Posts Tagged ‘craft beer’

Craft Beer and Indie Rock, a comparative study in three parts

Part 1: Definition

Don’t worry, this won’t be another futile attempt to change the definition of craft beer or to come up with a new and better one. It is one of those “it’s done, deal with it” things: you may not like it but things aren’t going to change anytime soon. The makers of craft beer coined the term and kept using it so who are we to suddenly demand that it changes. This discussion only takes place within a very small segment of the beer drinking public anyway. For the more casual drinker, ‘craft’ means that it is beer more to their liking, beer that is not lager or mass-produced beer. It is alternative to these. Here in the Netherlands Het Uiltje, Kompaan and most of all Jopen use the term everywhere and Peter van der Arend named his latest bar Craft & Draft. And who I am to go against these great men’s words. If Jopen suddenly decides that “you know, that Martijn guy from the Dutch Beer Pages makes a valid point, let’s change all our labels!” something is very wrong in this world.

I was working on some comparisons between indie rock music and craft beer. Both are alternative cultural exploits that have more similarities than you might think at first. I am sure I can make the comparison with tons of other art forms, but indie rock and beer are two of my areas of expertise, not pottery, jam making or the naming of hobos (if you got this cultural reference you are my new best friend and I will buy you a beer). The next two chapters will about the brewer / artist, and about the beer drinker / music lover and will be posted in the coming weeks.

But first, what does indie rock actually mean?

The term was already used in the 1950’s to describe the smaller record labels who fought to get their singles on the charts and sold. It was the only way to survive against the majors like RCA. In the late 70’s the term independent became more synonymous with do punk rock Do-It-Yourself mentality, something that has remained, even within craft brewing.

Just give me Indie Rock!

In the 1980’s this changed and the term became to mean the music they produced. This was the time that it meant something when you said you were an indie rock fan. The term changed from an economic one to a cultural description. If you met someone and said you liked indie rock, it meant the changes were that he or she liked the Smiths, R.E.M., Dinosaur JR and later Pavement, Built to Spill or the Strokes. But the chances were also that he or she liked the Chemical Brothers, Orbital and Underworld, and maybe even Arrested Development or other fringe hip-hop bands. Dinosaur JR and Built to Spill are good examples of bands who signed with major record labels without changing their music. The majors saw that now there was money to be made with these acts. In iTunes it is a category, even if the biggest record label in the world released it.

The definition of craft beer has changed too. No longer does it solely means artisanal made beer. More and more a lover of craft beer likes alternative beer, beer that is outside of the mainstream, the stuff that doesn’t promote FIFA or your national football championship. Does this mean small? Not immediately, but often they make and sell less than the ‘major’ breweries, just like Death Cab for Cutie will never sell the amount of albums Justin Moron or Rihanna sells. To say you like craft beer means you prefer IPA’s, Russian Stouts and saisons. It also means you love styles that are completely new or ancient like gose or gruit beers.

Both ‘Indie rock’ and ‘craft beer’ have been around for a while now. Some are questioning the right use of these terms. But it’s not the words that change, it’s what they mean, what they represent. From a pure technical dictionary definition it has taken on new meaning, a meaning that now represents a culture and an art form.

So now that we got that out of the way, stay tuned the coming weeks for the other parts in the series where I look at other comparisons.

VandeStreek: The Art of Hops.

The pages on this blog have lately been filled with articles about the burgeoning beer scene in Amsterdam. But we shouldn’t forget that other city that has given the beer geek so much, so today we turn our attention once again to Utrecht and it’s award-winning pair of brewer/brothers VandeStreek. Van de Streek is the last name of brothers Sander and Ronald, and since they burst upon the scene two years ago their rise has been meteoric: from two well received beers to a prestigious medal at the Brussels Beer Challenge this year. The result of talent, experimentation and hard work, and of course tasty beer.

Eight Days A Week

Sander and Ronald do not have a decade long experience with brewing. They are an example of the many who from brewing at home, made the step to commercial brewing. The knowledge came from the Internet and not from classes or workshops. The start was in early 2010 in small, 20 liter batches with one goal: to brew beers that couldn’t be compared to the beers found in the supermarket, to basically let their imagination loose and make something out of nothing. The 20 liter installation expanded to 50 and the hobby became serious. This is completely different from their normal desk-bound day jobs: Sander as a consultant and implementer of CRM software, Ronald as a marketer at an international congressorganisation. Since the commercial start of VandeStreek the number of days working behind the desk has been lowered to four, the rest of the week, nights and the weekend are dedicated to beer. Or as they say: “we say now that we work 4 days for the boss and 4 days for ourselves every week”.

Utrecht, or turning beer drinkers into beer lovers

IMG_1939

At work during the Dutch Beer Festival in Den Haag

The two brothers are both true Utrechters and proud of the local beer culture. But it isn’t being from Utrecht that got them this far, that is still hard work and dedication. Of course they make sure that their beer is widely available in the city but it’s already being sold all over the country. And all over the country you can run into them at festivals or tap takeovers. They enjoy doing this: going to events where the public consists more of beer geeks who want to try anything that is new and where they can talk about beer a little more in depth. But the tastings for people who have no clue there’s a revolution happening in Holland right now are great too. It’s great to tell people the story behind the beer and surprise them. People who usually drink pilsners can enjoy and appreciate stouts or Double IPA’s when they know what it is and if they are carefully guided towards trying these new beers. “We love to turn beer drinkers into beer lovers.”

Brothers and coffee.

The first two commercial beers were called Broeders and Dark Roast. Both exemplify what VandeStreek is. Broeders means Brothers, and VandeStreek is very much a brotherly effort. Being brothers is something they definitely see as a positive element in their identity. They started brewing because they loved to create, like any other brewery. But as they say, you can choose your friends, not your family. They have been challenging each other since they were kids and still do these day when they are brewing. This constant challenging keeps them sharp and inventive, and the results of that we can taste.

