Posts Tagged ‘rooie dop’

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.

Oersoep Craft Beer Festival

—  Another collaboration, this time Florian from German blog HopfenLiebe.com translated the article he placed there for our website. He went to the first Oersoep Festival, here is his report —-

glas-flyer-oersoep-festival-2015-648x486The first Oersoep Craft Beer Festival was hosted in Nijmegen last weekend. It was organized by the Microbrewery Oersoep at the beautiful ‘Het Zomerkwartier’ (an artificial beach area next to river Waal) directly next to the brewery. The venue was the first thing one positively noticed when entering the festival site: There were not just some tables and benches standing around, but a nice beach with comfortable chairs, sun loungers and sofas. The whole location added a nice and smooth summer atmosphere to the festival!

But one was not (only) there because of the location, but for good and handmade beer. Oersoep invited 15 breweries from the Netherlands, England, the US and Italy to Nijmegen.

Breweries at the Oersoep Craft Beer Festival 2015:

  • Jester King Brewery (US)
  • Wild Beer Co. (UK)
  • Brew By Numbers (UK)
  • Birrificio Dada (IT)
  • Brouwerij Kees (NL)
  • Oedipus Brewing (NL)
  • Van Moll (NL)
  • Brouwerij de Hemel (NL)
  • Het Uiltje (NL)
  • Kaapse Brouwers (NL)
  • Donderwolk (NL)
  • Tommie Sjef Wild Ales (NL)
  • Rooie Dop (NL)
  • RUIG Bier (NL)
  • Brouwerij Frontaal (NL)
  • Katjelam (NL)

Form an organisational point of view; the event was overall well managed. You could either buy a ticket online or at the box office on site. The entrance to the festival ground was free but you had to have the official festival glass to taste the beers. The glass was really nice and looked at first glance exactly like the glass that is used in the BrewPub of Oersoep STOOM. However, this optics was kind of misleading, as the craft beer glass was in fact made ​​of plastic. That might was the better choice, as a large part of the location was covered with sand and we all might now what happens when we combine sand, bar feet and broken glass.

Each brewery had brought different beers to Nijmegen and served two at the same time, which meant the kegs were changed ever now and then. Some of my beer highlights at the festival include the Grätzer from Katjelam.  Brewed with Weizenrauchmalz, the beer had a great smoky and ham aroma, but was still not too heavy and pleasant to drink on a warm day. Also delicious was the Brettalicious of Oersoep, a saison with great acidity and fruity hop aroma.  Wild Beer Co.  from England, poured also a saison called ‘Cool as a Cucumber ‘, and yes, there was real cucumber involved. Great and refreshing!

In addition, I really liked the Tazara Pepe, a saison that was brewed with different kind of peppers by Birretta Dada from Italy. My overall favourite of the festival however was the Suave from Oersoep and Van Moll from Eindhoven: the Gin and Tonic Pale Ale. This beer was partly brewed with real tonic water and after the fermentation they added even some gin. The finished product was nice and round with great fruit flavours and a very pleasant juniper finish.

Craft beer events like this festival are a great opportunity to try special beers, which you otherwise only can buy (if you can buy them in your region at all) in big bottles. Also the conversations with other beer lovers and the brewers are always very informative and entertaining.

Nijmegen is always worth a visit, even if there is no craft beer festival. Visiting one of the 6 breweries and brews, or one of the countless great beer cafes is a must, as well as checking by the great beer shop De Bierhoeder.

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.

A Post-Modern look at Dutch brewing

Is brewing a craft or an art? Both? The dictionary calls art: “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”, and a craft as “an activity involving skill in making things by hand”. A brewer can be both, but he can be just a craftsman. The brewers we appreciate today are definitely artists.

The craft brewer uses his creativity, experience and craftsmanship to create something new, something that is indeed beautiful and evokes an emotion. The craft brewer therefore is an artist. Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria or Heston Blumenthal take a totally different and new look at food. They change how it is made and play with your senses and make you look at food in multiple ways. The consumption of food, and also beer, takes on more than one meaning than just a tasty beverage.

If beer is an art-form it can be analyzed like art. The modern brewing world is behaving a lot like other post-modern art. For a deeper understanding of what post-modernism entails, I refer to sites like Wikipedia. In this article some of the characteristics will be mentioned, and hopefully it will give you a little more understanding. I have looked mostly at music and used it to look at brewing.

4 main characteristics

Many lists of characteristics will mention at least 10. Since many of these overlap I have compressed it into these four main characteristics of post-modern brewing:

  1. No boundaries between styles. Styles are in effect meaningless.
  2. Challenges what is a high or a low style.
  3. Has no problem looking at past, present and future for inspiration.
  4. Challenges the idea of a brewer(y).

