Archive for the ‘Utrecht beer’ Category

Buying Beer in Utrecht

The last two years I have written mostly about the beer scene in Amsterdam. Six years ago when this blog started there was almost nothing apart from one good brewery, one great store and a few great bars. But the capital didn’t offer more than other cities or regions. In fact it was somewhat later on the scene. Utrecht and the surrounding province with the same name was more interesting.

But Amsterdam has been through a craft beer. The number of breweries has risen dramatically and some of them are now Major League breweries like Oedipus, Pampus, Two Chefs and Walhalla.

But Utrecht is fighting back. It still has the best beer café’s within just a square mile (will write about this is an upcoming post). There are great breweries in the city, let alone the rest of the province. With Maximus and Oproer the city has two great brewpubs, with a third one opening last month. But I will write about De Kromme Haring soon. The Utrecht Beerbrewersfestival had over 30 breweries this year, brewers from this relatively small province alone.

A major shakeup has taken place in the Utrecht beershop world. The city was never rich in a lot of beer stores, apart from the amazing Bert’s Bierhuis. This store is still around in some capacity, but the last four months have been very exciting. I visited 5 stores, 3 of them new. They are all different in concept, location, atmosphere and specialty. Here, in Dutch Beer Pages tradition, I have picked out my four favorite ones.

This list is in the order of when I visited them. I got off at the Zuilen railwaystation and started at

Slijterij Zuilen (Amsterdamsestraatweg 595)

A good place to go after or before a visit to Oproer, which is next to the railwaystation.

The only real liquor store of the five. You have to pass the wine and hard liquor before you get the beer section. Slijterij Zuilen is on a busy street that has more than just this store . Zuilen alone is worth a stroll with interesting city history. Information boards for tourists are everywhere.

But back to the store. It has a surprising amount of beer in the back of the shop. And from good beer countries like the USA, Estonia, Spain and of course Holland, which takes up around 30%. One of those stores where even seasoned beer hunters will find new things every time. A few shelves are dedicated to beer from Utrecht. If you haven’t had many beers from the rest of Europe this is a great place to go to. Also, from the beers I checked out and was able to compare to the other stores they seem to be a little cheaper.

Website

Mad About Malt (Troosterhof 15-17)

I first heard about this store when NeoBosski released their new beer here the weekend after I posted about them. Turns out this isn’t the only Mad About Malt store! There is also a MaM in Rotterdam, which the fairly large line of beers from there. I got a good bottle from Noordt here. The store started as a wholesale Spanish wine importer and seller, but has lately moved into the beer business with two stores but also the import of Spanish breweries like La Pirata. They even helped them out at the Borefts festival.

It is located in a small mall with a supermarket and another liquor store next door, but one that specializes in wine. It all looks under construction and that is correct, as it will undergo a major overhaul soon. The quality of the beer is great. If you like Mikkeler, Thornbridge or La Pirate this is the store for you. They also have a cooler. It is a little out of the way if you’re a simple tourist to the city, but it might be worth the detour. The website mentions that stores will open in The Hague and Amsterdam soon.

Bert’s Bierhuis (Biltstraat 46)

The Bert in the name of the shop once had the famous shop I talked about in the first paragraph. This store was simply one of the finest in the country. The street itself, the Twijnstraat, is now a typical narrow Dutch street with beautiful stores, mostly with organic food. For a while there were two stores, but only this one remains. A large and roomy store with a superb selection from all over the world. I especially like the section with beers from exotic countries not particularly known for beer. If you remember the old store, you will feel at home again here too. Oh, and especially the German beer and cider section is quite good. More than enough Dutch breweries here too, with a great selection of local beer. The store will get a new name in the coming months, and we will keep you posted about that once the new name is certain. But it is good to see Bert and his shop are still here.

