Day 1: Amsterdam
The wheels for the trip to Amsterdam for Carnivale Brettanomyces were set in motion as far back as February when the yearly discussion for summer holiday destinations came up. Both my girlfriend and I have an interest in brewing and brewing with Brettanomyces in particular so it was a no-brainer to head for the three day festival in Amsterdam to kick off the two week holiday.
After dropping off the bags at our centrally located and spacious Airbnb we picked up my cousin and headed for the lesser explored north side of the river iJ on a free ferry for a visit to the Oedipus Brewery where I was to meet the mastermind behind Bretty Fingers (through Milk the Funk) who had propagated up some wild yeast for me called Mud King that originated in USA but had been topped up with other homebrews wild yeast from across the globe.
I started the festival with a Brett pale ale from Oedipus called Mama Brett and it was an excellent introduction to the top quality and diverse range of beers from this brewery. As it was the festival opening there were several hundred people in attendance and events included Milk the Funk yeast and bottle swap plus a panel discussion including Jeff Stuffings from Jester King, Black Spontaneous and Pierre Carlier from Brasserie de Blaugies plus we tried a trio of beers (pic below) from Kent Falls and got to meet Derek Dillinger aka The Fermented Man for the first time.
Trio of Kent Falls beers is dainty little glasses.
The party was still going on when we clipped it back across the river and into the city in fear that the boats may cease operations but not without a bag of takeaway including Maximus saison and some Brouwerij T’iJ wit beer.
Saison 5 looks mauldy (Irish for mouldy!) but tasted fantastic.
Day 2: Amsterdam
The next day had a call to De Prael brewery marked first on our agenda and whilst I would highly recommend the bar/brewery as an excellent location I was underwhelmed by the lack of wild and funky beers on tap so opted for a pale ale with magnum hops before moving on to In De Wildeman where Ireland’s very own White Hag had sent over one of their brewers for a meet and greet. We ran into a group of locals who were blown away by The White Hag offerings but as we have them readily available at home, we instead opted for Burning Sky Cuvee and a Chorlton Slow Beer before making the short walk to The Beer Temple where Crooked Stave had a tap takeover.
No sign of Chad but we tasted a pair of L’Brett D’or and had a brief chat with a friendly German who recommended we hit up Paris Beer Week next time it rolls around and went out the door straight down to The Beer Koning which is a bottle shop with a massive selection and there was Shaun Hill from Hill Farmstead pouring his own beers at a pop up mini beer festival on the street for whoever had the patience to queue up for them. As this was a rare opportunity to both drink and meet Hill Farmstead we queued for 20 odd minutes for a brief chat with Shaun where he gave us a run down on his beers and was very particular about not calling them saisons. Both Anna and Florence are impeccably made beers and it was a joy to eventually get to drink them.
Shaun Hill with the shades. I think he was looking forward to meeting me!
Next up was a can each of De Molen and some Anderson Valley IPA by the canal before a lecture from Derek Dillinger based around his book The Fermented Man where he read some excerpts, gave us some hints and tips on fermenting food and gave us some of his own experiences. The guy is extremely well spoken and knowledgeable and I can highly recommend his book if you fancy fermenting your own food. Get your kimchi and sauerkraut on!
The Fermented Man. There was a larger crowd than my pic suggests!
Derek was hosting a meet and greet for his own brewery Kent Falls back in Beer Temple and we tried the Field Beer and Table Saison with both of very high quality. A Logsdons Czech N Brett and a Crooked Stave Hop Savant later and we were on our way home via Arendsnest.
We were joined by my mate Ian at this stage and he suggested we try out some Oudo Genever which I have marked down as malt based juniper gin and seems to be making a revival amongst the Dutch youth. The gin was washed down with some more Oedipus and Nevel beers before the highlight of the trip the next morning, The Great Saison Forum.
Trippy road openings to let some boats through outside our apartment. Pic courtesy of Ian Cullen.
The Great Saison Forum was starting at ten o’clock in the main hall of the church that hosted the majority of the lectures for the event so after a brisk twenty minute walk into the city and fuelled by coffee and pain au chocolat we sat down with hundreds others to listen to Pierre from Blaugies, Shaun Hill from Hill Farmstead, Phil Markowski of Two Roads and Chad Yakobson of Crooked Stave discuss the importance of saison and their own particular takes on how to brew them.
Chad, Phil, Shaun, Pierre.
They all brought saisons (apart from Chad) for us to sample as the discussion took place and the guys are a world of information with tips on using five malts in saison, to barrel ageing, to dry hopping and uses of highly acidic fruits.
Wild Beer Co. were hosting a meet and greet in In De Wildman and we got a one on one with the brewer as he talked us through Squashed Grapes which is brewed with Pinot Noir grapes from Somerset and they use skins and all in the beer. He excellently paired it with some cheese for us to try too.
We then split ways as Carla went to take in some culture at the Van Gogh museum and I headed for the lecture by Dave Logsdon on how he set up his farmyard brewery and his own brewing techniques, shared a couple of beers with a brewer from the Forager Brewing Company and then clipped it over to Beer Koning where Bretty Fingers and Tommie Sjef were pouring their beers.
I was told to keep an eye out for Tommie about two years previously by some of The White Hag crew and was suitably impressed by the Prune Sour and Red Wine Sour beers of his which I sadly didn’t write down the names of but the Fig and Rum Barrel Aged Dark Saison from Bretty Fingers out of Sweden was one of the finest beers I tasted over the whole weekend.
A trip back to In De Wildeman next where there was a real who’s who of the brewing world with the two imposing Cloudwater guys deep in discussion with Pete Brown we pulled up a couple of chairs and tucked into a Hawkshead/Crooked Stave collab called Key Lime Tao which was very refreshing on what turned out to be a very hot day of celeb spotting!
Key Lime Tao. Very refreshing.
I told my mate Ian who is a bartender at The Watering Hole down in Oud-Zuid which is just south of the city that we would pay him a visit so on the walk out stopped for some sushi and tins of both Cloudwater and De Molen for the second half of the walk.
The Watering Hole had a state of the art digital screen for displaying exactly what was on tap, how long it was tapped and how much beer was left in the keg. This is a great invention if you like to drink fresh beer and don’t want the stuff that’s been sitting around for a month or two.
The Watering Hole tap list.
Fresh beers from Dochter Van De Korenaar, Kees, De La Senne, Labietis and Oedipus and another masterclass in Genever was more than enough to polish off the night and off we went to get some sleep before spending four days in Gent, Belgium.
Overall I’m really impressed with the friendly and informative nature of this festival and it is most definitely one I will be returning to next year. So much to see, do and drink that we missed out on talks on Grisette, Pete Brown, Troels Prahl from WhiteLabs, Ron Pattinson, Alex Seitz, Richard Preiss, Jeff Sparrow, Lars Garshol and the list could go on! There is just a world of information at this festival so keep an eye out for it in 2018!