Wines (and some other drinks) of Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 1: Prolog in Apeldoorn. Dutch beer

This year’s Giro starts with a 9.9 km prolog in Apeldoorn in the Netherland, ca 100 km east of Amsterdam.

Giro_2016_01

We are too far north to find wine, at least to find local wine. This means that we have to start with Dutch beer. Before we start sipping Dutch beer, we have to have a very brief introcuction to beer.

Beer is a beverage made by fermenting the sugars that are mainly derived from the boiling of specified grains, mostly malted barley. It will usually have low to moderate amount of alcohol. ut there are some beers that are as strong as wine, and the are non-alcoholic beers.

Hops is crucial to brewing. It can add bitterness or fruitiness, depending on when in the brewing process it is added. It also helps preserving the beer.

Brewing must be done when it is not too warm. It has traditionally been a winter activity. When beer is brewed at around room temperature, the yeast will float to the top when fermenting. This is referred to as top fermenting. It creates an aromatic beer. Craft beers and beers labeled ale are usually top fermented.

In Bavaria in Germany, they started to brew beer in caves in the Alps, here the temperture was stable and low throughout the summer. They discovered that when fermented at a low temperature, the yast would sink to the bottom. This is called bottom fermented beer.  The beer was different from beer brewed at higher temperature. It was clear and fresh, but less aromatic than top fermented beer. As the caves were used as storage room, in German Lager, the beer was called Lager, which we still call this type of beer. Bottom fermented beer is more suited for industrialized production in large quantities, brewed in temerature controlled equipment.

The first bottom fermented beer was malty and dark, and it was kalled Munchener-style or Munic-style. In Vienna, they started brewing a copper toned, aromatic and nutty caracter. In the town Pilsen in what is now the Check republic, they started to make a hoppy, golden ale. In many countries,  including the Netherlands, this type of lager is called pilsner. When duke Albert III of Bavaria married Anna of Brunswick-Grubenhagen-Einbeck around 1430, the beer from the north German town Einbeck became popular in Bavaria. In the Bavarian dialect, Einbeck as a designation of the beer, became Einbock, which was later shortened to bock.

Everone who likes good beer should send some warm thoughts to England and CAMRA: CAM­paign for Real Ale. It was started by som disillusioned men as a reaction to the trend in the 1960s and 1970s, when breweries moved away for traditional brewing, and to industralised brewing of uinteresting bottom-fermented beers. Breweries bought independent pubs, or got them to be part of chains. When the independent pubs disappeared, the oultes for independent berweries disappeared too. Camra caught on much faster than anyone had expected. They started the revival of good, craft beer, or “Real Ale” as they called it. From there it spread to other countries. Cheers, CAMRA!

The Netherland is known for beer. At least one of the most well known beer in the World is Dutch: Heineken. And this is the problem: For too long, brewing has been an industry, dominated by industrial brewery giants, like Heineken. And I do not find their beer very interesting.

HeinekenHeineken was made a sucsess by Alfred “Freddie” Heineken, known for having said: “In the end, life is all about advertising.” I am more interested in good beer than in good marketing. Heineken is not my favourite beer. But sometimes it is unavoidable, as it may be the only beer served at some places. For me, Heineken is a beer to avoid.

A beerthat should be well known to everyone who is interested in cycling is Amstel Gold. Amstel_GoldThe brewery  Amstel was one of Heinekens main competitors in the Netherland. It is named after the river Amstel, which flows out in the sea near Amsterdam. Amstel was aquired by Heineken in 1968, s to repeat myself: Heineken is too dominant. The majority of the beer sold a Amstel is brewed by Heineken, but theyy are using a diferent kind of yeast than ey are using in beer sold as Heineken.  Amstel is a bit more tasty compared to Heineken. Amstel Gold is a richer and stronger version of Amstel. Heineken will often test new beers in the market with the Amstel label, not to risk anything with their valuable brand Heineken.

Amstel_HerfstbockAmstel Herfts­bock is a beer worth tasting. In European Beer Guide they say the following about this beer:

“Surprisingly good – probably the best traditional bottom-fermented bock. It has exactly the right blance of bitterness and sweetness for the style. Easily Heineken’s best bottom-fermented beer. “

GrolschGrolsch is an old brewery, established in 1615. In volume, it is the no brewery in the Netherland after Heineken. It is located in Enschede, some 50 km east of Apledoorn. Their main product is a bottom fermented lager (pils). In 2007  Groslch was aquired by SABMiller. SABMiller was established when South African Brewery (SAB) aquired the US brewery Miller in 2002.

The Dutch have always been traders. There are historic documents telling about beers from Germany and Belgium that were shipped over Dutch ports, but very little documentation about beer that was brewed in the Netherland.

As a summary of the situation in the Netherlands, I quote from The World Atlas of Beer:

“By 1970, most small-scale commercial brewing had disappeared from the Netherlands and those independent brewers that remained simply aped thbeers of larger prducers. Even the brewery at the Trappist abbey of Koenigshoeven near Tilburg oduced mainly a blond lager called Abdij Pilsner.

The Dutch beer revival beganaround 1975, when a string of independent cafés started to sell unusual bottled beers, mainly imported from Belgium and elsewhere. (…)

Interest built in a traditioal seasonal beeryle, the dark autumn lager called bok, which to this day is the only ep of beer sold at the country’s national beer festival, held each October.

To most Dutch people, beer is a riutally poured, blond, foam-topped drinke made by one of two global corporations with a national connection. Curious beer drinkers still tend to drink Belgian.

(…)

In the 1980s, new microbreweries emerged that rejected the mainstream styles of the rger corporations but also, sadly, ignored their technical standards. Yeast infections and other forms of spoiling bcame a routine hazard, as aive owners triedto save money by skipping ony production safeguards.

In recent years, a new wave of entrepreneurial craft brewers has emerged, as good at matering techniqu as they are at hocking the old order….

Dutch craft brewing has a long way to go to catch up with the rest of northern Europe, but at least its ship has now left the harbour.”

This is from the 2012 edition of the book. The situation should have improved since then. I was cycling in The Netherlands last summer. As I always do, I tasted local products, meaning local beers.  But I did not visit the Apeldoorn area, and did not taste any beers from there.

The only brewery I have been able to find in Apeldoorn is Stadsbierbrouwerij Apeldoorn. Here you can see some of their beers rated at Ratebeer.

The World Atlas of Beer

This is the book I usually recommend as a global guide to beer. The second edition was published in 2016. It is an informative and beautyfully illustrated book. I only wish it could have had many more pages.

Order from

The Oxford Companion to Beer

0195367138This is a reference work on beer, written in an encyclopedic style. Despite the name "The Oxford Companion ...", is it a US book, having a slight US bias. Having said that, it is a very good book of refernce.

It is available in a hardcover and a Kindle edition. For a book like this, I would go for the paper version.

Buy the hardcover edition from  Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Buy the Kindle edition from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Wines (and some other drinks) of Giro d'Italia 2016

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