Posts Tagged ‘duits en lauret’

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

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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.

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Brussels Beer Challenge 2015

Last weekend the annual Brussels Beer Challenge was held, a prestigious competition with breweries, and judges, from all over the world. Medals were awarded in several categories, making it an interesting competition because most brewers these days don’t start brewing with the intention of making for example a triple. They make what they want to make, even if it makes the beer harder to categorize. Thinking in terms of beerstyles isn’t really something that fits to way we think of beer anymore in these post-modern beer days, but the organization came up with such a wide of array of categories that most beers could find a place. And if you’re doing a competition like this, it is the way to go.

International

It is interesting to see what other countries are starting to win medals. Most medals went, as was to be expected, to the US, Germany and Belgium. The group behind this is getting larger with Italy, France, the Netherlands and Spain winning quite a few. Brazil was a pleasant surprise. It is no secret anymore that their craft beer scene is growing fast, and now they have the medals to show for it. It also means it is getting harder to win. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and even the U.K. won a small number, although that could be due to hardly any brewers sending beer in. Smaller brewing nations like China, Greece, Malta, Colombia, Poland and Argentina won medals too, a sign of the broader rise of craft beer around the world.

Dutch winners

And how did the Dutch breweries fair? Well, every year the number of medals rises, and 2015 wasn’t any different. Some breweries won medals again after winning last year and the years before. But because the panels change every year this can be seen as a different medal. Winning it multiple years just means you made a really good beer.

The medals we are most excited about were won by Bax Bier, a brewery we have followed ever since their first two beers were released, the beers that also won. Silver for the Kon Minder and a gold medal for the instant classic Koud Vuur. We wrote about them a year ago and expect more on Bax next year when we will describe the burgeoning beer scene in Groningen, with a leading role for Bax Bier with a new brewery and brewpub. The fact that this is an up-and-coming city can now be shown with medals!

Not in Groningen but a similar brewery in age and ideas is Eindhovens Van Moll, winning bronze for their red ale Pastorale.

Another brewery we interviewed earlier this year was Houtens / Utrechts own Hommeles who won silver in the German-Style Dunkel Bock/Doppelbock category with their Bokkepruik. Utrecht brought in more medals as usual with Maximus’ Brutus winning bronze in the Speciality Beer : Hybrid category. You can read about what a cool brewery Maximus is here. And what is becoming a usual thing at challenges like this is a medal for Duits & Lauret, a silver for their stout this time after winning metal for their bock last year. They have been an early favorite here at home, and the plans for next year are amazing, and you will read about that soon.

Alfa has suffered somewhat from being seen in the eyes of some as a brewery that only makes cheap supermarket lager. But the quality is better than expected and they won a bronze medal with their Super Dortmunder in the German-Style Helles-/MaiBock/Doppelbock category. Bigger Limburg brewery Gulpener has been working hard on becoming the most environmental friendly of the big guys. Fortunately for us the beers are as good as their views with a bronze for the Ur-Hop and gold for the Wintervrund. And while we’re on the subject of the big guys, even Heineken won a medal (silver) for their light beer in the light lager category.

Another favorite of ours is of course ‘t Uiltje. You can read the interview with Robbert when he just started here, with news about the brewpub here and here. The Bosuil won bronze in the Dark Ale : Dark/Black IPA. Noord-Holland was represented further with SNAB winning gold for their Ezelenbok and ‘t IJ’s IJwit. Jopen had the biggest total haul, winning no fewer than 3 medals. Other large Noord-Holland brewery Texels took home 2 for their dubbel and bock.

One brewer that surprisingly won a gold medal was the Heidebrouwerij with their Edelhert Donker. For a small brewery like this a medal can mean a lot and let’s hope it will steer them into the path of even greater things.

You may think about competitions like this what you want, but it is good way to spot trends, and Dutch beer winning medals means things are well in beer land.

You can find the complete list of winners on the Brussels Beer Challenge Website.

Bock Season: Festival in Woerden.

When darkness sets in earlier and earlier and when the wind outside has a cold streak in it you know that fall is just around the corner. If you’re a beer lover in this country this also means that the first bottles of bock beer will start to appear in the shops.

Bock as a style is one that was present long before the current craft beer revolution. The first festival dedicated to the style PINT even before I was born in 1978. Though traditionally German, this style has become the most present Dutch style outside pilsners. It is something we should be proud of.

