Posts Tagged ‘duits en lauret’

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.

Brussels Beer Challenge 2015

Last weekend the annual Brussels Beer Challenge was held, a prestigious competition with breweries, and judges, from all over the world. Medals were awarded in several categories, making it an interesting competition because most brewers these days don’t start brewing with the intention of making for example a triple. They make what they want to make, even if it makes the beer harder to categorize. Thinking in terms of beerstyles isn’t really something that fits to way we think of beer anymore in these post-modern beer days, but the organization came up with such a wide of array of categories that most beers could find a place. And if you’re doing a competition like this, it is the way to go.

International

It is interesting to see what other countries are starting to win medals. Most medals went, as was to be expected, to the US, Germany and Belgium. The group behind this is getting larger with Italy, France, the Netherlands and Spain winning quite a few. Brazil was a pleasant surprise. It is no secret anymore that their craft beer scene is growing fast, and now they have the medals to show for it. It also means it is getting harder to win. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and even the U.K. won a small number, although that could be due to hardly any brewers sending beer in. Smaller brewing nations like China, Greece, Malta, Colombia, Poland and Argentina won medals too, a sign of the broader rise of craft beer around the world.

Dutch winners

And how did the Dutch breweries fair? Well, every year the number of medals rises, and 2015 wasn’t any different. Some breweries won medals again after winning last year and the years before. But because the panels change every year this can be seen as a different medal. Winning it multiple years just means you made a really good beer.

The medals we are most excited about were won by Bax Bier, a brewery we have followed ever since their first two beers were released, the beers that also won. Silver for the Kon Minder and a gold medal for the instant classic Koud Vuur. We wrote about them a year ago and expect more on Bax next year when we will describe the burgeoning beer scene in Groningen, with a leading role for Bax Bier with a new brewery and brewpub. The fact that this is an up-and-coming city can now be shown with medals!

Not in Groningen but a similar brewery in age and ideas is Eindhovens Van Moll, winning bronze for their red ale Pastorale.

Another brewery we interviewed earlier this year was Houtens / Utrechts own Hommeles who won silver in the German-Style Dunkel Bock/Doppelbock category with their Bokkepruik. Utrecht brought in more medals as usual with Maximus’ Brutus winning bronze in the Speciality Beer : Hybrid category. You can read about what a cool brewery Maximus is here. And what is becoming a usual thing at challenges like this is a medal for Duits & Lauret, a silver for their stout this time after winning metal for their bock last year. They have been an early favorite here at home, and the plans for next year are amazing, and you will read about that soon.

Alfa has suffered somewhat from being seen in the eyes of some as a brewery that only makes cheap supermarket lager. But the quality is better than expected and they won a bronze medal with their Super Dortmunder in the German-Style Helles-/MaiBock/Doppelbock category. Bigger Limburg brewery Gulpener has been working hard on becoming the most environmental friendly of the big guys. Fortunately for us the beers are as good as their views with a bronze for the Ur-Hop and gold for the Wintervrund. And while we’re on the subject of the big guys, even Heineken won a medal (silver) for their light beer in the light lager category.

Another favorite of ours is of course ‘t Uiltje. You can read the interview with Robbert when he just started here, with news about the brewpub here and here. The Bosuil won bronze in the Dark Ale : Dark/Black IPA. Noord-Holland was represented further with SNAB winning gold for their Ezelenbok and ‘t IJ’s IJwit. Jopen had the biggest total haul, winning no fewer than 3 medals. Other large Noord-Holland brewery Texels took home 2 for their dubbel and bock.

One brewer that surprisingly won a gold medal was the Heidebrouwerij with their Edelhert Donker. For a small brewery like this a medal can mean a lot and let’s hope it will steer them into the path of even greater things.

You may think about competitions like this what you want, but it is good way to spot trends, and Dutch beer winning medals means things are well in beer land.

You can find the complete list of winners on the Brussels Beer Challenge Website.

Bock Season: Festival in Woerden.

When darkness sets in earlier and earlier and when the wind outside has a cold streak in it you know that fall is just around the corner. If you’re a beer lover in this country this also means that the first bottles of bock beer will start to appear in the shops.

