Saturday, 29 July 2017

Island life, island beers


When I was in Amsterdam last summer for the European Beer Writers Conference, we met several of the new wave of brewers reinventing Dutch beer for the 21st century. So it was good this summer to find the supermarket in our seaside holiday town stocking a fairly wide range of local microbrews.

Alongside the local Texels beers, I found beers from Oedipus, Maximus, Jopen, ‘t IJ and many others. Prices were around double the macrobrews though, even the crafty macros like Brand. When I see the latter undercutting the real micros, I’m even more convinced by the argument that the real interest for AB-Inbev and co to buy up craft breweries is to devalue the ‘craft’ label.

Anyway, what’s still taking time to come through is a revived local beer tradition. Dutch beer has long been overshadowed by its Belgian neighbour, and so far I’m only aware of a few brewers – Jopen being the best known example – who have dug down to find and then update old Dutch beer recipes and the like. Most are still producing (some of them very well) the usual ‘international’ styles. (This reminds me that I really should write up my “stages of craft beer” theory…)

We also found one brew-hotel, by which I mean a hotel bar with a microbrewery – or more likely a nanobrewery, given that the 33cl beer bottles (they only had macrobrew beers on tap) were numbered “33 of 128” or similar. That suggests a brew-length of 50 litres or so, which is basically a home-brew system used commercially. An interesting idea.

Called Eiland Brouwers Texel and based at Hotel Tatenhove, there were four beers on offer, but with minor exceptions (a fruity tang in the Witte, say) you’d have been hard pressed to tell them apart. All were darkish amber-brown and bitter, including the Blonde, the Witte and the Pale Ale.

Is making your beers distinct from each other so difficult, or is this one of those philosophical anti-macrobrew things, where the main aim is for your beer to look as unlike clear gold Pilswater as possible?

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