Possibly the greatest beer festival in the world for extreme beer geeks is the Borefts Beer Festival held by Brouwerij de Molen in Bodegraven, The Netherlands. This has been going a few years now and is usually on the last weekend of September.
This festival brings together some of the most innovative and brilliant breweries from around the world for 2 days to bring some very special beers for the delight of many a beer geek. In addition to the hosts - Brouwerij de Molen from The Netherlands, the following breweries were attending:
- Brouwerij Emelisse (The Netherlands)
- Mommeriete Brouwerij (The Netherlands)
- De Struise Brouwers (Belgium)
- Picobrouwerij Alvinne (Belgium)
- Mikkeller (Denmark)
- Evil Twin Brewing (Denmark)
- Närke Kulturbryggeri (Sweden)
- Haandbryggeriet (Norway)
- Buxton (England)
- Thornbridge Brewery (England)
- The Kernel (England)
- Gänstaller-Bräu (Germany)
- Brasserie de Mont Salève (France)
- Birrificio del Ducato (Italy)
- Jester King Craft Brewery (USA)
I was not expecting to be able to go this year, since I only had 1 day annual leave left and the airfare from Vancouver to Amsterdam can be expensive. However in the last few days of August the airfare dropped significantly. I mentioned the possibility of going to my wonderful wife, and she was supportive of the idea. Next thing you know I was booking the trip – flying out from Vancouver on Thursday 27th of Sep, and basically heading from the airport to the festival for 2 days, then flying back on Sunday 30th.
In the weeks leading up the festival I managed to arrange a few beer trades with other attending beer geeks via the craft beer community site ratebeer.com, as there is some great beer from Canada that is hard to get in Europe (and of course, vice-versa). As a consequence I had a somewhat heavy suitcase filled with carefully packed beer.
My flight with KLM was comfortable enough and I got a few hours sleep. After arriving at Schiphol airport, I checked into my hotel – CitizenM right at the airport, had a quick shower and change of clothes, unpacked some of my trading beers and then headed into the airport train station to try and find my way to Bodegraven. It turned out to be simple enough – a 16 minute train journey to Leiden, change trains and then a 25 minute journey to Bodegraven. Then it was just a 10 minute walk to the festival.
The festival was split across 2 locations – the Mill which is also where the De Molen restaurant and beer shop are located, and the brewery – which is just 2 minutes walk down the street.
Handing over €20 at the ticket tent got me a program, a very nice tasting glass, 8 tokens and a bottle of water. I also got an additional token for being the first attendee from Canada (plus I got to stick a pin in Vancouver on their world map).
Before I could even work out a plan of attack, I was found by some of my friends from the beer scene – Vincent and Bernt, and led into one of the rooms of the brewery where a bunch of the attending brewers had stands, where I quickly got hold of my first festival beer, Konjaks! Stormaktsporter from Swedish brewery Närke Kulturbryggeri. Then I joined my friends at a large table nearby (there was plenty of undercover seating provided), and proceeded to enjoy the many fine beers the festival had to offer and have many beer-related conversations.
I’m not going to include reviews of all the festival beers I tried, but I will list them (more or less in order of consumption) and then provide details of a few highlights.
- Närke Konjaks! Stormaktsporter
- De Molen Sodom & Gomorra Barrel Aged
- Thornbridge Heather Honey Stout
- Struise T.H.R.E.E
- Mikkeller Spontandoubleblueberry
- De Molen Hemel & Aarde Bowmore/Caol Ila BA
- Alvinne Melchior Bourbon Barrel Oak Aged
- De Molen Heftig Hamoentje
- Emelisse Milkstout
- De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis Bunnahabhain B.A.
- Buxton Tsar Bomba
- Struise O.N.E
- Birrificio del Ducato Vielle Ville
- Mikkeller Spontanframboos
- Alvinne Cuvee de Mortagne
- Struise T.W.O.
- Evil Twin/De Molen Whisky BA Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room
- De Molen Nacht & Ontij Cognac Barrel Aged
- Jester King/Mikkeller Weasel Rodeo
- Jester King Funk Metal
- De Molen Koetjes & Kalfjes Milk Stout
- Emelisse White Label Imperial Russian Stout (Ardbeg BA)
- Alvinne Mano Negra
- Struise Bompon
- Mont Salève Barley Wine Gamay Barrel Aged
- De Molen Lief & Leed
- Närke Pannknektarnas Porter
- The Kernel Imperial Brown Stout London 1856
- Närke Jólners Dricka
- De Molen Mout & Mocca Bourbon BA
Konjaks! Stormaktsporter from Swedish brewery Närke Kulturbryggeri. This is an 9.6% ABV imperial stout, matured on oak casks for 10 months, 5 of them on Cognac casks. It pours a solid oily black with a golden brown head. The aroma is cognac, chocolate and wood. It has an oily mouthfeel, and is smooth on the palate with some wood and booze on the finish. The flavours are cognac, oak, toffee and coffee.
Sodom & Gomorra Barrel Aged from De Molen. This is a 12 .8% ABV heavy imperial stout, brewed with a small percentage of smoked malt and matured on various whisky and bourbon casks. It pours black with a minimal pale head. The aroma is bourbon, vanilla, chocolate and a hint of coffee. It is full bodied, rich on the palate, sweet with a reasonable complexity. The flavours are chocolate, caramel, balsamic vinegar and hint of vanilla.
