Posts Tagged ‘dutch beer’

Oproer, a brewery insurgent

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

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

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

Beginnings

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

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

Oproer

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

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

 

Beer and Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new jewel

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

The website is here.

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

Introduction

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

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

20151109_123318A short and explosive history

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

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

Brewery

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

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

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

Water

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

20151109_124811Storing

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

Not Just Beer

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

Campground in nature

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

The Rest

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

The Law and other obstructions

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

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

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

Unique               

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

20151109_123616

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

The Three Types of Brewer (or is it four?)

A few months ago I was talking to a brewer about our favorite beers. We had a very interesting conversation about our favorite types of beer. Though we both loved the same product (beer), we differed greatly in our opinion about what good beer is. He brews blonds and tripel style beers, getting his inspiration from Belgium. My favorite beers were from Dutch brewers who were more in line with the American school of brewing; your Russian Stouts and Imperial IPA’s.

This made me think about the types of brewers that we have in the Netherlands. I sure my ideas will cover other ‘developing’ craft beer countries as well. With this I mean the countries who are in the middle of their own craft beer revolution.

The following article about the types of brewers can be considered the follow-up of an earlier article about what I called Post-Modern Brewing, the way newer brewers view beer, it’s creators and it’s drinkers.

The three types in the Netherlands

Let’s start with the three types, they are:

  • Classic
  • Contemporary
  • Modern(ist)

There is a fourth type that I will describe at the end of the post, the post-modern brewer. He could be viewed as a separate type, but because I think he is a hybrid of these three I will discuss him as a special category.

The three types are not specific for the Netherlands. Every country that has been making and drinking beer for generations will have at least 1 or 2 of these. In countries where for example West Coast hops haven’t arrived yet they might still be only making pilsners. Other countries are in a new growth, or revolution, when it comes to craft beer. Think about Italy, Scandinavia, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand and more. They will tick every box, though the definition of each type is different. Like ‘craft beer’ the three types are terms where its definition depends on circumstances and time. The terms will remain, but their definition is different for every country. Some countries never had a huge influx of Belgian ales for example, classic there could mean German Pilsners or English stouts.

Borders

Let’s start with a historical background that will become important when describing the types. The Netherlands’ post-war beer history has been uninteresting when it comes to types. Only an economist would find the time when pilsners reigned supreme and made Heineken a worldwide brand fascinating. Up to this day pilsners have a huge share of the market, with craft beer just barely making an impact so far, though this is changing. If it will ever surpass it remains to be seen, but I seriously doubt it. The position of pilsners in the beer drinking culture is important, because I believe it’s its tediousness in the eyes (mouths) of some that paved the way for other styles of beer.

The Netherlands’ taste in ‘different’ beer came mostly from across the border. One look at the map and it is hard to miss that the country is located in the middle of three major beer producing countries. Germany to the East, Belgium to the South and a short hop westwards over the sea England. The first two have had a major impact on Dutch beer, England slightly less. With the influx of more Belgian beer in the 70s and 80s a new type of beer drinker developed, the specialty beer drinker. That there is a new wave of new drinkers coming these days is then no more than a natural development.

The Classic Brewer

The classic brewers brews the kinds of beer that have been around for decades. This entails mostly Belgian tripels or blondes and maybe a weizen thrown in. An example of brewing what you know because it has been proven to be good. This type of brewer is still very much around. Many new breweries debut with a tripel or a blonde. If they simple don’t like the newer styles or wild experimentation or are unaware of other styles I don’t know. The classic brewers I do know try and stay far away from Russian Stouts are double IPA’s. For them Duvel and Tripel Karmeliet rule supreme.

Calling them classic, or maybe even conservative, is by no means meant as an putdown. They are as much a brewer as the other two types I will mention. They brew good beer, and there is a market so they can do what they like.

The Contemporary Brewer

Here is a brewer who knows there is more than just beer from the neighbors. The United States and other European countries have great newer styles as well, like the aforementioned IPA which after being a hype in the US first and now in Holland is a style that will likely stay. Why? It has in the US for over 15 years now and I see no reason why it shouldn’t here. He is not adverse to new styles, but not experimenting wildly. This could be because of a lack of interest, means or knowledge.

These are the brewers who brew what the fad is at the moment, and or only a season or two behind the actual frontrunners. In the last few years this meant that they debuted with IPA’s, like many of the Amsterdam breweries I wrote about earlier.

