’.
The Dutch breweries
When breweries are invited you know that they will be good. On Saturday big ones like Frontaal, Oedipus, ‘t Uiltje and Oproer poured their beers. Walhalla was also invited. And deservedly so. Since brewer Aart has been making his beers for about a year now the reviews have been great. Having had all of his beers now I am rapidly becoming a fan. For example, I waited with trying his golden ale, the Loki, because it is not a style I usually try right away. I should have done earlier, this hopped up beer was great. He also brought a colab with Kromme Haring so you know what company he keeps. I cannot wait to try more.
And the others? Well, Oproer brought along an old geuze from Rooie Dop days. A two year old sour that cleared the sinuses. Too bad nothing of that is made anymore. ‘t Uiltje brought mostly beers that are easier to find, just like Oedipus did. But these two have become giants seemingly overnight. A festival without them that aims for quality is simply not complete without them. Frontaal is brewery that is relatively new to me because it isn’t always easy to find for me where I get my bottles usually. I recently read they are scaling up as well. What I did have so far was good. Experimental stuff and regular beers Frontaal does it all, and often in collaboration with other good breweries like for example Oproer. I really hope they make it to more stores so I can try more.
The International Festival, what a feast
I am not advocating the end of the Dutch brewery only festivals, anything but. Their merit has increased with the current rise of brewing. They need a place to showcase their beers and gain the experience needed to take further steps. It is only a great thing that next to these we have international festivals like these. It can only making the state of brewing in this country better.