Website

De Bierverteller (Twijnstraat 47)

Saving the best for last. I had heard of this store already and knew about owner Thomas a little bit. The visit did not disappoint. When I first read that it opened in the Twijnstraat my first reaction was: “why is he opening a store in the same street as Berts Bierwinkel?”. Turns out they knew that store was closing. It was only logical to start a beerstore where people expected one. The Twijnstraat has some great stores for cheese, fish and other great food.

De Bierverteller is the natural successor of Bert’s Bierhuis, not only because it is housed a few spots over from where that store used to be. It is a beautiful old timey store with bottles all the way up to the ceiling. Ordered by taste (refreshing, dark etc) but with a special section for Utrecht beers.

bierverteller

Some of the local beers at De Bierverteller

Another plus is that the people working here know everything about beer (they had previous jobs at other beer places) and can recommend anything you want. De Bierverteller goes further than just selling bottles, they also offer workshops about beer, food pairings etc. Thomas is a beer sommelier so you know there is a lot of knowledge.

Unique too is a growler station with usually three beers. Selection is large and there will always be something new. They even have some Cascade bottles and other special brews.

The store is simply fantastic. I always imagine candy stores looking like this 100 years ago. And I felt like a kid in candy store, but for grownups.

The other three stores are fine and I will definitely visit them again when I am in the neighborhood, but De Bierverteller is a store worth making a trip for just for this. It is on par with stores like De Bierkoning, Melgers Haarlem and Burg Bieren in Ermelo. He might have made Utrecht more interesting, but in the process also gave the country a new gem.

Website

 

NeoBosski: bringing you sooty otters and swearing blondes

Hello Beer loving Friends, how nice to see you again. Vacation is over, the Olympics have finishes so back to writing about beer.

The summer was a time of reflection. The last year and a half have mostly been about festivals, some philosophical ideas and new stories about breweries I had written about before.

It was great writing for about where Duits & Lauret, Rooie Dop and ‘t Uiltje are years after the first blog post about them. Their rise was a great look into how craft brewing in this country started to grow. But I didn’t pay too much attention to the wave after. Was I too excited by the breweries I already knew? Was the quality of the new ones not as good as the first wave?

One reason was that I was getting tired of yet another brewery releasing yet another blonde, tripel or IPA. But over the summer I came across some new breweries that released some beers that didn’t fit that mold and it got me interested again in the part of writing about beer in the first place. I found that my favorite pieces were always about new brewers that just started but made great beer. Passionate people with a story to tell. And it is a truth that the better the brewer, the better the answers that you get back by e-mail. Which in turn leads to great articles. So, the coming weeks, I will once again bring you stories about the people who are relatively new to the scene but bring something special. Back to basics for the blog, and today I start with a new brewery from Utrecht called Neobosski.

_DSC0899First Contact

At the beer festival in Utrecht in May  I ran into Marco Lauret of Duits &Lauret who had just visited the Neobosski stand for a beer and a T-shirt. He liked it, which is as much as a thumbs up as you can get.  I have to admit their beer was one of the better ‘new’ beers at the festival. This and their overall look, more hipster than corporate, more organic than designed, also was more to my liking. A few weeks later their beer was on tap at Oproer!, which was another sign of approval from serious beer aficionados. Time for a closer look.

Who are Neobosski?

Neobosski is a two man team of Eric De Bos (The Boss part) and Neo (The Neo Part, Jeroen van Beek). Their paths to brewing start at different places.

As they explain it:

“Eric studied biology and has a degree in ecology, but eventually became a webdeveloper. He works as a senior developer and scrummaster at BNN/VARA (a national TV broadcaster on the public station, MB) where besides building awesome websites, drinks a lot of beer with his colleagues. Outside work he’s an enthusiastic nature guy, and being a biologist certainly gives him a bit of an edge in the brewing process.

Neo started his own event planning bureau a few years ago, working with a group of friends to help upcoming artist get gigs. With the decline of government support for the culture industry in the Netherlands it got harder and harder to make a living out of it, and with our brews getting better and better, he decided to quit and focus more and more on Neobosski. Next to that – being a enthousiastic cyclist – for now he works at a cycling shop (De Vakantiefietser)  in Amsterdam but plans to make Neobosski his full-time job in the near future.”

