Posts Tagged ‘oedipus’

Oedipus International Beer Festival: More than beer indeed

That the people over at Oedipus were organizing a beer festival was hard to miss. They promoted it well online and used Untappd for further promotion and discounts on tickets.

Not that Oedipus needs it. The last few years has seen them from hobbyists turn into a major Dutch brewery. They are present at festivals everywhere in the country and abroad. Their bottles  can be bought in the major supermarkets now. And most importantly they have done so by maintaining their own identity and philosophy, something that can be found in their unique beers.

Their quality has resulted in an invitation to the annual Oregon Brewers Festival. Something I wrote about a few years ago. This lead to a movie, a lot of great Holland-Oregon collaboration beers and now some of these breweries made their way to this festival. Upright, The Commons and Cascade for example offered their beers. The quality of Dutch brewing is great and still improving, but the festival got a massive boost through these American breweries and likeminded European ones like Lervig, Brew by Numbers and Omnipollo.

These breweries in turn provided a beer list that made any self respecting beer lover salivate. From session IPA’s in the 3% range to Russian Stouts of 11% and over, there was something for everyone. The wide variety also meant that you could have beers in your favorite style for most of the day.

Twice a day you could go on a tour and have 5 glasses of beer within a separate theme. Barrel-Aged beers were one of the 4, sours the other. And if you liked sours boy did you have a great time. The festival brought together old world sours from Boon and new world sours from for example Cascade. Sour ales have been the darlings of the beer geeks, and this festival showed why.

oedipus1More than beer

But as advertised the festival was indeed about more than beer. The OIBF is a festival that is worth going to even if you don’t drink a drop of alcohol. For one the food was exceptional. Many festivals still have one or two stands with mediocre food but here it was a small food truck festival. Kim Chi, Burgers, Oysters, Noodles and Hot Dogs to name some of the options. The sausages were made by Brandt & Levie and if you never had their sausages before run to any good food store to get some. They do for sausage and meats what Oedipus does for beer, no-borders sausage making. The smells of good food hung over the festival and with the dwindling number of cigarette smokers this is a huge improvement.

Children could come, and though there wasn’t an entire playpen they could drink lemonade just like their parents drank beer. The public was mixed between old and young, beer aficionados and beer novices. Walking beer labels walked around for extra atmosphere and the music wasn’t bad either, though at times a little too loud.

First timers

You might guessed by now that I loved being at this festival. In fact the day after I had an overwhelming urge to return for day two. When I write this on Tuesday I still wish I was back. There is room for improvement, sure, but they got significantly more things right than wrong.

The comparisons with Borefts cannot be ignored, and they have beat them on a few points: One, it is held on Saturday and Sunday, although my guess is Borefts is a Friday, Saturday festival because of the religious nature of Bodegraven. Two it is easy to reach. Bodegraven is easy to reach from the 4 major cities, but a little harder from farther away. Amsterdam Centraal is easy to reach for most.

What remains are memories of a great festival, a festival that makes the first weekend of July worth looking forward to. With the Brettfest and Borefts Holland has a third unique and international festival, one that has plenty of room to grow and improve. I will be planning my vacation next year around the Oedipus International Beer Festival.

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.

 

Borefts 2015 and the frontline of brewing

If you believe that adding orange peels and coriander in a wit, cherries in a geuze, or sugar in a bock is already pushing the limits of the definition of what beer is, than Borefts is not for you. If you get fits of anger when strange fruits, herbs and vegetables show up in the list of ingredients of some newfangled beer from Estonia, than Borefts is not for you. If you believe beer was so much better 15 years ago when it was all much more simple, you should probably put on your cardigan, take off your reading glasses, replace them with your regular glasses and take your ideas back to 1999. Because once again Borefts showed Europe what is going on in the front lines of brewing, and it is nothing like beer brewed before the turn of the millennium. And I for one, and thousands with me those two days, welcome it with open arms and mouth. Borefts has become the Paris fashion week, or Austin’s South by Southwest festival, or the Sundance Film Festival. A place where mostly independent artists showcase their work for an audience that is ahead of the curve and interested in everything new and exciting.