The other beer they started out with is the aforementioned Dark Roast. This turns out to be their second experiment of the many they did before putting anything on the market. It was a coffee stout and was already called Dark Roast during the experimental phase. The term coffee stout was something they weren’t really familiar with, but they were brewing a stout and decided to add coffee. The result was great and they used this recipe for one of the two beers they made their debut with. Until recently the Dark Roast was made with coffee from a major coffee producer, but since mid-2014 they started a partnership with Het Koffielab. On the day before they brew the Dark Roast, Het Koffielab roasts fresh Kenian coffeebeans and they now use this for the beer. This has made the balance between coffee and the stout even better than it already was.  

Hop Art #5 and #6

Hop Art #5 and #6

The Hop Art Series

It is not unusual for a brewery to have a special series of beers. Emelisse has their White Labels, Het Uiltje has a range of barrel ages Meneer De Uil beers and VandeStreek has their Hop Art series. This is not just a series of one-time beers but a beer made with the help of artists in other fields. Every beer is different and has special artwork designed for it.

The Hop Art series started by accident. When the brothers were still brewing by themselves they never really made the same recipe twice, meaning all 60 brewers were different. When CasCo, an Utrecht art institute, asked them to teach another artist to brew for the How To Live Together Project they agreed immediately. There have now been 6 different Hop Arts, ranging from a Saisons to a Pale Ale or a Black I.P.A.’s. Like their beginnings, every brew is different.

They, like me, believe that brewing is an art form, both made by creative people to make something to be enjoyed by others. Painters and sculptors make things to look at, brewers make things to taste. The partnership between artists and brewers is therefor only natural.

Medal Winner

Their fifth Hop Art won a prestigious prize at the Brussels Beer Challenge in Belgium. A festival where Dutch brewers raked in a number of awards this year. The brothers sent in their beer, a Black IPA, mainly to get feedback from a professional jury. In their category the Hop Art #5 immediately won the bronze medal, a confirmation that they can make world class beer.

Contractbrewers

VandeStreek beer isn’t made in their own brewery (yet?) but at several locations. A few of the Hop Arts were made at the 7 Deugden (), a brewery that has been host to a rising number of great brews. The Dark Roast is now made here as well. Most of the brewing is still done at De Leckere, and occasionally Maximus.

2015 will see an expansion of the range of Vandestreek beers, plus the usual seasonal and a few specials and collaborations. What that will be they don’t know, they will just see what happens to cross their path. The brothers are true beer artists.

Links

VandeStreek website

On Facebook

On Twitter

On the Radio!

The Beer Café, the other engine of the revolution

Last year I wrote about the role the specialty ‘beer’ store plays in the distribution of (Dutch) craft beer  and how much that segment has grown in the five years. The Dutch craft beer revolution has one other foundation and that is the specialty beer café. Beer cafe’s 20 years ago were almost always Belgian Beer Café’s with maybe a few other breweries from nearby countries to spice things up. But the role of the beer café has changed and they mirror what the beer store: more Dutch beer and more beer from countries not named Belgium. But is this true? We asked around to find out and send out a questionnaire to Jasper from Doerak in Delft, Marjolein from De Koffer in Groningen, Simon from In De Wildeman in Amsterdam, Erik from DeRat in Utrecht and Peter from Het Bierhuys in Woerden. Here are some of the conclusions.

Growth

The famous In De Wildeman chalkboard above the entrance

The famous In De Wildeman chalkboard above the entrance

Simon (In De Wildeman) is reminded of the first Dutch beer week In De Wildeman organized back in 1990. It was hard in those days to get a beer from Dutch craft breweries on all the 18 taps, let alone with decent quality. 35 years later and now he can pick and choose the nice ones. Taps that used to pour Belgian beer are now being switched to Dutch ones, a logical conclusion from all that we have seen in the stores. The café’s don’t only sell the beer, they also actively promote Dutch beer with some even having a special ‘Dutch beers’ section on either a wall or on the menu. In De Wildeman still has quite the selection of Belgian beers but the Dutch beers are pushing the Belgian beers of the chalkboard above the entrance. De Koffer’s list on the wall is a visual piece of art.

Two changes: local and style

People are more interested in local products, also because there seems to be more. With the rise of non-Belgian beer (mostly American) the tastes of the consumer change as well. Newer styles like IPA’s and stouts are getting more attention and people seem to like this more than the usual Belgian blondes and triples. Peter (Bierhuys) tries to offer a wide variety of specialty beers, mostly in styles. It is no use having 15 stouts and no blondes. Apart from the Hertog Jan beers he contractually has to pour he prefers smaller breweries because they won’t sell in the supermarkets where people can get their beer anyway. Simon (In De Wildeman) shares the same view, people ask mostly for the smaller Dutch brewers, they can get the bigger ones at home as well.

A Menu in De Koffer

A Menu in De Koffer

Marjolein sees the change in the visitors to De Koffer: “A Lot of People, including many foreigners, prefer to drink Dutch beers and even more precise local beers. This is probably due to the trend that people want to know where their products come from.” De Koffer also actively promotes the local beers, mostly because they know the brewers the best.  This connection with the brewer is important for them. A good bond makes it easier for them to come to agreements about price and delivery. De Koffer has no problem going to the brewers themselves to pick up the beer. Naturally the beer has to have a certain quality, something they themselves decide.

Distribution of the smaller breweries is still not the easiest. Often they will bring the kegs (or bottles) themselves to a local place. It also means that this distribution isn’t constant. Jasper (Doerak) mentions that is also a reason why he won’t have more of it on tap.

