Posts Tagged ‘smokey the barracuda’

De Kromme Haring

It was quiet in Utrecht City for a while. Sure, the number of commercial breweries kept rising as it did everywhere, but it’s big brother to the north, Amsterdam, overtook Utrecht with some fine new brewing initiatives. But 2016 is the year of the comeback. I have already discussed Duits & Lauret and Oproer in earlier posts who now have their own installations in or near Utrecht. New brewers like NeoBosski are also doing fine right now. The end of summer saw the opening of another brewpub: De Kromme Haring.

logo-v2De Kromme Haring is not a completely new name in Utrecht. Steve and Gijs met over a bottle of Brett IPA called Twisted Kipper and things started rolling after that. Two years ago they made their debut on the Utrecht Beerbrewersfestival. Not unnoticed because their Smokey the Barracuda immediately won the prize for best beer in Utrecht. I also recall having a great sour called Lactic Fantastic.

The names of these three beers should already tell you the types of beer De Kromme Haring makes. Don’t come here for simple dubbels or blondes, more adventurous stuff happens here with a great focus and yeast and fermentation. Beers that cross borders of style, and that is no surprise because De Kromme Haring is an American-Dutch cooperation. Steve and Gijs, you figure out who is from which country.

Kafe België

In Amsterdam ‘t Arendsnest and sister bars Beer Temple and Craft and Draft have spawned some of the best breweries in the city. Oedipus and Pampus for example had their start there. Utrecht has a similar bar in Kafe Belgie and sister store Bert’s Bierhuis. “Graduates” from both now work at illustrious Utrecht beer haunts Maximus, Oproer and De Bierverteller to name a few. Gijs also started here. The better breweries always seem to have a history at another beer places it seems. Goes to show the brewing business is mostly not for complete newcomers.

Steve was born in Massachusetts (yes, he is the American in case you hadn’t figured that out yet) and was working at Utrecht University as a biologist. This background in biology has helped him understand the brewing process better than most, making the second branch on which De Kromme Haring is built another firm one. He took the big step of quitting the university to work at De Kromme Haring full time.

A real place!

During the first years they were gypsy brewers with a dream of their own place. After a very successful crowdfunding campaign they found room at the Vechtclub XL and moved in. De Vechtclub XL is a building that besides De Kromme Haring also houses a restaurant, coffee place, flower store and a bakery. A place that might not look much from the outside, it’s a little built in between other buildings, but once you wander onto the courtyard you will find a lot of cool stuff.

krom1The bar and brewery

The brewing installation has made its way from China and is being set up so that they can brew themselves. Beer flows from 12 taps with taphandles crafted by Steve’s father who does woodworking as a hobby. He also made the bar and tables. For now the first four taps are all Kromme Haring beers. The others from like minded breweries from all over. When I was there I saw some stuff from Cloudwater and Lost Industry. Gijs tries to keep it diverse so that there is something for everyone at all time, also for novices to the beer drinking scene. Last week they had their first Tap Takeover when English brewery Wiper and True came over to tap their wonderful beers in Utrecht.

Utrecht’s Comeback?

With the Kromme Haring Utrecht has another great beer destination and can now boast 3 brewpubs (Oproer and Maximus the other two) in the city and surrounding suburbs. The bars (like DeRat and Drie Dorstige Herten) are still the same and amazing. I have already discussed the growing number of shops for good beer. And with VandeStreek opening a new brewery Utrecht is back and better than ever.

krom2Oh, what’s a Kromme Haring?

The translation of Kromme Haring is Crooked Herring, but there is no deeper meaning to it. Steve needed a name when he went to festivals like Kimchi when he was still homebrewing and just put some words together, influenced mainly by an alley in Utrecht called the Drie Haringensteeg and the Kromme Rijn river. Two of the first experiences Steve had when he arrived in Utrecht. It is now in their logo. Kromme Haring anyone? Then go over to the brewpub.

Kromme Haring Website

 

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.