borefts2015aLocal Farmhouse Beer

The theme this year was as postmodern as always. Brew a saison (classic) but add something local (modern). The chances are that if you go through all the green herbs in your spice rack there was a beer brewed with it by one of the brewers at Borefts. This is really what the brewers of today do. Where Ferran Adria or René Redzepi look at the edible world around them, so do the new (post)modern brewers. Beer is the basis, the rest is all open to personal taste and interest. Not everything will make it to the larger public of course, but it was interesting to see how brewers look at beer these days. Was it all great then? No, with this many beers there are bound to be some misses. And even though I personally welcome experimentation my favorite beers were still an Export Stout from Redchurch, a Jim Beam Barrel Aged Hel & Verdoemenis from De Molen and an excellent sour ale from Belgian Alvinne. But Omnipollo’s desert themed beers (yes, there was a raspberry smoothy beer) or the many sour ales with strange fruits and herbs made clear some new words need to be added to the standard beer review vocabulary. Words like ‘funny’, ‘interesting’ or ‘strange’

But I have only been able to taste a fraction of what was on offer, there is just too much supply, even for a fairly experienced beerhunter like myself.

International

That more nations are joining the ranks of top craft brewing was evident again. More British breweries this year and a bunch of Scandinavian as well, also more before it seems. In fact, some breweries weren’t even making beer when the first Borefts festival was held 7 years ago, and that isn’t even that long ago.

Another region that is very much up and coming is the Baltic State area and they finally made the big show with the appearance of Latvian Labietis at Borefts with some excellent and most of all interesting beers with local ingredients. I had an interesting wit with caraway seeds, inspired by Latvian bread. With brewers from the UK, Belgium, Latvia, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Holland and Germany and the United States this year and brewers from Italy and France in previous years the state of craft beer in Europe is strong and diverse and the end not yet in sight.

National

Every year Dutch brewers are asked to be part of the festival as well and for a Dutch brewers there is no higher stage, it is the same as headlining Glastonbury or Bonnaroo. This year Oedipus from Amsterdam and Brouwerij Kees were invited. Oedipus rise in and around Amsterdam has been meteoric with a new brewery, tasting room and shelve space in supermarkets. Kees has been to Borefts many times before while still brewing for Emelisse, but now that he has gone solo nothing really changed for Brouwerij Kees is again easily one of the best breweries in the Netherlands. Since Kees has just started who knows what else we can expect.

borefts2015bLogistics

Every year it seems Borefts has reached the limit of the number of people the premises can hold, but every time the setup changes for the better. This time the former children’s indoor playground was in use for half of the brewers, a great view to see them stand in front of the rows of barrels with beautiful De Molen beer aging just for us to taste in a year. Signs asked people not to smoke outside underneath the tents, though unfortunately we were too late. Inside there was enough room upstairs, another great find.

Borefts too finally offers online ticketing, and even though they are still able to let people in at the door this is the way forward. It is a lot easier to get your ticket and the line in front of the registers was virtually non-existent. The food is getting more diverse every year and the free distribution of water remains yet another reason why Borefts is the number 1 festival in the country, and maybe in Europe.

The nearby train station is still where most people arrive from the surrounding cities, though I started to see buses from Germany parked as well. And the festival is also a good boost for the surrounding cities with visitors staying in hotels in nearby Alphen and Gouda but also in Amsterdam and Utrecht. In the days after I saw many of them visiting breweries in Amsterdam and Haarlem for example, making Borefts more than just a De Molen festival.

One thing is for sure, as long as this festival brings together brewers and beer drinkers from all over Europe as it has done now for 7 years, the state of craft beer remains strong and will keep growing. Bring on the strange brews.

