Posts Tagged ‘vandestreek’

From Mill to Factory. Utrechts Beerbrewersfestival 2016

In a move that was bound to happen, the successful Utrecht Beerbrewersfestival moved from its old spot in downtown Utrecht to a larger location. Like the industrial age in the 19th century the windmill is now replaced by a factory. A former factory that is now an entertainment complex called De Fabrique.

The move was inevitable. The former location was great, close to the railway station yet rustic. But the number of breweries kept growing, and so did the stream of beer lovers making their way to the windmill. Last year they sold out their glasses long before the festival was finished, leaving many disappointed.

I was somewhat afraid when I heard this was their new location. Factory buildings conjure up images of concrete slabs of drabness. It was also 1,5 km (about a mile) away from the nearest railway station.

Boy was I wrong.

_DSC0896The setup was great. Some brewers had outside stalls, the rest was placed inside. There was room to sit inside or outside, a problem at the previous location. Though concrete the building has a retro feel to it, like they never really tried to make it into one perfect space, but rather a collection of previous additions. Old beams on the ceiling, defunct electricity units were still there. Useless, but it did add a certain warmth.

The number of breweries present this year was 27. But were all these new breweries also better in quality? Well, unfortunately new breweries tend to come out with beers that are anything but renewing, too many blondes and tripels. The market is already swamped with these and it doesn’t offer anything new. There is nothing wrong with his per sé, but I tend to try to more unusual styles. As I have noticed before the cream of the crop is getting better, the gap with the rest seems to be widening. Duits & Lauret and VandeStreek were conveniently placed outside, but it is no surprise that they had long lines. Rock City from Amersfoort is improving every year and they brought some nice barrel aged beers along with many other styles.

New breweries, no old styles

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Neobosski

If you really want to stand out as new brewery, come up with something new. A new brewery for me, and one I appreciated, was Neobossky. They have one beer, a Black IPA type with inspirated by Duits & Lauret and Emelisse. Could be worse right?

So tell me, are porters making a comeback? I had quite a few good ones in Utrecht. Oproer had a porter called Leftöver, made of you guessed it, leftovers. It’s typical that their beer made from what was laying around was better to drink than other beers. SpierBier from Mijdrecht brought a Baltic porter aged in red port barrels. One of the highlights for me and apparently also for others because they made the top 5 of most coins sold. There were other barrel aged projects that were worth trying from VandeStreek and Rock City. I didn’t even get the StapZwan porter I had last year that was amazing, and a good example of a new brewery starting with something slightly different.

Or come up with something old. De Dikke won the Most Appreciated Beer of Utrecht award with a Kuyt beer, a nice historic beerstyle that needs to be made more. It wasn’t the best beer in my view, but having the balls to make this earns a lot of bonus points. Congratulations.

Other improvements

So the new space is better. Apart from more room the food has improved too with great hotdogs and fried chicken. People walked around with Belgian fries too, a lovely touch. A pop-up Mitra store sold bottles from breweries present at the festival so you could take with you what you weren’t able to taste.

Blueprint for the future

If it is at all possible to stay at this location the festival has room to grow. I had a feeling the turnout was little less than previous years, but that could just be because they were spread out more. There now is room for even more brewers and visitors, and they only used a quarter of the available space. I will be back, I hope you will too.

P.S.

Oh, remember how I told you that I was worried about the distance from nearest railway station (Maarssen) to the festival? Not a problem, if you didn’t want to walk or weren’t able to, a shuttle brought people to and fro all day during the festival.

Groningen Beer Festival 2016: Musings and Questions

Since I have written about this event multiple times, I decided to opt for the ‘4 things I noticed’ approach.

Session Beers

It wasn’t too long ago that the only decent beer under 4% in this country was the Emelisse 2.5. For me this was a groundbreaking beer because it showed that limits could be stretched downwards as well. The session hype that came in later years gave us even better things. Nothing is wrong anymore with a low alcohol, but incredibly tasty, beer. At the festival in Groningen there were plenty of low alcohol, let’s say under 5%, beers to sample. And this is what I did for one session

The Rodenburgh Slimme Rhakker and the VandeStreek UK Pale ale were both great pale ales. Oersoep brought another type with a great Berliner Weisse. I tried the Berliner Kindl a few years ago that completely turned me off that style for a while but it made a great comeback. In Holland Oersoep and Oedipus have made some brilliant ones. Talking about Oedipus, their Gandalf beer with cherries, brett and barrel aged was worth the extra coin.

