Posts Tagged ‘Bert’s Bierhuis’

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.

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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

 

The Dutch beershops: catalysts for the Dutch Craft Beer Revolution

In the Netherlands we are in the middle of a beer revolution. A revolution that can be seen in the many festivals we have today and the cafés and restaurants who now serve some Dutch beers next to the Belgians. The main source for our bottles and the easiest way for brewers to get their beer sold to the public is still the liquor store, and especially the specialty beer stores. We are fortunate enough to have a few very good ones.

The rise of Dutch beer can be witnessed in these stores. Where in the past only a few breweries would actually have bottled beer for sale, now more and more different kinds of Dutch beer can be found in these stores. The same goes for the chain stores like Mitra, even supermarkets like Jumbo and Albert Heyn might now on occasion sell local beer if they have a manager with a good heart. Let’s not even start with the specialty food stores and natural food stores.  But is my initial thought that Dutch beer is taking up more and more space on the shelves a right one? And if so, doesn’t that automatically mean that other  beers had to give way to these? I started investigating, asking four of my favorite beer stores a few questions. The interrogated quartet are De Bierkoning in Amsterdam, Bert’s Bierhuis in Utrecht, Melgers in Haarlem and De Bierwinkel in Leiden.

A selection of beers bought at De Bierkoning late July

A selection of beers bought at De Bierkoning late July

The Stores.

A short introduction to the questioned stores might be in order before we go on. If you do not know De Bierkoning I am guessing you either don’t like craft beer or just started to become interested. For those of you visiting Amsterdam it is a must visit place. Not the biggest of stores but in a great location behind the Royal Palace on Dam Square in the middle of Amsterdam, and therefore also the middle of the public life in this country now for over 25 years.

De Bierwinkel in Leiden is nicely located on a church square where Peter Jongejans runs it. It also is not the biggest of stores and is not exclusively selling beer. Lovers of wine and whiskey can also find what they are looking for in Leiden.

Melgers too is a more-than-beer liquor store on a very old backstreet of downtown Haarlem. Not on a main road so you have to look for the it on a map it’s worth the wandering through Haarlem’s small streets. With the Jopen Church right around the corner it is no wonder that you can find many Jopen bottles here but they have a lot more as we will see later.

Bert’s Bierhuis is in one of the nicest parts of Utrecht. The Twijnstraat is one of those streets foodies love. Chocolate, fish, fresh produce and cooking stores you have to pass before reaching Bert’s Bierwinkel, and from there it is only a short walk to a good beercafé called Het Ledig Erf. Of all the stores I talk about here this store has by far the most room.

The Rise of Dutch Beer…

I started off with asking how much more Dutch beer they sell compared to 5 and 10 years ago. The averages over the shops seems to be a more than a 20% rise in the last ten years. Peter Jongejans (Leiden) thinks he offers about 15% more Dutch beer than a decade ago. Dennis of Melgers believes the number of Dutch beer right now in the store is around 35%. There is a shelf there that is quite impressive, about 5 meters of De Molen beer only. Their offering of specialty beer in general has risen from about 300 6 years ago to over 900 today. For De Bierkoning, manager Jan guesses that since the (Dutch) beer revolution really started about 5 years ago about a quarter of what the store offers is now from the Netherlands and that is an increase over the last decade. Besides being a bigger part of what is on offer, it is now also the best selling ‘country’.

…and the decline of the Belgian multiplications

Here’s a little math test for you all: If in a limited space something gains mass, something else has get smaller right? What do you think that something is? Did you guess Belgian dubbels and tripels? Then you are right. For a long time these were the only specialty beers available, including the ones that were ok yet not earth shattering or easily available somewhere else, as with the InBev Belgian beers. It is these bottles that have departed from the shelves to make way for the influx of Dutch bottles. It goes to show yet again that beerlovers these days seem to go more for the local, and newer beers instead of a mediocre Belgian one. The days of thinking: ‘it’s Belgian so it must be great’ are over. Beware neighbors to the South! That the Belgians are leaving is something you see in all the stores. Besides those the bigger Dutch ones (Heineken) and crates of beer have left De Bierkoning too and are being replaced by local ones and beers that are harder to find.

Going Local

It would stand to reason that a store in Utrecht sells local beer, and Bert does just that. De Leckere, Maxmimus, Rooie Dop, Duits & Lauret can all be found there. Peter of the shop in Leiden strongly advocates selling local beer. I personally have bought most of the EleganT and Leidse Brouwerij there and he has a good selection of De Molens, Bodegraven being only a few trainstops away.

Haarlem is also perfectly located. First of all there is the giant that is Jopen, but they are no longer the only brewery from Haarlem with the start of het Uiltje. Being located so very close to Amsterdam brewers from the capitol can be found as well. Beers from the same province like SNAB and Texel sell well, and also Ramses’ colorful labeled beers seem to fly off the shelf.

Most Jopen beers are also available in De Bierkoning, as are all the brewers from Amsterdam like De Prael, 7 Deugden, ‘t IJ etcetera. Whenever a new brewery in Amsterdam pops up (with an astonishing rate this year it seems) their bottles can be found here. But don’t worry, you can find an impressive amount of De Molens and Emelisse bottles here too. This raises the question: do brewers benefit from a good beerstore nearby? Maybe a question for another day.

Interest

People seem to be genuinely interested in local , or at least regional beer. Peter sees that the small, mostly onetime batches sell the best, especially the Leiden beer that he sells to non-Dutchies. He has a very strict rule for himself and that is no InBev beers and Jopen is about the biggest Dutch brewery coming in through the door. Jopen’s neighbor Melgers hardly sells beer from the bigger breweries. De Bierkoning also doesn’t sell a lot of beer made by what Jan calls the Big 8 (Lindeboom through Heineken). Their big sellers are ‘t IJ, De Prael, De Molen, Jopen, Texel and Emelisse.

Due to its prime location De Bierkoning attracts two major groups. One is of course the local beer lover but being in the middle of the country also means that tourists are coming. Holland is rapidly making a name for itself across the borders as an up-and-coming ­craftbeer nation. The fact that most of these beers are for sale here attracts many. If people are only in the country for a few days Amsterdam usually is the only destination. Besides the beer hunters from across the border regular tourists also drop by to find something local.

Yes

So the answer to my question is a resounding yes. The specialty stores do show that we are in the middle of a revolution of local beer. With the still climbing number of Dutch breweries we can do this survey again in 5 years and see what new Dutch brews are available.