Oersoep Craft Beer Festival

—  Another collaboration, this time Florian from German blog HopfenLiebe.com translated the article he placed there for our website. He went to the first Oersoep Festival, here is his report —-

glas-flyer-oersoep-festival-2015-648x486The first Oersoep Craft Beer Festival was hosted in Nijmegen last weekend. It was organized by the Microbrewery Oersoep at the beautiful ‘Het Zomerkwartier’ (an artificial beach area next to river Waal) directly next to the brewery. The venue was the first thing one positively noticed when entering the festival site: There were not just some tables and benches standing around, but a nice beach with comfortable chairs, sun loungers and sofas. The whole location added a nice and smooth summer atmosphere to the festival!

But one was not (only) there because of the location, but for good and handmade beer. Oersoep invited 15 breweries from the Netherlands, England, the US and Italy to Nijmegen.

Breweries at the Oersoep Craft Beer Festival 2015:

  • Jester King Brewery (US)
  • Wild Beer Co. (UK)
  • Brew By Numbers (UK)
  • Birrificio Dada (IT)
  • Brouwerij Kees (NL)
  • Oedipus Brewing (NL)
  • Van Moll (NL)
  • Brouwerij de Hemel (NL)
  • Het Uiltje (NL)
  • Kaapse Brouwers (NL)
  • Donderwolk (NL)
  • Tommie Sjef Wild Ales (NL)
  • Rooie Dop (NL)
  • RUIG Bier (NL)
  • Brouwerij Frontaal (NL)
  • Katjelam (NL)

Form an organisational point of view; the event was overall well managed. You could either buy a ticket online or at the box office on site. The entrance to the festival ground was free but you had to have the official festival glass to taste the beers. The glass was really nice and looked at first glance exactly like the glass that is used in the BrewPub of Oersoep STOOM. However, this optics was kind of misleading, as the craft beer glass was in fact made ​​of plastic. That might was the better choice, as a large part of the location was covered with sand and we all might now what happens when we combine sand, bar feet and broken glass.

Each brewery had brought different beers to Nijmegen and served two at the same time, which meant the kegs were changed ever now and then. Some of my beer highlights at the festival include the Grätzer from Katjelam.  Brewed with Weizenrauchmalz, the beer had a great smoky and ham aroma, but was still not too heavy and pleasant to drink on a warm day. Also delicious was the Brettalicious of Oersoep, a saison with great acidity and fruity hop aroma.  Wild Beer Co.  from England, poured also a saison called ‘Cool as a Cucumber ‘, and yes, there was real cucumber involved. Great and refreshing!

In addition, I really liked the Tazara Pepe, a saison that was brewed with different kind of peppers by Birretta Dada from Italy. My overall favourite of the festival however was the Suave from Oersoep and Van Moll from Eindhoven: the Gin and Tonic Pale Ale. This beer was partly brewed with real tonic water and after the fermentation they added even some gin. The finished product was nice and round with great fruit flavours and a very pleasant juniper finish.

Craft beer events like this festival are a great opportunity to try special beers, which you otherwise only can buy (if you can buy them in your region at all) in big bottles. Also the conversations with other beer lovers and the brewers are always very informative and entertaining.

Nijmegen is always worth a visit, even if there is no craft beer festival. Visiting one of the 6 breweries and brews, or one of the countless great beer cafes is a must, as well as checking by the great beer shop De Bierhoeder.

A Post-Modern look at Dutch brewing

Is brewing a craft or an art? Both? The dictionary calls art: “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”, and a craft as “an activity involving skill in making things by hand”. A brewer can be both, but he can be just a craftsman. The brewers we appreciate today are definitely artists.

The craft brewer uses his creativity, experience and craftsmanship to create something new, something that is indeed beautiful and evokes an emotion. The craft brewer therefore is an artist. Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria or Heston Blumenthal take a totally different and new look at food. They change how it is made and play with your senses and make you look at food in multiple ways. The consumption of food, and also beer, takes on more than one meaning than just a tasty beverage.

