The Bars are Open Again!

Monday June 1st, the day a large part of the country was looking forward to. The day the bars and restaurants were allowed to open again. They were in luck. Monday was a holiday and the weather turned out to be great for sitting outside.

I decided to go to Oproer whose doors opened at noon sharp. Because public transport is still only meant for people in important jobs I took my bike. Something I will forced to do more in the coming weeks.

Bars had been working hard the days before to get things ready. Heavy use of rulers and tape was needed to divide the inside part and outside terrace to make sure there would be distance between seats and to make sure that when you walk you don’t run into each other thanks to the assigned walking routes.

City officials had come by a day earlier to see if everything was correct. In Oproer’s case it was. The police won’t actively patrol to see if everyone follows the 1,5 meter rule. Only when they get a credible call that something is not ok will they come. This has happened a few times in the Netherlands on Monday. Maybe having a conga line through your restaurant is not the best idea, as the owner of a restaurant in the south had to admit.

The 1,5 meter rule is a hard one to adhere to but people are at least trying. If it was not 1,5 it was not very close together. Although I don’t know how it would be after several people had a big glass of double stout. Staff also has to ask visitors if they had symptoms in the last 24 hours. A weird question to be honest. People will either not go out when they are sick or when they have been sick won’t answer truthfully. There was cleaning stuff all over the place to wash your hands. Staff was wearing gloves and dirty glasses had to be deposited in blue boxes.

From what I heard downtown Utrecht took a little longer to fill up. People might still be somewhat cautious. But it is great to see people laughing while drinking a beer. Hopefully this will last for the time being and the second wave of corona won’t hit it so hard and that the bars can stay open.

The weather turned out to be beautiful, I even got a sunburn sitting outside. This was needed because even though the bars are open again the owners still need the income to recover some of the losses of the last three months. Oproer turned out to have a good day, indoors there were reserved signs on most of the tables, which is good. You did not need a reservation to sit outside but that got fuller as well by the time I left.

It is still a situation everyone is getting used to and bars will have run into problems they had not thought of. In good Dutch ways the government won’t immediately start. Let’s hope for more good days like this to restart the Dutch brewing world.

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 ;).