Utrecht Beer Fest 2.0

My initial plan was for this article to be about the renewed Utrecht Beer Festival and how it is to visit a festival again as a visitor. But my former colleagues at Oproer roped me into standing behind the taps instead of in front of them so I spent a significant number of hours serving beer instead of sampling them. So I cannot give you a subjective overview of the state of brewing in Utrecht. This will come in separate articles over the coming months.

The festival was not the same as the UBBF I have written about so many times before. From humble beginnings next to a windmill in the center of Utrecht city it grew into a colossus that the last three years was held at a large event center at the northern edge of the city. And it was a festival with brewers from the entire province, and Utrecht has many of them.

The organizers however this year decided not to organize it and take the year off to think about how to continue. We wish them good luck, it would be sad to see this festival go but it was a big festival to organize and it might have grown out if its seams. May be great for the beerlover, for the breweries it was not always worth it because all the coins had to be spread out over 40 or more brewers.

This year the Van De Streek brothers decided to organize their own little Utrecht Beer Brewers festival with just 6 breweries, all from Utrecht City and all with their own brewing installation. 6 is still an impressive number of breweries. From the top of my head only Amsterdam has more now. Utrecht still is a main hub for great brewing. The six were De Leckere, Maximus, VanDeStreek, Oproer, Kromme Haring and newcomer Eleven.

The types of visitors

Standing behind the taps gives you a good insight in the type of visitors to a festival like this. Keep in mind that this festival attracted mostly locals. The weekend was also the start of the Dutch beer week so the beerlover had many opportunities all over the country to do something beer related.

The Newbie

The festival was held at the Vrijhaven Utrecht

There are always people who are at a beerfestival for the first time. They will stand before you not knowing anything. A sour and a stout are all just beer to them. These are the best ones to have because you can introduce them to something they have never tried before. Best beer to give in most cases is actually a Double IPA because it is both sweet, full of flavor and has good beer bitterness. Literally every book written about musicians in the 50’s and 60’s mention that special time they heard a song that was so special they had to pull over to the side of the road to listen to the song. Yes, I said literally every book. Look it up. No, don’t look it up, just believe me. Here you are hoping for someone who tries the sour and says ‘I have never tasted anything like this before’. The best would be for this person to sit down on a bench to softly cry thinking about how good this beer is.

The Fan

My view for parts of the day

Oproer brought two new beers. This attracted people already familiar with Oproer. There was a lot of interest especially for the Mixtape #3, a barrel-aged mixed fermentation beer. Also released this day was a new IPA called Uncut. Perfect for the warm day that this was. Social media made people aware of these two releases and it is always great to here they are already familiar with most of the beers but also want to try the news ones, like fans of a band waiting for a new song to be released. Hoping their favorite band made that one song that beats all the previous ones. Or in this case the beer that makes them silently weep, slowly diluting that perfect stout.

The Geek

The geek will often have a notebook and will try most of the beers they have not had before. Often they visit in groups so they can sample from each other. Sometimes they will systematically go down the list. I always wonder if they actually enjoy the beer or are just in it to fill their Untappd account with checkins. You will get the geeky questions about the types of hops used or the yeast. You do of course hope they come back later and try a full glass of a beer because it is really that good. So good that he sits down with his friends and bursts out crying explaining about how good that beer is.

The return customer

“I liked that one so much I want it again”. This is of course what you really want. In a time when there are thousands of beers available a lot of people tend to try different ones. At a festival it is always nice to see someone’s face a second or third time. Sometimes they try a different one, sometimes they keep drinking the same beer. Not really what I would do at a festival but hey, good for the brewers and hopefully they are going to chase it in the stores as well or visit your brewpub if you happen to have one. And at the brewpub they will choke up when they ask for that special beer they had at a festival one day that was so very very good.

Future

If the organizers of the ‘old’ Utrecht Beerbrewers festival decide to hold another one next year they would do well to look at the smaller version that Van De Streek organized. 40 is just too much. Why not let every brewery with their own installation in and rotate with the gypsy brewers. If they decide never to organize it again I hope this smaller festival will remain on the calendar. Or both ;).

Translating a Dutch Beer Label

This article was posted a few years ago on this blog when it was still called Dutch Beer Pages. 90% of what I wrote back then is not relevant anymore but this one still is.

If you are a non-Dutch speaker buying bottles from Dutch breweries it can often be a puzzle to figure out what the ingredients exactly are. So here I bring you a basic translation guide to Dutch beer labels!

Basic vocabulary

If you have heard or read any Dutch at all you will notice that with a good grasp of English you can translate most of the words. A good knowledge of German aids this even more significantly. The Dutch language is like on the map, stuck between English and German. This also explains why tourists coming here have a hard time finding anyone who doesn’t speak English. It really is our second language and we have no trouble using it. In fact we are so lazy that new words from English don’t even get a Dutch translation. Computer, Manager, smartphone all mean the same. In beer lingo it isn’t any different. Stouts, porters, IPA’s, DIPA’s, Saisons, Russian Stouts are the same here as they are in most of the brewing world. And the classic styles like dubbel and tripel are from Belgium where they also speak Dutch. To reach most of their drinkers many breweries don’t even bother writing the label in Dutch anymore but choose English from the get-go.