If beer is an art-form it can be analyzed like art. The modern brewing world is behaving a lot like other post-modern art. For a deeper understanding of what post-modernism entails, I refer to sites like Wikipedia. In this article some of the characteristics will be mentioned, and hopefully it will give you a little more understanding. I have looked mostly at music and used it to look at brewing.

4 main characteristics

Many lists of characteristics will mention at least 10. Since many of these overlap I have compressed it into these four main characteristics of post-modern brewing:

  1. No boundaries between styles. Styles are in effect meaningless.
  2. Challenges what is a high or a low style.
  3. Has no problem looking at past, present and future for inspiration.
  4. Challenges the idea of a brewer(y).

Does this cover everything? No, but for what I want to highlight it will suffice.

1. No respect for boundaries between styles. Styles are in effect meaningless.

The supermarket shelves show you the rigid borders between styles. There are pilsners, weizens, blondes, dubbels and tripels. Easy to understand styles that don’t mix. With the influx of English and mostly American styles these borders are fading. The IPA made its entrance but also the DIPA, the Imperial stout, etc.. Good brewers these days just start brewing without a clear style in mind. In some cases the beer can even be a vehicle of another ingredient, which we will see later. Since for them it is not the market that prescribes the overall flavor they can, and will, do whatever they like.

A post-modern brew? The De Molen Open & Bloot, Double IPA-ish

A post-modern brew? The De Molen Open & Bloot, Double IPA-ish

A while back that De Molen started putting styles on their labels because people asked. They did, hesitantly, but kept calling their beers ‘IPA-ish’ or other ‘ish’es. Styles really are just a guideline for the consumer, not the aim of the brewer. So if someone next to you in the bar says that a certain beer falls a little outside ‘the style’, get the nearest blunt object and smack them on the head. It is in essence no different than someone saying ‘I don’t like beer’ when they mean Heineken.

Rooie Dop has this to say about one of their beers:

At Rooie Dop, we don’t really care about styles. But this is our version of an American IPA. Classic example of the style? Fits perfectly into the category? No. Does it need to be? It just needs to be pretty tasty! Chinook and Cascade hops dominate this beer and are assisted by a biscuity malty backbone”

On menus in beer cafe’s and on shelves of specialty beer shops you see them struggle with this new idea. Some shops and café’s will sort the beer according to style, which is getting increasingly difficult. The better shops and café’s have stopped doing this at all. De Bierkoning and Bert’s Bierhuis sort their beers according to country and then brewery. They have correctly seen that people nowadays tend to follow a brewery more than a style. If there is a new brewery in the store, often all the bottles of said brewery are bought. For café’s it’s still a slightly different story. Many consumers still think in old terms of pilsners and anything else, it’s up to the barman to try and describe his way through it all. At least to good bars give you a taster.

With the rise of the internet, social media and the open market it is now easier to travel and try beer made from all over the world. Brewers will also get their inspiration from other cultures. Beer from non-Western European countries will not even fit the old ways of pigeonholing. Modern brewing is eclectic and crosscultural, with no borders of style.

From style to ingredients, a form of deconstruction.

There is a shift from style to ingredients. A beer made with brett and Cascade will give you a better sense of what it will be than knowing it’s a stout or dubbel.

Now let’s look at additions to the beer. Let me be clear, I am not talking about additives to keep to beer fresh or the foam firm. This is not about chemical elements put in mostly for show or commerce. I am also not talking about the usual additions of citrus or orange peel or coriander in Hoegaarden or candied sugar in bocks. They are there to make elements already part of the beer more pronounced. I am talking about the addition of things way out of leftfield. Hot peppers, melons, cucumber, or a variety of herbs and spices.

Oedipus Thai Thai. Galanga, Orangepeel, Korianderseeds, Lemongrass, Chili Peppers. A very postmodern, crosscultural eclectic beer.

Oedipus Thai Thai. Galanga, Orangepeel, Korianderseeds, Lemongrass, Chili Peppers. A very postmodern, crosscultural eclectic beer.