Bock as a style is one that was present long before the current craft beer revolution. The first festival dedicated to the style PINT even before I was born in 1978. Though traditionally German, this style has become the most present Dutch style outside pilsners. It is something we should be proud of.

What the current revolution brought was more interest in bock. Many a Dutch brews a bock or something similar and the number of opportunities to showcase is growing, with the ceiling almost in sight. The number of bockbeerfestivals in October is very high, and it’s impossible to visit all of them because at some times more than 3 are held on the same day. Last Sunday there were festivals in for example Amersfoort, Zutphen and Woerden.

Woerden

After missing out on the festival for three years I finally had the opportunity to visit. The festival is organized by the SPSW, the same people who run the Bierhuys in Woerden, one of my five favorite beer cafés in the country and who recently opened a shop around the corner.

IMG_6870It is held in the iconic castle on the edge of the city that cannot be missed if you ever go to Woerden. The castle traces its beginnings back the early 15th century and was built by the Lord of Woerden, John of Bavaria. With a founder named Bavaria this could only lead to a great beer location 6 centuries later. And a great location it is with the courtyard and outside part being used for the festival, giving it a cozy and not immense feeling that sometimes makes the festival in the Beurs van Berlage a somewhat unpleasant place to be when it’s completely full.

Beer

Peter and Monique from ‘t Bierhuys support local brewers, so this festival had a regional feel with brewers from Woerden (Borrelnoot), Houten (Hommeles), Utrecht (VanDeStreek) and De Meern (Maximus). Some Belgian bocks could be tasted as well so you could compare. Dutch bocks won by the way.

But the truth is that I am not the biggest bock fan. I have no trouble finishing a bock but I will never count it among my favorite styles. There is a sameness to it that bores me after a while just like pilsners do. But I do enjoy a well made bock and having our own beer tradition can only be applauded and supported.

Danielle Duits of Duits & Lauret poured two versions of the Dubbel Bock

Danielle Duits of Duits & Lauret poured two versions of the Dubbel Bock

It is no coincidence that my favorite beers in Woerden were bocks with a twist. The VandeStreek bok for example with its low percentage was more than OK. Another one I enjoyed was the Weizenbock that De Blauwe IJsbeer (yes, that does mean the blue polar bear), a welcome change to all the bocks. Duits & Lauret was present with their now classic wood aged dubbel bock. They brought two versions: this and last years. The smokiness in this beer lifts it up from a normal bock to a great one. This was a small trend as more brewers brought two; the fresh one and the aged version. Did I have a bad one that I wanted to throw away? No, the overall quality was fine yet not earthshattering.

Food

If you didn’t want to drink beer you could spend all your coins on the more than excellent food available. I’ve been to quite a few beer festivals now and one thing that often bugs me is the lack of good, filling and diverse food.

The castle is no longer the seat of the Lord of Woerden but now houses a restaurant, and they provided most of the good food. Warm snacks like cheese croquettes and warm ham sandwiches didn’t cost too much. There was also cheese, coated peanuts, sausage (made with the Bierhuys’ own Bockbeer brewed by de Eem), ice cream (with the same beer) and very tasty pork pastries.

Will I come again to this festival? Yes, but it won’t be for the beer alone. The location, pleasant atmosphere and good food selection have made this festival a local tradition in Woerden.

Dutch Beer Week 2015 Festival in The Hague

The Week of Dutch Beer is a ten day national event where breweries open their doors, bars have special tasting sessions and festivals are held all over the country. A great way for the public to see how far Dutch brewing has come in the last twelve months, and if they are even a little perceptive they will see a lot has changed. It also brings reluctant beer drinkers into contact with craft beer, and this can only be a good thing.

DSC01195Festival

The beer week opened with a three day festival in the Grote Kerk in The Hague. Before the opening for the general public brewers and people working in the industry came together. Most of them stayed and this led to an interesting mix of people on the festival floor. Like last year the ticket could be bought online, so no disappointments standing in front of a full church after traveling all the way from Weert or Ter Apel. And spreading it out over three days meant opportunity enough, even though the €12,50 price tag (two coins) was a little steep. Churches are perfect for events like this like the festivals in Groningen and Alkmaar have taught us. There is usually room enough and the acoustics often fine as well. The tables in the church was set up in such a way that it never felt too crowded, though I can’t say what it was like on Saturday when it was sold out.

