You might still associate the Dutch beer scene with men, mostly middle-aged and over, mumbling jargon over their glasses. Take note: this is all changing rapidly. Ultimate proof: the brewery special of the fancy Indie Brands series by Pakhuis de Zwijger. The crowd is relatively young, quite mixed, gender wise (“Not quite the usual sausage fest”, murmurs my companion approvingly), and packs the place. They’ve all come to hear five brewers/brewery owners talk about their “indie” enterprises. So, what was that all about?
The newest kids on the block, the Amsterdam Brewboys, kick off with a flashy video. Similarly, the answers during their interview form something of a smooth marketing pitch. Starting a brewery is still hard work, but if there’s one lesson to take home from their story it is how much easier it has become over the past couple of decades. There’s a market for craft beer and there are (brewing) facilities. Combine this with co-founder Pieter Langendijk’s network as a cafe owner and you easily envision a profitable future for the brewboys.
Brouwerij De Vriendschap‘s Aart van Bergen provides a welcome contrast to the boastful enterpeneurship. His presentation tracks the short history of two-homebrewers-turning-brewery. Instead of aiming for expansion in quantity, he highlights their focus on quality and experiment. They might have found their own brewing facility recently, they will still brew on a small scale. No more than 150 litres a batch, in order to stay free from the pressures of investment.
The interview with De Prael‘s Hilde Amian highlights the trials of a brewery working almost exclusively with people with a psychiatric background. It’s an entertaining crash course to the advantages and disadvantages and we encourage anyone who considers such an approach to give her a call.
Oedipus‘ Rick Nelson’s presentation is a spirited account of a journey to Portland, Oregon. He sings a lovesong to the city’s deep-rooted beer and food culture. Portland provides an almost Utopian example when it comes to the opportunities that emerge when craft beer has become as well established within a region as it has in Oregon. There are lessons here which include buzzwords such as “locality”. But we hear there is a documentary about this inspiring trip in the making so that is for later.
To get an idea of what it is like when an Amsterdam microbrewery had a few decades to establish itself within a city, there’s an interview Brouwerij ‘t IJ co-owner Patrick Hendrikse. ‘t IJ has been around for almost thirty years. But despite an extreme increase in capacity in the past few years there is still more demand than their supply can satisfy. There is no marketing involved in their success (something underlined by the stories of the upcoming breweries). The secret? Hendrikse: brew quality beers.
The sampling afterwards learns us that (most) Amsterdam brewers do just that. Future’s bright. We’ll keep you posted.