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

Oedipus Thai Thai.

The Modern(ist) brewer

This is the brewer at the forefront of brewing. He makes what the current fad is but thinks and looks ahead at the coming years as well. These are the true groundbreaking artists who do not make what sells, but make what they like and that in turn will sell next year. Most times their influences are American, but increasingly they develop their own ideas about what will work. Case in point is the growing number of Dutch beers with hibiscus or lemongrass. Instead of IPA’s as the most modern style in the country he will already be tasting and thinking about making a Berliner Weisse or other sour ales.

They are the alternative/jazz musicians. For the bigger public what they make doesn’t work because of its often extreme nature. For the small group of devotees it’s the highpoint of beer making. They are the band that is now playing the smaller venues in front of 500 people, but next year they might very well fill a 2000 seat arena. This means people will come who don’t know what went before, and this could upset some of the hardcover lovers of craft beer. But this is how the economy works, so deal with it.

The post-modern brewer

The fourth type of brewer I told you about. No surprise huh? This brewer is a hybrid of the three. A brewer who is at ease with making a dubbel one day, an IPA the next and a herb-infused barleywine aged in a wine barrel the day after. He shifts through periods and styles and what he makes is not just the next step, it can be an big break from what is behind him. He doesn’t believe that one style is better than the other. He appreciates a well made beer though and a simple weizen is just as great a challenge as a chocolate porter. Most of all they believe it is for everyone, free of borders of space and time and high or low culture. A radler? No problem? A difficult beer with brett, let’s try it!

Fluid

In 5 or 10 years I can describe the same 4 types of brewer but the description could be completely different. If the IPA keeps its leading position as a craft beer in Holland in the coming years it will move out of the realm of the contemporary brewer and into that of the classic brewer. The Modernist brewer of today won’t be making the same beer in 5 years, for the classic and contemporary brewer this might take a little while longer.

It is possible to be two of the three types as well, but this comes with time. When het IJ started brewing in the 1980’s they made Belgian style beers. They kept doing this for a long time until new owners and brewers started to make more American style beers. In this case it wasn’t the brewer who went through a change, but a brewery.

Again, this is not meant as a putdown of brewers who only brew Belgian tripels. They can make excellent beers as well. If it is as interesting is another question. But just like music, there is beer for everyone, so there are artist and brewers for every taste. It’s a good thing we live in a country with so many different influences.

A Pilgrimage to the Uiltje Bar

It didn’t take long after drinking the first Uiltje beers to understand that this brewery was something special. Overnight Robbert Uyleman’s beers were ranked among the best beers in the country. Since then things went fast, production increased, the line of beers increased and het Uiltje could be seen at festivals not only in the Holland, but also in the U.S.

Late last year we reported the opening of their bar, and we finally got around to visiting it on our way to the festival in Den Haag, where incidentally Robbert was picking up an award for one his many beers.

DSC01171And we were not disappointed. A huge drawn owl laughed at us from the wall when we walked in. The mostly black and white interior front part make it light and artful, the booths in the back have more of an café feel with bottles of other breweries all lined up overhead and T-shirts hanging on the walls. Het Uiltje’s owl logo is everywhere and the simple drawing is effective because very recognizable.

DSC01162The one thing I had no doubts about was the beer. 30 taps with delicious stuff from het Uiltje and likeminded breweries. In this case for example beers from The Kernel, Redwillow, Emelisse, Brewdog and Lervig. But the good bar that it is, this can change any day. This also means that this is one of the few places in the country (with the Beertemple and Craft&Draft) where even a seasoned beerhunter will find more unknown than known brews.

But it is easy to sample a lot of these by getting the paddle, 4 little glasses for €12,50 and including a glass of water. The tasting paddle is custom made and has a glass of water. If for some reason you have had everything on tap, there are still a lot of bottles and cans you can drink as well.

And if you’re hungry you can get pizza, yes, beer and pizza, that combo from heaven that also give the bar a homely feeling. Nothing wrong with fine dining, but sometimes you just want a good IPA and a pepperoni pizza.

IMG_0072Extra credit for the wonderful sausage made by local sausage maker Olijck, often made with Jopen beer. Someone should really start a blog about all the great new sausage makers…

The Uiltje bar will from now on also be on my itinerary everytime I am in Haarlem, and fortunately for me Haarlem isn’t too far away. It is definitely one of my 5 favorite brewery based bars in the country. Well done sirs, you’ve added a new pilgrimage site to the Dutch beer scene.