The floor 15 minutes after opening.

The floor 15 minutes after opening.

The big guys and the little guys

What sets this festival apart from the others is that is half festival, half trade fair for the national beer industry. It is for both selling beer to beerlovers, but also making contact with people in the industry: the designers, distributors, salesmen etc. This meant that people from Heineken and Grolsch were walking around in their 3D-suits between the craft beer fans with Rooie Dop T-shirts and Uiltje caps. Brand and Grolsch were selling their multinational mass produced beer next to the guys making beer in their own kitchen or garage. And if you like it or not, this is what the Dutch beer landscape looks like these days. Big guys at the top, a very small mid section (Jopen and a few others) and an increasingly large group at the bottom. Of course it’s the bottom group that I, and likely most readers of the blog, are interested in, but the big guys have their role and fans too. Craft beer maybe booming all over the world, over 85% of all the beer sold is still made by the Budweisers and Heinekens of this world. Tasty? Not for me, but their economic impact is too big to be ignored by craft beer fans. And their attempts to appeal to the craft beer crowd by releasing IPA’s, Pale Ales and Amber like beers should only strengthen craft beer’s claim that they make good stuff and that big brewing is getting afraid of the future.

Duits & Lauret

Duits & Lauret

The beer

A festival that has many debuts can unfortunately mean that the level of beer quality wasn’t superb. Of course as a seasoned visitor of these festivals I skip the ones I know and go for the untasted breweries or new releases by established ones. Crooked Spider and Brouwdok had decent beers, Het Kwartje from Den Haag one that was a little more than decent. They will be the before now unknown brewery I will start looking out for in the coming weeks. But hopefully some visitors were smart or lucky enough to try Bax, Kompaan, Maximus and Duits & Lauret to get a good taste of the awesome things available in the country today.

Utrecht Beerbrewersfestival 2015

With all the new breweries and contract brewers starting in Amsterdam in the last two years you would almost think that the center of Dutch Craft beer has shifted to the capital. I also spent more time writing about that scene than the one in Utrecht. But does this mean that nothing happened in Utrecht? Hell no! The beer scene in Utrecht is still growing still and as vibrant as ever. 20 brewers from the province were present at this year’s Utrecht Brewers Festival, and if they have shown anything it is that the quality of the local beer is still rising on the already strong foundations laid by the likes of Maximus, Duits & Lauret, Eem, Rooie Dop and VandeStreek. It is a festival that is also loved by the brewers. Smaller breweries (in manpower) like Rooie Dop and Duits & Lauret now pick and choose what festivals they appear on, and this one is always on their calendars.

DSC00882Too popular, too small?

This was the festival’s 5thedition, and it could well be the last time on this location as mentioned in an earlier article. The increasing interest in craft beer (I am just going to continue using this term for now, the whole discussion bores me to death, if Jopen, Uiltje, Kompaan and Craft & Draft use it who I am to advocate something else) has logically led to an increase in interest in festivals like this. It has happened a few times already this year that festivals were full, that people had to wait for over an hour to get in or that the doors were closed. Because this festival was held on a public terrain this was not possible, though volunteers were at the entrance telling people that there were no more glasses. The limit was at 1600 glasses, a number that was reached around 14:30 / 15:00. The organizers did make it very clear on social media that if you wanted a glass, you had to show up early. I would have liked giving the glass back to the organizers who could then sell it again.

It is one of the byproducts of the hype surrounding craft beer. The great locations tend to be small, and you to be on time. The festivals in Enschede, Groningen and Den Haag have been doing what is necessary in the coming years: the pre-sale of tickets, multi-day events or bigger venues, and hopefully not in some exhibition hall.

DSC00895New breweries

It was most crowded in front of the stands of the newer breweries like Kromme Haring, SpierBier and Stapzwan. The informed beer drinker know that their beers weren’t available nationwide yet and for many of them, this was the first time at a beer festival. The responses were positive, with Richard of SpierBier telling me that the best thing to happen were the people who tried one beer, and then came back to try the other one on hand.

