Posts Tagged ‘Utrecht’

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.

2016, a promising year

Happy New Year

Hello you lover of craft beer, you fan of Dutch beer. 2015 is already two weeks behind us, and 2016 promises to be another good, if not better, year for beer. I will again write about this beautiful product, as much as time and finances will let me.

Because dear reader, I am glad to see that you keep visiting my blog. Last week it reached 50,000 views, 49,999 more views than I ever expected. And because of it I have seen, and became part of, a growing culture in this country. Because of it I know more people. Because of the festivals and breweries we have seen cities and parts of the country that I had never been to before. I have been to bars and shops I otherwise would have passed by. This revolution doesn’t just lead to having more different beers, but has given me so much.

So what will I write about on these pages this year? There is much to look forward to. New breweries, new bars, old breweries in a new form and a city that will be a premier beer destination in 2016.

The Next Step

Most of the brewers I interviewed share a similar history. They start brewing at home, and when it is not just them that seems to like it, they approach a brewery where they can make bigger batches. Contract brewing is still how many brewers operate, especially the smaller ones who just started and who are still doing this as a side hobby/business. Some of these brewers who started out like this at the beginning of the Dutch Craft Beer Revolution about 5 years ago are moving into new territory this year.

20151109_123318I have already blogged about Duits & Lauret and their move into an actual fortress this year. This is the most prestigious project in beer so far and I will be writing more about it when it opens. Another veteran that deserves a mention is Ruud van Moorst of Eem, who finally will get his own brewery. A well-deserved spot for someone who has given the Dutch brewing world so much already

logo-oproer-brouwerij-light-on-dark-250pxOproer!

The first major event on the calendar is the opening of Oproer! The name is new, the people behind it certainly not. Oproer! is the combining of forces of Utrecht breweries Ruig en Rooie Dop. Mark Strooker of Rooie Dop has already been doing great things for Dutch brewing in the last 5 years. Not only was Rooie Dop one of the better known breweries abroad, he also organized the Dutch delegation to the Oregon Brewers festival two years ago, which led to a slew of collaboration beers and the confidence that what was happening here in Holland meant something.

Oproer! Will be a brewpub. The brewing will take place here and besides the beer you can have a vegan/vegetarian meal. It will be another boost for Utrecht, already one of the best places to go for craft beer. The opening is today and since it is close to where I live it will be one of the first things I will be writing about on the blog.

Also in Utrecht, VandeStreek is working on their own brewery and pub. We will of course report about that to when the time comes.

Amsterdam

The number of brewers in Amsterdam is still growing, with most of them still contract brewers. Writing about Oedipus has been in the pipeline for two years now and hopefully this year I will finally get around to visiting their place and write about this unique brewery. And then there’s Gebrouwen Door Vrouwen (Brewed by Women), two enthusiastic brewing sisters that deserve a post. Another post will be about Aart van bergen, formerly of Vriendschap, who has decided to start brewing on his own brewery.

The city itself will feature in several posts. The western part of the city has seen new bars and shops pop up and is worth a day trip on its own. Another tour is along the almost finished North-South subway line. On this street there are great old and new bars and breweries like Troost.

Other cities

While the Amsterdam-Utrecht area is still the axis of Dutch brewing the other cities are following in their footsteps. Rotterdam with Kaapse and The Hague with Kompaan have already shown to be good beer cities. Three other cities are also gaining ground. In Nijmegen several breweries make excellent beers like the superb Oersoep. The number of great bars here is high as well. Hopefully soon we will get a chance to visit the city for a weekend and write about it. Another city on the list is Eindhoven with Van Moll and a new city brewery. Good things are happening in Haarlem too. ‘t Uiltje is hard at work financing their own brewery. Once this is done the ties with Jopen can be cut and they can do everything themselves.