But just in case you do find a label in Dutch, here are some of the most used words.

Bier = beer. Surprising isn’t it?

Brouwerij = brewery. See the resemblance now between both languages? Gebrouwen door is brewed by.

Fles = bottle

Blik = can

Ten Minste Houdbaar Tot literally translates as ‘at least best before until’. It is the best before date.

Another pointer for storing the bottle is ‘koel en donker bewaren’: keep cool and dark.

Statiegeld = bottle refund. Most bottles now can be thrown in the glasbak (glass container found often near supermarkets), certain types of bottle still offer a ten cent refund and in rare cases 25. The bigger craft breweries like Jopen, Uiltje, De Molen and Emelisse use non-refundable bottles. If you live here, take all your bottles to the supermarket and try feeding them to the bottle return machine. Even labels that say there is no statiegeld might give you a return of 10 cents. After a while you will figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Bier van hoge gisting = is a beer with top fermentation. If the description is lage instead of hoge it means the opposite.

Kan gluten bevatten = May contain gluten. Gluten vrij means gluten free.

Inhoud

Bottles of beer are 33 centiliters. That’s little over 11 oz for you on the other side of the ocean. Occasionally you will find larger ones like 50cl and 75cl. Some of the more commercial bigger breweries may have smaller bottles of 25cl. The size will be translated as ‘inhoud’. In the last year the number of Dutch breweries who put their beer in cans, mostly in 33 centiliters as well. And yes ‘gebotteld’ means bottled.

Ingredients

It is here that the words start to become a different. Water and hop are Water and hops. The names of the grains are different:

  • Gerst = Barley
  • Tarwe = Wheat
  • Rogge = Rye
  • Boekweit = Buckwheat
  • Rijst = Rice
  • Mais = Corn
  • Spelt and Emmer are the same

Mout = malt.
Geroosterd = roasted.
Gerookte = smoked
zuur = sour.

Other often used ingredients:

Suiker = sugar

  • Rietsuiker = canesugar
  • Kristalsuiker = crystallized or granulated sugar
  • Kandijsuiker = candied sugar

Gist = Yeast. It may be the hardest beer word to pronounce in Dutch. It is pronounced like ‘jist’ if that was a Spanish word.

Other ingredients:

Other ingredients I have come across:

Zeewier = seaweed

Zoethout = liquirice root

Sinaasappel = orange (and bloed means blood)

Jeneverbes = juniperberry

Korianderzaad = coriander / cilantroseed

Specerijen = spices

Citroengras = lemongrass

Honing = honey

Kruiden = herbs

Cat I, Cat II, III and Cat S

Every beer gets one of these categories. What does this actually mean? This is a purely Dutch categorization and done for taxation purposes. Taxes are paid according to the height of the Plato, but the actual Plato cannot be mentioned on the label. The four categories are:

  • III = Plato 1-7
  • II = 7-11
  • I = 11-15.5
  • S = 15.5 and upwards

Enjoy!

Welcome Back

Welcome my beer loving friends.

I don’t know if you remember me. For a long time I wrote a blog about Dutch beer. But about two and a half years ago I stopped. And for a great reason! I was one of the fortunate ones who made a hobby into a career. For two years I helped out Oproer, a brewery I was already a fan of before when they were still Rooie Dop and Ruig.

It was an experience that made me look at the world of beer from the inside. An experience that I think will be invaluable for the restart of what once were the Dutch Beer Pages. My plan about a decade ago was to build a site that gave the reader all the needed information about beer in Holland. But the number of breweries and cafes is now so vast that an attempt to be all encompassing will only lead to a huge muddled mess. And the name was rather lame right?

But the blog will still be about the world of Dutch brewing and the people who create, form and inhabit it. It will definitely not be about me. I see too many blogs where the focus seems to be on the writer and not the subject. So here is what I promise:

  1. No pictures of me. I don’t think your appreciation of a brewery, bar, or festival is in anyway enhanced with my face.
  2. No reviews of beer. Just read my rating on Untappd if you really want to know. Taste is very personal and I see no reason to tell you a particular beer makes me think of some long last candy from the 80s. Do you guys really read a page long review of an Amstel light? It will definitely be part of articles if I really like it, but never the focus.
  3. No style hierarchy. Of course I have my preferences. I will never be a triple fan and love Russian Stouts. But that doesn’t make one brewery less than the other. Only quality does. What I aim to find out is why a brewery chose to make a triple instead of DIPA. If they didn’t make both of course.

What I am going for is making the brewery or bar the main focus. Why do they do what they do? What has influenced them to take this route and how have their own views changed over the years. My former blog was always focused on telling the reader things that were new. Background or a deeper insight if you will. That will not change.

And this won’t only be about the present. I will also write about beer culture in the past. There are a lot of stories still untold about that as well. Maybe not for a local, but a lot of it has never really been told in English.

So I present to you: Hop Culture Reference. A blog on which I am going to attempt to tell you more about this wonderful sub-culture. Because of family and a fulltime job I don’t know how often I will write something. The aim is two new articles per month. I already have some things lined up. Follow the blog on all the social media I am using.

I am looking forward to writing again and I hope you are willing to read it once in a while. The blog will grow and change and I would like you all to be part of it. A lot has changed in a decade, let’s see what the beer world looks like now.

See you all soon.