DSC00868Quality

It also is a good sign that the jury voted for Kromme Haring’s Smokey the Barracuda as most appreciated beer in Utrecht, with my personal favorite Stapzwan getting the bronze. Kromme Haring (yes, that means crooked herring) was the most exciting because they also brought a fantastic raspberry lacto brett brew, sans hops. I started out with Stapzwan’s Porter and all the beers after that were good, but never reached the great porter flavors that touched my tongue shortly after noon.

Unlike their brethren in Amsterdam, the Utrecht brewers tend to be more brewers than entrepreneurs, more craft if you will. This means that they take more care in their beer, and in the slew of IPA’s that were released last year it is a breath of fresh air. If you ever thought Utrecht has lost its crown, it regained the title as most exciting province for Dutch craft beer.

Houtens Brouw Collectief Part 2: The Utrecht Beerbrewers Festival

Molen "De Ster" around which the Utrechts Beerfestival is held.

Molen “De Ster” around which the Utrechts Beerfestival is held.

In Part 1 a couple of weeks ago I wrote about Hommeles, the brewing branch of the Houtens Brouw Collectief. Part 2 today is about another successful venture: organizing the Utrechts Beerbrewers Festival, which this year will be held for the 5th time.

I myself have remarked about this wonderful festival, one of the nicest beer festivals on the calendar. I asked Kees Volkers why he thinks the festival is as successful as it is and he gave several reasons:

  • Location, location, location. Though located in the middle of an Utrecht neighborhood, the area itself is a windmill and surrounding public land. A little green haven inside the concrete and stone structures in that part of Utrecht.
    It is a ten minute walk from the train station and Utrecht is the hub of the national railway grid. This makes it is easier to get to, with often only a few or no changes, from any part of the country. Rotterdam and even Amsterdam are harder to get into this easy.
  • Setup and atmosphere. You don’t really need more than stands for the brewers, live music and good food. The area feels enclosed and the people owning the terrain are very involved with the festival. The wooden structures, windmill and farm animals make you feel like you’re something where there is a lot of space.
  • Utrecht has a vibrant beer culture and has a large number of brewers. To remain a specialty beer festival, and keep away a certain type of beerdrinker, no pilsners are served.
  • All three are well known faces in the local and national craft beer scene so getting the word out was easy, though I doubt that is even necessary, the festival itself is a gem.

But I have noticed that the more popular the festival gets, the more crowded it gets as well. Isn’t there a fear that the festival will become too big?

Kees:

“this is something we will discuss in the coming year. This year we will keep things as they were, with some new measures. The number of visitors isn’t immediately a problem, we will just had out a maximum number of glasses. We don’t necessarily feel the need to grow. A small scale festival at a great location is perfect, but we realize that the reputation of the festival and of brewers from Utrecht is rapidly growing and the attendance shows this. One problem is that the area surrounding the mill is public terrain which can’t be closed off.

The biggest problem right now is the growth of commercial brewers from Utrecht. At the first festival there were seven, this year the number will be 20 or 21. There will come a time when we won’t be able to house all of them. If the attendance stays the same this also means that the brewers will sell a lot less. So something needs to change, and we would like to get the brewers involved too to look for a solution. “

For Utrecht the number of brewers is of course great, people are still realizing that brewing is fun, hip and that you can even sell what you make. With the number now at 21 the end isn’t in sight yet.

Could this festival be the first one to crumble under the weight of the craft beer revolution? Could well be, but I trust that the HBC men will find a solution. This festival is one of the few you really should have been to at least once. In fact, my wife and I postponed the honeymoon for one day so we could visit two years ago, and left for the Alps straight after. That’s how great this festival is.

Duits & Lauret are becoming a fortress brewery

Craft beer has been going against the trend of economic demise. Shops all over the country are closing, either because of the economy or the growing online market. Older, monumental, buildings have trouble finding new investors and purposes. Brewers have made use of this demise and are bucking the trend. New breweries are starting and in the process give new purposes to sometimes historic buildings. This isn’t a completely new trend, in the last century Brouwerij ‘t IJ moved into an old bathhouse and Oudaen in Utrecht occupies a medieval house. This century Jopen opened a restaurant/bar in a church and De Molen started in that most Dutch of structures: a windmill (for those who might have missed it, De Molen is Dutch for The Windmill). Even old factory buildings now house breweries like Maallust and Oersoep. These are just some examples of the many ways craft beer is changing the cities and towns and countryside we live in.