Woerden and Utrecht are fortunate enough to be in a region that has a staggering amount of great beer. The Bierhuys’ own beer is made by De Molen for example and they have many Utrecht beers for sale as well. Same goes for DeRat. The popularity of Utrechts beer has reached Groningen too where I have seen more beers from that province than local beers. Unfortunately the north still lags behind the rest of the country. DeRat is excellent in its offering of Dutch beer and the people who come to this place enjoy it. Erik from DeRat decides whether a beer will be sold or not and he has three rules that make perfect sense: 1. Don’t be too expensive 2. Be tasty. And 3. Get sold to the customer.

Future

Erik had one last thing to mention when I asked him if he had anything else to say about the rise of Dutch beer. It is a sentiment that I have heard more people share and one I agree with.

“the market for small brewers will eventually level out. There will be great beers and beers that won’t be that great. It’s up to the consumer to decide what they like. I as a bar owner can help in this, also in educating my guests who are not yet at home in the world of craft beer.”

Erik hits the nail on the head, and that is why his bar and all the others that have the courage to sell Dutch beer are that other engine of the Dutch craft beer revolution!

Numbers

Here are some numbers for the statistically minded:

Café Number of Taps Dutch
Doerak, Delft 12 3 or 4
Bierhuys 11 4 or 5
Koffer 10 4
DeRat 6 5 or 6

Bottles

Café 5 Years ago Now Dutch
Doerak 20 180 40
Bierhuys 80 (20 Dutch) 135 50
Koffer 23 Dutch 180 63
DeRat 120 65

 

-Martijn Buisman

Thanks to the following café’s

In De Wildeman (Amsterdam)

Annually In De Wildeman will end up in the Dutch café top 10. Located in the center of the middle of downtown Amsterdam Simon and colleagues run a gem. First thing to do when you come in is turn around and look above the door you just came through to see the list of beers on tap. A few times a year there is real ale too. Hangout for both locals and thanks to mentions on Tripadvisor and similar sites tourists come here often as well. Extra score for having their own app.

Doerak (Delft)

Also have their own app. Located on a canal close to the main square this also is one of the many great beer places in the town of the Royal family and the painter Vermeer. Boardgames, big wooden tables, knowledgeable staff, a place to go.

DeRat (Utrecht)

The small size of this place, located within the city walls but outside of the main walking area, is compensated by its excellent menu. Focused on the many great local beers this bar is worth a visit. I have visited this place way to few times.

Bierhuys (Woerden)

A relatively unknown beer hangout that I only came across about 4 years ago because I live close to Woerden. Since then they have organized bokbeerfestivals in Woerden. Located downtown as well, but like DeRat you have to look for it. Local beers mostly, Belgians and other Dutch beers. Their housebeer is from De Molen, Bodegraven being one town further on the railwayline.

De Koffer (Groningen)

Great place on the edge of the Groningen city centre and conveniently placed on my way from the railway station to my parents’ house. Awesome selection. They have Hel & Verdoemenis and White Label beers! They try to have as many local beers as possible, even though there aren’t that many. Visited by locals (mostly students) it seems this is a great place to hang out and enjoy good beer.

Texel: Island of Beer and Lamb

Longing for a short, relaxing holiday in our own country we decided to travel to Texel, the largest of the so-called ‘Waddeneilanden’, a collection of islands that stretches from Texel in the west all the way to Denmark. Maybe not the best time of the year to visit an island considering the sad weather and cold winds but autumn has its own charms. Besides enjoying the countryside, the sea and beach which we had almost entirely for ourselves, we wanted to experience local food and drink. When you are visiting this 170 km2 of land you have to eat lamb (in almost every meadow you can see grazing sheep). You can have it in a stew, on a sandwich or covered with sauce. In every way it’s delicious. Texel benefits from the sea too. In Oudeschild, an old fisherman village on the east side of the island, we ate some fresh mussels and fried cod in the Oude Vismarkt.

In the tasting room

In the tasting room

And what is the best drink you can combine with all that delicious food…? Yes, that’s beer. You can’t avoid beer even if you want to. Of course we heard of the Texels brewery and as soon as it was possible we went here. For € 8 you will get a short talk from the guide, a film and a small tour through the brewery. After the tour the guide will supply all the guests with four tasting glasses with De Goudkoppe, Skuumkoppe, Tripel and the Bock.  The Skuumkoppe (named after the frothy tops of the waves) is their bestselling beer.  The movie is interesting, yet somewhat unfulfilling since you can already watch it in its entirety on their website.

The brewery started in 1999 as a hobby but when the former owner quit because it didn’t make any profit it was taken over by someone who realized that you need a financial and commercial wizard to take the brewery to another level.  Things really started to become professional. Nowadays many tourists decide to visit the brewery. They have a large tasting room including a little shop. Even on a sad autumn day we saw many fellow tourists enjoying a beer.

Tickets to the tour

Tickets to the tour

Texels is not a brewery that brews only for the islanders. Their ambitions has taken them to the mainland where they are promoting their beers and you can buy it in lot of shops. No effects of the economic crisis so far,  in fact the brewery is doing well. They are proud of making beer with Texels water, renowned for its softness, and proud of using grains grown on the island. Their yeast is the secret ingredient and is patented. If it was possible to grow hops on the island, they would have certainly used it but the soil is not good for this. Being an island the winds are also a problem for a plant that grows quite a few meters. The islanders seems proud drinking ‘their’ beer and the brewery is a part of the community. Texels brews according to the German purity laws and you could label their brewery German in that they rely heavily on their wheat beers, even though they have a dubbel and triple as well. It is also German in that a beer from them will always be good, but never earth shatteringly awesome.

De 12 Balcken in Den Burg

De 12 Balcken in Den Burg

If you had enough Texels beer than you can get a Mikeller or a De Molen if you like in ‘De 12 Balcken’, an  ABT café and number 66 in the cafe top 100 (that announcement came at the day we were visiting). You can find De 12 Balcken in the centre of Den Burg. The food, especially the sateh, is great but their knowledge of beer unfortunately is limited. There were a few small things that we noticed: Using the wrong glass for a Mariage parfait, a Flying dog became a Brewdog on the menu and said menu was not up to date. We can forgive the glass and rest is only unfortunate but the ambiance and food still makes a perfect evening.  If you want to be sure you will choose the right beer than pick one yourself from the fridge and tell them which glass you prefer. But these are just minor inconveniences for an otherwise wide range of choices.

