For the few of you who have missed it, this week it was announced that Swinckels Family Brewers (Better known as Bavaria) took over Brouwerij ’t Uiltje. A Sell-out? For some maybe, but you can also see it as a logical next step.
We here have been Uiltje fans from the very beginning, so we thought it would be interesting to post an article (then on the Dutch Beer Pages) about ’t Uiltje and founder Robbert Uyleman. Enjoy!
An Owl flies in Haarlem
Haarlem once was a city that had hundreds of breweries. They all vanished over time until Jopen started brewing to become one of the biggest breweries of the smaller ones. Jopen’s logo can now be found all over the city. But from its ranks sprang a second Haarlem brewery: Het Uiltje.
Owlman Robbert Uyleman is an example of how being around good craft beer is infectious. His job and his love for highly hopped American style beers made him start brewery Het Uiltje. Robbert was working behind the bar in the Jopen Kerk in Haarlem because, well, he just liked working there one day in the week. On one other day in the workweek he was an accountmanager for a company specialized in audiovisual techniques, something he had studied for. But the call of the beer was louder than techniques for the eyes and ears so he bought the gear and started brewing with two friends at home. Of the three he was the only one to persevere and that perseverance gave us Het Uiltje. The rest is the usual story of a starting brewer. Jopen had already asked Robbert to substitute as brewer when one of them sick or to make the third brew of the day. When in February one of the brewers left, Jopen needed a new one and turned to Robbert, a logical choice. He gave up his job and started working for them fulltime, already being familiar with the installation and way of working. Brewer at Jopen is now his fulltime job, with het Uiltje being extra work besides it. But Het Uiltje is 100% his, as we will see.
The Owl Robbert’s last name is Uyleman. Uil is the Dutch word for owl. Using an owl as logo for his own beer was only logical. When he had decided on an owl he started drawing some owls. The first try was the best and that is now the simple but effective logo of Het Uiltje. Robbert designs everything himself: the labels on the bottles, the photography, building and keeping up the website, the texts on the site and labels. For him running a brewery is a creative outlet in more than one way than just brewing great beer. Robbert is in the Jopen brewery all day anyway so it was the most logical place to brew his Uiltje beers. That and living nearby. The Uiltje beers are all his own recipe and when the brewing is done, he buys the beer from Jopen and can do with it as he wants. He does part of the distribution himself but Melgers (the great store in Haarlem) takes care of some of it as well. Robbert is working on a more national distribution network.
Debut Robbert’s “debut” with Het Uiltje was in Haarlem at Café Briljant where he staged a Tap Takeover. In the crowded bar people could sample the beers and hear about his plans. The second beer (The Velduil) was launched during the Dutch Beer Week in May and was beer of the month at the Arendsnest in Amsterdam. The next two will be released shortly at different locations. At the Takeover he let people doodle on het Uiltje coasters to get some funny plays on the logo. Twelve ideas were picked up, and these drawings can be found on some of the labels too! If you find one you can make a picture and send it to Robbert. This has already happened a few times and the best photographs will be put in the monthly newsletter. The winner was Uilbelix, a little owl dressed up as Obelix from the Asterix comic books. He enjoys the interaction with drinkers, so that it is not a stuffy old way of just boring labels with text.
Local boy At the beerfestival in Haarlem I wrote about in the last article, I saw het Uiltje beer was also for sale in the café on the square. I wondered if he had help from Jopen with this but Robbert this is not the case, he does everything himself. As a true Haarlemmer he knows the local bars well and stepped inside them to try and sell his beer, with success. The bottles are already for sale in all of the eleven provinces, and he delivers the bottles himself so he has already put up many kilometers. His beer has crossed the border already too and can be found in Finland, Denmark, Germany and Belgium.
The Beer So what does Robbert actually brew? He is definitely of the American school of brewing: beers with a lot of hops. My first beer from Het Uiltje was a Double IPA and that was everything an IPA should be. Great floral notes and a very nice bitterness. A bitterness even my wife liked and she is not a fan of IPA’s (yet). The beers have the names of different owls. The Velduil, Steenuil or Dwerguil. Robbert likes a pun or two as well for the special releases; who wouldn’t want to try beers called Do Not Eat The Yellow Snow, Lekker Bakkie Kobi or Sai-so-niet dan toch? The last two are hard to translate into English but they are a coffee stout and a saison. The Lekker bakkie Kobi was made with raisins and dates.
Hoot The owl has long been a symbol of wisdom and some brewing wisdom reached the creative part of Robbert’s brain. As a brewer at Jopen and as his own separate brewer of Het Uiltje it is good to see yet another new face in Dutch brewing, and Robbert is one of the more talented ones. So walk into any Dutch beer shop and there is a good chance Robbert’s colorful label with the black owl is laughing at you, begging to bought. If you do, you won’t regret it.