Does this cover everything? No, but for what I want to highlight it will suffice.

1. No respect for boundaries between styles. Styles are in effect meaningless.

The supermarket shelves show you the rigid borders between styles. There are pilsners, weizens, blondes, dubbels and tripels. Easy to understand styles that don’t mix. With the influx of English and mostly American styles these borders are fading. The IPA made its entrance but also the DIPA, the Imperial stout, etc.. Good brewers these days just start brewing without a clear style in mind. In some cases the beer can even be a vehicle of another ingredient, which we will see later. Since for them it is not the market that prescribes the overall flavor they can, and will, do whatever they like.

A post-modern brew? The De Molen Open & Bloot, Double IPA-ish

A post-modern brew? The De Molen Open & Bloot, Double IPA-ish

A while back that De Molen started putting styles on their labels because people asked. They did, hesitantly, but kept calling their beers ‘IPA-ish’ or other ‘ish’es. Styles really are just a guideline for the consumer, not the aim of the brewer. So if someone next to you in the bar says that a certain beer falls a little outside ‘the style’, get the nearest blunt object and smack them on the head. It is in essence no different than someone saying ‘I don’t like beer’ when they mean Heineken.

Rooie Dop has this to say about one of their beers:

At Rooie Dop, we don’t really care about styles. But this is our version of an American IPA. Classic example of the style? Fits perfectly into the category? No. Does it need to be? It just needs to be pretty tasty! Chinook and Cascade hops dominate this beer and are assisted by a biscuity malty backbone”

On menus in beer cafe’s and on shelves of specialty beer shops you see them struggle with this new idea. Some shops and café’s will sort the beer according to style, which is getting increasingly difficult. The better shops and café’s have stopped doing this at all. De Bierkoning and Bert’s Bierhuis sort their beers according to country and then brewery. They have correctly seen that people nowadays tend to follow a brewery more than a style. If there is a new brewery in the store, often all the bottles of said brewery are bought. For café’s it’s still a slightly different story. Many consumers still think in old terms of pilsners and anything else, it’s up to the barman to try and describe his way through it all. At least to good bars give you a taster.

With the rise of the internet, social media and the open market it is now easier to travel and try beer made from all over the world. Brewers will also get their inspiration from other cultures. Beer from non-Western European countries will not even fit the old ways of pigeonholing. Modern brewing is eclectic and crosscultural, with no borders of style.

From style to ingredients, a form of deconstruction.

There is a shift from style to ingredients. A beer made with brett and Cascade will give you a better sense of what it will be than knowing it’s a stout or dubbel.

Now let’s look at additions to the beer. Let me be clear, I am not talking about additives to keep to beer fresh or the foam firm. This is not about chemical elements put in mostly for show or commerce. I am also not talking about the usual additions of citrus or orange peel or coriander in Hoegaarden or candied sugar in bocks. They are there to make elements already part of the beer more pronounced. I am talking about the addition of things way out of leftfield. Hot peppers, melons, cucumber, or a variety of herbs and spices.

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

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

At Borefts a few years ago they had beers aged in vinegar barrels. Go figure. With every ingredient added many more beers are possible. The best examples of breweries who don’t limit themselves by ingredients but are using them as new opportunities are Oersoep and Oedipus, though Emelisse and De Molen have great examples as well.

Single Hop

But in a clearcut example of post-modern contradiction they can just as easily deconstruct beer to one main element and highlight this. All the releases of special beers highlighting hops or yeast are a good example. It makes a certain kind of hops the star of the show.

2. Challenges what is a high or a low style.

Pilsner is often seen as a low style for the masses. Joe Sixpack wasn’t drinking six cans of barrel-aged Baltic Porter with juniper but cheap generic lager. Beercafe’s will mostly serve stronger, more interesting styles even though a pilsner is in fact not an easy style to get right. It is much easier to score with an Imperial Stout than a pilsner, yet the former is seen as a high style.

Modern brewing challenges what is or what is not a high and low style. In fact, just as with styles there is no distinction apart from personal taste. Brewers will make whatever they want from pilsners to IPA’s to fruit beers.

A great example of a more democratic, fluid way of thinking about high and low styles are this year’s Borefts festival. Every year there is a theme, a style that the brewers present at the festival will make in a sort of contest. This year they will be making radlers. A style generally thought of as a sweetened, watered down version of already boring German lagers. Yet the country’s premier brewery thought it was a good idea and from what we have seen already the result will be unique and amazing. People will still think that this is a bad idea, but the people at De Molen know what’s going on. A strawberry IPA? Yes, please.