Spontandoubleblueberry by Mikkeller. This is an 8.5% ABV spontaneous fermented beer with 1 kg of blueberries per litre. It pours a dark red/maroon with a large dark pink head that leaves a lot of lacing. The aroma is sour funk, blueberries, and balsamic vinegar. It is very well balanced between fruit, sour tartness and sweetness. The flavours are blueberries and sour plums.
O.N.E. (Our Nastiest Effort) by De Struise. This is a 10% ABV bourbon barrel aged dark strong ale. It pours dark with a decent off-white head that leaves some nice lacing. The aroma is fig, cherry, marzipan and plum. It is sweet and smooth on the palate with a slightly slick mouthfeel. Taste is plum, prune, grape, candi sugar, currants.
What I love about festivals like this is not only the multitude of excellent beers (many of which are exclusive to the festival), but also the great sense of camaraderie you get in a gathering of beer geeks. Here you can talk at length on beer related subjects with like-minded people. Lots of people bring hard to find beers to trade with each other, or just to share. So on top of all the great festival beers, I also got to try some excellent rare beers that others were sharing.
Some of the great beers I got to try thanks to the generosity of others:
Bourbon County Vanilla Stout (2010 vintage) by Goose Island Beer Company. This is a 13% ABV imperial stout spiced with fresh vanilla beans. I actually received this one in a trade from Vaisha in return for some good Canadian beers, and decided to share it around the table in thanks for all the great beers that had been shared with me. It pours black with a small beige head. The aroma is vanilla, chocolate and raisins. It has a slick and creamy mouthfeel, and is rich, sweet and complex on the palate. The flavours are chocolate, vanilla, liquorice, a hint of bourbon and a touch of oak. I think this beer is definitely worthy of the hype it receives.
Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) by Founders Brewing Company (Michigan, USA). This is a 11.2% ABV imperial stout brewed with a hint of coffee and vanilla then aged in oak bourbon barrels. It pours a solid black with a small brown head. The aroma is chocolate, coffee, vanilla, with a hint of bourbon and wood. It has a slick mouthfeel and is sweet and smooth on the palate. The flavours are chocolate, vanilla and a hint of coffee.
Ten FIDY by Oskar Blues (Colorado USA). This is a 10.5% ABV imperial stout which comes in a can! It pours thick black with a light brown head. The aroma is chocolate, vanilla, oak and liquorice. It has an oily mouthfeel and is smooth and well balanced. The flavours are chocolate, fig, vanilla and dark fruits. This beer definitely taught me that cans are not to be snubbed!
Oude Geuze Golden Blend by 3 Fonteinen (Belgium). This is a 6% ABV Gueze, made with 4 year old Lambic that accounts for 25 % of it’s contents, the rest of the blend is made up by a “secret” combination of 1, 2 and 3 year old Lambics. It pours a cloudy yellow orange with a small pale head. The aroma is funk, lemon juice and sour fruits. It is refreshing on the palate and very well balanced. the flavours are apricot, pear and sour plum. A very nice blend indeed!
Wild Dog Barrel-Aged Gonzo by Flying Dog Brewery (Maryland, USA). This is a 9.5% Imperial Porter, aged and seasoned for three months in wood barrels from Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. It pours black with a small off-white head that leaves some lacing. The aroma is chocolate, bourbon, soy sauce and molasses. It has a creamy mouthfeel, is sweet on the palate and pretty well balanced. The flavours are chocolate, vanilla and dark fruits.
Ola Dubh (12 Year Old) by Harviestoun (Scotland). This is a 8% ABV Old Ale, aged in casks formerly used to mature Highland Park 12 Year Old Malt Whiskey. It pours thick black with a small pale head. The aroma is toffee, molasses, chocolate, oak, whiskey, raisins and honey. It has a slightly slick mouthfeel, and is sweet on the palate with a touch of mineral bitterness in the finish. The flavours are liquorice, raisins, honey and oak.
I should mention the food – they provide some great food that goes well with beer. As well as standard fare such as burgers and sausage on a bun, there was some fantastic salami, cheese, Bitterballen (a Dutch snack, kind of like a meat stew ball battered with breadcrumbs and fried) and chocolate cake.
Another thing I like about this festival is they provide regularly spaced glass washing stations. These provide soapy brushes to clean your glass nicely, and glass rinser (hooked up to a hose) that rinses the glass. This means you have a totally fresh glass between tastings, so no cross-contamination of flavours or aromas and nothing to inhibit good head formation.
As well as doing some beer trades with people, I visited the small shop they have at De Molen, where they have not only a lot of great De Molen beers, but also a considerable number of other excellent beers from around the world (naturally including many of the visiting breweries). Because I was doing so many trades I had to restrain my purchases from the store to a limited selection. Here’s my entire haul, including beers received from trades:
Overall, I had a fantastic time over the 2 days of the Borefts Festival, and it was definitely worth the cost and hassle of the 9 hours flight each way. It was extremely well organized, there were some absolutely fantastic beers and the company was excellent. I highly recommend that anyone who considers themselves a “beer geek” should start saving up and planning to attend this festival next year.