DSC01166 DSC01167 DSC01168

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!

30,000 and counting

30000When I posted the first articles on this blog 5 years ago I never thought that at the end of 2014 the blog would have been viewed 30,000 times. There seems to be a lot of interest in Dutch beer from all over the world and some people apparently seem to enjoy reading about it. I have enjoyed writing about festivals, new bars or shops and brewers. When it comes to those brewers I have them to thank for their often excellent replies. They say that the best people in a certain field also give the best answers. It is no coincidence then that three of my favorite articles to write were about Duits & Lauret, Rooie Dop and Het Uiltje. Brewers with so much passion it is a lot easier to write about them.

It is amazing how much has changed from view 1 to 30,000. New brewers pop up almost every week and breweries that were already doing fine are doing better. Of course some have folded over the years but that’s only natural in a branch of business like brewing.

There has been a shift from mostly German and Belgian style beers to more English and American. Westcoast hops are used often and when new breweries put their first beer on the market they often start with an I.P.A.-type beer instead of a blond or tripel. Just look at all those new Amsterdam brewers I have written about lately.

Dutch beer booming

2014 saw one of the biggest highlights and a confirmation that something interesting is happening when Dutch brewers were invited to a huge beer festival in Portland, Oregon, the new brewing capital of the world. It shows that people all over the globe are interested, and not just here in Holland where some people might buy local beer for the heck of it. As part of the whole local food fad beer is a perfect product. A product that supermarkets and restaurants are interested in too. More and more beer- and food pairings are possible and people are starting to see beer as more than just something to drink while watching football.

The quality of the beer is getting better too and is starting to get recognized. Dutch brewers are winning prizes at prestigious festivals in Japan and Belgium. Every year Dutch brewers are raking in more medals, and new brewers are winning as well.

Exciting Developments

The post that broke the 30,000 mark brought the exciting news that one of the best brewers in the country, Robbert Uyleman, is expanding with a bar and bottleshop for het Uiltje. This after Jopen expanded their brewery with a new bottle line and tasting room and a few days before Duits & Lauret made known they are moving into an old fortress to the south of Utrecht. More about that in a future post. In Amsterdam interesting things are happening. This year saw the opening of new brewpubs (Troost for example) and beer-themed bars and shops all over the city. De Vriendschap just opened a BrewLab and Bret will open soon, another great place for beer lovers. And it’s not just here. Exciting things are even happening in the North, a region that for a long time lagged behind the rest of the Netherlands. New breweries and bars have started or will start soon there..

What exemplifies craft brewing all over the world is the spirit of comradery. All the brewers help each other and are not enemies. Robbert’s bar will serve beer from many great breweries from all over the world. The number of collaboration brews is still rising as well, with better and better results.

What people look for on the blog

Interest in the blog comes mostly from the Netherlands. Since basically everyone here has a good grasp of English the articles are read by the locals. The countries where most of the other views come from all make sense. Neighbors Belgium, German and the U.K. bring in a lot of viewers yet most views come from The United States. Number 5 on the list is another up-and-coming beer nation, Italy. The blog had 1 view from countries like Laos, Brunei, Saint Lucia, Nepal, Isle of Man and more. These are numbers from February 2012 till November 24, 2014.

Top 5 best read articles

The best viewed page is the page with the great beer places to visit, because this is a page and not a blogpost I haven’t included it in the list.

  1. The Beer Café
  2. Utrecht to Portland
  3. Drinking Beer in Groningen
  4. Amsterdam’s Golden Quartet
  5. De Prael

Top 5 Clicks

What links do people click on when they’re on the page. They go here:

  1. Brouwerij De Molen
  2. Pint
  3. De Prael
  4. Harry Pinkster’s page (the map with all the breweries)
  5. Bert’s Bierhuis

Referral

How do people get to the page:

  1. Search Engines
  2. Facebook
  3. Reddit
  4. Twitter
  5. Duits & Lauret

Search Engine Terms

  1. Dutch Beer
  2. Dutch Beer Pages
  3. Borefts Beer Festival
  4. Dutch Brewery
  5. De Prael

I am very proud of the fact that on Google this blog shows up on page 1 when you enter the search terms “dutch beer” or “dutch craft beer”. It has always been my attention to spread the word about great Dutch craft beer and the 30,000 viewers and people I have met in person tell me that I apparently I am doing something right. So brace yourself for more!

