Posts Tagged ‘Lervig’

Oedipus International Beer Festival: More than beer indeed

That the people over at Oedipus were organizing a beer festival was hard to miss. They promoted it well online and used Untappd for further promotion and discounts on tickets.

Not that Oedipus needs it. The last few years has seen them from hobbyists turn into a major Dutch brewery. They are present at festivals everywhere in the country and abroad. Their bottles  can be bought in the major supermarkets now. And most importantly they have done so by maintaining their own identity and philosophy, something that can be found in their unique beers.

Their quality has resulted in an invitation to the annual Oregon Brewers Festival. Something I wrote about a few years ago. This lead to a movie, a lot of great Holland-Oregon collaboration beers and now some of these breweries made their way to this festival. Upright, The Commons and Cascade for example offered their beers. The quality of Dutch brewing is great and still improving, but the festival got a massive boost through these American breweries and likeminded European ones like Lervig, Brew by Numbers and Omnipollo.

These breweries in turn provided a beer list that made any self respecting beer lover salivate. From session IPA’s in the 3% range to Russian Stouts of 11% and over, there was something for everyone. The wide variety also meant that you could have beers in your favorite style for most of the day.

Twice a day you could go on a tour and have 5 glasses of beer within a separate theme. Barrel-Aged beers were one of the 4, sours the other. And if you liked sours boy did you have a great time. The festival brought together old world sours from Boon and new world sours from for example Cascade. Sour ales have been the darlings of the beer geeks, and this festival showed why.

oedipus1More than beer

But as advertised the festival was indeed about more than beer. The OIBF is a festival that is worth going to even if you don’t drink a drop of alcohol. For one the food was exceptional. Many festivals still have one or two stands with mediocre food but here it was a small food truck festival. Kim Chi, Burgers, Oysters, Noodles and Hot Dogs to name some of the options. The sausages were made by Brandt & Levie and if you never had their sausages before run to any good food store to get some. They do for sausage and meats what Oedipus does for beer, no-borders sausage making. The smells of good food hung over the festival and with the dwindling number of cigarette smokers this is a huge improvement.

Children could come, and though there wasn’t an entire playpen they could drink lemonade just like their parents drank beer. The public was mixed between old and young, beer aficionados and beer novices. Walking beer labels walked around for extra atmosphere and the music wasn’t bad either, though at times a little too loud.

First timers

You might guessed by now that I loved being at this festival. In fact the day after I had an overwhelming urge to return for day two. When I write this on Tuesday I still wish I was back. There is room for improvement, sure, but they got significantly more things right than wrong.

The comparisons with Borefts cannot be ignored, and they have beat them on a few points: One, it is held on Saturday and Sunday, although my guess is Borefts is a Friday, Saturday festival because of the religious nature of Bodegraven. Two it is easy to reach. Bodegraven is easy to reach from the 4 major cities, but a little harder from farther away. Amsterdam Centraal is easy to reach for most.

What remains are memories of a great festival, a festival that makes the first weekend of July worth looking forward to. With the Brettfest and Borefts Holland has a third unique and international festival, one that has plenty of room to grow and improve. I will be planning my vacation next year around the Oedipus International Beer Festival.

Borefts 2015 and the frontline of brewing

If you believe that adding orange peels and coriander in a wit, cherries in a geuze, or sugar in a bock is already pushing the limits of the definition of what beer is, than Borefts is not for you. If you get fits of anger when strange fruits, herbs and vegetables show up in the list of ingredients of some newfangled beer from Estonia, than Borefts is not for you. If you believe beer was so much better 15 years ago when it was all much more simple, you should probably put on your cardigan, take off your reading glasses, replace them with your regular glasses and take your ideas back to 1999. Because once again Borefts showed Europe what is going on in the front lines of brewing, and it is nothing like beer brewed before the turn of the millennium. And I for one, and thousands with me those two days, welcome it with open arms and mouth. Borefts has become the Paris fashion week, or Austin’s South by Southwest festival, or the Sundance Film Festival. A place where mostly independent artists showcase their work for an audience that is ahead of the curve and interested in everything new and exciting.