What the current revolution brought was more interest in bock. Many a Dutch brews a bock or something similar and the number of opportunities to showcase is growing, with the ceiling almost in sight. The number of bockbeerfestivals in October is very high, and it’s impossible to visit all of them because at some times more than 3 are held on the same day. Last Sunday there were festivals in for example Amersfoort, Zutphen and Woerden.

Woerden

After missing out on the festival for three years I finally had the opportunity to visit. The festival is organized by the SPSW, the same people who run the Bierhuys in Woerden, one of my five favorite beer cafés in the country and who recently opened a shop around the corner.

IMG_6870It is held in the iconic castle on the edge of the city that cannot be missed if you ever go to Woerden. The castle traces its beginnings back the early 15th century and was built by the Lord of Woerden, John of Bavaria. With a founder named Bavaria this could only lead to a great beer location 6 centuries later. And a great location it is with the courtyard and outside part being used for the festival, giving it a cozy and not immense feeling that sometimes makes the festival in the Beurs van Berlage a somewhat unpleasant place to be when it’s completely full.

Beer

Peter and Monique from ‘t Bierhuys support local brewers, so this festival had a regional feel with brewers from Woerden (Borrelnoot), Houten (Hommeles), Utrecht (VanDeStreek) and De Meern (Maximus). Some Belgian bocks could be tasted as well so you could compare. Dutch bocks won by the way.

But the truth is that I am not the biggest bock fan. I have no trouble finishing a bock but I will never count it among my favorite styles. There is a sameness to it that bores me after a while just like pilsners do. But I do enjoy a well made bock and having our own beer tradition can only be applauded and supported.

Danielle Duits of Duits & Lauret poured two versions of the Dubbel Bock

Danielle Duits of Duits & Lauret poured two versions of the Dubbel Bock

It is no coincidence that my favorite beers in Woerden were bocks with a twist. The VandeStreek bok for example with its low percentage was more than OK. Another one I enjoyed was the Weizenbock that De Blauwe IJsbeer (yes, that does mean the blue polar bear), a welcome change to all the bocks. Duits & Lauret was present with their now classic wood aged dubbel bock. They brought two versions: this and last years. The smokiness in this beer lifts it up from a normal bock to a great one. This was a small trend as more brewers brought two; the fresh one and the aged version. Did I have a bad one that I wanted to throw away? No, the overall quality was fine yet not earthshattering.

Food

If you didn’t want to drink beer you could spend all your coins on the more than excellent food available. I’ve been to quite a few beer festivals now and one thing that often bugs me is the lack of good, filling and diverse food.

The castle is no longer the seat of the Lord of Woerden but now houses a restaurant, and they provided most of the good food. Warm snacks like cheese croquettes and warm ham sandwiches didn’t cost too much. There was also cheese, coated peanuts, sausage (made with the Bierhuys’ own Bockbeer brewed by de Eem), ice cream (with the same beer) and very tasty pork pastries.

Will I come again to this festival? Yes, but it won’t be for the beer alone. The location, pleasant atmosphere and good food selection have made this festival a local tradition in Woerden.

Dutch Beer Week 2015 Festival in The Hague

The Week of Dutch Beer is a ten day national event where breweries open their doors, bars have special tasting sessions and festivals are held all over the country. A great way for the public to see how far Dutch brewing has come in the last twelve months, and if they are even a little perceptive they will see a lot has changed. It also brings reluctant beer drinkers into contact with craft beer, and this can only be a good thing.

DSC01195Festival

The beer week opened with a three day festival in the Grote Kerk in The Hague. Before the opening for the general public brewers and people working in the industry came together. Most of them stayed and this led to an interesting mix of people on the festival floor. Like last year the ticket could be bought online, so no disappointments standing in front of a full church after traveling all the way from Weert or Ter Apel. And spreading it out over three days meant opportunity enough, even though the €12,50 price tag (two coins) was a little steep. Churches are perfect for events like this like the festivals in Groningen and Alkmaar have taught us. There is usually room enough and the acoustics often fine as well. The tables in the church was set up in such a way that it never felt too crowded, though I can’t say what it was like on Saturday when it was sold out.

The floor 15 minutes after opening.

The floor 15 minutes after opening.

