Borefts Beer Festival 2013 – Brouwerij de Molen

IMG_7124“We went to the Brouwerij de Molen “Borefts” beer festival last weekend, it has a reputation of being one of the finest beer festivals in the world, it is.

The end…”

This blog post could have been that easy, you could have read it, raised an eyebrow, and moved on (you may have already), but of course there is more…

We arrived at the Tulip Hotel in Bodegraven at about two in the afternoon, it could have been earlier but for a detour to Dranken Geers beer warehouse in Oostakker on the outskirts of Ghent, a small sacrifice of missing a couple of hours drinking for a car full of fabulous bottles at bargain basement prices.

IMG_7112We checked in, went back to reception where we saw numerous folk milling around wearing various beer t shirts from breweries scattered around the globe. Asking for directions we were met with pretty much blank faces staring back at us from hotel staff, surprising really as you’d expect them to be aware why on this weekend each year all their rooms sell out. Weirdly though it was pretty much the feeling we got in most places in the town, “you’ve been/are going where”, “to what beer festival?” That’s not a negative thing by the way, very much the opposite in fact, the festival is sort of anonymous except to those in the know. In the town it’s business as usual apart from a few thousand international beer geeks wandering around the town raiding shops for cheese, sausage, breads and pastries. There’s no big show, no banners strewn around nor a sign of a crappy hot dog stands and the like, just Bodegraven, its friendly folk and beer at the windmill.

IMG_7111Now in its fifth year Borefts has again evolved to meet demand but has still managed to keep its friendly laid-back atmosphere, it’s only my second visit but talking to long-term veteran John Clarke a good friend of mine from the North West of England he explained how it grow from its tiny roots based at the windmill itself, to now, two large marquees (plus a new food market section) that sit either side of the road from the new brewery extension. They manage to keep the relaxed feel by keeping the whole thing open plan. There are no tickets, nor barriers. Security guards are jobless as checking tickets is not necessary so no one is holding back queues one in one out style either. Just buy your programme, pick up your official festival glass and you’re at Borefts!

Photo by Ipanema Bar

Photo by Ipanema Bar –

Each year head brewer Menno Olivier chooses a beer theme for each brewery to try brew for the festival, this year that was something completely new to me, seeing Braggot and Gruit Ales baffled me completely and to a certain extent still does. None of my beer references are much help now I’m home, but I’ve gleaned these two descriptions from my old friend Mr Google:

Braggot (description from beer advocate) The Braggot is quite an old drink, there is a mention in Chaucer, Canterbury Tales in the late 1300’s, and there are earlier references dating even further back to the 12th century in Ireland. Braggot is simply made by blending spices and herbs with mead and beer, to produce a strong concoction with uncommon flavors. Many taverns would make this blend right at the bar though brewers would also blend them as well. There should be a balance between the honey character and malt flavor with the hop bitterness not overpowering the sweetness yet should be noticeable. Today’s Braggot may or may not be spiced.”

Gruit, (from  “In a not so distant past, beer was brewed with an extended and varied array of botanical ingredients. Herbs, roots and spices where used by our European ancestors in order to give their beers distinct tastes, flavours and properties. These botanicals where sometimes referred to as Gruit, hence Gruit Ale. Today however, beer is almost exclusively brewed with only one, single herb addition: Hops.

Hops, of course are wonderful for brewing. They have the combined qualities that few other plants have, being at the same time bitter, aromatic and antiseptic, all qualities greatly valued in a good beer. Would this explain why Hops have supplanted all other herbal alternatives? What’s interesting about beer history is when you ask ‘why hops?” the answer is, because of Gruit.”

It was a really enjoyable experience tasting some of these beers and the diverse range of each brewers interpretation, The Kernel‘s “Borefts Special’ (Gruit) Unhopped, unboiled sour, Toccalmatto‘s “Mediterranean Braggot”, with orange flowers, Macchia Sardinian honey, lemon zest and bergamot and De Molen‘s own “Braggot Barrel Aged”, with malts and honey barrel aged on bourbon, then cognac oak barrels with extra honey and more honey being fine examples. All very different, all equally enjoyable learning experiences.

IMG_7115As usual, the list of breweries in attendance was astonishingly good. From a personal perspective it was great to see new faces from other areas of Europe in particular that are not normally famed for great beer, France, Spain and to a lesser extent Italy. Some of these new boys beers were in my top ten of the weekend which is a really exciting prospect, as soon, no longer will every trip to Spain for example have to be dominated by drinking Mahou!