The Debut

For a few years they experimented with brewing, as you can read on their own website.

The two were influenced by separate brewing philosophies. And it is not only the beer itself that influences them, image and marketing are also a part of it. Neo is more influenced by the more American influenced breweries like ‘t Uiltje and Oedipus and Scandinavians like Mikkeller and Brewski. Erik has more of a thing for Belgians like Dupont, Rochefort and Bosteels, but is also very enthusiastic about Dutch breweries Emelisse and Duits & Lauret.

This eventually led to their first commercial brew: the Sooty Otter, a Black IPA. Ratebeer scores it a 96/90, the average on Untappd is a nice 3.79. Not too shabby right? Of course I had to ask about the name:

“We used Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt, maybe the best Pale Ale there is, but also because Neo’s wife’s last name is den Otter. And sooty means blackened, smirched or covered in soot, like a chimney sweeper, which is a bit how the beer looks like in your glass. Basically an otter covered in soot from dark roasted malts. “

The Utrecht Beerbrewersfestival was the first time they served the Sooty Otter to a larger public. The reactions from the public were great, yet the feedback from other brewers was even better. A public vote of confidence is one thing, having your peers like what you do is even better.

I then asked how they felt about being available at Oproer!, not the worst place to have your beer on tap. Turns out that the connection between the Neobosski guys and then still Rooie Dop stretches back to their days in downtown Utrecht. Neo practiced with his band in the same building where Rooie Dop brewed. They would drop in with them and try some of their test brews. In fact, this interaction might have been the planting of the seed that would eventually grow into Neobosski.

And now years later Neobosski is on tap at the next phase of Rooie Dop: Oproer! It is a confirmation that what they do is right. But besides Oproer two other premier beer bars have started selling it: DeRat and the Drie Dorstige Heren. This means three of the premier beer locations in the city liked it.

The Sooty Otter and the Next

So what is next for Neobosski?

“Our next beer will be something totally different. At the end of August we will be releasing a Belgian blonde-chilibeer. We’ve named i

Neobosski - outdoors-8

Foto by ByManja

Swearing Blonde. She is hot and slightly silty. The spice is going to make you blow your top, but besides that, it’s quite tasty with a bit of sweetness. Not everyone will be able to tame her, but if you are ready to give your taste buds a good rush you might fall in love with her!”

The Swearing Blonde will be released on Saturday September 3rd at Mad About Malt in Utrecht. I for one will be looking out for it. It is great to see a new and different brewery again.

Visit their website and Facebook page for more news

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

_DSC0899.JPG

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.

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.

 

 

A Visit to Fort Everdingen, Future Home of Duits & Lauret

Introduction

When I started this blog over 5 years ago, Duits & Lauret were one of the first brewers I wrote about. Their stylish labels but most of all their well-made and balanced beers showed me that great beer was made in this country. And juries all over the world seemed to agree, not a competition goes by where they don’t win prizes for their stout, smoked double bock or blond.

All this hard work is paying off. The usual step for successful contract brewers is setting up your own brewery and/or tasting room. It is the same for Duits & Lauret as they will open their own brewery and tasting room next year. But as you might have read last year, it will be in a unique part of Dutch history. In case you missed it, the new brewery will move into a 19th century fortress called Fort Everdingen. In early November, when it was still warm, we took the train to Culemborg for a visit.

20151109_123318A short and explosive history

Fort Everdingen is named for nearby Everdingen, a small town on the river Lek. The fortress was part of the Holland Water Line, a defensive line of fortress along the rivers to defend the most important part of the country (Holland) from any invader. When the fortress was finally finished, technology had already caught up and it was useless for its original purpose. The fortress remained in use by the Army (or the Department of Defense), though the Germans occupied it for during the war. The last inhabitant was the Bomb Disposal Unit, whose most recognizable work is getting rid of World War II bombs that are still in the ground all over the country. You can still see thick earthen walls behind which they detonated explosives and parts of the bunkers have everything in place to withstand large explosions.