At Borefts a few years ago they had beers aged in vinegar barrels. Go figure. With every ingredient added many more beers are possible. The best examples of breweries who don’t limit themselves by ingredients but are using them as new opportunities are Oersoep and Oedipus, though Emelisse and De Molen have great examples as well.

Single Hop

But in a clearcut example of post-modern contradiction they can just as easily deconstruct beer to one main element and highlight this. All the releases of special beers highlighting hops or yeast are a good example. It makes a certain kind of hops the star of the show.

2. Challenges what is a high or a low style.

Pilsner is often seen as a low style for the masses. Joe Sixpack wasn’t drinking six cans of barrel-aged Baltic Porter with juniper but cheap generic lager. Beercafe’s will mostly serve stronger, more interesting styles even though a pilsner is in fact not an easy style to get right. It is much easier to score with an Imperial Stout than a pilsner, yet the former is seen as a high style.

Modern brewing challenges what is or what is not a high and low style. In fact, just as with styles there is no distinction apart from personal taste. Brewers will make whatever they want from pilsners to IPA’s to fruit beers.

A great example of a more democratic, fluid way of thinking about high and low styles are this year’s Borefts festival. Every year there is a theme, a style that the brewers present at the festival will make in a sort of contest. This year they will be making radlers. A style generally thought of as a sweetened, watered down version of already boring German lagers. Yet the country’s premier brewery thought it was a good idea and from what we have seen already the result will be unique and amazing. People will still think that this is a bad idea, but the people at De Molen know what’s going on. A strawberry IPA? Yes, please.

3. Past, present and future

Look at the list of beers from Dutch craft breweries. Apart from finding most of the styles from the traditional beer countries newer styles appear as well. The typical Dutch beer Kuyt has been making a comeback, backed in part by Jopen who have this as a staple beer. Many interesting things are happening and I have seen gose, mumm and braggot on menu’s, all beers that originated well before most of you were born in other parts of Europe. A new look at historical documents might give us even more new, yet old, beers.

The present is clear, whatever is made now they can make and often will make. The future is that great undiscovered country. Because post-modern brewers tend not to think in styles the future is open for even more inventions and ingredients. Thinking in styles is thinking in traditions, and traditions usually are not the best engine for progression. I have already said that styles are relative and that high and low are, add time to the list to.

4. The Modern Brewer(y)

Many brewers are, or at least start out as, contract or gypsy brewers. This is mostly for financial reasons. They almost use the other brewery as a sort of pop-up installation. Some brewers are fine with this and see no need to have their own kettles. The recipe is there and there might be some changes with every brewery but if you are brewing at the right brewery who recognizes and respects the recipe there is no problem. If anyone is complaining that the beer wasn’t made in their own brewery, please tell them it’s an empty and outdated notion. It makes the production of beer easier, people who have great ideas might not have entered the market but now they can.

Many brewers are only interested in crafting the recipe in the first place. Once the recipe has been fine-tuned to their liking they often leave it alone and let others do the actual producing. Very similar to a composer who just finished a sonata. Does him being there make it better?

A Dutch/Brazilian collaboration, made with coffee.

A Dutch/Brazilian collaboration, made with coffee.

Craft brewers are part of a movement. The Impressionist painters often painted together or each other. Picasso sometimes teamed up with others to create art that was truly the result of combined efforts. In brewing the collaboration brew is a great example. They have a common cause, making great craft beer and you need the help and expertise of others sometimes, it’s a win-win.

The future of (Dutch) brewing

At the moment we are experiencing a time of rapid growth. New breweries start every week and not many are folding. How long this will take is anyone’s guess, but I reckon the beer scene being very different in a decade. The smaller ones will have vanished again and if the public gets more beer savvy they will start to recognize what is good and what isn’t. With limited space in stores and bars only the good ones will survive, but the good ones with a strong foundation behind the ideas.

There are many good things happening in the Netherlands right now having to do with beer. The best ones that we have shown us and most of all the world what the way forward is. Style rigidity and making beer like it was the 20th century won’t hold anymore, post-modern brewers of today are looking at the past and will because of that still be with us in the future.