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.

 

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