groningenbierbord

The Blackboard with only beers from Groningen at De Koffer

Groningen

But if there is one city that will be our focus this year it will be Groningen. It has for decades been a perfect place for specialty beer cafés, but has been bereft of quality breweries. The city got a big boost with the annual two day festival in the main church and when Bax Bier started selling its beer. After having their first two beers it was immediately clear that Jeroen and Sepp from Bax made beer that was miles ahead of the other breweries in the north. And I wasn’t the only one who spotted this. Their success has led to their own brewery/tasting room/restaurant which will open in Groningen this year. It will be one of the biggest buildings in the country. But Bax isn’t the only brewery that is active in the city. Late last year Martinus started in a beautiful old building in downtown Groningen. They started off with a new brewing installation and restaurant. I haven’t been there yet but will soon. City Brewery het Kromme Jat has been brewing for a years now but is not alone anymore. The Groninger Craft Brewery has been around for a year now with some success and last year also saw the start of brewers like Corviri, Rockin’ Ludina, Pivo and Jotner. In the provincial city of Wildervank, Jan Abbingh has been producing some decent beers already. The number of establishments where you can find this beer is growing as well, with its crown jewel Mout (we wrote about the crowdfunding campaign last year) scheduled to open in 2016 on the edge of the old city. So stay tuned follow this blog for more about the Groningen beer scene.

Leftovers, labels and geeks

I will be posting more articles about other things. I got a question from a read last year who wanted to know what all the symbols on the labels of his bottles of Dutch beer meant. This will be a two part article. One a translation guide to the labels, the other about the at times mystifying laws about what and what not print on a label.

In the coming weeks I will post something about the amazing facebook group BeerGeeks, a group of beerlovers who have shown that a love of beer unites people. And it is a union that encompasses more than just beer.

The page

The page will see some minor changes this year, I will keep updating the calendar and the map. I will also add a page with all the prizewinning Dutch craft beers.

2016 is going to be a great year for beer and I hope to meet some of you somewhere in this great country in a beautiful bar or at the festival.

 

See you then. Proost.

 

 

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.

Duits & Lauret are becoming a fortress brewery

Craft beer has been going against the trend of economic demise. Shops all over the country are closing, either because of the economy or the growing online market. Older, monumental, buildings have trouble finding new investors and purposes. Brewers have made use of this demise and are bucking the trend. New breweries are starting and in the process give new purposes to sometimes historic buildings. This isn’t a completely new trend, in the last century Brouwerij ‘t IJ moved into an old bathhouse and Oudaen in Utrecht occupies a medieval house. This century Jopen opened a restaurant/bar in a church and De Molen started in that most Dutch of structures: a windmill (for those who might have missed it, De Molen is Dutch for The Windmill). Even old factory buildings now house breweries like Maallust and Oersoep. These are just some examples of the many ways craft beer is changing the cities and towns and countryside we live in.

But a brewery in an historic fortress? That’s a new one and it will happen this year when Duits & Lauret move into Fort Everdingen, a fortress located on a river to the south of Utrecht on the border of provinces Utrecht and Gelderland. This will mean that after brewing in Belgium for years they will now do everything themselves and in the Netherlands.

dleverdingen10986494_618873438243070_8680001355375537309_nFort Everdingen

The fortress (finished in 1847) is located in the area where three major rivers flow in close proximity. Water has played an important part in the original function of the fortress as part of the Hollandic Waterline, a linked number of forts meant to defend Holland (the western part of the country with major cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht) from the enemy. But the enemy never came and the sluices to inundate surrounding farmland were never used.

Many of the buildings remained and the fortress has had other functions. The last was as a depot for the army’s bomb disposal unit before it was turned over to the Ministry of Economics who started looking for a new destination. 18 investors and/or businesses turned in a proposal outlining their ideas of what the fortress could be used for. Of these 18 Duits & Lauret had the plans that a committee liked the most and this means that in 2015 a brewery will be located in the 150-year old fortress. Their plan combined a great idea of accessibility with economic viability, the committee sees the brewery as something that will be in that location for the next decades.

