Hardcore UFO

In the southern city of Eindhoven Van Moll has steadily been working over the last few years to become one of Hollands premier breweries. And like any brewery that considers itself a big player they have their own brewpub and festival. This festival has been held for a number of years now. Two years ago I had the honor of being at Van Moll Fest as a participant when I poured beer for Oproer. This year I decided to go both days, as a visitor.

The two day setup really works. The international breweries (from countries like the U.S.A, England, Belgium and more) were there for both days, the Dutch breweries one day only but the same number every day. That meant more breweries and of course even more beers to try.

The location is the same, under the shadow of a huge flying saucer looking building in Eindhoven called the Evoluon. This building was built in the early 1960’s to showcase technological advancement, with Phillips at the forefront. This Dutch multinational has had a huge part in shaping Eindhoven as it is today. It is no longer a museum but a building where congresses are held. And beer festivals.

Holding this beer festival at the Evoluon is fitting. Van Moll has been on the forefront of the new wave of Dutch brewing and has never shied away from innovation itself. And the breweries that were invited are cut from the same cloth. Forget your Belgian triple and blonde brewers. Beautiful stouts, IPA’s and maybe the best lineup of wild ales and sours that I have seen lately.

The entire Evoluon area is closed off by a moat and a fence, which mean that there was a lot of space to walk and sit. Something other festivals often lack. Even though this weekend the country was again hit by a heatwave, the third one this summer. There was enough water and people seemed to take it easy. 

The cream of the crop of Dutch brewing was present: De Molen, Jopen, Kompaan, Nevel, Oersoep and Het Uiltje to name just a few. Special mention though for De Moersleutel. During the days of my former blog they weren’t around yet so I never had a chance then to mention that this brewery from Alkmaar is my new favorite. They surprise you with stouts like De Molen once did. Their IPA’s and sours are also world class. And some local pride for me that two breweries from Amsterdam (Walhalla and Butcher’s Tears) and two from Utrecht (Kromme Haring and VandeStreek) were present.

Some of the best from the UK were here as well. Like previous years Wiper and True and Siren were here. But of all the newcomers for me extra praise for the beers of Central Waters. I had been chasing their beers for a while now and was happy to see more of them in bars and shops here. But to taste their XX stout was a moment of pure bliss and their other beers were world class every single time as well. 

With the great lineup of breweries and it being a two day event you cannot help yourself to compare it with Borefts. If I had the option of only going to one of them the room at Van Mollfest and the fact that is it held on Saturday and Sunday make me choose a trip to Eindhoven, even if Bodegraven is right around the corner from me. See you next time you weird huge UFO!

a magnificent Central Waters stout

Heineken’s Stake in Oedipus, Part of Something Larger?

Lately I have been doing some research on Heineken’s increasing influence in the world of Dutch beer. OK, I am going to say it once for those who don’t understand what I mean: craft beer. A term that I try to avoid as much as possible. This influence isn’t immediately visible but is happening in small, incremental steps.

Or so it seemed until this week when Oedipus announced that Heineken was going to be a minority stakeholder in this brewery. This has been the most open and blatant move from Heineken into previously uncharted territory in the Netherlands. They have already taken an interest in Lagunitas from the USA and Beavertown in the UK but now they have set their sight on their homecountry.

I will still post the articles I have been working on so let this be a short introduction of what’s to come.

Beerwulf

This online retailer was started a few years ago by Heineken employees and backed by Heineken money. A good looking website, great selection of beer and fancy television ads made this site popular in a very short time. They put the brewers center stage and don’t have excessive prices. They also claim not to be influenced by Heineken. But a massive investment is just that. It gets real Black Mirror-y when you think of the massive amount of data Heineken has their hands on now. Very similar to InBev buying RateBeer.

Heineken Local

When Groningen based brewery Punt won an award at the Dutch Beer Challenge it was as a Heineken beer. This raised some suspicions. A short investigation showed that Punt, and some other breweries including Van Vollenhoven and Oudaen were also operating under the banner of Heineken Local beers. The small breweries on this last have a very small impact so it is as of yet mysterious why Heineken did this. This is worth investigating more.

Heineken in Africa

Looming over all of this is Heineken’s less than decent handlings in Africa and Asia. This has best been documented in Olivier van Beemen’s book Heineken in Africa. Government meddling, bribes, writing legislation about alcohol, fueling the genocide in Rwanda, using girls/prostitutes to try sell the beer, it is all part of it. The latter has made banks like ASN in Holland decide to kick them out of their investment portfolio for example. More about this later as well.

And it’s especially this that makes Oedipus’ choice for Heineken uncomfortable to say the least. I appreciate that in the current way the brewing world works the next stop for a larger brewery is some sort of cooperation with a larger brewery. Lagunitas and Beavertown are good examples of breweries who were lured by the big ole sack of money in front of their nose.

Oedipus has always struck me as a brewery that took a stand against discrimination, racism and other kinds of inequality. Yet now they are working together with a multinational that used sex to sell beers in Asia and Africa and did not nothing to stop genocide. This is a brewery whose first released beer was called ‘Mannenliefde’ (love between men), a common term for gay love. A type of love that in many African countries is a death sentence. Countries Heineken actively invests in.

For now it is a minority stake and Oedipus will keep doing its own thing. But as most examples from USA and GB have shown us this will not be the case in 2 to 3 years.

Heineken has been slowly setting the chess pieces into position for a strike. Their stake in Oedipus is their biggest step yet. In the second half of the 20th century they bought all the smaller breweries in the Netherlands to close them. I don’t think this will happen again but I am curious to see what their next steps will be. We know this was coming, but happy about it we are not.

What will Heineken’s next step be?