Posts Tagged ‘maximus bier’

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.

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.

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

In a windy wonderland

An semi-outdoor beerstival in December might lead to some interesting events in a country where the last month of the year isn’t exactly known for it’s warm and sunny weather. The Christmas- and Winterbeerfestival in Hoogeveen was held for the 4th time on Sunday December 22nd and in the past has had to suffer freezing temperatures. No icy temperatures this time, but the weathergods were again not absent and provides us with a heavy dose of wind and rain. The tents in which the festival was held withstood quite a battery of wind gusts and not all the tent flaps stayed in one place for the entire day. Yet any tent malfunction was greeted with the good humor that exemplified this festival.

Despite the weather it was busy underneath the tents, yet not too crowded  to have to fight for a spot near the conveniently places heaters. Located on the townsquare it was easy to reach and since the shops were open on Sunday that meant that people who otherwise would not have gone to a festival like this might drop in to try some beer. That is always good. Most people don’t know about craft beer simply because they do not come across it.

hoog2Brewers and local bars had stands so there was a good mix. Known brewers like La Chouffe had their ‘n Ice Bock but more local brewers like Mommeriete, Maallust and Sallands were also present.

There were the usual brewers you often see. Ramses came all the way from the other side of the country and Our new favorite beerbar De Drie Dorstige Herten was the promoter of beer from Utrecht with beers from Duits & Lauret, Maximus and De Leckere. De Leckere’s new stout is disappointing, but the specially made Mispel beer from Maximus is a beer I hope they keep on making.

Being a winterbeer/Christmas beer festival means that the beers that are brought will be darker and with a little more alcohol. Yippey! Did I have a bad beer this time? No, again showing that the quality of the Dutch brewing world keeps on getting better. My least favorite was the bock from German brewery Eibauer.

hoog1Northern beer

The beerworld in the north still needs more boosters to catch up with the rest of country. OK, the bars in Groningen are great, but that city is an island in a sea of nothing. Most praise should go to Pint Noord who organize festivals in Groningen, Leeuwarden and this one in Hoogeveen. The big festival in the Martinikerk is another great, yet pricy, event. The north might be far, but with more festivals like this we might get more brewers to the north of Zwolle too.

The not so great things

Where were the toilets? The square had a place for the men to go and stand but there weren’t any cabins for example for the woman, though the bars surrounding the festival might have been open for ‘business’.

Not all the beers that were promised were at the festival. We wanted to start with a barrel aged Flying Dog but Bier&Co didn’t bring it. Fortunately the substitute was great. After this we tried to get a Liefmans Glühkriek that was gone way too soon. This is a beer that the starting beerdrinker might be interested in, but not too many people had a chance to try it. On an open festival I would think this would be one of the more popular ones.

Food and other drink?

Yes, there was and tasty too. Also a good thing that it is located in the centre of a town where you can easily go somewhere else for a while. Another plus is the offering of sodas for those who drive or didn’t feel like drinking too much.

Again?

Yes, for most of country Hoogeveen is quite a trip away, both in actual kilometers but also in the mind. The weather is something that can play a factor in December but that doesn’t seem to stop the beerhunter from coming. If this was a festival with less special beers it would have been something else but winterbeers often give the beerlover a little bit more than your standard triple, pilsner or weizen. I might take the trip north again next time.

Beers sampled:

Fuller’s Old Winter Ale – great flavor for a low percentage

De Leckere Naughty Stout – didn’t see what was naughty about it. Very run-of-the-mill.

Sallands Rudolphus

Eibauer Dunckler Bock – least favorite at the festival

Pauw Wintertrots –lot of menthol/mint flavors, interesting

Winterse Arn – new brewery that keeps giving us good beer

Mommeriete Dubbelbock- Mommeriete is one of those under the radar breweries who make excellent beer.

Maximus Mispel –best one

Ramses Notenkraker