Getting to know: BE+ER
It’s very easy to have a love/hate relationship with BE+ER, but for a very positive reason in both cases. It’s very easy to fall in love with the beers, which themselves are meticulously brewed with a deep love and passion; it’s also very easy to hate the beers, simply because they’re so wonderful. Some people may call it jealously, or others may say it’s an admission of guilt that the writer found the painstakingly-brewed Ijsbock with its high ABV far too enjoyable and, therefore, overindulged. Either way, BE+ER is a force to be reckoned with, a tour de force of craftsmanship with a twist.
Firstly, let’s deal with the name, which has always been a bit of mystery since we first encountered it a few years ago. How is it pronounced, we wondered, completely aware we were perhaps overcomplicating how we asked for the beers in our local bar? Do we say it in English or Dutch? There’s a handful of possibilities, all of which we presumably used during each visit to the bar — yes, we certainly went back for more — but each variation of the name we stumbled over in our attempts to sound proficient was understood, one way or another.
But what does the name itself mean? “Brewing Excellence, Excellently Received?” That sounds plausible. The truth is, however, whilst it’s not quite an ABBA palindrome, it is something fairly similar, insomuch as BE and ER are the initials of the all-singing, all-dancing brewers: Erik Bakker (BE) and Edwin de Redelijkheid (ER).
But wait, something is amiss. Why not EB+ER? Besides the recourse to artistic licence, the explanation is straightforward: the plus-sign signifies cooperation between Erik and Edwin in their brewing endeavours; the rest is even simpler — most great beer is made from only four core ingredients combined in different quantities, at different times, in different steps of the process, so why not simply shuffle E, B, E and R to make, quite literally, great BEER with a personal touch.
The history of beer has travelled a rocky path, from beer consumed as a health or nutrient necessity to mass-produced, industrialised blandness, from outdated ideas about beer being a working-class curse to today’s artisanal approach that places high-quality beer on the same pedestal as wine. The resurgence of beer as a concept of taste rather than escapism has, in part, been driven by the idea of beer-food pairing. This is, indeed, the way forward for beer: taste, aroma, quality and attention to detail are paramount. Beer-food pairing is, therefore, something important to Erik, Edwin and BE+ER, and this thought process is reflected in the quality of their beers.
Quickly scanning BE+ER’s beer list not only creates a mouth-watering anticipation, but it offers a fairly comprehensive insight into the brewing minds of Erik and Edwin. A French blonde, a smoky schwarz, a black IPA, a Laurier Drop (Dutch liquorice) porter, a copper red Winter wheat, a peated milk stout, a chocolate doppelbock and, most interestingly, a Canadian Whiskey-infused Russian imperial stout.
Many of the BE+ER beers are available in cask for limited periods. Of course they are, since we expect nothing less from brewers of this calibre. The aforementioned Ijsbock (Eisbock), for example, is certainly difficult, costly and time-consuming to produce, yet Erik and Edwin appear to have managed it with ease. For those unfamiliar with Ijsbock, it is created by carefully freezing a bock, then removing the ice, which mostly contains water, to leave a higher concentration of alcohol and taste — wonderful.
Beer-nerds throughout the world have their foibles, each with a particular fetish. Some collect beer-mats, others collect bottle-tops, some collect beer pump clips, others collect beer bar towels, some are tickers, attempting to try as many beers as physically possible, and others are bottlers, carrying empty plastic bottles to fill with beer from bars to keep at home. Then there are the so-called labologists: those interested in beer bottle labels. The latter are adequately catered-for by BE+ER, since many of their labels are available by post for the avid fans.
A great marketing tool would be offering beer bottle labels for sale with a free bottle filled with delicious beer — that would be excellent!
Erik and Edwin proudly display their heritage as a Haarlemmermeer (Haarlem’s Lake) brewery on the BE+ER logo, yet the beers are available nationally.
For the fact-obsessed readers, Haarlemmermeer is a polder, meaning it used to be a lake until it was reclaimed by draining the water, and it is now also the home of Schiphol Airport. So, for most visitors Haarlemmermeer is their entry point into The Netherlands. For the beer visitors, too, BE+ER beers from Haarlemmermeer could also be a great entry point into a Dutch Beer Odyssey.
Find the starting line and join the queue.