Ratebeer and the man of 10,000 ratings

rblogo04201310.000. Ten Thousand. A nice round number, the first  whole 5-digit number. A number that has gotten more attention since Malcolm Gladwell applied it to the theory that you need 10.000 hours of practice to achieve a mastery in something, whether it is music, technology or knitting. On these pages we talked about someone who reached a 10.000 number when Harry Pinkster collected his 10.000th beer label, drinking all those 10.000 in the process.

Someone else who reached the 10.000 mark caught my attention when he entered his 10.000th rating on the site Ratebeer. Whenever I add a rating of a Dutch beer the chances are high that the first rating there is done by someone who calls himself ‘bierkoning’ and who on his profile is kind enough to mention straight away that he is not in any way connected to that great store in Amsterdam. Who is this king of beer? His name is Edo van Bree and he lives very close to the German border in Lattrop-Breklenkamp in Twente, another hotbed of great Dutch beer culture. I asked Edo some questions about his beer drinking history and his experiences with using Ratebeer.

The days before Ratebeer

Edo started using Ratebeer way back in 2002 but that doesn’t mean that was the first time he started rating. Between 1990 and 1995 he wrote his tasting notes in a book about Belgian and Dutch beers by Peter Crombecq. This wasn’t the only place: “Before that I had a notebook with some ratings from the 80s and 90’s but that unfortunately got lost during a move.”

The advantages of Ratebeer

Edo: “it is a great source of information about beer because it has all the essential information. Where can you get beer, what breweries and beers are there and it also gives ratings of these beers and places. Though the ratings are of course a matter of taste, the real good beers tend to shine through. It is also a way to keep track of what you have had and to show others. The real advantage is the group of people you meet who share your hobby.”

The Hunt

Edo is not a beer-hunter in that he hunts for hunts’ sake. The ‘white whales’ are great when you encounter them. From the ratings it shows that he likes his framboises and he thinks it’s a shame that he could never taste the 3 Fonteinen Framboos or other one-off Cantillon or 3 Fonteinen beers. But spend hundreds of Euros to travel to the US or Finland for a special beer, no, he won’t do that. And maybe it helps that even for people like Edo it is getting harder and harder to keep up with the beers from Holland alone.

Any disadvantages?

“I often hear from people who know about these things that the technology is outdated, but I cannot Judge that. I do think the site is often very slow and I am afraid that one day if will be hacked, because of that I have a backup file just in case something happens. Another thing I don’t particularly like are the awards given out after reaching some milestone”. Ratebeer does indeed do what a lot of sites do these days, but at least they are not going overboard like Untappd where you get one almost every 5 beers.

Inflated figures – the tasting group problem

Whenever I am festivals I see a big group of people tasting different beers, often on the basis of just a few sips. I personally avoid doing this. For starters the rating I leave behind on Ratebeer are mostly for myself and not to show off. Also, good beers can change during drinking with changing temperatures. Edo agrees but sometimes has to give in at festivals like Borefts or when he is at a tasting. And sometimes it turns out that his rating on the basis of those few sips wasn’t too bad after all.

The scoring system

The scoring system has come under some scrutiny. You rate according to 4 categories: Appearance (1-5), Aroma (1-10), Taste (1-10) and Palate (1-5). After rating the beer on these characteristics you add an overall score from 1-20. For me the Appearance and Aroma cause some trouble. A very good beer might be ugly and have no aroma, and this will lead to a lower rating though the beer .

Edo thinks the system works fine, he places the emphasis on the Overall score because this can correct some of the score. The real rating is in your head and pen. The other categories just help out a little.

A shift in beer

Because of his experience of drinking beer over the last three decades he has seen the beer landscape in the country change: “In the last decade the enjoyment of beer has totally changed, and so has the group:  a lot more younger people and women are now enjoying beer. There is a shift from Belgian beers to Dutch, Danish and American beers, which really means a shift to more sour and bitter beers.“

Why Ratebeer?

Ratebeer for me is a great tool to keep track of what I have tried and what I thought of it. It’s certainly not tight fit because my taste has changed and some of the beers have changed as well. Yet it is always something I look at when I am in a store or café to make sure I am not having something bad a second time. When a box is not ticked, hurrah for me and the new beer I will have. Another advantage is that when I go to a new country or city Ratebeer will have a list of beer places there. The database is filled by the users which I enjoy as well when you can add a new places. This can actually help the brewers because they can track the places their beer is sold. And I have to thank the ‘bierkoning’ Edo van Bree, often new beers, places and breweries are added by him, he is one of those people who is one of those little cogs in the machine that is powering the Dutch Craft Beer Revolution.