Having these low alcohol beers will only attract more people to specialty beer. Of course the blondes, triples will remain part of what is on offer, but the tasty 10% beers will find people who previously thought beer was pilsner and nothing else. The range of percentage was around 18 by the way, ‘t Uiltje brought the amazing Old Enough To Drink, clocking in at a whopping 21%.

Groningen Beer City

At the first installment of this festival only 2 breweries from Groningen were present: Grunn and Stadsbrouwerij Kromme Jat. Well, 1,5 to be honest because Grunn cannot really be called a brewery. This year 7 breweries were eager to showcase their brews to their provincial comrades.

Grunn was sort of there as the Kruisheren brewers from Ter Apel. The Kromme Jat was back again as well. You should know by now that we here are big fans of Bax Beer. Their stand, and their group of helpers, is growing rapidly every year. In the wake of its success Groninger Craft, Rockin’ Ludina, Martinus, Corviri and Pivo started turning out some good beers. Martinus started operations late last year in a former print shop and Pivo opened just a week before the festival. Their setup and philosophy is very interesting, so check out their website (Dutch only). Hopefully I can return to them in a future post.

IMG_7868[1]A completely new brewery for me was Vechter who brought a good wit and saison. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to try their Cluyn beer, a regional historic recipe. Things are looking good with the opening of Bax’ tasting room and brewery this summer and more to follow. The Groningen Beer Festival is now also a festival by the people of Groningen, not only for.

 

IMG_7867[1]More than beer

The whole beer culture before the term craft beer was invented was about one thing and one thing only: the drinking of beer. With the growth of the culture and the rise if interest in old and social media this culture is changing too in its appearance. It now attracts people not only because of the beer.  These different sides of the culture were present. It wasn’t only the brewers pouring their beer but also distributors, specialty shops and cafés.

Some homebrewing stands were there as well. Betuwe cider had a table as well, and it nice to have a good glass of cider once in a while to mix things up. Bob van Dijk, who you might have read about in an article I wrote about him last year, was there with his Craft Beer Shirts.

This festivals remains very good with social media. With special hashtags on twitter your message could make it on a very big screen in the middle of the church.

A widening gap?

At my first beer festivals the goal was often to try beers from as many different breweries as possible. Lately I tend to try fewer beers from new breweries and stick to ones I know and love. Years of trying mediocre blondes, triples and IPA’s seem to have that effect.

Is it just me? Is this what happens after a decade and a half of trying new beers every time? Somehow I am more interested in what the really good breweries have to offer. This year I tried a lot of beers from Oersoep, Uiltje, Pampus and Oedipus, breweries that are at the top of the scene. Because of both their quality and that they make new stuff all the time I always feel that I will get something good, or at least interesting there.

Is the gap widening? Are we getting a Champions League of great Dutch breweries who are running away from the pack in leaps and bounds. Is this the beginning of a new phase? Already some smaller breweries, almost all of them contract brewers, are folding. The big breweries now are moving away from contract brewing towards a full setup: their own brewery and tasting room. Maybe the market is now really too full with established names. I would rather try a new Uiltje than a new blonde from a brewer from a town I have never heard of. I could just be me, but it’s a thought I will expand on in future posts.

The Times are a Changin’ indeed.

 

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.

 

 

Bock Season: Festival in Woerden.

When darkness sets in earlier and earlier and when the wind outside has a cold streak in it you know that fall is just around the corner. If you’re a beer lover in this country this also means that the first bottles of bock beer will start to appear in the shops.

Bock as a style is one that was present long before the current craft beer revolution. The first festival dedicated to the style PINT even before I was born in 1978. Though traditionally German, this style has become the most present Dutch style outside pilsners. It is something we should be proud of.

What the current revolution brought was more interest in bock. Many a Dutch brews a bock or something similar and the number of opportunities to showcase is growing, with the ceiling almost in sight. The number of bockbeerfestivals in October is very high, and it’s impossible to visit all of them because at some times more than 3 are held on the same day. Last Sunday there were festivals in for example Amersfoort, Zutphen and Woerden.

Woerden

After missing out on the festival for three years I finally had the opportunity to visit. The festival is organized by the SPSW, the same people who run the Bierhuys in Woerden, one of my five favorite beer cafés in the country and who recently opened a shop around the corner.