Plans

The entire area is large, about 12 hectares (30 acres) and has 32 structures. The plan is that eventually all these buildings will get a purpose. The scale of the project is such that it is almost impossible to do it all at once. Marco Lauret tells me that all the buildings will be gradually incorporated into the entire plan, but that this can take a decade.

So what will the fort get? Apart from (naturally) a brewery and tasting room the fort will also hold a shop where apart from their own products (they also make cheese and mustard) they will sell local products. The tasting room will also offer some small dishes, which will be made in cooperation with De Veldkeuken. Because of the dark and sheltered characteristics it is also perfect to age the Duits & Lauret beer cheese.

One of the bats in the fortress (photo from Duits & Lauret)

One of the bats in the fortress (photo from Duits & Lauret)

Nature

The fortress will encompass more than just beer and food. Because of its location nature already plays a big role. The tower that stands on the ground houses a colony of bats and the bats won’t have to be relocated as they will remain right where they are. At the start of the year they counted them all. This won’t be the only dwelling for animals, new housing for bats and/or hedgehogs might be built as well and who knows what other animals will find a home here. So even for the non-beer drinking nature fan the fort will have a lot to offer.

History

The Hollandic Waterline is important and visible part of Dutch history, not to be ignored especially when the fortress becomes as accessible as this one. An Information Center will definitely be part of the setup. Because of its location it will naturally attract motorist and bikers, especially now that it is open. If you have never been in the area of the country where the rivers are located, it is a beautiful part of the country to visit and drive through.

Job creation

When it is all finished the brewery is planned to offer jobs to ten people, and more places for people further from the job market, a concept we have seen often at breweries. They hope that the fortress will be a place of work for a lot of people, and a place where people can be taken care of as well, to make them feel they have a purpose.

Time schedule

The first thing they hope to open this summer is the tasting room, followed by the first parking spots for camper vans and the brewery itself. This will be start of the beer-and-breakfast concept. The other buildings will get a purpose in the next decade, yes, you read that correctly, it will probably take about 10 years before it will get a finish.

We will of course visit Fort Everdingen as soon as we can, and will keep you updated about this unique new beer location in the middle of the country. We for one can’t wait.

Houtens Brouw Collectief Part I: Hommeles

Frequent readers of the blog will know that I consider Utrecht to be the Oregon of the Netherlands: a small part of the country with some of the best brewers in the nation. The home of a vibrant craft beer culture with great brewers and pubs. Today’s article will be the first about the Houtens Brouw Collectief, the Houten Brewing Collective. The HBC is the driving force behind three things that make Utrecht an even better beer destination.

  1. They brew craft beer and call it Hommeles.
  2. They organize the Utrecht Beerbrewers festival, one of the best festivals in the country that I discussed in a blogpost a few years ago.
  3. They aim to advance beer culture in Utrecht, and one of the ways they do this is by holding open brewing days every first Saturday of the month at the same windmill the festival is held at. If they are not there you might find them around the area at tastings, regional markets and other gatherings.

I asked one of the three people behind the HBC, Kees Volkers, a few questions about Hommeles and the festival. To make reading a little easier I have decided to post separate articles about them, today we start with…

Part I: Hommeles

You already met Kees, now let’s introduce the other two men making up the HBC: Jan Ausems and Jos Eberson. The three met at a brewing course back in 2007 and found out they were all living in Houten, a town close to Utrecht City. Ever since they met they have been busy brewing. But don’t think that they only started with beer then, their beer resumé started way before 2007.

Jan for example runs cambrinus.nl, a website loaded with great information about beer. If you want to find out which breweries started in what year, this site is the place to be. It’s easily one of the best resources for Dutch beer information online, unfortunately for some of you only in Dutch. In his daytime job he is an IT man for the BOVAG, an automotive branch organization.

Kees has written a book about the history of beer in Utrecht called “Wandelen over de Bierkaai [walking along the Beer quay]” , and this led to initial contact between Jan and Kees. He makes his living as a self-employed historian and author.