But a brewery in an historic fortress? That’s a new one and it will happen this year when Duits & Lauret move into Fort Everdingen, a fortress located on a river to the south of Utrecht on the border of provinces Utrecht and Gelderland. This will mean that after brewing in Belgium for years they will now do everything themselves and in the Netherlands.

dleverdingen10986494_618873438243070_8680001355375537309_nFort Everdingen

The fortress (finished in 1847) is located in the area where three major rivers flow in close proximity. Water has played an important part in the original function of the fortress as part of the Hollandic Waterline, a linked number of forts meant to defend Holland (the western part of the country with major cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht) from the enemy. But the enemy never came and the sluices to inundate surrounding farmland were never used.

Many of the buildings remained and the fortress has had other functions. The last was as a depot for the army’s bomb disposal unit before it was turned over to the Ministry of Economics who started looking for a new destination. 18 investors and/or businesses turned in a proposal outlining their ideas of what the fortress could be used for. Of these 18 Duits & Lauret had the plans that a committee liked the most and this means that in 2015 a brewery will be located in the 150-year old fortress. Their plan combined a great idea of accessibility with economic viability, the committee sees the brewery as something that will be in that location for the next decades.

Plans

The entire area is large, about 12 hectares (30 acres) and has 32 structures. The plan is that eventually all these buildings will get a purpose. The scale of the project is such that it is almost impossible to do it all at once. Marco Lauret tells me that all the buildings will be gradually incorporated into the entire plan, but that this can take a decade.

So what will the fort get? Apart from (naturally) a brewery and tasting room the fort will also hold a shop where apart from their own products (they also make cheese and mustard) they will sell local products. The tasting room will also offer some small dishes, which will be made in cooperation with De Veldkeuken. Because of the dark and sheltered characteristics it is also perfect to age the Duits & Lauret beer cheese.

One of the bats in the fortress (photo from Duits & Lauret)

One of the bats in the fortress (photo from Duits & Lauret)

Nature

The fortress will encompass more than just beer and food. Because of its location nature already plays a big role. The tower that stands on the ground houses a colony of bats and the bats won’t have to be relocated as they will remain right where they are. At the start of the year they counted them all. This won’t be the only dwelling for animals, new housing for bats and/or hedgehogs might be built as well and who knows what other animals will find a home here. So even for the non-beer drinking nature fan the fort will have a lot to offer.

History

The Hollandic Waterline is important and visible part of Dutch history, not to be ignored especially when the fortress becomes as accessible as this one. An Information Center will definitely be part of the setup. Because of its location it will naturally attract motorist and bikers, especially now that it is open. If you have never been in the area of the country where the rivers are located, it is a beautiful part of the country to visit and drive through.

Job creation

When it is all finished the brewery is planned to offer jobs to ten people, and more places for people further from the job market, a concept we have seen often at breweries. They hope that the fortress will be a place of work for a lot of people, and a place where people can be taken care of as well, to make them feel they have a purpose.

Time schedule

The first thing they hope to open this summer is the tasting room, followed by the first parking spots for camper vans and the brewery itself. This will be start of the beer-and-breakfast concept. The other buildings will get a purpose in the next decade, yes, you read that correctly, it will probably take about 10 years before it will get a finish.

We will of course visit Fort Everdingen as soon as we can, and will keep you updated about this unique new beer location in the middle of the country. We for one can’t wait.

Utrecht to Portland: Dutch Craft Beer’s Breakthrough?

Portland

Portland

In earlier blogposts I described Utrecht as the Dutch Oregon. Not for the nature but for the disproportionate number of breweries with a level the rest of the country can only dream of. With Utrecht I mean the province and surrounding areas, the region between Bodegraven, Utrecht and Amsterdam called ‘t Groene Hart, the Green Heart of the Western part of the country. Just like Oregon is only the center of a larger area of great brewing stretching from San Francisco to the Canadian border.