IMG_6870It is held in the iconic castle on the edge of the city that cannot be missed if you ever go to Woerden. The castle traces its beginnings back the early 15th century and was built by the Lord of Woerden, John of Bavaria. With a founder named Bavaria this could only lead to a great beer location 6 centuries later. And a great location it is with the courtyard and outside part being used for the festival, giving it a cozy and not immense feeling that sometimes makes the festival in the Beurs van Berlage a somewhat unpleasant place to be when it’s completely full.

Beer

Peter and Monique from ‘t Bierhuys support local brewers, so this festival had a regional feel with brewers from Woerden (Borrelnoot), Houten (Hommeles), Utrecht (VanDeStreek) and De Meern (Maximus). Some Belgian bocks could be tasted as well so you could compare. Dutch bocks won by the way.

But the truth is that I am not the biggest bock fan. I have no trouble finishing a bock but I will never count it among my favorite styles. There is a sameness to it that bores me after a while just like pilsners do. But I do enjoy a well made bock and having our own beer tradition can only be applauded and supported.

Danielle Duits of Duits & Lauret poured two versions of the Dubbel Bock

Danielle Duits of Duits & Lauret poured two versions of the Dubbel Bock

It is no coincidence that my favorite beers in Woerden were bocks with a twist. The VandeStreek bok for example with its low percentage was more than OK. Another one I enjoyed was the Weizenbock that De Blauwe IJsbeer (yes, that does mean the blue polar bear), a welcome change to all the bocks. Duits & Lauret was present with their now classic wood aged dubbel bock. They brought two versions: this and last years. The smokiness in this beer lifts it up from a normal bock to a great one. This was a small trend as more brewers brought two; the fresh one and the aged version. Did I have a bad one that I wanted to throw away? No, the overall quality was fine yet not earthshattering.

Food

If you didn’t want to drink beer you could spend all your coins on the more than excellent food available. I’ve been to quite a few beer festivals now and one thing that often bugs me is the lack of good, filling and diverse food.

The castle is no longer the seat of the Lord of Woerden but now houses a restaurant, and they provided most of the good food. Warm snacks like cheese croquettes and warm ham sandwiches didn’t cost too much. There was also cheese, coated peanuts, sausage (made with the Bierhuys’ own Bockbeer brewed by de Eem), ice cream (with the same beer) and very tasty pork pastries.

Will I come again to this festival? Yes, but it won’t be for the beer alone. The location, pleasant atmosphere and good food selection have made this festival a local tradition in Woerden.

Beer Reviews I, End of Winter Edition

Here it is, for the very first time, a post with just beer reviews! If you want to contribute with some reviews of Dutch beers let me know. I am not looking for dry descriptions.

The first ten.

Vandestreek Hop Art. Confusing, a Hop Art without a number. This is apparently a different version of #2 and #5. As always the artwork is great. Lots of nice west coast flavors at only 5%. Good refreshing bitterness, mostly passionfruit and mango. Bitter beers are definitely the brother’s strong suit.

Drank this when my 6 week old son was sleeping, and my wife had a 39.3 degree fever. Refreshing and tasty at this moment to settle down a little after a day of changing diapers and making tea.

Bottle from De Schans in Uithoorn, €2,45

Ratebeer 85 overall / 76 style – Untappd 3.68


Brand IPA

Yes, the big boys are starting to get into IPA’s as well. Grolsch’ efforts were quite bad but Brand’s earthy aroma is promising. The beer itself is a letdown. It’s half-hearted attempt to appeal to craft beer drinkers by making an IPA, but then forget to give it the bitterness that makes people like it in the first place. I wonder if this will lead to a new group of IPA drinkers who were used to drinking Brand pilsner. Taste: I get some raw carrot and a little sweetness. It’s refreshing, but forgettable.

Bottle from the Mitra, Wilhelminakade in Groningen.

Ratebeer 50 / 27 – Untappd 3.42


De Vriendschap Zwoele Stad

I guess the best description would be a wheat ale / blonde wheat ale / kristallweizen. I’ve seen all three. Whatever the style purists want to make of it, I didn’t care for it too much. It’s a smooth beer and the percentage is low. It’s the bitterness in the aftertaste I just don’t care for too much. But I am sure there will be some who enjoy it more. Extra credit for the name: Sultry City

Bottle from De Schans, Uithoorn, €2.45

Ratebeer 29 / 45 – Untappd 3.16


‘t Blauwe Hert Bronstig

Name of the brewery means the blue deer. Name of the beer is ‘bronstig’. New brewers from Aalsmeer, brewing at the Noordhollandse Brouwerij. Was expecting a boring dubbel when I poured it, but it’s more interesting than that. Seems they used west coast hops, giving it a flowery good bitterness in the finish. Feels chalky too. Quite good. Best in show for this edition.