The full list of beers on offer is here, (or at least the last published by De Molen) I sampled far too many to mention or to describe, but I’ve tried to narrow my favourites down to two or three from each brewery below, with my top ten (from memory) listed in red:

Brouwerij de Molen,
Bodegraven, Netherlands
Hel & Verdoemenis Wild Turkey Eisbock 18%
Hot & Spicy Naga Jolokia 10.2%
Rime of the Ancient Mariner 11%
Brouwerij Emelisse,
Kamperland, Netherlands
Barley Wine Buffalo tracé BA 12%
Creme Brulee stout 8%
Emelisse Brett Bees 10%
Laugar Brewery,
Gordexola, Spain
Cypress Valley 6.5%
Aupa Tovarisch (Calvados edition) 11%
Amager Bryghus,
Kastrup, Denmark
Honey Quad – a Borefts special
Xiquic And The Hero Twins (w. Cigar City)
Arctic SunStone (w. Three Floyds)
Jopen Brouwerij,
Haarlem, Netherlands
Grateful Deaf Zythos IPA brewed with Grateful Deaf 6.5%
Frans Hals Kuit 6%
The Kernel,
Londen, England
Imperial Brown Stout Glen Spey Whisky Barrel Aged 10.3%
Borefts Festival Special 4.3%
Bakewell, England
Halcyon 2013 7.4%
Bracia Bourbon BA 10%
S:t Eriks Collaboration 10%
Moen, Belgium
Honey-B Bragot
Morpheus Dark
Närke Kulturbryggeri,
Örebro, Sweden
4-5 different “forest” beers with ingredients from the woods
Viking IPA 7.6%
Copenhagen, Denmark
Drinkin’ the Sun 13 1.4%
BA Green Gold ChardonnayIt’s Alive! BA Chardonnay Mango
Fidenza, Italy
Mediterranean Braggot 10.5%
Russian Imperial Stout (Wild) Sagrantino Red Wine BA 12%
Bedda Matri Barley Wine Marsala wine BA 12%
Codogno, Italy
Terminal Pale Ale
Green Petrol
Oostvleteren, Belgium
Black Albert 13%
Cuvee Delphine 13%
O.N.E. Our Nastiest Effort Barrel Aged 10%
To Øl,
Copenhagen, Denmark
I’ve Seen Bigger Than Yours 14%
Special Borefts Braggot Forca Victory Xtra Ekstra Edition 0.8.2
Noain, Spain
ZZ+ American Amber Ale 5.5%
Aker American IPA 6.7%
5 Titius Aniversary IPA 7.3%
Fyne Ales,
Cairndow, Scotland
Jarl 3.8%
Mont Salève,
Neydens, France
Double IPA 8.0%
Imperial Stout 13.0%
Mademoiselle French Pale Ale 6.0%
Rooie Dop,
Utrecht, Netherlands
Double Oatmeal Stout Bourbon Barrel Aged 9.6%
Ot The Explorer Double IPA 8.7%
Utrecht Strong Ale 9.1%

It’s almost impossible to try and pick out a particular favourite, the servings are in small 15cl glasses which may seem minuscule in normal drinking terms, but in reality is ample and allows festival goers to try more beers in a day that you’d imagine possible. Yes I saw the odd stagger now and then, even the odd sway in a non-existent wind, but no rowdiness, argument or worse self-inflicted illness.

If you forced me to try and pick a top three, I’d say in no particular order, the Emilisse Buffalo Trace Barley Wine has to be there, it was like drinking an alcoholic molten cinder toffee (think Crunchie). As does the Thrornbridge S:t Eriks collab Imperial Stout with its lashings of raspberries. The final beer to make the podium would have to be either the Impy Stout or Barley Wine from Toccalmatto, both were superb but the stout which was bottled, being probably the most stunning bottles of beer I’ve seen in terms of presentation. If only I’d stopped ogling it long enough to take a bloody photograph…

IMG_7098To mop up the beers of course munchies are required and again Borefts organisers upped their game and provided a small area where stalls sold cheeses, burgers, cold meats, bitterballen (of course) and possibly the best sausage I have ever seen.

These beauties contained lumps of cheese that melted as they cooked slowly in the rotisserie, each sausage was then sliced and served as a massive mound of cheesy meat on a plate, bloody delicious it was too.

So that was it for another year, an absolute triumph of a beer festival and well worth the trip. If you’ve not been and fancy it next year it normally falls on the last weekend in September, stick it in your diary and start filling that piggy bank.