Jos has experience with flavors in general as a beer lover, but also as a cook and wine salesman and home liqueur maker. Right now is a manager at a large furniture store.

The Beer

Hommeles have around 10 beers for sale, ranging from a beer with honey to an IPA. Their best beer is called Molotov and clocks in at warming 9%.

As almost every brewery these days they have collaborations as well. A Pumpkin beer made with the boys from Epe, and a Green Ale with Ruud from Eem. This beer highlights another thing that the HBC does, maintaining their own hop garden in a town called Odijk. They used their own fresh hops for this beer, a tasty Red Ale or ‘Rat Ale’ as they call it. With limited hop fields in the Netherlands it makes this beer a rare one.

Sallands

They brew once a month at the windmill De Ster in downtown Utrecht but this is just for demonstrational purposes. The Hommeles beer itself is made at the Sallandse Brewery. Raalte is quite a long way from Utrecht but very welcome to contract brewers. Besides Hommeles it is also the brewery where De Arn, De Vriendschap, Eem and Eanske have made at least some of their beers, if not all. Finding a place to brew is getting more and more difficult and brewer Ruud van de Gevel is a cool and patient guy who is open for all kinds of experiments. He is now helped by Oscar Moerman, also a good brewer. Though it’s usually Ruud and/or Oscar who brew the beer according the recipe, they don’t mind at all if you help them out. Something Kees tells me they haven’t been doing a lot lately. When they are making a new beer for the first time they always make sure they make the trek to Raalte.

Success

Of the ten beers they put on the market 6 were introduced in 2014. The Dorstvlegel and Bokkepruik won awards. The Ondeugd (a smoked beer) had the distinction of being bottle of the month at the ABT-cafes all over the country.

Hopefully this has spread the name Hommeles among beer drinkers in the Netherlands, and hopefully beyond as well. Their beers deserve the attention, and I for one can’t wait what else Jan, Kees and Jos will bring is in 2015.

One of the things they will definitely give is this year is the 5 year anniversary of the Utrechts Beerbrewers festival. This will be the topic of the second installment about the Houtens Brewing Collective.

HBC op Internet

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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

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On the Radio!

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

De Rooie Dop – Transparancy and Awesome Beers

In the last article about the beerfestival in Utrecht I mentioned the long lines in front of the Rooie Dop stand. People were excited by the oatmeal stout and IPA. When I posted a review of their Chica IPA on RateBeer I remarked on the high carbonation. One of the three guys behind the Rooie Dop sent me a message saying this will be corrected in the next batch. When I looked on their website they were open and honest about it too, a transparency I can only applaud. This little back-and-forth led to more questions. Here is the result.

Beginnings

Three beerloving friends a few years ago decided to take their love of beer one step further and start the Rooie Dop (meaning nothing more that red bottlecap).

Right now they are brewing at two locations. The Rooie Dop website keeps track of all the testbrews they make in their little home brewery on a canal in Utrecht. This evolution of the recipes led to releasing the beers. There was a lot of demand for the beers so the idea arose of pouring them in a little tasting room for people to sample.

Two of those (the Chica Americana IPA and Double Oatmeal Stout) are now bottled and sold. They are made at one of the country’s foremost breweries: De Molen. Cees, Jos and Mark,  have been coming to the brewery almost since De Molen started brewing. As volunteers they help out at the annual Borefts Beerfestival every September and in this capacity got to know Menno and John from de Molen quite well. When they wanted to brew more and release their beers they went up to Menno and asked if they could brew with him. The daring question was answered positively almost straight away. Menno brings a long experience and knowledge of their favorite styles, IPA’s and stouts. And who would give up a chance to work with one of the most respected brewers in the country?

American

It is (perhaps too) easy to place them among the more American influenced brewers since they are all beer lovers who love everything. They mostly like the chance and variation but it is a fact that there are few American styles made in Holland.

