Posts Tagged ‘utrecht beer’

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

 

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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

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.

Houtens Brouw Collectief Part I: Hommeles

Frequent readers of the blog will know that I consider Utrecht to be the Oregon of the Netherlands: a small part of the country with some of the best brewers in the nation. The home of a vibrant craft beer culture with great brewers and pubs. Today’s article will be the first about the Houtens Brouw Collectief, the Houten Brewing Collective. The HBC is the driving force behind three things that make Utrecht an even better beer destination.

  1. They brew craft beer and call it Hommeles.
  2. They organize the Utrecht Beerbrewers festival, one of the best festivals in the country that I discussed in a blogpost a few years ago.
  3. They aim to advance beer culture in Utrecht, and one of the ways they do this is by holding open brewing days every first Saturday of the month at the same windmill the festival is held at. If they are not there you might find them around the area at tastings, regional markets and other gatherings.

I asked one of the three people behind the HBC, Kees Volkers, a few questions about Hommeles and the festival. To make reading a little easier I have decided to post separate articles about them, today we start with…

Part I: Hommeles

You already met Kees, now let’s introduce the other two men making up the HBC: Jan Ausems and Jos Eberson. The three met at a brewing course back in 2007 and found out they were all living in Houten, a town close to Utrecht City. Ever since they met they have been busy brewing. But don’t think that they only started with beer then, their beer resumé started way before 2007.

Jan for example runs cambrinus.nl, a website loaded with great information about beer. If you want to find out which breweries started in what year, this site is the place to be. It’s easily one of the best resources for Dutch beer information online, unfortunately for some of you only in Dutch. In his daytime job he is an IT man for the BOVAG, an automotive branch organization.

Kees has written a book about the history of beer in Utrecht called “Wandelen over de Bierkaai [walking along the Beer quay]” , and this led to initial contact between Jan and Kees. He makes his living as a self-employed historian and author.

Jos has experience with flavors in general as a beer lover, but also as a cook and wine salesman and home liqueur maker. Right now is a manager at a large furniture store.

The Beer

Hommeles have around 10 beers for sale, ranging from a beer with honey to an IPA. Their best beer is called Molotov and clocks in at warming 9%.

As almost every brewery these days they have collaborations as well. A Pumpkin beer made with the boys from Epe, and a Green Ale with Ruud from Eem. This beer highlights another thing that the HBC does, maintaining their own hop garden in a town called Odijk. They used their own fresh hops for this beer, a tasty Red Ale or ‘Rat Ale’ as they call it. With limited hop fields in the Netherlands it makes this beer a rare one.

Sallands

They brew once a month at the windmill De Ster in downtown Utrecht but this is just for demonstrational purposes. The Hommeles beer itself is made at the Sallandse Brewery. Raalte is quite a long way from Utrecht but very welcome to contract brewers. Besides Hommeles it is also the brewery where De Arn, De Vriendschap, Eem and Eanske have made at least some of their beers, if not all. Finding a place to brew is getting more and more difficult and brewer Ruud van de Gevel is a cool and patient guy who is open for all kinds of experiments. He is now helped by Oscar Moerman, also a good brewer. Though it’s usually Ruud and/or Oscar who brew the beer according the recipe, they don’t mind at all if you help them out. Something Kees tells me they haven’t been doing a lot lately. When they are making a new beer for the first time they always make sure they make the trek to Raalte.

Success

Of the ten beers they put on the market 6 were introduced in 2014. The Dorstvlegel and Bokkepruik won awards. The Ondeugd (a smoked beer) had the distinction of being bottle of the month at the ABT-cafes all over the country.

Hopefully this has spread the name Hommeles among beer drinkers in the Netherlands, and hopefully beyond as well. Their beers deserve the attention, and I for one can’t wait what else Jan, Kees and Jos will bring is in 2015.

One of the things they will definitely give is this year is the 5 year anniversary of the Utrechts Beerbrewers festival. This will be the topic of the second installment about the Houtens Brewing Collective.

HBC op Internet

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VandeStreek: The Art of Hops.

