Posts Tagged ‘winterbierfestival’

A Day in the Life of a Pint Member

It’s November, when you come home from work it’s dark. The wind has the early signs of that winter chill. You go online and try to find out when the Winterbeerfestival in Gouda is in January. The Pint website has the information, the calendar in your phone now has a new entry for the 19th of January.

When New Years is over and you have started work after the break you occasionally check the website, maybe the list of brewers and beers is available. Once it is you read it through, and you gasp. So much new stuff I haven’t had yet.

On Saturday you check when the buses and trains go. To be sure on Sunday morning you look it up on your phone. As long as you get to Gouda things are ok, since the school where the festival is, is right behind the station. You walk towards it, and notice they didn’t hang signs for the festival on the lampposts like they used to.

You arrive at the school, pay the 20 euros for entrance, a glass, a booklet and 8 tokens and start looking for a place to sit. You’re early, so there is.

gouda1Even though you have checked the list of available beers thoroughly you open the booklet and make a decision. There are two Oersoep beers you are dying to try. You don’t often get the big bottles at home so this is a perfect chance. There’s just too much to choose from. A few years ago frequently going to the specialty shops, bars and festival was enough to keep up-to-date with what was brewed in the country. You’ve reached the point now where you can’t keep up. You both celebrate and lament this. You are proud to have been at the start of the boom of Dutch beer, but its success means it’s getting harder and harder to actually try everything.

You look around and see the familiar sights:

At this festival the pourers are volunteers. The brewers, if they are here, walk around freely. More like fans of craft beer than actual brewers. They meet other brewers, talk about the trade and try each other’s beer. You like that, they are not rivals, they are guildsmen aiming for the same things.

Around the large round tables people sit. They all have a different beer in their hands. They smell, taste and look up. They look for something to say about the beer, then write it down. The glass then goes to someone else around the table. These are the beerhunters. Even though you consider yourself to be one, you feel you should at least have half a glass before writing an honest report of what you tasted. Some beers change with temperature, they get worse, sometimes more good flavors rise. You admire their zeal, but it’s not for you.

You love rating, but your iPhone is already 3 years old and the battery doesn’t last as long as it once did. Heavy use of it to add your rating on RateBeer drains the battery, so you scribble down the 5 numbers and a short review in a notebook you brought. Untappd is easier, so you use that for quick check-ins.

You feel more connected to the couples who are here. Gradually it’s becoming more diverse and not just a middle-aged men hobby.

More and more you see men wear T-shirts of breweries. They look like the sort of guys who when they were young had their Clash, Cure or Smiths T-shirt on. Now these shirts are worn through, the bandlogo barely legible after decades of wearing and washing. They have new shirts now, shirts two sizes bigger. The further away the brewery the more special they shirt, just as that shirt you have from that one band no one really knows about. Your classmates all had Springsteen shirts, you had a Devo shirt. You have a few beer T-shirts at home as well, but it’s winter now and too cold for T-shirts.

Groups of friends, two or more, wander around. They look like this is the first time they’re at a festival like this. In larger groups there is one person who has been here before, he knows the ropes, he will tell you what else there is.

You went through the eight coins. You decide you had enough. The Oersoep beers were amazing, the De Molen didn’t disappoint and you had some beers from breweries that were still blank for you. These are winterbeers and the average 9% you had today is getting to you. You’re a beerlover you tell yourself, you hate drunk people who only drink because of the alcohol. You get your coat and leave again. If there’s time at the railway station you will get something to eat, if not there’s enough at home.

Tomorrow people will ask what you did over the weekend. Alice from accounting will say she doesn’t like beer. You try and tell her that Heineken really is something else than what you had. Her boyfriend drinks a La Chouffe once in a while, so she tells you he is really into Belgian beer as well. You almost start talking about all the great breweries in this country and that Belgium really isn’t the most important beercountry anyway, but you doubt if that will register. You leave it at that, and return to your desk with the coffee. There’s a festival again in March, Leeuwarden this time, it’s on your calendar now.

In a windy wonderland

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

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

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

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

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

hoog1Northern beer

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

The not so great things

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

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

Food and other drink?

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

Again?

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

Beers sampled:

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

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

Sallands Rudolphus

Eibauer Dunckler Bock – least favorite at the festival

Pauw Wintertrots –lot of menthol/mint flavors, interesting

Winterse Arn – new brewery that keeps giving us good beer

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

Maximus Mispel –best one

Ramses Notenkraker