I am at 1600+ ratings now and even though I think that that is not bad for a 5 year period, it is dwarfed by what other raters have done so far with numbers easily over the 10,000 and even 20,000.

Ratebeer main site

bierkoning‘s account (as of posting this he is at 10381),

or dutchbeerpages for this blog (1633, I really have some tasting to do…)

A New Trappist

Let’s not start this article with yet another description of what trappist beer is. Chances are the average visitor of this blog will already know and if you don’t, a simple visit to Wikipedia should provide you with all the answers. What might be a little less known is that in the last few years new breweries have started that can call themselves trappists, and not only in Belgium anymore. France, Austria and even the United States now have trappist breweries.

kievit2The Netherlands was already blessed with La Trappe in Koningshoeven, nearby Tilburg. Their excellent beer is served all over the world and their abbey is a popular tourist destination. Since 2013 a new trappist brewery started up the fire underneath the copper kettles. This time in Zundert, also in the province of Brabant, and they are called De Kievit.

History

The abbey is located on a piece of land Benedictine monks bought about a century ago and where they founded the Maria Toevlucht Abbey. The first time this abbey got some renown was with breeding prizewinning cows and it was focused on dairy for that time until the 1990’s when they briefly changed to meat. This also stopped and the brothers then looked out for something else to make and started thinking about a brewery.

The release of the beer has not been a spur of the moment action but has been a labor of love you can say. The process from start to finish took four years before the bottle was sold for the first time.

kievitThe monks didn’t use one of the other trappists as an example, though there are similarities. Kievit is aiming to reach the production of Achel while Orval is the only other trappist brewery with only one beer. Because the entire brewing process is done within the walls of the abbey it is a real trappist brewery, and they got the sign to prove it.

The brewing is done by only two monks and it is just one of the many tasks to be done around the abbey. Most of the steps in the process take place in the abbey. Only the malts are bought and not processed from scratch. Bottling is done somewhere else but the rest is all done in the abbey.

Response

The beer was voted best new beer from the Netherlands on Ratebeer in 2013 and has been garnering a lot of attention around the western world.

The response to the beer was expected, but not in the overwhelming positive way that it has been welcomed onto the beer scene. But there is enough left for the monks ;). Let’s hope they will make more for us.

 

Zundert website

De Dochter van de Korenaar

The borders of the nations in Europe are the result of centuries of wars, changing political leadership, Royal marriages and treaties. It is what makes the borders seem random: squiggly lines that seem to make no sense.

Baarle-Hertog takes the cake with its borders. It is completely surrounded by the Netherlands but is 100% Belgian. 22 tiny enclaves, the result of a quirk of history. The border runs through streets, meadows, even through houses with some parts are only a few square meters.

It is in this part of both Belgium and the Netherlands that Ronald Mengerink started his brewery: De Dochter van de Korenaar (Daughter of the Ear of Corn). A brewer from Twente, who lived in Groningen and who now lives with his family in Belgium and who makes universally celebrated beers. Beers that are neither purely Belgian or Dutch but represent the fading borders in Europe. Borderbeer of the highest order.

korenaar1Beginnings

Brewer Ronald Mengerinks interest in beer started while biking to school in Twente (part of Holland bordering Germany) with a friend. He came across wild flowering hops growing along a ditch. Ronald was 15 and it ignited his interest in brewing. Up to that moment he only knew that beer was made with malts, hops, water and yeast.

He later moved to Groningen where he lived for 12 years. In 1984/1985 he sold his self brewed beer called De Noorderzon (Northern Sun) until this brewery went bust. A mistake in a 5000 liter batch meant the end. Ronald went off the beermap for a while. Though costly he still calls it a good learning experience.

Bitten by the dog

His view on beer changed when he tried a Flying Dog Snake Dog I.P.A. and loved it, not the worst introduction to this style. The hoppy I.P.A. It was a revelation and back then a style that wasn’t known much in continental Europe. During a trip to the U.S.A. he tried more good I.P.A.s, something that has definitely influenced his ideas about what beer can be apart from the usual Belgian and German styles. The use of hops led him into a new direction.

korenaar2Dochter van de Korenaar

The new brewery started in 2007 and takes his name from Emperor Charles V who in 1550 said that he preferred the juice of the daughter of the Ear of Corn over the blood of grapes. Behind their house Ronald and wife Monique built their own brewing installation and started brewing. Just two years later he already had his first prize: a silver medal for the Embresse Peated Oak Aged at the Zythos festival and another silver for the l’Enfant Terrible at the European Beer Star Awards.