Social Media

De Rooie Dop are the first Dutch brewery that I know of that has a website written only in English. Most choose to do it only in Dutch, some in both but that would mean writing the same message twice in two different languages. All the guys are active on social media so they know many beerlovers from all over the world, it only made sense to have the website in English. Only a few Dutchies might not be able to read it but since almost everyone in the country knows English that number is low.

De Rooie Dop guys are very active on social media sites like Ratebeer, Twitter and Facebook. They follow most reactions and often respond to them. Even though they mostly brew for their own fun and do not care too much about outside opinions it is sometimes worth reading a reaction that can aid them in improving their beers if that is needed. As I mentioned before I admired their openness about the batch of IPA that wasn’t entirely up to their own standard. They are foremost consumers of good beer and they would only appreciate if other brewers did this as well. Their motto: fortunately nobody’s perfect, and neither are we.

The evolution of the Rooie Dop mirrors that of many others. First brewing for own consumption, then releasing a beer on the market. They accomplished that with two at the same time. The experimentation will lead to the release of possibly two new beers next year. They will never release them at the pace De Molen does but experimentation is one of the most fun things you can do as a brewer.

The Rooie Dop line at the Utrechts Bierbrouwersfestival

Time for new ambitions but the main goal remains having fun in brewing and attending the many events and festivals where they are present. This next to the more serious side of running your own little company. In five years they could still be at the same place they are now, but they could also have their own brewing installation. Only time will tell but the circumstances of having an excellent knowledge of beer and brewing, being around great resources, a glowing start of their brewing career and an unbridled enthusiasm can only lead to more and even better beer, maybe even better than their heavenly double oatmeal stout.

Happy Living in Utrecht

Molen “De Ster”

Half a year ago I moved out of Amsterdam and in to the province of Utrecht. Favorite hangouts like the Adelaarsnest and In The Wildeman are now farther away and my trips to De Bierkoning are less frequent. But both the province and city of Utrecht have much to give the lover of good beer. The province boasts at least 8 breweries, mostly located in and around the city if Utrecht and Amersfoort. Sure, there are more provinces with 8 or even more breweries but what makes Utrecht stand apart is the high overall quality. For this reason last year the first Utrechts Beerbrewersfestival was held and on May 19th the 2nd took place in downtown Utrecht, right under a rebuilt sawmill.

This is a perfect location for a festival, helped by the exceptionally nice weather. Not too crowded, a ramp to sit on near the water with farm animals nearby. Great setting for a nice beer. And nice they were. Present were De Leckere, Valleibieren, De Rooie Dop, Duits & Lauret, Houtens Brouwcollectief, Maximus, Oudaen and Eem. They brought a total of 20 beers. The booklet was informational and, first time I have seen it, had QVC codes linking to the websites of the breweries.

We started off with a beer from a brewery which I had heard a lot about already but had not tasted before. De Rooie Dop’s Double Oatmeal Stout

The Rooie Dop line

did not disappoint. We wanted to try their IPA later but the line in front of their stand was very long that we opted for something else. Rooie Dop’s  beer is good enough that we will find it at more shops, bars and festivals. The Houtens Brouw Collectief brought a very nice honeybeer. A nice smooth beer with some hints of honey that was also a winner.

An earlier article about Duits & Lauret was the most read post ever on this blog. So I was more than excited to try a new beer: the Neder. Even though this beer is different from the other D&L beers it still felt like a Duits & Lauret. It is unfortunate that is limited, only available in 20 liter keykegs. This beer deserved a release in smaller bottles.

Duits & Lauret

The Dutch Beer Pages are not the only fans of Duits & Lauret. A high profile panel that included Derek Walsh, Jeroen Carol-Visser, and Rick Kempen voted their stout the Most Valued Beer of Utrecht, something we can only agree with.

The festival was a huge success. The lines in front of the stands were long and the people behind it could do nothing else than just pour some delicious Utrechts beer. Great location, perfect weather and tasty beers make for a great festival. I am happy to have moved to this province.