The big guys and the little guys

What sets this festival apart from the others is that is half festival, half trade fair for the national beer industry. It is for both selling beer to beerlovers, but also making contact with people in the industry: the designers, distributors, salesmen etc. This meant that people from Heineken and Grolsch were walking around in their 3D-suits between the craft beer fans with Rooie Dop T-shirts and Uiltje caps. Brand and Grolsch were selling their multinational mass produced beer next to the guys making beer in their own kitchen or garage. And if you like it or not, this is what the Dutch beer landscape looks like these days. Big guys at the top, a very small mid section (Jopen and a few others) and an increasingly large group at the bottom. Of course it’s the bottom group that I, and likely most readers of the blog, are interested in, but the big guys have their role and fans too. Craft beer maybe booming all over the world, over 85% of all the beer sold is still made by the Budweisers and Heinekens of this world. Tasty? Not for me, but their economic impact is too big to be ignored by craft beer fans. And their attempts to appeal to the craft beer crowd by releasing IPA’s, Pale Ales and Amber like beers should only strengthen craft beer’s claim that they make good stuff and that big brewing is getting afraid of the future.

Duits & Lauret

Duits & Lauret

The beer

A festival that has many debuts can unfortunately mean that the level of beer quality wasn’t superb. Of course as a seasoned visitor of these festivals I skip the ones I know and go for the untasted breweries or new releases by established ones. Crooked Spider and Brouwdok had decent beers, Het Kwartje from Den Haag one that was a little more than decent. They will be the before now unknown brewery I will start looking out for in the coming weeks. But hopefully some visitors were smart or lucky enough to try Bax, Kompaan, Maximus and Duits & Lauret to get a good taste of the awesome things available in the country today.

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.

Houtens Brouw Collectief Part 2: The Utrecht Beerbrewers Festival

Molen "De Ster" around which the Utrechts Beerfestival is held.

Molen “De Ster” around which the Utrechts Beerfestival is held.

In Part 1 a couple of weeks ago I wrote about Hommeles, the brewing branch of the Houtens Brouw Collectief. Part 2 today is about another successful venture: organizing the Utrechts Beerbrewers Festival, which this year will be held for the 5th time.

I myself have remarked about this wonderful festival, one of the nicest beer festivals on the calendar. I asked Kees Volkers why he thinks the festival is as successful as it is and he gave several reasons:

  • Location, location, location. Though located in the middle of an Utrecht neighborhood, the area itself is a windmill and surrounding public land. A little green haven inside the concrete and stone structures in that part of Utrecht.
    It is a ten minute walk from the train station and Utrecht is the hub of the national railway grid. This makes it is easier to get to, with often only a few or no changes, from any part of the country. Rotterdam and even Amsterdam are harder to get into this easy.
  • Setup and atmosphere. You don’t really need more than stands for the brewers, live music and good food. The area feels enclosed and the people owning the terrain are very involved with the festival. The wooden structures, windmill and farm animals make you feel like you’re something where there is a lot of space.
  • Utrecht has a vibrant beer culture and has a large number of brewers. To remain a specialty beer festival, and keep away a certain type of beerdrinker, no pilsners are served.
  • All three are well known faces in the local and national craft beer scene so getting the word out was easy, though I doubt that is even necessary, the festival itself is a gem.

But I have noticed that the more popular the festival gets, the more crowded it gets as well. Isn’t there a fear that the festival will become too big?

Kees:

“this is something we will discuss in the coming year. This year we will keep things as they were, with some new measures. The number of visitors isn’t immediately a problem, we will just had out a maximum number of glasses. We don’t necessarily feel the need to grow. A small scale festival at a great location is perfect, but we realize that the reputation of the festival and of brewers from Utrecht is rapidly growing and the attendance shows this. One problem is that the area surrounding the mill is public terrain which can’t be closed off.

The biggest problem right now is the growth of commercial brewers from Utrecht. At the first festival there were seven, this year the number will be 20 or 21. There will come a time when we won’t be able to house all of them. If the attendance stays the same this also means that the brewers will sell a lot less. So something needs to change, and we would like to get the brewers involved too to look for a solution. “

For Utrecht the number of brewers is of course great, people are still realizing that brewing is fun, hip and that you can even sell what you make. With the number now at 21 the end isn’t in sight yet.