Another place on the island where they brew beer was closed, but we were lucky to find a Windkracht 8, one of the last bottles ina local liquor store. This beer was better than we expected. Spicy notes and again that soft Texels water. The estate ‘De Bonte belevenis’  nearby Den Hoorn is opened from February till mid-November. The brewery is just a small part of this estate which also includes a candlemaker, soapmaker and bakery. Maybe next time we will be able to visit at least we could try their beer.

Texel isn’t the only island with a brewery and a good beercafé but its size means there is enough to do for a week, even if it is just beer you are interesting in. And lamb.

Wendy Buisman & Martijn Buisman

Tasting paddle at Texels

Tasting paddle at Texels

Something’s Bru’wing in Amsterdam

Opening a bottle of beer from a new brewery is always exciting. Will it be bad or a nice first start or will it be something good. In most cases it’s the former: nice enough to find in the good stores but not good enough to try other beers any time soon. Better beers are harder to find, but usually leave me interested enough to try more. And then there are the bottles that knock you back so much you think you just witnessed a miracle. Something similar to hearing the first Weezer or Arcade Fire album for the first time. In books about music you often read how people pull over to stand still and listen to a song they hear from the first time. If that was true the highways of the fifties would be littered with stopped cars alongside it, but that’s another topic for another day. If it was me that was driving and it wasn’t a song but a bottle from Bru’d, I would have stood there too.

For now they only released one beer that is unique already: a highly hopped Kölsch. Yes, you read that correctly. A German style Kölsch with American style hoppiness. A very international brew indeed. Go to their website and you will find that it, like this blog, is in English. And that for mostly the same reason we do: because of the many English (or at least foreign speaking) speakers in Amsterdam. (That a brewery in the middle of the tourist part of the city and with many people interested, it amazes me that the De Prael website is still only available in Dutch, but that rant should probably be left for another time).

The answers we received were for that reason already in English and written so well I took the lazy way and posted them verbatim.

Beerdrinkers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your Heinekens and Buds

Who is behind Bru’d?

Aike is a freelance organisation and management consultant. With a background in information management he does most of his projects in sustainable supply chains (think coffee, cacao, tea, palm oil, cotton). In his spare time he is treasurer of a community supported agriculture initiative with 1300 members near Arnhem.

Chiel is a freelance marketing specialist, having worked previously as a marketing consultant and as a digital marketer at a consultancy company in Amsterdam. Currently, he is starting his third life as an entrepreneur. Currently he is in the start-up phase for a platform that aims to help small local food makers and communities to work together to bring local food to consumers. We can’t divulge much more than that now, but it surfs on the same trends that Bru’d is surfing on too. 

How did the start of the release of the first Bru’d go?

Honestly, it went a lot smoother than we expected. We are not planning to make this into anything big, basically we wanted to experience whether we could actually develop and bring a beer to the market. And preferably one that people liked of course. And that seems to have worked quite well. Of course you need to plan ahead and know what you want to do. But we assumed we knew what would be involved, from developing and tweaking the product at home, to finding a partner who could help us boost our production and sell it. I guess the trickiest part is finding the time to actually do it in between the other jobs we both do, which can be quite demanding. But in the end, that fact also lowers the pressure a bit. Fortunately we are not dependent on beer sales to sustain ourselves because we are working other jobs. So the worst scenario was that nobody would like our beer, and we would have had to drink it ourselves. Actually, a bit of a pity that sales are going so well, because we wouldn’t mind having a few more bottles left…

First reactions

We were quite surprised about the number of positive reactions really. We were fortunate enough to be able to deliver our first beer to the best and most respected beer sellers in Amsterdam. We are currently available at de Bierkoning shop (in Paleisstraat), and we have been (and soon will be again) on draft at Gollem’s Proeflokaal (Overtoom) and at In de Wildeman (Kolksteeg, in bottles).  And we’ve passed the city limits recently, and are available at the ABC Beers shop in the Hague as well. 

Of course we’ve been luring our own friends and family to these bars to have a taste, and they are really enthusiastic. But hey, we bought them a beer, so that’s not that surprising. But quite a lot of people have rated us favorably on Untappd and Ratebeer as well. So that’s very encouraging to us as newcomers.

Communist Theme

When you are on that website you will notice the communist symbolism used. And there is a good reason for this:

The background is that we believe that there is a lot of mass-produced beer out there. Some of them are fine, but for the majority it’s just a bit boring. Luckily over the past decade we have witnessed the surge of craft and microbrews.  We feel part of that craft movement. We’re just 2 guys brewing beers in our spare time without a big production facility, we are just passionate about the brews we develop. In the end, there are many more people just like us who are creating original beers in their own garages or kitchens. So it’s sort of like bringing back the means of production in the hands of the people. From there on, a link with a communist theme is quite easy to make. 

The Hoppenheimer

The Hoppenheimer

Why a name like Hoppenheimer and Bru’d?

The communist theme allowed us to go pun-crazy on the label. While there are people that regard puns being the cheapest form of humor, we regard every pun (especially the cringe-worthy kind) as high art. As Hoppenheimer is the first and only beer on the site, it still has the communist allure. However, more themes are coming. No cow is holy enough that we won’t make an udderly ridiculous pun on it. Yes. I went there.

As the previous point on the communist theme might indicate, we are quite immature. And that seems to manifest itself in laborious and cringe-worthy pun-runs. We like to play with words, as we like to play with worts. Bru’d is just a play on words of Brewed. Initially we had a version with an Umlaut, but we decided against that. Truth be told, we had quite a shortlist of different names, which we thought were funny.  