The pages on this blog have lately been filled with articles about the burgeoning beer scene in Amsterdam. But we shouldn’t forget that other city that has given the beer geek so much, so today we turn our attention once again to Utrecht and it’s award-winning pair of brewer/brothers VandeStreek. Van de Streek is the last name of brothers Sander and Ronald, and since they burst upon the scene two years ago their rise has been meteoric: from two well received beers to a prestigious medal at the Brussels Beer Challenge this year. The result of talent, experimentation and hard work, and of course tasty beer.

Eight Days A Week

Sander and Ronald do not have a decade long experience with brewing. They are an example of the many who from brewing at home, made the step to commercial brewing. The knowledge came from the Internet and not from classes or workshops. The start was in early 2010 in small, 20 liter batches with one goal: to brew beers that couldn’t be compared to the beers found in the supermarket, to basically let their imagination loose and make something out of nothing. The 20 liter installation expanded to 50 and the hobby became serious. This is completely different from their normal desk-bound day jobs: Sander as a consultant and implementer of CRM software, Ronald as a marketer at an international congressorganisation. Since the commercial start of VandeStreek the number of days working behind the desk has been lowered to four, the rest of the week, nights and the weekend are dedicated to beer. Or as they say: “we say now that we work 4 days for the boss and 4 days for ourselves every week”.

Utrecht, or turning beer drinkers into beer lovers

IMG_1939

At work during the Dutch Beer Festival in Den Haag

The two brothers are both true Utrechters and proud of the local beer culture. But it isn’t being from Utrecht that got them this far, that is still hard work and dedication. Of course they make sure that their beer is widely available in the city but it’s already being sold all over the country. And all over the country you can run into them at festivals or tap takeovers. They enjoy doing this: going to events where the public consists more of beer geeks who want to try anything that is new and where they can talk about beer a little more in depth. But the tastings for people who have no clue there’s a revolution happening in Holland right now are great too. It’s great to tell people the story behind the beer and surprise them. People who usually drink pilsners can enjoy and appreciate stouts or Double IPA’s when they know what it is and if they are carefully guided towards trying these new beers. “We love to turn beer drinkers into beer lovers.”

Brothers and coffee.

The first two commercial beers were called Broeders and Dark Roast. Both exemplify what VandeStreek is. Broeders means Brothers, and VandeStreek is very much a brotherly effort. Being brothers is something they definitely see as a positive element in their identity. They started brewing because they loved to create, like any other brewery. But as they say, you can choose your friends, not your family. They have been challenging each other since they were kids and still do these day when they are brewing. This constant challenging keeps them sharp and inventive, and the results of that we can taste.

The other beer they started out with is the aforementioned Dark Roast. This turns out to be their second experiment of the many they did before putting anything on the market. It was a coffee stout and was already called Dark Roast during the experimental phase. The term coffee stout was something they weren’t really familiar with, but they were brewing a stout and decided to add coffee. The result was great and they used this recipe for one of the two beers they made their debut with. Until recently the Dark Roast was made with coffee from a major coffee producer, but since mid-2014 they started a partnership with Het Koffielab. On the day before they brew the Dark Roast, Het Koffielab roasts fresh Kenian coffeebeans and they now use this for the beer. This has made the balance between coffee and the stout even better than it already was.  

Hop Art #5 and #6

Hop Art #5 and #6

The Hop Art Series

It is not unusual for a brewery to have a special series of beers. Emelisse has their White Labels, Het Uiltje has a range of barrel ages Meneer De Uil beers and VandeStreek has their Hop Art series. This is not just a series of one-time beers but a beer made with the help of artists in other fields. Every beer is different and has special artwork designed for it.

The Hop Art series started by accident. When the brothers were still brewing by themselves they never really made the same recipe twice, meaning all 60 brewers were different. When CasCo, an Utrecht art institute, asked them to teach another artist to brew for the How To Live Together Project they agreed immediately. There have now been 6 different Hop Arts, ranging from a Saisons to a Pale Ale or a Black I.P.A.’s. Like their beginnings, every brew is different.

They, like me, believe that brewing is an art form, both made by creative people to make something to be enjoyed by others. Painters and sculptors make things to look at, brewers make things to taste. The partnership between artists and brewers is therefor only natural.