You can read more about how Duits & Lauret got the fortress in the earlier article I wrote last year.I wrote last year.

Brewery

The fortress has a main square, a sort of courtyard which will become the main area for beer. You can see the huge dome of the fortress from here, you can walk into the store where they will sell beer and more while you are sitting outside enjoying a beer. The brewery itself will be in a large wooden shed on the square, where the tasting room will be housed as well.

20151109_124537This shed was built a few decades after the fort was opened so it is still quite old. Half of the shed will house the brewing equipment. Every process of brewing will take place here. The only thing that will be done somewhere else is bottling. A similar shed is located somewhere else on the premises and it isn’t in the same state as the brewery. This will need a lot of work before it can be used because it isn’t in the best of shape. The fleeting of time will do that to wood.

When we visited in early November they were still working on procuring a brewing installation. Duits & Lauret beers are balanced and delicate and it is no wonder that they keep winning awards at competitions all over the world. Right now the beer is brewed at Lochristi and Belgium and maintaining this quality means mean getting the right equipment.

Water

If the fortress was ever used in war time, it was supposed to be self sustainable for months. Rainwater could be collected in large tanks for further use. This system is still in place and the brewery will use the rainwater for the beer. For me this is the most spectacular things I have seen during our visit.

20151109_124811Storing

Duits & Lauret beers, stout and bock, are perfect for aging. The fortress offers a lot of room for doing just that. A fortress like this behaves like a wine cellar with temperatures that stay the same and with no influence by outside sources. Walls more than meter thick will do that. There is plenty of room still. I have had a stout from 2013 and a bock from 2014 and the difference in taste is noticeable. It will be interesting to see what aging will do in the coming years.

Not Just Beer

Beer will be the focus of Duits & Lauret but it won’t be the only thing produced here. A cheese maker is already at work making cheese and we saw some beautiful blue cheeses ripening already. They will themselves make mustard and vinegar. A room in the fortress had the tiles still from previous use and is perfect for this.

Campground in nature

Because of its location on the banks of one of the great rivers of the Netherlands, many tourists pass by on foot, on their bikes or in their cars. Tourist routes in this area often pass the fortress or even go right over it. This is a potential source of customers that might well be the bulk of visitors to the brewery. But in order to fit in even more into the countryside a big chunk of the area will be opened as a campground. There is room for a few RV’s and bunch of tents. The many bunkers and structures have been covered with earth again, making it a terraced campground. For people with hiking shoes or a bike this is a beautiful place to stay for a few nights and explore the surrounding riverlands.

The Rest

The fortress is huge and it would take ages, and a lot of money, to give every part a function for the public. Therefore this won’t be done and large parts of the fortress won’t be used yet. The most spectacular by far is the huge dome in the middle where D&L have planted their flag on. This was mostly used for housing the soldiers. You can still see the ground plans and pins for keys. Not much has been changed or damaged, but it did get new inhabitants when colonies of bats moved in. Because of laws they won’t be given newer living accommodations, but having them gives the fortress something extra, something awesome.

The Law and other obstructions

As an older structure the fort falls under Monument Care. This is in itself a great thing because you can get subsidy for certain things and there is free publicity. It also means however that changing something requires paperwork due to strict regulations. Monument Care means that the building should remain as is, as much as possible.

Another conundrum is that the Fortress is on the border of two provinces. And when I mean on the border I literally mean on the border. One half is in Utrecht, the other half in Gelderland. The brewery itself will still be in Utrecht, so we can still call them a brewery from Utrecht. But two provinces also means legislation from two different entities. And to make matters more complicated, because they are in two provinces, they automatically are in two different ‘gemeentes’, counties.

