Back to a Beer Festival, Part I

Remember the days before corona? Full bars, beer flowing everywhere and a beer festival every day of the weekend. But 2020 and 2021 were quiet years. The few festivals that were held were often non-social affairs where you bought your beer through QR-codes and where social distancing limited good conversation. This, and getting corona, meant that I stayed away from them altogether. The only festival I was at was in Leeuwarden where I was behind the taps helping Oproer.  

With corona at the moment not a thing on the forefront of our minds I was able to visit a beer festival again. I went to the start of the Dutch Beer Week, kicking off with a festival in the Grote Kerk in Den Haag. I had the privilege of being at the festival for two days. The first day as a regular visitor walking around the church. The second behind that taps manning the Oudaen Brewery stand. Part 2 will be about that experience.  

The festival for the Dutch Beer Week started off with the announcement of the best beer of the Netherlands. In the weeks before the Dutch Beer Challenge was held with gold medal winners in different styles. Of all the gold medal winners one beer was chosen as beer of the year. In this case the blonde by Maallust, the Weldoener.

What is nice about this festival is that it is one of the few that offers stands by both big breweries like Heineken or Grolsch but also tiny ones like Hans and Grietje or Eiber. It was a good showcase of what you can find among the over 900 breweries in the Netherlands today.

It is not an easy festival to be on. Apart from the bigger breweries it is first come first serve, so many breweries you’d think would be there were not. But there was enough variety. I read somewhere that there were over 100 different styles available.

I won’t give you an entire rundown of which breweries were present and what they brought. The liver can only take so much. I do want to briefly mention three beers that surprised me in a positive way.

Two Chefs Prague Nights

As you probably know if you have been following me is that I have a thing about ‘simple’ German and Czech style beers. Two Chefs made a Czech Dark Lager called Prague Nights which was more than palatable. More please.

Avereest Klungel

This is a kuyt beer. A predominantly Dutch beer style that has seen some revivals this century, though it has died down somewhat. Only a few breweries make decent version. I was happy to see Avereest brought one. Even if it wasn’t a good beer, it was quite nice actually, just the fact of making one and bringing it deserves praise. But besides this they also brought a dubbel and some beers with rye and wheat. And I love rye. I only had two of their beers, but I will seek them out more.

Haagse Broeder

This brewery is the one I was looking forward to. A brewery with actual monks in the center of The Hague. Their beers are not the easiest to get and if you do find them they are not cheap. But I had heard tales of their excellent beers and was happy to see them on the festival. I was not disappointed. Their Patmos, a red ale with rye, was excellent and I can’t wait to try more.

This is what is nice about beer festivals. You can come into contact with beers that you have never tried without losing a lot of money on an entire bottle. And you can get to know some new breweries you had never had beers from.

Next week more about my experiences behind the taps.

Go here for more festivals in the Netherlands.

Bierverbond, uniting lager lovers

In a previous article I mentioned the rise of German (style) beers in the Netherlands. Bars like Café Brecht, Taverno Willi Becher and In de Wildeman are at the forefront in Amsterdam, while Boot 122 is serving great things in Utrecht. Occasionally a brewery here will brew a German style beer. Othmar has an almost perfect rauch and Amsterdam based Butcher’s Tears released a great Bavarian lager last year called the Fluiter, easily one of my favorite new beers of 2021. They are organizing a Czech lager festival in April too.

But the beer landscape in the Netherlands is still a desert when it comes to breweries who focus almost exclusively on bottom fermenting beers. One oasis in this desert is a brewery called Bierverbond, Beer Union. In a flood of Double Dry Hopped New England India Pale Ales and stouts featuring the entire pâtissier section of the supermarket, it is good to see some going into a completely different direction. 

Beginnings

Bierverbond is a two man team of Theo Verriet and Gert Hoff. Bierverbond is not (yet) their regular day job. Theo works at a bank doing IT four days a week. Gert used to work in IT as well owning several companies, but has sold all of them and retired early. His days are now filled with golf, grandchildren and beer.

It all started when Theo got a simple homebrewing kit from Dutch store Xenos. A first attempt led to  unexpectedly good results. Two further attempts however were not so successful and this put Theo onto a path of discovery figuring out where exactly in the process things went wrong. This search expanded his knowledge of brewing.  

Theo (L) and Gert (R) hard at work. Brewing is mostly cleaning.

Theo and Gert are in fact brothers-in-law. At a family party they found out they both liked beer, and that they also liked the same styles and decided to work together brewing beer. Through the Amsterdam based homebrewers collective De Bierkaai they perfected their skills and started to commercially release their beers, starting with the New Amsterdam Pilsner.

In my years writing about beer I have met many IT-professionals turned brewer. According to Theo there are definitely comparisons between IT and brewing. If there is something not correct in a beer you go back into the process and try and figure out where the mistake was made. Just as you would in a computer program where if something doesn’t work you look for the bug, and try and correct it.

Their IT background returns in their embracing of open source systems. This means their recipes are no secret and anyone can use them. It also fits in with their Beer Union philosophy: beer unites people.

Professional brewing

Theo and Gert found a small space in Heemskerk and set up a brewery installation which is perfect for small batches. Their core range is brewed at Huttenkloas.

It also storage for their beers and some other local breweries. During Covid they had success selling their beer online and also helped  other breweries with webshop activities.

Some of Bierverbond’s beers

These styles and the others in their range are as I said rare here. That the beers are not some funny experiments can be seen in the number of awards that they have won so far. And not only for one of their beers, but for many of them. That they have not yet added a Dutch Beer Award to their cabinet of prizes is because they brew styles so uncommon here that there is no competition, and therefore not a fair contest.

Future plans

They have been working hard on a series of beers that will be released in April. A tour along six different German cities and their signature beers: Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Cologne/Köln, Weimar, München/Munich and Bamberg. The labels for the city themed beer have landmarks from those cities most people will recognize. The Allianz Arena and BMW HQ for Munich, the Gehry Buildings in Düsseldorf for example. They will be released in a good looking box so you can buy all at once.

I tried some of the beers on my visit and especially the rauch (Bamberg) was a very nice beer. I also liked the Baltic Porter which might be discontinued. The name of the beer, Vladimir, might have something to do with it.

There will be some restyling. The labels have always been tight and monochrome and this will stay. But now white on black instead of black on white. The XXX, the seal of Amsterdam, will be deleted too. O.K. if you are in Amsterdam but in other parts of the country often a reason not to drink it.

Release

The aforementioned German city box will be a released at Taverno Willi Becher on April 23. A fitting location. Let’s hope the beertypes they brew become more popular. So put away your cranberry banana cake orange stout and drink a schwarz by Bierverbond.

Bierverbond Website

Bierverbond on Facebook

Bierverbond on Instagram