Bottle from De Schans, Uithoorn, €2,50

Ratebeer Untappd 3.35


Wildervanker Abbingh’s Porter

Wildervank is located in East Groningen, not exactly Holland’s garden of eden. Straight roads, canals and flat land. A brewery started that makes more than decent beers, contrary to where Wildervank is. A creamy porter, some sweetness, some sourness and a nice white layer that stays for quite some time. Haven’t had a bad beer from them yet.

Bottle from Mitra Vismart, Groningen

RatebeerUntappd 3.52


‘t IJ Bridgeport Barleywine, colab with Marz

‘t IJ’s new direction has led to some very nice beers, this is no exception. For a barleywine it doesn’t have a lot of the sticky sweetness they often have. It’s there in the beginning but is quickly overtaken by the hops. The hops give it an aftertaste that isn’t the most pleasant. Lot of things happening in the beer though, also an interesting one to follow when it warms. It also warms you for quite some time. Interesting.

€ 2,90 from Van Erp in Groningen

Ratebeer 88 / 49 – Untappd 3.81


Grutte Pier Tripel

As a former history student at a nearby university. I love beers with a historical name and information. Grutte Pier was a freedom fighter from Friesland, a part of the country proud of their heritage and language. It’s a good looking label of the man and you learn about him when you’re reading the label.

The beer is a tripels and is decent. It has some spice notes but never rubs you the wrong way like some tripels can. It’s also not a beer that gives you anything special. Friesland is going through a small beer boom of their own, this was made at Admiraals.

2.99 from the Mitra Vismarkt in Groningen

RatebeerUntappd 3.93


Bierderie Mirjam Red Ale

Drinking this while our son is finally at ease after some wailing. It makes this one a little more special. I like offbeat beers like this. It has the hops of a pale ale, but underneath lingers a red ale. Is it a superb beer? No, but if you like very interesting beers this is one to try, if not for the simple fact that De Bierderie is sympathetic brewery run by some great people.

Bottle from De Zwart, Wilnis

Ratebeer 54 / 79 – Untappd 3.49


Natte Gijt Stoute Gijt RIS

I don’t know if every batch I’ve had so far has been different but this is the 3rd or 4th time I’ve had this beer and this was my favorite. Or I was just feeling better while sitting in the chair. It doesn’t have the big bold flavors others RIS’ have, but the palate is great. Already very tasty when a little too cold. Love the label, what’s not to like about goats.

Bottle from De Zwart in Wilnis

Ratebeer 92 / 41 – Untappd 3.58


´t IJ India Session Ale

A beer that started life at the Oregon Craft Beer Festival last year. A style I haven’t seen much here. Another good example of the new road ‘t IJ has taken. Flowery, pineapple and lavender? Soapy somewhat, but not the kind that makes you hate it.

Bottle from Van Erp Groningen, €2,55

Ratebeer 92 / 94 – Untappd 3.54


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

On Facebook

On Twitter

On the Radio!

Dutch Beer Week Festival in The Hague

The ten day period in the middle of May is turning into a great week for lovers of Dutch beer. Bars serve more Dutch beer and host tastings or food pairings. Breweries all over the country open their doors to the public, all in an attempt to spread the word of good craft beer among the ignorant masses. And these masses are willing to try that beer they don’t know yet in greater numbers.

The kickoff of the Dutch beer week is a three day festival in the Grote Kerk in The Hague. It is a true showcase of Dutch beer, with stands of the Great 8 of Dutch brewing like Brand and Grolsch to tiny contract brewers like Two Chefs, Bax or Ceaux.

IMG_1923It seemed at times that the division between the Great 8 and the rest is still a large gaping canyon. Even though they are also trying to make more ‘specialty’ beers what they spill a year is probably more than what the rest brews. Grolsch was promoting its new Kornuit and Brand some of its heavier beers which are I have to admit not at all bad. What does surprise me is to see people pay a fairly large amount of money to get into a festival and then drink the same Kornuit they could have gotten for less than a Euro at their local supermarket. Oh well, if next to the Hertog Jan and Brand beers they tried a Kompaan I guess that’s a plus. But as on any trade fair it showed that they had more money to spend on huge stands where the smaller ones were limited to one table and a tap.