Borderbeer

Though the brewery is technically on Belgian soil his beer cannot be called ‘Belgian’. The beer is much more in line with newer, more experimental Belgian breweries like Struise, Viven and Alvinne, breweries who decided there was more than just traditional strong ales, dubbels and triples.

His influences are truly those of someone living on the border and hail from all the major beer nations (USA, UK, Germany and Belgium) and it makes Dochter van de Korenaar an international brewery. Most of all Ronald is an intuitive brewer, doing what he feels is best.

Red Devils vs Orange; a warning to new brewers

Ronald has been working with beer now for more than 30 years. First in Holland, now in Belgium so he knows what he is talking about when he describes the differences between both countries.
He sees tradition as the biggest difference. Belgium has strong foundations while the Netherlands doesn’t, or lost it.

“The huge growth of little breweries, brewery renters and other businesses popping up in Holland is both positive and negative. Positive because beer is once again living in the country and it is a clear sign that consumers are getting tired of pilsners.”

But he warns against the negative side, something I have heard more people say. “There are a lot of mediocre to bad brews that enter the market and this could lead to a bad name for specialty beer.” and “it is something I learned the hard way but starting brewers should be aware that starting a brewery is more than just getting the recipe, making the label and thinking of a quirky name”.

korenaar3Growth

De Dochter van de Korenaar’s good name means bigger demand and to be able to answer this demand the brewery will now expand to four times its current size in the coming two years. At the moment the production is (only) around 1000 hl a year.

Half of the beer stays in Belgium (well, I say stays, it has to travel through Holland for a few miles), mostly to the bigger cities like Brussels, Gent, Brugge and Antwerp. Something he is very proud of. The rest goes all over the world to the U.S., Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Norway, Finland of course neighboring countries Holland and France.

If the specialty beer markets in these countries keep growing as they do, we wonder if the quadruplication will be enough. There is interest from China, but so far he has not started shipping to this massive country.

Brewery review: Brouwerij Troost

Breweries have lately been occupying buildings that have lost their old function. Windmills, factory buildings, churches and other buildings are now kept intact on the outside while on the inside giving us new beer. This has also happened in a monastery located in De Pijp, a great neighborhood in Amsterdam where once the Heineken brewery stood.

IMG_1906New brewery Troost moved into such a building that was once a monastery and before it became Troost it was an unemployment office on the roomy Cornelis Troost square that also gives the brewery its name, although the literal translation of troost (comfort) would have been a good name as well. The building is huge with the brewery just occupying a wing. It still holds the local police and a hotel, it also is an example of the pre-war Amsterdam architecture style.

So Amsterdam has a new brewery, one of the many that started in the last two years but this one actually brews on site and sells on site too. The brewing vats make up a big part of the interior and even some of the exterior because they stand behind glass.

IMG_1907It has only been open a few weeks but it has been a success. They apparently underestimated the demand because they were already out of their weizen. The blond and IPA were still available. Is it beer to make a trip for? The short answer is no. The beers are decent but the most interesting feature is that they are unique. The blond had good palate but no discernible taste, the IPA was better. It lacked some of the bitterness I like but had character. The weizen was replaced by Maisels which is both surprising and disappointing. The people running Troost have another bar (Kostverloren) with a good beer menu that offers many other Dutch beers. Another replacement was Jopen, something we can only applaud. Considering their new position offering a good Dutch white beer would have made more sense.
So the beer isn’t great, but does this mean you should ignore Troost altogether? Absolutely not. While the beer is average the location, room and menu are great. Being in de Pijp it is easy to reach and great to combine with the many things that neighborhood has to offer. The menu is eclectic, focused on burgers but with much more than that. Soups, sandwiches, snacks and enough other beverages for the non-alcohol drinkers. The furniture in the room seems to have been lifted out of school buildings from 50 years ago but it makes it light, open and fitting. The terrace wasn’t open yet but the courtyard seems perfect for a late afternoon beer.

Troost has Wifi and you can pay with debit card only.

IMG_1911