3. Past, present and future

Look at the list of beers from Dutch craft breweries. Apart from finding most of the styles from the traditional beer countries newer styles appear as well. The typical Dutch beer Kuyt has been making a comeback, backed in part by Jopen who have this as a staple beer. Many interesting things are happening and I have seen gose, mumm and braggot on menu’s, all beers that originated well before most of you were born in other parts of Europe. A new look at historical documents might give us even more new, yet old, beers.

The present is clear, whatever is made now they can make and often will make. The future is that great undiscovered country. Because post-modern brewers tend not to think in styles the future is open for even more inventions and ingredients. Thinking in styles is thinking in traditions, and traditions usually are not the best engine for progression. I have already said that styles are relative and that high and low are, add time to the list to.

4. The Modern Brewer(y)

Many brewers are, or at least start out as, contract or gypsy brewers. This is mostly for financial reasons. They almost use the other brewery as a sort of pop-up installation. Some brewers are fine with this and see no need to have their own kettles. The recipe is there and there might be some changes with every brewery but if you are brewing at the right brewery who recognizes and respects the recipe there is no problem. If anyone is complaining that the beer wasn’t made in their own brewery, please tell them it’s an empty and outdated notion. It makes the production of beer easier, people who have great ideas might not have entered the market but now they can.

Many brewers are only interested in crafting the recipe in the first place. Once the recipe has been fine-tuned to their liking they often leave it alone and let others do the actual producing. Very similar to a composer who just finished a sonata. Does him being there make it better?

A Dutch/Brazilian collaboration, made with coffee.

A Dutch/Brazilian collaboration, made with coffee.

Craft brewers are part of a movement. The Impressionist painters often painted together or each other. Picasso sometimes teamed up with others to create art that was truly the result of combined efforts. In brewing the collaboration brew is a great example. They have a common cause, making great craft beer and you need the help and expertise of others sometimes, it’s a win-win.

The future of (Dutch) brewing

At the moment we are experiencing a time of rapid growth. New breweries start every week and not many are folding. How long this will take is anyone’s guess, but I reckon the beer scene being very different in a decade. The smaller ones will have vanished again and if the public gets more beer savvy they will start to recognize what is good and what isn’t. With limited space in stores and bars only the good ones will survive, but the good ones with a strong foundation behind the ideas.

There are many good things happening in the Netherlands right now having to do with beer. The best ones that we have shown us and most of all the world what the way forward is. Style rigidity and making beer like it was the 20th century won’t hold anymore, post-modern brewers of today are looking at the past and will because of that still be with us in the future.

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

Bierfestival Groningen 2013

I wrote about the first edition of the Bierfestival in Groningen two years ago. I raved about the great location and the excellent, professional organization. The third installment was no different. The old Martinikerk still provides an indoor location unlike any other. The choice of three timeslots in two  days with presale of tickets never makes it feel too crowded.

It also is a festival for a wider audience. Besides the micro breweries some local bars and restaurants had a stand too, serving beers that were more known. You might argue that this defeats the purpose of a beer festival, but it might bring people into contact with a Jopen beer who otherwise would never have tried it.

De Rooie Dop at work

De Rooie Dop at work

Good to see was the continuing emergence and presence of brewers from Utrecht. Duits & Lauret, De Rooie Dop, Maximus and Hommeles showed off their excellent beers, showing once again that Utrecht is full of talent. As a former inhabitant of Groningen it was equally good to see that the northern provinces also showed some of their beers. Maallust is by a now an established name and it is great to see the De Kromme Jat / Golden Raand still present, with a few more beers to boot.

The festival is not about drinking beer alone. Several workshops and lectures (Melissa Cole and Peter van den Arend for example), and also a small competition for brewing the best Spring Bock, the award going to De Molen. It was even possible to have your glass engraved! It more and more seems to become an annual gathering of Dutch brewing; a Dutch Comicon for beer. The brewers themselves also seemed to be satisfied with the organization, like shuttle busses bringing them back and forth to the church.

Small, yet tasty, spare rib with beer foam snack

Small, yet tasty, spare rib with beer foam snack

Now it’s time for some negative points. Almost all of the festivals we go to and have written about have enough food. Food by the way that seems to get better every year. The Bierfestival in Groningen had great food, but lacked in quantity. The biggest thing you could get was a warm ham sandwich which was undeniably good, but it was the only thing you could get that filled the stomach. Some restaurants and hotels brought some excellent little dishes that were great in taste, but after a strong De Molen 10% beer a large portion of something would have been nice. And with a price of 13 Euros for just two coins a little more could be expected.

In its third year it remains however a festival of great quality, one I am already looking forward to visiting next year.

ALEhouse. Iowa to Riga via Bodegraven.