Staminee De Gone…?

We visited the delightful city of Bruges last week for a two night, pre Borefts warm up (Borefts report to come soon). As you’d expect we took time out to visit some of our old favourite bars and a couple of new ones too.

One of those bars was the wonderful Staminee De Garre.

We’d tried a few months back in July but found locked doors due to holiday. No such horror this time, we slipped down that dark cobbled alley, stepped into a packed house and found a scarce empty table upstairs. Before too long the barman appeared and we ordered two house triples, the creamy thick-headed speciality which draws in the crowds and one which gave us so much pleasure the last time we’d visited.

After a short time the same chap danced up those old stairs which must have graced a million footsteps once again, balancing a tray with two beers and the usual bowl of cheese. He sheepishly placed the two glasses, Gulden Draak glasses, on the table and explained that they had almost none of the De Garre items left and hoped we understood. Only then, as I looked around the room did I notice that almost every other table too had the same Gulden Draak glassware, a sad sight in this lovely Bruges gem.

The less glass pedantic of you reading this may say “so what”, but in here of all places, with this beer it’s a really important part of the experience. The house triple itself is pleasant enough, no award winner, but watching that goldfish bowl of foam recede and the golden liquid rise makes it what it is, for me at least.


As we left the barman (without any prompting or complaint from us) again apologised, so I took my chance to ask him why, as apart from the disappointment I was on a mission to buy one for a friend. He said “at the start of the season we had four hundred glasses, today we have thirteen, mainly due to theft, some sales and breakages”.

Thirteen from four hundred glasses…

So why am I writing this seemingly small negative point up out of a great few days of beer in Bruges?

Well, because glassware is important to me and it should be to you. When you get a beer served in the correct, or at least a glass specially designed to match the contents, cherish it. Embrace the added enjoyment that the fine, caring detail a bar manager has taken to enhance your drinking experience, remember that place and go back, hopeful it will still be there…


Your own personal Jesus

EvenMoreJesus_label-465x346Your own, personal, Jesus someone to hear your prayers, someone who cares..

Now I’m not suggesting that you should seek solace in a bottle during troubled times, but if you were of a mind, you could do a lot worse than this dark and brooding little bottle of deliciousness from Danish brewery Evil Twin.

P1100724Up until September of last year I’d tried only a couple of beers from Evil Twin, these were Yin and Yang, a pair of beers designed to make up the ultimate black and tan as demonstrated admirably by Ghostdrinker in the picture, read his review here.

That all changed in September though when I visited the Borefts beer festival at De Molen brewery in Bodegraven.

Evil Twin were one of the invited guest breweries present and my god did their beers rock, the good folks there-present lapped them up big style. The beer list they arrived with came and went, each time you returned to the bar, another had the words “SOLD OUT” hastily scribbled next to it. Somehow, from nowhere, more beers turned up and very quickly went the same way and all were soon again long gone whilst many others around them lagged behind.


The sign-writing may not have been up to the mark but the beers were a revelation, Hey Zeus, an imperial stout laced with liquorice and chilli was one of my top five beers of the weekend, Molotov Fruit Cocktail Impy Double IPA (irresistible name for a beer) was not far behind and for anyone in the UK close enough to be able to visit a Brewdog bar, available on keg at most of them at the time of writing this.

IMG_5435Even More Jesus is an Imperial Stout coming in at a whopping 12%abv. It pours as black as old motor oil into the glass, but forms this amazing copper brown head. Imagine molten rich milk chocolate whisked to a meringue-like froth and you’re somewhere close (this picture doesn’t do it justice).

The smells are amazingly intense. Masses of chocolate and coffee, stewed prunes in sweet baked rice pudding, warm molasses and a hint of kipper smokers flat cap, it’s smokey man..

You take a taste and are rewarded with a humongous mouthful of big old flavours. Chocolate of course leads the way coupled with dark roasted bitter coffee beans. Seared whisky barrel oak brings a pleasant but not overpowering smoke to the party mellowed by rich boozy rumtoft fruits and fresh malted bread. All these tastes are huge but still somehow manage to come across mellow and smooth, there’s no harshness here at all.

Even More Jesus coats every corner of the mouth with a thick oil-slick coating of delicious flavour that takes about as long to clear, make this your last beer of the night and savour every moment.

Luxurious, stunning, POSH?

Reach out and touch faith, go on, it’s over there, right next to the Soft Dookie…


A tune to celebrate..