A few years ago their capitals Utrecht and Portland combined forces as sister cities. The start of this cooperation happened when Portland’s traffic specialist visited Utrecht, a city of similar size and similar traffic problems. From this small start the cooperation grew  and since 2012 the cooperation is official. Beer was the last thing on both cities minds at the start but it was a inadvertent byproduct of the two cities coming closer together. Now it is a match made in heaven for the beer aficionado.

Rogue in Portland

Rogue in Portland

Why I want to live in Portland.

The majority of you might never have been to Portland. Shame on you! When visiting friends in the U.S. in 2008 one native Oregonian wrote down some names of bars and breweries in Portland I should visit. In the 3 days I was there I had lunch and dinner in a different place every day. For lovers of craft beer Portland simply is amazing, it is the new capital of the beerworld and the American Pacific North West  the new Belgium. It leads not only in beer but also natural, organic food as well as a new music hub with a lot of great bands coming either from Portland are relocating there. One other non-beer related reason is that Matt Groening, the creator of the Simpsons, is from Portland and named some of the Simpson characters after streets in Portland (Flanders, Lovejoy, Quimby). Also, Powell’s is the best bookstore I have ever been to.

The Oregon Brewers Festival

The beer link between both cities has now led to the Oregon Brewers festival inviting a number of Dutch brewers to come to Portland to be the international delegation of this immense festival. Because this could turn into the biggest showcase of Dutch beer abroad, I had to ask the organizers of the festival some questions. Thanks to Chris Crabb for great answers!

Vote Quimby

Vote Quimby

The first edition of his festival was held in 1988 and has grown every year since. Right now the number of attendees is about 85,000, about half of those from outside Oregon. A staggering number indeed, all the festivals in the Netherlands combined do not even get close to these numbers. This year it will be a mix of local beers, beers from neighboring states and now also 11 from the Netherlands. The Dutch beers will be poured in a special tent until the allotment per brewery is exhausted. The festival has been instrumental in showing the world the Mecca Portland has become. Chris sees the addition of the Dutch brewers as a natural progression, a celebration of great craft beer.

Portland and Utrecht, a natural beer match

It was through the city relationship that the director of the Oregon Brewers Festival, Art Larrance, became aware of Utrecht. Members of the Travel Portland organization mentioned to him that Utrecht also had a growing craft beer movement and he was introduced to Mark Strooker of Rooie Dop and the De Molen Borefts festival in 2013.

Art’s trip to Utrecht was the culmination of a trip starting in Brussels to taste sour beers, to the beaches of Normandy and ending at Borefts. The festival was an eye-opener for him. Apparently the Pacific Northwest had influenced brewing in the Netherlands without him knowing about it. A lot of Dutch IPA’s are hopped with Cascade from Oregon. Even though he is more a sour beer lover he quite enjoyed the IPA’s because of their similarity. I say he is a beer lover, Art is actually the owner of Cascade brewing. Cascade pioneered the Northwest style sour beer movement in the U.S. so the man knows what he is talking about.

At Borefts he met people who had been to the been to the Cascade Brewing Barrel House – also known as The House of Sour and he met brewers aware of Cascade and its styles. Art then saw the many similarities between the Dutch craft beer movement now and the Oregon movement 20 years ago and decided to bring some of the Dutch brewers over to Oregon and the festival to share collective enthusiasm, knowledge and friendship to show the world why craft brewers are successful.

Mark Strooker was also involved with the Utrecht – Portland cooperation. He already had ideas for exchanges with brewers and breweries. At first it was just Rooie Dop that would go to Portland but this grew to 11.

Tasting Paddle at Bridgeport

Tasting Paddle at Bridgeport

The breweries crossing the pond

So which breweries are attending the festival? Well, make your own list of the 11 best breweries from the Netherlands and you will likely come up with many of the ones mentioned here. Because of Mark Strooker’s involvement Rooie Dop will of course be attending and so will De Molen, Oersoep, Maximus, Duits & Lauret, Brouwerij ‘t IJ, Ramses, Het Uiltje, Oedipus and Rodenburg. Emelisse will only send beer. The brewers can bring 5 different beers, one for every day.

Their visit won’t be limited to just serving beer. Each brewery will be coupled with a brewery from Portland. This to better get to know each other, and hopefully it will lead to some collaboration brews.