Why a highly hopped Kölsch?

Well, to start with, we were shooting to release the beer in springtime. So we wanted something which was a nice thirst-quencher, but yet quite firm and full-bodied. Plus, Aike is originally German, so he has had good experiences with Kölsch beers. And in the end it fits quite well with the Communist theme, because it is ideal after a hard day in the mines…or the office.

And the extra batch of hops: that’s just our own personal taste really. We are both hopheads. We love big hoppy beers, we both like the recent IPAs coming out of the States for example. 

Bru’d brews there beer in Amsterdam at De 7 Deugden. Why?

At home we are experimenting with brewing our beers in small batches (up to 40 liters), that’s a great way for us to learn and test out stuff. But when we decided we actually wanted to sell our beers, we knew we had to find a partner, who could help us boost our production and produce it against local rules and regulations. We both live in Amsterdam, and we like the idea of local collaborations. So we quickly came to a shortlist of suitable craft beer makers in Amsterdam, and we decided on de 7 Deugden. Partly because we like the way Garmt produces his beers, but also because de 7 Deugden is a social enterprise which employs people with learning difficulties. That’s a very commendable approach these days, so we were happy to choose de 7 Deugden at a partner. And we are very happy with our choice, Garmt is very knowledgeable and surely credits go to him too for the quality of the product. 

A new Bru? (‘d)

There always is! We can’t tell everything yet, but we are developing a Porter-styled beer. Of course, there will be a little twist, but it will be true to the heritage and nature of Porter beers. And of course we will be playing with the political and economic themes a bit…

The Bru’d Website

Bru’d on Twitter

More about the social mission of the 7 Deugden

The Dutch beershops: catalysts for the Dutch Craft Beer Revolution

In the Netherlands we are in the middle of a beer revolution. A revolution that can be seen in the many festivals we have today and the cafés and restaurants who now serve some Dutch beers next to the Belgians. The main source for our bottles and the easiest way for brewers to get their beer sold to the public is still the liquor store, and especially the specialty beer stores. We are fortunate enough to have a few very good ones.

The rise of Dutch beer can be witnessed in these stores. Where in the past only a few breweries would actually have bottled beer for sale, now more and more different kinds of Dutch beer can be found in these stores. The same goes for the chain stores like Mitra, even supermarkets like Jumbo and Albert Heyn might now on occasion sell local beer if they have a manager with a good heart. Let’s not even start with the specialty food stores and natural food stores.  But is my initial thought that Dutch beer is taking up more and more space on the shelves a right one? And if so, doesn’t that automatically mean that other  beers had to give way to these? I started investigating, asking four of my favorite beer stores a few questions. The interrogated quartet are De Bierkoning in Amsterdam, Bert’s Bierhuis in Utrecht, Melgers in Haarlem and De Bierwinkel in Leiden.

A selection of beers bought at De Bierkoning late July

A selection of beers bought at De Bierkoning late July

The Stores.

A short introduction to the questioned stores might be in order before we go on. If you do not know De Bierkoning I am guessing you either don’t like craft beer or just started to become interested. For those of you visiting Amsterdam it is a must visit place. Not the biggest of stores but in a great location behind the Royal Palace on Dam Square in the middle of Amsterdam, and therefore also the middle of the public life in this country now for over 25 years.

De Bierwinkel in Leiden is nicely located on a church square where Peter Jongejans runs it. It also is not the biggest of stores and is not exclusively selling beer. Lovers of wine and whiskey can also find what they are looking for in Leiden.

Melgers too is a more-than-beer liquor store on a very old backstreet of downtown Haarlem. Not on a main road so you have to look for the it on a map it’s worth the wandering through Haarlem’s small streets. With the Jopen Church right around the corner it is no wonder that you can find many Jopen bottles here but they have a lot more as we will see later.

Bert’s Bierhuis is in one of the nicest parts of Utrecht. The Twijnstraat is one of those streets foodies love. Chocolate, fish, fresh produce and cooking stores you have to pass before reaching Bert’s Bierwinkel, and from there it is only a short walk to a good beercafé called Het Ledig Erf. Of all the stores I talk about here this store has by far the most room.

The Rise of Dutch Beer…

I started off with asking how much more Dutch beer they sell compared to 5 and 10 years ago. The averages over the shops seems to be a more than a 20% rise in the last ten years. Peter Jongejans (Leiden) thinks he offers about 15% more Dutch beer than a decade ago. Dennis of Melgers believes the number of Dutch beer right now in the store is around 35%. There is a shelf there that is quite impressive, about 5 meters of De Molen beer only. Their offering of specialty beer in general has risen from about 300 6 years ago to over 900 today. For De Bierkoning, manager Jan guesses that since the (Dutch) beer revolution really started about 5 years ago about a quarter of what the store offers is now from the Netherlands and that is an increase over the last decade. Besides being a bigger part of what is on offer, it is now also the best selling ‘country’.

…and the decline of the Belgian multiplications

Here’s a little math test for you all: If in a limited space something gains mass, something else has get smaller right? What do you think that something is? Did you guess Belgian dubbels and tripels? Then you are right. For a long time these were the only specialty beers available, including the ones that were ok yet not earth shattering or easily available somewhere else, as with the InBev Belgian beers. It is these bottles that have departed from the shelves to make way for the influx of Dutch bottles. It goes to show yet again that beerlovers these days seem to go more for the local, and newer beers instead of a mediocre Belgian one. The days of thinking: ‘it’s Belgian so it must be great’ are over. Beware neighbors to the South! That the Belgians are leaving is something you see in all the stores. Besides those the bigger Dutch ones (Heineken) and crates of beer have left De Bierkoning too and are being replaced by local ones and beers that are harder to find.