And then there’s the Fortress Green Preservation Society. Well I don’t know if there really is one, but the fortress has some flora and fauna that is varied and impressive. Some of the rooms in the main, domed, fortress part have colonies of bats and they are not to be disturbed. Fortunately the entire fort won’t be used all at once and with this much room the bats will be fine for a long time. The bats will be unseen but there is plenty of other animals walking and flying around. While walking around I saw a startled pheasant fly up from the bushes and on the way out some big waterfowl were looking for food in the moat.

Unique               

Danielle Duits and Marco Lauret won’t be moving into the fortress themselves, but someone will be manning the fortress day and night. Something that is necessary when then campground opens. But to drive to work in a place so unique as this must be worth dedicating their time to the brewery. The old jobs are gone, they will now be full time brewers. One of the countries’ most successful brewers have found a home, and what a home it is. There is so much more to tell about Fort Everdingen, but I am sure this wasn’t the last time we were here.

20151109_123616

Me and the brewers in what will eventually house the bottling line.

Utrecht Beerbrewersfestival 2015

With all the new breweries and contract brewers starting in Amsterdam in the last two years you would almost think that the center of Dutch Craft beer has shifted to the capital. I also spent more time writing about that scene than the one in Utrecht. But does this mean that nothing happened in Utrecht? Hell no! The beer scene in Utrecht is still growing still and as vibrant as ever. 20 brewers from the province were present at this year’s Utrecht Brewers Festival, and if they have shown anything it is that the quality of the local beer is still rising on the already strong foundations laid by the likes of Maximus, Duits & Lauret, Eem, Rooie Dop and VandeStreek. It is a festival that is also loved by the brewers. Smaller breweries (in manpower) like Rooie Dop and Duits & Lauret now pick and choose what festivals they appear on, and this one is always on their calendars.

DSC00882Too popular, too small?

This was the festival’s 5thedition, and it could well be the last time on this location as mentioned in an earlier article. The increasing interest in craft beer (I am just going to continue using this term for now, the whole discussion bores me to death, if Jopen, Uiltje, Kompaan and Craft & Draft use it who I am to advocate something else) has logically led to an increase in interest in festivals like this. It has happened a few times already this year that festivals were full, that people had to wait for over an hour to get in or that the doors were closed. Because this festival was held on a public terrain this was not possible, though volunteers were at the entrance telling people that there were no more glasses. The limit was at 1600 glasses, a number that was reached around 14:30 / 15:00. The organizers did make it very clear on social media that if you wanted a glass, you had to show up early. I would have liked giving the glass back to the organizers who could then sell it again.

It is one of the byproducts of the hype surrounding craft beer. The great locations tend to be small, and you to be on time. The festivals in Enschede, Groningen and Den Haag have been doing what is necessary in the coming years: the pre-sale of tickets, multi-day events or bigger venues, and hopefully not in some exhibition hall.

DSC00895New breweries

It was most crowded in front of the stands of the newer breweries like Kromme Haring, SpierBier and Stapzwan. The informed beer drinker know that their beers weren’t available nationwide yet and for many of them, this was the first time at a beer festival. The responses were positive, with Richard of SpierBier telling me that the best thing to happen were the people who tried one beer, and then came back to try the other one on hand.

DSC00868Quality

It also is a good sign that the jury voted for Kromme Haring’s Smokey the Barracuda as most appreciated beer in Utrecht, with my personal favorite Stapzwan getting the bronze. Kromme Haring (yes, that means crooked herring) was the most exciting because they also brought a fantastic raspberry lacto brett brew, sans hops. I started out with Stapzwan’s Porter and all the beers after that were good, but never reached the great porter flavors that touched my tongue shortly after noon.

Unlike their brethren in Amsterdam, the Utrecht brewers tend to be more brewers than entrepreneurs, more craft if you will. This means that they take more care in their beer, and in the slew of IPA’s that were released last year it is a breath of fresh air. If you ever thought Utrecht has lost its crown, it regained the title as most exciting province for Dutch craft beer.