“Some of Europe’s finest beers one hour out of Amsterdam”
I couldn’t bloody wait for my first international beer festival. Each day revisiting the brewery list, mentally ticking off the beers I had to have, was just too much excitement to handle. I’ve always been a massive fan of Brouwerij de Molen; especially of their immense range of big imperial stouts. There are so many of them but all stand out as individuals due to the different barrels used for aging, creating obvious flavour additions or varying malt bills, hop additions or temperatures to tweak flavours and textures. At Borefts Beer Festival we got all this… plus other fantastic brewers including Omnipollo from Sweden, Alvinne from Belgium and Oedipus from The Netherlands.
There were a few weary heads on the Friday morning after a night of trailing around Amsterdam looking for its craft beer haunts that were mainly hidden down alleys and side streets taking you away from the stereotypical tourism of “coffee” shops and “window shopping”. Yet, without venturing too far you can find Brouwerij De Prael just outside the Red Light District serving Belgian and British influenced beers. With little below the 6%, we questioned whether this was the best place to start. No beer trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a trip to In De Wildeman, a cozy two roomed bar serving 18 draft beers plus a stocked menu of bottles from around the world. On the Saturday, assuming people were still at BBF with it being a little quieter, we even received table service; keeping us there late into the evening. One of the beers on offer was Muifelbrouwerij’s Beerskey, an 11% whiskey malt based barley wine style beer; bold and boozy with smokey peatiness cutting through.
After a must have breakfast of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup we headed over to Amsterdam Centraal to get the train to Brouwerij De Molen, Bodegraven requiring a quick change in Utrecht. Sussing out which way to go once arriving in the small town of Bodegraven wasn’t too difficult, following the small groups of people who looked like they fancied a few beers. With the sun beating down on us it was quite clear, as we approached the brewery, this was going to be a great weekend. With each brewery having their own stand it was easy to navigate the large industrial unit, sourcing your next sample of exciting and creative beer. After picking up tokens from the collection point we headed straight to the organiser Brouwerij de Molen’s bar. Well you know what they say…
“When in Bodegraven…”
With 27 of their beers on it was tough choosing an opener but I chose well; a 7.1% Saison Brett aged for 2 years. It was as funky as James Brown but with citrus and sourness backing it up, pushing it into lambic territory. It was a cracking start to the proceedings. There were plenty of beers using Brettanomyces available over the whole weekend, complimenting different styles of beers. Oedipus’ Rachel, an 8% Brett IPA perfectly combined the horsey Brett character with hoppy bitterness and aroma. It tasted great accompanying the mature aged Gouda and breads we’d brought in from Amsterdam that morning.
Other standout beers from the festival included:
- Brewski’s (Sweden) Kathakwa Coffee Berliner; a cold brew coffee Berliner weisse with the contrasting flavours of bitter coffee and a sourness that almost tasted a little milky, but that could be the mind playing tricks on me.
- Omnipollo’s Agamemnon Bourbon Maple Syrup Stout rocking in at a whopping 13.2%. This beer didn’t have the general traits of a big, thick, overly sweet Imperial Stout meaning another 1, 2 or even 3 glasses would have gone down a treat. This was a fantastically balanced beer brewed by some mega brewers.
All the brewers in attendance brewed a saison especially for the festival creating a generalisation between the breweries on offer but there were many other similarities and trends showing the current “in” styles. Sour beers were incredibly popular with many of the breweries having a Berliner Weisse or Gose on offer. A number of breweries also used chili to spice up their beers. I adore chili in dark beers and it was very popular last winter but de Molen’s Passion Fruit and Habanero IPA took on a different approach with the addition. Where the chili seemed to eradicate the hoppiness of the IPA, questioning the style definition, the heat and sweetness created a spectacular spicy beer.
All in all Borefts Beer Festival 2015 didn’t disappoint with its fantastic selection of beers from some of Europe’s finest breweries, served by the brewers themselves, and some great American breweries rarely seen in the UK being dispensed from Brouwerij de Molen’s windmill. Until next year…
Photography courtesy of Paul Abram