Could this festival be the first one to crumble under the weight of the craft beer revolution? Could well be, but I trust that the HBC men will find a solution. This festival is one of the few you really should have been to at least once. In fact, my wife and I postponed the honeymoon for one day so we could visit two years ago, and left for the Alps straight after. That’s how great this festival is.

Duits & Lauret are becoming a fortress brewery

Craft beer has been going against the trend of economic demise. Shops all over the country are closing, either because of the economy or the growing online market. Older, monumental, buildings have trouble finding new investors and purposes. Brewers have made use of this demise and are bucking the trend. New breweries are starting and in the process give new purposes to sometimes historic buildings. This isn’t a completely new trend, in the last century Brouwerij ‘t IJ moved into an old bathhouse and Oudaen in Utrecht occupies a medieval house. This century Jopen opened a restaurant/bar in a church and De Molen started in that most Dutch of structures: a windmill (for those who might have missed it, De Molen is Dutch for The Windmill). Even old factory buildings now house breweries like Maallust and Oersoep. These are just some examples of the many ways craft beer is changing the cities and towns and countryside we live in.

But a brewery in an historic fortress? That’s a new one and it will happen this year when Duits & Lauret move into Fort Everdingen, a fortress located on a river to the south of Utrecht on the border of provinces Utrecht and Gelderland. This will mean that after brewing in Belgium for years they will now do everything themselves and in the Netherlands.

dleverdingen10986494_618873438243070_8680001355375537309_nFort Everdingen

The fortress (finished in 1847) is located in the area where three major rivers flow in close proximity. Water has played an important part in the original function of the fortress as part of the Hollandic Waterline, a linked number of forts meant to defend Holland (the western part of the country with major cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht) from the enemy. But the enemy never came and the sluices to inundate surrounding farmland were never used.

Many of the buildings remained and the fortress has had other functions. The last was as a depot for the army’s bomb disposal unit before it was turned over to the Ministry of Economics who started looking for a new destination. 18 investors and/or businesses turned in a proposal outlining their ideas of what the fortress could be used for. Of these 18 Duits & Lauret had the plans that a committee liked the most and this means that in 2015 a brewery will be located in the 150-year old fortress. Their plan combined a great idea of accessibility with economic viability, the committee sees the brewery as something that will be in that location for the next decades.

Plans

The entire area is large, about 12 hectares (30 acres) and has 32 structures. The plan is that eventually all these buildings will get a purpose. The scale of the project is such that it is almost impossible to do it all at once. Marco Lauret tells me that all the buildings will be gradually incorporated into the entire plan, but that this can take a decade.

So what will the fort get? Apart from (naturally) a brewery and tasting room the fort will also hold a shop where apart from their own products (they also make cheese and mustard) they will sell local products. The tasting room will also offer some small dishes, which will be made in cooperation with De Veldkeuken. Because of the dark and sheltered characteristics it is also perfect to age the Duits & Lauret beer cheese.

One of the bats in the fortress (photo from Duits & Lauret)

One of the bats in the fortress (photo from Duits & Lauret)

Nature

The fortress will encompass more than just beer and food. Because of its location nature already plays a big role. The tower that stands on the ground houses a colony of bats and the bats won’t have to be relocated as they will remain right where they are. At the start of the year they counted them all. This won’t be the only dwelling for animals, new housing for bats and/or hedgehogs might be built as well and who knows what other animals will find a home here. So even for the non-beer drinking nature fan the fort will have a lot to offer.

History

The Hollandic Waterline is important and visible part of Dutch history, not to be ignored especially when the fortress becomes as accessible as this one. An Information Center will definitely be part of the setup. Because of its location it will naturally attract motorist and bikers, especially now that it is open. If you have never been in the area of the country where the rivers are located, it is a beautiful part of the country to visit and drive through.

Job creation

When it is all finished the brewery is planned to offer jobs to ten people, and more places for people further from the job market, a concept we have seen often at breweries. They hope that the fortress will be a place of work for a lot of people, and a place where people can be taken care of as well, to make them feel they have a purpose.

Time schedule

The first thing they hope to open this summer is the tasting room, followed by the first parking spots for camper vans and the brewery itself. This will be start of the beer-and-breakfast concept. The other buildings will get a purpose in the next decade, yes, you read that correctly, it will probably take about 10 years before it will get a finish.

We will of course visit Fort Everdingen as soon as we can, and will keep you updated about this unique new beer location in the middle of the country. We for one can’t wait.