Logistics

Utrecht and Portland aren’t exactly close. Shipping bottles isn’t the problem but how do you get fresh beer that is not local to the festival? Kegs can be shipped but these need to be returned to the brewery at some stage, this is a costly adventure. At Borefts the organizers discovered the one-way disposable Key Kegs to ship the fresh beer to Oregon. Part 1 of the problem solved!

Part 2: How do you get the beer to Portland? Ooh, beer lovers in the Netherlands, you will love the answer that Chris gave us:

Shelton Brothers Distributing is able to work with a local Portland distributor, Point Blank Distributing, who is their affiliate in Portland, to get the beer from the Netherlands to Portland. This will also offer the opportunity to get more Oregon beers to the Netherlands through the distribution system established.”

A Breakthrough?

The Dutch presence at the festival might well be the breakthrough Dutch brewing is waiting for.

Mark Strooker:

“I think it will lead to a breakthrough in how Americans view Dutch beer. Hopefully it will be a start for more Dutch beer in the U.S. and that beer importers will get interested. It is definitely a boost for Rooie Dop, the beer is already for sale in the U.S. starting this week.”

And an exhange?

If the goal of the twinning of the two cities is more cooperation and exchanges on several levels it stands to reason to expect a similar festival in Holland. Mark: “In Portland we will look at the festival is being organized and hopefully we can start something similar in Holland. I will probably organize something and hopefully in the future brewers from Oregon can come to the festival here. The biggest problem is of course the finances.

The Oregon Brewers Festival will be held on July 23 – 27 in Portland’s Waterfront Park.

Thanks to Chris Crabb and Mark Strooker

The beers we couldn’t try, but at least we shared the stout

My personal obsession with craft beer started about 6 years ago when I was deep into my 20’s. I didn’t live in my hometown anymore so I didn’t see my family very often. But I knew my father liked beer. He was a drinker like most are; a bottle of Grolsch during the week, maybe a Duvel or Westmalle in the weekends and occasionally something else. Open to new flavors, but not the very experimental kind. As with most children when you start liking something some of the first people you want to share your new found obsession with is your family. Distance prohibited us from doing that full-fledged but I have some great beer memories.

When my father turned 50 I gave him a case of different beers and the book “Beer for Dummies”. This was in 2006 so my knowledge of beer wasn’t as it is now. I tried to fill the case with different styles: a stout, a barleywine, some trappist ales etc. If I had known more beers I might have added that too, but remember  that in 2006 the number of Dutch beers for example was still so much lower than it is now.

Two years ago I took him to the beerfestival in Groningen in the Martinikerk. We shared some beers and we talked. We had some local beers  and a De Molen. I once gave him a Hel & Verdoemenis and he later told me he enjoyed it very much so this was a natural choice. I was very happy that he liked my favorite beer too.

And then last year in February we got the news that he was sick. A tumor was found in his brain and removed, but was never the same. He still drank some alcohol though throughout the times he had both chemo- and radiation therapy. This all ended when he had to take more medication. He did try and find a substitute and he tried different low- or non-alcohol beers. Wieckse Witte turned out to be his favorite. A few times I brought some too. He tried some and found the Erdinger to be the best.

Occasionally he broke the doctor’s orders and tried some beer or wine. The most special beer I shared with him was the Duits & Lauret Stout that my wife and I poured on our wedding day instead of champagne. He didn’t have much because he wasn’t allowed to drink alcohol anymore because of the medication he was taking. He did tell me he enjoyed it a lot and I wish he could have had more.

Earlier this year he and his wife took a little holiday to Limburg. We couldn’t come  but I suggested that they visit a place that was dear to both me and my wife. When we were traveling there we took a very long walk through the hills of Southern Limburg to end up at ‘t Hijgend Hert, the most beautifully located specialty beer café in the country overlooking a part of the hilly countryside. And yes, all of sudden around dinner time I received pictures of him enjoying trout on the terrace. Even though he didn’t have any beer the simple fact that was there was special to us. It was a place I would have loved to take him myself, but this was close.

There are so many other beers I would have loved to try with him and festivals and bars to visit. Would he enjoy the Emelisse White Labels I enjoyed so much, did he ever try a good IPA? Was a Rooie Dop Double Oatmeal Stout more to this liking? Maybe he would have wanted to come to Borefts one year or at least visit In De Wildeman while was visiting us in Amsterdam.

