Alkmaar 2014: now warm and churchy!

In the coming weeks we will release a string of articles about the rising number of brewers in Amsterdam. Maybe there will be a separate Amsterdam beer festival soon but for now Amsterdam is still part of the province of Noord-Holland and that nice city in the middle of it, Alkmaar, was the host of the annual Noord-Hollands Beerfestival.

Last year the Noord-Hollands beerfestival was held on a cold snowy February day in the cafeteria of some public building, quite a way from the central railway station. The organizers this year made some wise decisions. Firstly it was moved to June and. Secondly, they must have been to the festivals in Groningen and Den Haag because they opted to hold in a church this time. And is there really a better place to do it?

Noord-Holland boasts a lot more brewers than just the Amsterdam and Haarlem breweries. There is enough to do above the IJ-canal that splits Haarlem and Amsterdam from the rest of the province. 24 brewers were present, a great number, but just half of the number of breweries in this part of the country.

Noord-Holland v Utrecht

It wasn’t an ‘open’ festival. Only brewers from this province could come. This set-up leads to comparisons with the festival in Utrecht last May, that has brewers from that province only.

And here is a big difference, and also something that needs work. I will be honest, of the 24 brewers present in Alkmaar, only 4 are in the top flight of Dutch brewing, or close to it, meaning they have multiple good beers and consistently release good and interesting beers. Jopen and Het Uiltje are well known by now and Pampus and Oedipus are young and upcoming. Though they didn’t bring it, Pampus’ collaboration with Eem (the Dark Hops) is on my shortlist for Dutch beer of the year. Oedipus extreme flavors and beers are a delight to any beer drinker and they will become a force in Amsterdam in the years to come.

Nordman, a new Amsterdam brewery

Nordman, a new Amsterdam brewery

Is this bad? No. Most of the brewers here were either just starting or were the result of weekend labors of love. Beer might not be the best, but the effort is worth an applause. Also, I have to add that because of where I live my access to beer from Noord-Holland is good, meaning I have tried most of what was offered already.

The huge church meant it wasn’t too crowded, but the brewers were busier than for example in Den Haag last month. The setup was great and the price didn’t suffer. 20 Euros for a glass, booklet and 7 coins. At a walking distance from the railway station it was also much easier to reach, especially on the glorious summer day that it was.

Where’s the beef

So here’s a free suggestion to you makers of food out there: go to beerfestivals. The only available food at the festival was great. Homemade cheese, sausage, mustard, relishes etc. People who love sampling beers would like this as well, but it doesn’t exactly fill the stomach. It has an oft heard complaint from my side but half of the beerfestivals lack in this area. A hotdog or burger stand would do well anywhere, and especially here.

Oedipus

Oedipus

The beers:

As I said, I tried mostly new breweries. The Bourgondische Brouwers made their debut with a smoked beer, not a safe choice but I enjoyed it. They still have some way to go but I like their thinking. The kind of thinking I am starting to be a little adverse to is making a blond or tripel your first release. In a beermarket that is changing more and more towards more American styles a (starting) blonde will never stand out. Molenduyns’ blonde was good, though sweet and what they do in Santpoort is great, but I won’t get on my bike to get some bottles. Same for the Helderse Jongers, their pilsner-type Paal 0 just didn’t cut it. They looked professional and the stand was one of the better ones there, but the beer isn’t.

My winner was the Oedipus Two Shafts Double IPA. Oedipus is one brewery to keep looking out for, and also one of those breweries that are turning into rockbands, you can’t wait for the next release. The absolute winner was an old favorite. My wife had to have the Double IPA of Het Uiltje again. Next to the Oedipus one it was just crisper, more flavorful, more bitter, just excellent.

Stay here           

Dear organizers of this festival. You made two excellent changes when you changed the date and the location. Keep doing this! I am sure the quality of the beer from North-Holland will soon reach the level of your festival.

De Bierderie, brewers who should make more. Their Sprout 2.0 is great.

De Bierderie, brewers who should make more. Their Sprout 2.0 is great.

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