As Holland has ever since it’s Golden Age been an internationally oriented country, we at the Dutch Beer Pages decided to be no different and look across our borders for some great beers. Not across our eastern border into Germany or to beer giant Belgium to our south but further. This article will be about three guys in Latvia who are wild about good craft ale and who now run and own ALEhouse. But it wouldn’t be the Dutch Beer Pages without some Dutch connection.

Iowa to Riga

ALEBlack-Sheep-smALEThe story starts in the American State of Iowa where  brewer Gordon VanHoutan went to Iowa State university to study architecture. He went on to be an architect for 11 years before changing his career. He studied brewing at the Siebel Institute in Chicago followed by the Domens academy near Munich. Gordon married a Latvian woman and left for Riga.

Gordon is one of the three guys behind Alehouse. The other two are Sergey and Andrew, co-owners of pubs and craftbeer stores in the Latvian capital Riga. They met Gordon in Latvia where he was brewing at home but also was the inspiration behind Kupla, the Latvian equivalent of Camra & Pint.

It is Sergey who gives us the connection with the Netherlands. He was bringing De Molen beers into Latvia and while at De Molen asked Menno Olivier if it was possible to brew at De Molen, since he considerd it to be one of the best breweries in Europe. The size of the equipment seemed the right size for Alehouse. Menno agreed and in October 2012 the Black Sheep stout and Bitter Poet Pale Ale were made. Of this most of the first three batches (around 1700 liter) was shipped to Latvia with some bottles left behind. A new beer, Prima Donna, should be made around now.

Unique

For now the Alehouse concept is unique in Latvia, a country that like a lot of countries in that region does not boast a wide array of styles. Usually you can get either a dark or a light lager. ALEhouse therefore brings the best beer from all over the world to Latvia, also serving as the starting point of their own beers. Sergey: “Our main idea is to create a craft beer centre in Latvia (brewpub with tasting room and craft beer shop) with beers from all over the world.“ The bar opened in June of 2012 with over 100 beers. In March an ALEhouse bar was combined with the S. Brevinga craft beer shop which sells over 300 beers and ciders. From that point on it’s a small step to the final stage: an actual brewery.

According to guys ALEhouse provides a real boost to craft beer in the region ever since they started in December 2010. “What can I say, thanks to Mikkeller, BrewDog, De Molen and others army of Latvian craft beer lovers are growing with each month. And when we had launched our own beers it was much easier to promote it to local customers”. As examples of what they want to do they mention the Beer Temple and De Molen in Holland and Mikkeler in Denmark.

ALEhouseBitter-Poet-smArchitect

We asked Gordon if this background in architecture helps in any way? “Yes, I see a lot of parallels between the two. They both involve an element of science and art. To make a good product in both architecture and brewing both aspects of science and art come together to make something special. There are many cases where one is much stronger than the other and the end product suffers. it is a hard balance to get just right. the big brewers have the science down, they are some of the best brewers in the world, but the art of brewing is lost to them. as well there are some small brewers who are great artisans but lack the understanding of the science. Either independently can make a good beer but when the two come together in perfect balance it is something that can change your world. That is what happened to me. It is the quest for this perfection that is my religion.”

ALEhouse’s favorite Dutch beers

Sergey mentions the Amarillo, Tsarina Esra and Rasputin from De Molen, Chica Americana & Stout from Rooie Dop and some beers from Emelisse. Gordon eloborates: “My trip to De Molen was my first real exposure to Dutch beer. Menno was a great host for us. The first day we were brewing there he was doing the brewing, showing me how their system works, and kept bring out bottles of their great beer. I couldn’t refuse and of course I didn’t want it to go to waste. one of my favorites was Hemel and Aarde, but there were so many good ones. This is probably the biggest difference between Menno and myself. He makes great beers to end the day with, but I like to make a lighter refreshing beer when the first one begs for a second. Of course this is what is so great about having many small breweries, each can do their own thing and one is not stepping on the toes of the other. This is why the craft brewing industry is such a good fellowship. We are helping each other, and this helps us spread the message about great beer from independent brewers. We all are the winners for cooperating. You just don’t see that in the mass lager market.”

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For a long time only Heineken marginally inspired other brewers in the world, but in the case of ALEhouse we are now seeing that our own craft beer is concurring the world as well and inspiring others to do the same. It has been a trend the last decade that the bigger lagers but also the Belgian brewers are losing their crowns as kings of beer. Ok, we still have to see where ALEhouse stands in ten years but the ease of traveling and language makes it easier now for people in Latvia to travel all over Europe to look for that one beer that blows them away, and isn’t it great that it’s that brewery in Bodegraven led by the remarkable Menno Olivier that does just that. Time to visit the travel sites for tickets to Riga!

ALEhouse website

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