Going Local

It would stand to reason that a store in Utrecht sells local beer, and Bert does just that. De Leckere, Maxmimus, Rooie Dop, Duits & Lauret can all be found there. Peter of the shop in Leiden strongly advocates selling local beer. I personally have bought most of the EleganT and Leidse Brouwerij there and he has a good selection of De Molens, Bodegraven being only a few trainstops away.

Haarlem is also perfectly located. First of all there is the giant that is Jopen, but they are no longer the only brewery from Haarlem with the start of het Uiltje. Being located so very close to Amsterdam brewers from the capitol can be found as well. Beers from the same province like SNAB and Texel sell well, and also Ramses’ colorful labeled beers seem to fly off the shelf.

Most Jopen beers are also available in De Bierkoning, as are all the brewers from Amsterdam like De Prael, 7 Deugden, ‘t IJ etcetera. Whenever a new brewery in Amsterdam pops up (with an astonishing rate this year it seems) their bottles can be found here. But don’t worry, you can find an impressive amount of De Molens and Emelisse bottles here too. This raises the question: do brewers benefit from a good beerstore nearby? Maybe a question for another day.

Interest

People seem to be genuinely interested in local , or at least regional beer. Peter sees that the small, mostly onetime batches sell the best, especially the Leiden beer that he sells to non-Dutchies. He has a very strict rule for himself and that is no InBev beers and Jopen is about the biggest Dutch brewery coming in through the door. Jopen’s neighbor Melgers hardly sells beer from the bigger breweries. De Bierkoning also doesn’t sell a lot of beer made by what Jan calls the Big 8 (Lindeboom through Heineken). Their big sellers are ‘t IJ, De Prael, De Molen, Jopen, Texel and Emelisse.

Due to its prime location De Bierkoning attracts two major groups. One is of course the local beer lover but being in the middle of the country also means that tourists are coming. Holland is rapidly making a name for itself across the borders as an up-and-coming ­craftbeer nation. The fact that most of these beers are for sale here attracts many. If people are only in the country for a few days Amsterdam usually is the only destination. Besides the beer hunters from across the border regular tourists also drop by to find something local.

Yes

So the answer to my question is a resounding yes. The specialty stores do show that we are in the middle of a revolution of local beer. With the still climbing number of Dutch breweries we can do this survey again in 5 years and see what new Dutch brews are available.

Berghoeve – making local normal

If my blog is the only thing you read about Dutch beer you would almost think that Utrecht and Amsterdam are the only places where good beer is made. These two cities have high concentrations of new breweries but Twente is a region that should not be ignored. Twente is part of the Overijssel province located in the middle of the eastern part of the country, bordering Germany. Its most famous beer by far is Grolsch whose iconic fliptop bottles are known all over the world. But Twente has a lot more to offer these days. A look at a map of breweries and specialty beer café’s will make you notice a cluster in this area too.

Berghoeve is one of the breweries from Twente and so far their beers have pleased me. A lot actually, and I was happy to see the closest store to me (De Schans in Uithoorn) was selling a variety of Berghoeve beers. Time for a chat with Jurgen and Geralda.

The Brewery in Den Ham

The Brewery in Den Ham

Local – yet International

On the right side of this blog you will see links to all the Dutch breweries. To make it easier for the non-Dutch speaking reader I made a special list of websites both in English and in Dutch. For Berghoeve I might have to make a completely new category since their website is also translated into the local dialect.

This was chosen because these days having a local base is important. It is here where you can generate the most income through tours, tastings and workshops. These also bring in extra income with a larger profit margin than just bottles of beer. And like most brewers they see it more as an instrument to make the range of Berghoeve beers more known to a bigger audience. Berghoeve beers are available in a few good beer stores so the distribution is fine and you don’t necessarily have to be in the region to buy their beers. The region might be too small to make a decent living from the beer, but owner Jurgen realizes that he needs the region just as much.

With their own brewery and the many events going on there you might almost be tempted to think that running Berghoeve is a fulltime job. This is not the case. Jurgen works 3 to 4 days a week in the food industry and Geralda spends about 3-4 days in the brewery next to taking care of the family.

berghoeve1 Berghoeve Beer

The local attention is the  reason why they started out making your ‘regular’ specialty beers like a tripel, dubbel, white or bock. Styles most people not that much into beer will at least know. When these are established beers they hope to develop the really special beers who are not so known in Twente. They have already made some interesting brews like a Chili Porter, a Scotch Ale and a Black IPA.

De Molen

Until recently their blonde beers, the IPA (Khoppig) and the Belgian Ale Vuurdoop were mainly brewed at De Molen. De rest is from their own kettles. Last June a new 750 liter installation started producing beer and now all their beer is made in Den Ham.

Brett

One of the newer beers they made was a onetime experiment with the Brett yeast for the festival in In De Wildeman a few weeks ago. This was a very exciting enterprise. Jurgen:

“you never know what Brett will do. Besides that bringing Brett into your brewery poses a risk because it might infect your other beers. That is why we only worked with disposable materials. The reactions have been very positive and ask for another attempt, but I am not sure we will do that. We want to develop our beers and not break down the others. But time will tell..”

The future of Berghoeve

Jurgen is very excited about the future of the brewery, even asking how much space I have to write about it. Here a short list of plans and actual things that will happen in the near future:

  1. Berghoeve will soon be selling beer in kegs
  2. Keeping all the beers available; because sales are doing very well some beers can be sold out.
  3. The release of two new beers: An Imperial Black IPA called “Tjuster” and an Orange Pale Ale called “Tevreden Oordeel” (meaning as much as a “satisfying judgement”) that only a few people have tasted so far.
  4. A new line of beerlabels in the fall
  5. Brewing a new beer after that! It will have been more than four months after the last new one. They are now contemplating which one because there are many to choose from.
  6. Maybe a collaboration brew…?

The future looks good and on this hot day I am going out now to hunt some refreshing Berghoeve beer.