More a trade fair

For the brewers the three days didn’t end up being great days for sales. They viewed the festival more as a trade fair. It was a way to get a little more known to the public and strike up conversations with fellow brewers and others in the profession who could be beneficial. People owning stores or starting them are looking around for nice beers to sell, and it seems to be a good time to start a beer related business.

Some of the brewers were in Utrecht a week earlier at a festival that is threatening to succumb to its own success. Great for sales but no time to talk to people interested in your beer. This was different in Den Haag on Friday. It wasn’t crowded and busy so there was plenty of time to have a fairly long conversation with the brewers if you wanted to. And the good brewers want nothing more than to talk to you (and thanks for that Bax, Gooische, Duits & Lauret, Vandestreek and Ceaux). Again, it seems that the best beer is sold by the most enthusiastic people with a great passion for their craft.

Ceaux

Ceaux

Utrecht represent!

Utrecht was again well represented with Duits & Lauret, Ceaux, Vandestreek and Rock City Beers; showing once again that this province still leads in the best craft beer of the country, though Amsterdam is breathing down their necks with a growing number of good breweries. ‘t IJ and De Prael are established names and with brewers like Two Chefs coming up the area Amsterdam-Utrecht is becoming a more interesting by the week.

Beer and more

It wasn’t all the drinking of beer. A side trend these days are beer- and food pairings and there were a lot of opportunities to do so. Were you interested in Dutch Beer and Indonesian food, well there was a demo for that, as there was for pairings with chocolate or with cheese. Once again beer shows itself to be a very versatile product or as Jeroen Bax said: isn’t it amazing that something with the same four basic ingredients can turn out in so many different ways. It will take some time before this catch on but the seeds are sown.

Location

The Grote Kerk is a spacy church, good for handling big crowds. As you well know, European churches were built also with acoustics in mind in the days of unamplified preaching. For the festival it meant that the otherwise fun folk band playing in the middle bounced their banjo sounds off the walks and between the conversations I was trying to have.

IMG_1925The festival got some things right. The huge space is one, enough sitting arrangements another. Enough tables for to sit at and drink or eat, something often lacking at other festivals. The food was another thing that seemed to be well organized. I saw people walk around with big plates of food, and not just a ham sandwich.

The cost of entrance: 12,50 for which you got 4 coins. Not too bad of a deal considering the location. A novelty for me at least was the chance to have a one token or two token glass. One token was halfful, great for tasters like me. Entrance with PayPal or Credit Card in advance only or pin at the door. The Dutch Beer week also has an App for both Android and iPhone, this is definitely the way to go and the app worked perfectly. Besides a list of the available brewers and breweries it give information about the entire 10 day period.

The Beer

The main reason for coming was still the new beers. It was all good with my personal winner Het Uiltje once again. Both the coffee stout and barleywine were simply amazing. Vandestreek’s Spring Bock was a nicely cascaded beer. It took me a little while to warm up to them but this beer and one of their Hop Art beers (a limited edition series of special beers) were the right medicine to tow me over the line, helped by the brothers Vandestreek whose enthusiasm makes it so much easier to like them. It is the same enthusiasm with which Ceaux (the most complicated way to write the brewers’ first name Ko) sold his beer to people with empty glasses. My first introduction to his beer was a bottle of which half ended up outside of bottle of glass. The newer version of the Bastard is an improvement over a previous version and I am looking forward to seeing more from Ko/Ceaux.

Jeroen Bax at work

Jeroen Bax at work

New

Some of the brewers you see every time you are at a festival (Ramses, Reuzenbieren, Duits & Lauret to name just three) but there were some debuts for me too. New names means a healthy evolving brewing culture so it was great to see Bax Bier (link), The Fiddler (from just across the street), Two Chefs and Gooische. I have been a fan of the Gooische brewery since I wrote about them years ago since I had their Schwarz. A newer version of that beer is even better and there’s new stuff coming I am looking forward to and I hope to see them again at festivals.

A ten day week

With the still growing Dutch brewing industry and the greater public that is now picking up on it (quite some attention in the media) this beer week has the potential to keep growing and next to Borefts all the activities all over the country having to do with Dutch beer could attract newer groups of tourists from in- and also outside of the country.

 

Links

Earlier Articles about:

Gooische Bierbrouwerij

Bax Bier

Duits & Lauret

 

Photoalbum on Flickr