borefts2015aLocal Farmhouse Beer

The theme this year was as postmodern as always. Brew a saison (classic) but add something local (modern). The chances are that if you go through all the green herbs in your spice rack there was a beer brewed with it by one of the brewers at Borefts. This is really what the brewers of today do. Where Ferran Adria or René Redzepi look at the edible world around them, so do the new (post)modern brewers. Beer is the basis, the rest is all open to personal taste and interest. Not everything will make it to the larger public of course, but it was interesting to see how brewers look at beer these days. Was it all great then? No, with this many beers there are bound to be some misses. And even though I personally welcome experimentation my favorite beers were still an Export Stout from Redchurch, a Jim Beam Barrel Aged Hel & Verdoemenis from De Molen and an excellent sour ale from Belgian Alvinne. But Omnipollo’s desert themed beers (yes, there was a raspberry smoothy beer) or the many sour ales with strange fruits and herbs made clear some new words need to be added to the standard beer review vocabulary. Words like ‘funny’, ‘interesting’ or ‘strange’

But I have only been able to taste a fraction of what was on offer, there is just too much supply, even for a fairly experienced beerhunter like myself.

International

That more nations are joining the ranks of top craft brewing was evident again. More British breweries this year and a bunch of Scandinavian as well, also more before it seems. In fact, some breweries weren’t even making beer when the first Borefts festival was held 7 years ago, and that isn’t even that long ago.

Another region that is very much up and coming is the Baltic State area and they finally made the big show with the appearance of Latvian Labietis at Borefts with some excellent and most of all interesting beers with local ingredients. I had an interesting wit with caraway seeds, inspired by Latvian bread. With brewers from the UK, Belgium, Latvia, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Holland and Germany and the United States this year and brewers from Italy and France in previous years the state of craft beer in Europe is strong and diverse and the end not yet in sight.

National

Every year Dutch brewers are asked to be part of the festival as well and for a Dutch brewers there is no higher stage, it is the same as headlining Glastonbury or Bonnaroo. This year Oedipus from Amsterdam and Brouwerij Kees were invited. Oedipus rise in and around Amsterdam has been meteoric with a new brewery, tasting room and shelve space in supermarkets. Kees has been to Borefts many times before while still brewing for Emelisse, but now that he has gone solo nothing really changed for Brouwerij Kees is again easily one of the best breweries in the Netherlands. Since Kees has just started who knows what else we can expect.

borefts2015bLogistics

Every year it seems Borefts has reached the limit of the number of people the premises can hold, but every time the setup changes for the better. This time the former children’s indoor playground was in use for half of the brewers, a great view to see them stand in front of the rows of barrels with beautiful De Molen beer aging just for us to taste in a year. Signs asked people not to smoke outside underneath the tents, though unfortunately we were too late. Inside there was enough room upstairs, another great find.

Borefts too finally offers online ticketing, and even though they are still able to let people in at the door this is the way forward. It is a lot easier to get your ticket and the line in front of the registers was virtually non-existent. The food is getting more diverse every year and the free distribution of water remains yet another reason why Borefts is the number 1 festival in the country, and maybe in Europe.

The nearby train station is still where most people arrive from the surrounding cities, though I started to see buses from Germany parked as well. And the festival is also a good boost for the surrounding cities with visitors staying in hotels in nearby Alphen and Gouda but also in Amsterdam and Utrecht. In the days after I saw many of them visiting breweries in Amsterdam and Haarlem for example, making Borefts more than just a De Molen festival.

One thing is for sure, as long as this festival brings together brewers and beer drinkers from all over Europe as it has done now for 7 years, the state of craft beer remains strong and will keep growing. Bring on the strange brews.