Links:

Berghoeve Site

Berghoeve on Facebook

Berghoeve on Twitter

Dutch Beer Pages Revisited Part II: Wispe

Last week I wrote about Carl Stapelbroek and his transfer to De Prael in the first of the two-part series of ‘where-are-they-now’.

The second article I wrote was about Wispe, a cacao blonde beer from the town of Weesp near Amsterdam. Back then Wispe was just up and running for about one year and I am happy to report that the Wispe guys are still making beer! I again sent some questions to see how the business was going.

4 years and counting

Wispe started in almost exactly four years ago in July of 2009.In this period many brewers / breweries have started but sadly also fold. Why is Wispe still around? Remko gave the 4 main ingredients for a successful brewery.

Ingredient #1: Passion

This goes without saying. The passion of the brothers behind Wispe is brewing but also running their own business. Lots of passion and fun goes into inventing new beers and selling those to a new public.

The brothers Jitze, Jerrit, Remko

The Vellenga brothers Jitze, Jerrit, Remko

Add #2  Belief

Besides passion they have belief in what they are doing. Therefore they run it like a business: setting goals and trying to achieve those. Keeping positive is their best motivation when things aren’t going as planned but those who keep positive will prevail.

With some #3 Time and Energy

When talking about this Remko mentions a saying: ‘een brouwerij is een sjouwerij’, meaning that having a brewery is a lot of hard (physical) work. He says that because they are brothers they complement each other’s weaknesses. In this way they are a strong team with a good synergy where things go automatically.

And finally some #4: Luck

Wispe started at just the right time. In the four years that they started the interest in locally produced food and beer has only increased. Dutch beer is getting more and more attention and Wispe being in the market is good for those seeking this new way of consuming.

Tales of the unexpected

A brewery is a lot of dragging stuff from A to B. The logistical side takes up a lot of time as does the taking care of bottles, the promotion, glassware, the website etc. It is however what makes the beer a brand. Because the profit margins on beer are small they have to continuously keep an eye on the costs. But then again, that is also a creative challenge. Remko gave me more great answers on the economics of brewing, but I will save that for a later article about that side of the business.

A local success

People in Weesp are enjoying Wispe a lot: the locals drink it, the bars and restaurants serve it and the local media  are giving them a fair share of attention. Wispe have just released a new beer (more about that later) and that again led to more orders and attention on social media and other media outlets. The Weesp county stimulates initiatives like this and even orders some of the beer from time to time. The mayor of Weesp mister Horseling received the first bottles of Wispe back in 2009.

Wispe is being served in an iconic Dutch building: the Muiderslot in Muiden, next to Weesp and is the only specialty beer on the menu. Tourists come here from all over the country so it is a great way to introduce people to the beer. They are still waiting for greater  successes but stories in the national media, both newspapers and radio are of course always fun. They are most satisfied with the local attention and the media that target special groups like beer lovers. Remko also mentions the Dutch Beer Pages ;).

Wispe’s production has been steadily rising. At the start they made 40 hectoliters and this year they expect to produce between 120 and 140 liters.

The new Wispe Wit

The new Wispe Wit

Wispe’s New Beer

As written earlier Wispe just released a new beer next to their blond. It will be a White called Wispe Wit. They call themselves a specialty brewery and feel that they need to have more than one style, even if it is only one for every season.  It has taken so long because they first wanted to see how the first beer would do. After it became clear that Wispe (Blond) was a success and different enough from other regional beers they started to develop a new beer but with the taste  they wanted. The new beer took four years to develop and release, but a third one won’t take that long. It might even be released at the end of this year. They are cautious businessmen, but I think that they are taking the right steps.

 

Jitze Vellenga holding the new Wispe Wit

Jitze Vellenga holding the new Wispe Wit

Where are they now?

The brothers now have a better idea of what Wispe is and where they want to go. I can only applaud their efforts. Wispe shows that making beer entails more than just brewing and their meticulous way of looking at the business of brewing might make Wispe a brewery that will stay for a very long time.

Martijn Buisman

From Vat. 13 to De Prael

Vat 13’s ends but De Prael gains.

It has been more than three years since I first started posting articles here on the Dutch Beer Pages. The reactions so far have been great, both from the makers of the beer and those who then drink it. Looking at the stats I see that the readers are from all over the world. I have learned a lot about the Dutch brewing world and in the short three years that I have been working on this blog have seen Dutch beer grow in popularity.

This is helped significantly by the enthusiasm of the brewers (and awesome beer of course). Almost every time when I send them my questions I get answers back that show the passion for their craft. I revisited some of the earliest articles to see what has changed in the lives of two of the breweries since the first posts on this blog. Next week you can read how Wispe is doing. But now we turn our attention to one of those people whose passion for brewing made me believe I was on the right track in writing about Dutch beer (In English). Carl Stapelbroek started his own brewery called Vat 13. Spoiler Alert! Vat 13 itself is no longer in existence, but he has found himself a new position at de Prael so he is not lost to the wonderful world of barley and hops.

A Collecter's Item

A Collecter’s Item

The end of Vat 13

The first article came about after I had tasted his wonderful Schwarz called Moriaentje. Th release of this beer and the Dolle Tinus led to some attention. Carl could be spotted on festivals around the country and his face even ended up on the cover of Pint’s magazine. But in March of 2012 Carl ended Vat 13. His normal job working at De Leckere and a difficult year privately were too much of a strain and he felt he could not give it the attention that it needed.

Looking back

Looking back at the Vat 13 period Carl notices that there never were big financial difficulties. As so often said good beer sells itself and with clear goals it is your own hands how it will go. When I asked him if there was one thing he might have done differently it was letting the selling and distribution to someone else. What Carl misses the most is the actual design of new beers itself, and that includes everything: the recipe, the name, the label. What he misses least is all the red tape; all the paperwork that also goes into having your own beers for sale.

A new start at De Prael

Once in a while I see a picture on Facebook that Carl made standing on the front steps of his new surroundings. He now works at De Prael, right on an Amsterdam canal in the middle of the city. Certainly one of the better places to work if you are a brewer.