Medal Winner

Their fifth Hop Art won a prestigious prize at the Brussels Beer Challenge in Belgium. A festival where Dutch brewers raked in a number of awards this year. The brothers sent in their beer, a Black IPA, mainly to get feedback from a professional jury. In their category the Hop Art #5 immediately won the bronze medal, a confirmation that they can make world class beer.

Contractbrewers

VandeStreek beer isn’t made in their own brewery (yet?) but at several locations. A few of the Hop Arts were made at the 7 Deugden (), a brewery that has been host to a rising number of great brews. The Dark Roast is now made here as well. Most of the brewing is still done at De Leckere, and occasionally Maximus.

2015 will see an expansion of the range of Vandestreek beers, plus the usual seasonal and a few specials and collaborations. What that will be they don’t know, they will just see what happens to cross their path. The brothers are true beer artists.

Links

VandeStreek website

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On Twitter

On the Radio!

Duits & Lauret, A Touch of Class

Having the right name for your product  helps in getting name recognizition. Heineken rose to the top with the help of their German sounding name and names like Duvel or Delirium Tremens will always be remembered, even among the non-drinkers. Another part of a recognizable product is good artwork. Whether it’s La Chouffe’s gnome, De Molen’s simple black and white labels or ‘t IJ’s diamond shaped labels, they all immediately let you know which brewery you are dealing with.

A brewery from Utrecht called Duits & Lauret has found a way to combine a great sounding name and some classy artwork with the most important ingredients: good tasting beer.

Beginnings

The beginnings of Duits & Lauret are like every other microbrewery. In this case it was one passionate 17-year old Marco who started brewing his own beer, partly because he thought that at that time, about 25 years ago, the Netherlands did not have many beers that were good. Partner Danielle later tried her hand at brewing. Once she had mastered the process the obvious questions arose: What now? What do we do with all this beautiful beer we made? They decided to “go commercial” and get their beer known to a wider audience.

They are based in Vleuten, almost part of the city of Utrecht, the capital of a province with the same name that has spawned some interesting, and mostly good, breweries and brewers like Eem, De Leckere and Vat No. 13. Why this is Marco does not know, but there is something in the air it seems. The first Utrechts Beerfestival was a big success and it says something that a small province boasts enough breweries to stage a festival.

The Name & The Label

The name was the easy part since owners Marco Lauret and Danielle Duits just had to combine their last names. For the label and other artwork they turned to Belgian graphic designer Petra Gryson. The label shows class, like it has been a family owned business since the 1800’s. This sense of class is something that is very much on the minds of Duits & Lauret. D&L also aspires to get on beer menus in good restaurants, where now they only wine menus.

The Duits & Lauret website mentions a lot of recipes. Almond and date brownies or a mackerel with cream cheese and a mango dressing to name just two. Recipes made with one of the Duits & Lauret beers. This gastronomical use of beer plays an important part for them and is in fact the basis of why they brew. Marco names their stout as a good example. It goes great with oysters you will have as a starter, but also tastes great with that dark chocolate desert you’re having at the end.

When I asked Marco who D&L is targeting I got an answer that is often heard spoken by brewers:

I hope to get people who say they don’t drink beer, or that beer equals pilsners, acquainted with the variety in craft beer. This is a huge potential audience. The real beer lovers have found us early on.”

Marco seems driven by these two aspects and he hopes that in the future more people will drink more and different craft beers and that good restaurants will have a beer menu next to their wine menu.

The Beers

The D&L range of beers so far is not the usual one for a starting brewer: A blond, a stout and a smoked dubbelbock for example. All of them very flavorful, well balanced beers that have great palate. Not beers that go for extremes in bitterness or alcohol percentage. Their stout was ABT beer of the month, a huge deal for any brewer, especially a smaller one like Duits & Lauret. It is a great way to reach many beer lovers at once. And the five beers they have now will not be the last. 25 years ago there might not have been good beers in this country, but Marco has seen progress. He especially mentions Christoffel, Emelisse and Jopen as good examples. We happily add Duits & Lauret to this list.

Links

Duits & Lauret – their website is one of the few that has both a Dutch and an English version.