But it wasn’t to be. On October 24 this year the cancer won and he died at the age of only 57. Some non-alcoholic beers still left in the fridge. I will think of the things we didn’t do, but I will also remember him liking the Duits & Lauret Stout on my wedding. It’s a good beer memory don’t you think?

Post script.

At my father’s funeral I spoke for a little while with a former neighbor. He was also at my father’s 50th birthday and on that night we spoke for quite some time about beer. He told me that he would ask my father to come over and have some special beers. His birthday was in October and he drank bockbeers a lot on and around this day. One he remembers is the Kruisheren Constantinus, a beer from our home province of Groningen. They also drank more beers from Kruisheren, mostly because they were local. He wanted to let me father try some beers from the province, though he quickly found out he knew them already. That however did not stop him from trying. This and other beers from Grunn interested them, like most people love trying local things.

Thanks HJ for sharing this with me, it is something I was unaware of but makes me proud to read!

Botermarkt Bierfestival 2013

Right before this Dutch craft beer revolution started going to beer festivals was something to look forward to because there just weren’t that many. Now you can pick and choose. The weekend of the 3rd and 4th of August you could go to Ermelo on Saturday for the festival at Burg Bieren or go to Haarlem on Sunday, which is what we did.

It was a beautiful warm day in Haarlem for the Botermarkt Bierfestival 2013, part of the Haarlem Culinair foodfest. The engine behind this festival is local brewery Jopen, located not far from the marketplace. Invited were Duits & Lauret, Maximus, Butcher’s Tears, Klein Duimpje, De Molen, Jopen, Ramses, SNAB and Scheldebrouwerij.

Het Uiltje

Het Uiltje

It is an open air festival that has a lot of advantages. First of all you don’t have to pay to get in. You but the beer directly from the stand. The usual plastic coins might have been easier, but maybe this led some people to get a beer they otherwise would not have gotten. People who were already doing the Haarlem Culinair thing might also be tempted to try a special beer instead of wine and judging from the public this is what happened, it was different than a crowd at let’s say Borefts. Another advantage is that it is not closed off so you can come and go if you like to get something to eat, go to the shops that were open or get some ice cream. And thankfully we live somewhere where the police is not patrolling, stopping people who wandered a millimeter outside of the designated drinking zone. With weather like this these festivals are great, though a little more shade would have been welcome with only one covered standing table in the middle.

That was the festival, now the beer.

All of the names are familiar ones by now with the exception of Het Uiltje, a new brewery also from Haarlem. Their American influenced beers did very well. I myself started off with their Steenuil, a Double IPA that was immediately the best I had on the festival.

But none of the beers I had were bad. Not very tasty was the Spanish Inquistion from Jopen, a scotch bonnet (Madame Jeanette pepper) infused stout. This was one of those beers that was just fun to try. Starting out with the flavor of green peppers and ending with quite a kick almost in the throat. No actual good flavor but we love experiments! An experiment from Jopen that did work was a Kuyt IPA called Frans Hals.

Ramses getting ready to serve

Ramses getting ready to serve

A closeup of the Hops and Wood chips in the Stout Door Hout

A closeup of the Hops and Wood chips in the Stout Door Hout

Another brewer who never shies away from experimentation is Ramses. He brought a lot of good beer, including two very special experiments. One was a beer that first went from lime zest to give it a very refreshing taste. The other one a stout that went through hops and cognac and whiskey barrel chips. We are getting into the phase now where the beers on the whole are already good so now the headway can be made in unique things like this.

Around 15:00 things seemed to be in full swing with lines in front of the stands. We missed the 15:30 opening of some special barrels unfortunately due to bus schedules.

With perfect weather and good quality beer this festival will be on our calendar again next year. Hopefully with a little more shade!

Beers tried (grade from 1-5): Jopen Frans Hals (3 ½), Jopen Spanish Inquisition (2 ½), Kluim Duimpje Hillegoms Tarwe (2 ½), Ramses Stout Door Hout (4), Het Uiltje Velduil (4), Het Uiltje Steenuil (4 ½), Butcher’s Tears Misery King (3 ½)