Carl about his new job:

“So far working here is going very well. It is a great installation and there is room for experiments. Apart from that De Prael is a very warm and friendly place to work that has no equal I think in the Netherlands. And it also never boring since there is always something happening here.”

Brewing at De Prael also means being closer to the actual work, closer at least then being a contract brewer when there is less time to brew.

A restart of Vat 13.

The Moriaentje has made a comeback of sorts in the form of the ‘Afschot’ from the Epe Bier Collectief. Henk Wesselink of EBC asked Carl if he could develop and brew a beer for them and he did, using as his basis the Moriaentje. I haven’t tried it so far but will be on the  lookout for one.

In the current Dutch craft beer boom that we are in it is inevitable that breweries will come and go. Let us first of all be happy that there are still a lot more starting that folding! Vat 13 may be no more but we still have De Prael.

Oersoep: In the beginning there was beer

In the Beginning there was beer…oersoep

My first encounter with the beers from Oersoep was in De Bierkoning in Amsterdam where a big dark bottle with yellow print stood out between the many others. A dark bottle, a cork and a tiny booklet about the beer bound around the neck. A bottle that, like for example Duits & Lauret, shows class. I drank the chocolate stout that I bought that day around Christmas time and was not dissappointed. Oersoep is a brewery with some unique viewpoints and concepts interesting enough to write about. We asked Sander from Oersoep some questions and the pages of answers that were returned shows that Oersoep is very serious about their craft.

The Bottle

First off, the bottle. Why did you chose to do this?

“We wanted to show the care that we put into our beers. A 75 centiliter bottle is not that important for the flavor of the beer, but it does add something to the experience of drinking and this subconsciously influences the flavor. In our view beer is a product that brings people together, and therefore drink together. We also think it is important to be able to serve a beer as a good companion for a meal.”

Oersoep puts its beer mainly in bottles, only for special occasions can you get in on tap:

“Because we brew small quantities we think it is a waste to put most of it in a keg.”

Price

The price of a bottle from Oersoep is higher than the usual bottle found at a beer store. Why?

“The reason our beers are somewhat more expensive that the average specialty beer is a question of work and time. We are a very small brewery that makes unique, often one-off, products. Our way of brewing is very labor-intensive. We brew six different beers in batches of 100 liters, four days a week. We fill the bottles on the fifth day. We make what we like to call ‘Slowbeer’; we have a love of wild yeast and aging the beers with wood so some beer take more than 6 months before they are finished.”

Sander assures me that my initial fear of the beers being too expensive is not true at all. People will buy a good and unique beer with a story.

The people behind Oersoep

The backbone of Oersoep consists of Kick van Hout and Sander Kobes. Kick used to own a specialty beer café. Sander got experience from brewing in the kitchen at home. The rest is a story found in the history of so many other breweries. Together they decided to making brewing as a hobby more than just that and moved to a building where besides brewing that could also sell. Demand grew and the brewery along with it. Besides Kick and Sander volunteers also help along. As we already saw they do not shy away from the experiment. The beers are every changing, taking into account the changing of the seasons, the yeast, the wooden barrels. Within those broad limits they look for new flavors. As any good new brewer should Sander knows there is still a lot to learn.

The name Oersoep

Oersoep, if you speak Dutch that name might not immediately conjure up images of beer. The literal translation of Oersoep is ‘Primordial Soup’, that little puddle of organic matter and water from which life on earth sprouted. In Sander’s views what a brewer does is similar: making a soup of malts, water and yeast from which beer comes. The word ‘Oer’ can also be read as meaning the older brewing methods like wild fermentation and the blending of old and new beer and the souring of beer in wooden casks.

A local brewery

Oersoep is located in Nijmegen, a city on the Waal river, close to the German border. The region around Nijmegen is rich fertile land and the brewers used some local ingredients for their beers. Some of their Saisons were brewed using local wheat milled by a still working local windmill. Close to Nijmegen is the Betuwe, a region around the big rivers known for the many fruit orchards. Starting July 2013 they expect to offer the beer drinkers of Holland local fruit beers like cherry stout. But they have something else in store: “we are also going to ferment some of spontaneous wood aged beers with local fruit”.

God is Great

Oersoep divides its beers into four separate categories: Saison, Donker & Diep (Dark and Deep), Bruisend en Blond (Alive/bubbly and blond) and God is Goed (God is Great). The last name was chosen for the beers that are made with wild yeasts. This name has a historic source: “’God is Great’ was the name given to yeast far into the 19th century. Until the scientific discovery of yeast by Louis Pasteur in 1875 brewers did not know a lot about the workings of yeast. They used yeast from earlier brews or took yeast from nearby breweries. This was not single strand but a combination of several types of yeast, including those that lived in the old wooden barrels. The unusual way yeast operates was of course attributed to the Almighty, therefore the name “God is Great”. The Oersoep beers in that line are also made with many types of yeast, bacteria and a little bit of God.

2013           

Oersoep is a very new brewery, what will this year bring: “The new year starts on January 19th with a tasting in the Bierkoning and a day later we will fly to Italy for a small festival where we will brew an IPA with wild yeast together with Birrificio Endorama. Besides that we want to experiment more with the Brettanomyces yeast, not much is being done with this yet in the Netherlands and we want to experiment more with it. Starting February we will release our barrel ages beers.”

“we are currently working on improving and enlarging the brewery with a 1000 liter installation. We want to finance this in part with crowd-funding, more about this soon on our webpage and Facebook page.”

Because of the intensive way they brew there is not a lot of time for festivals, apart from the beer festival in Nijmegen in May and the opening weekend of the Dutch beer week in The Hague.

But dear reader, the Oersoep bottles are worth making a trip to Nijmegen or a specialty beer shop.

Oersoep Website

Oersoep on Facebook