Roll up, roll up for the greatest show on earth: selected musings from the Beer Circus 2018

AF Brew

Within a minute or two of the doors opening at Borefts Beer Circus 2018, the queue for Saint Petersburg, Russia’s AF Brew stretched out of the door, through the crowds, down the street and into the next city — or so it felt. The demand for its beer didn’t abate at any time during the event, and it was impossible to get near its stall.

However, it was possible to get near the taps on Saturday afternoon…once the beer was SOLD OUT. Finally, a great opportunity to eventually catch-up with one the Beer Festival’s most popular attractions to determine what caused this immense interest.

Beerbliotek Brewery

Besides the great beers, a visit to Beerbliotek Brewery at Borefts Beer Circus 2018 was fun. They’re having fun, and their fun is contagious; customers are consequently having fun; and presumably the beers themselves are having fun being consumed with such relish. Apparently, the brewers’ road-trip from Sweden to the Netherlands was (you guessed it!) fun.

There must be something in the water in Gothenburg that not only makes the brewers happy and the beers great, but also brings the consumers back for more, again and again.

Borg Brugghús

Icelandic Ale? It is an actual thing: the Snorri No. 10, described as a ‘herb ale’ in the tasting notes. It’s an interesting beer: unique, and ably produced by Reykjavik’s Borg Brugghús — another of Borefts Beer Circus 2018’s queue-inciting breweries. Its beers cover a wide spectrum of styles and are successful in every case; whether it’s a delicious Gissur No. 56, a peach sour, or the Surtur No. 30. The latter is described in the tasting notes as a Special Release; it’s a “Sheep Shit Smoked Imperial Stout” — we kid you not, or perhaps we ‘lamb’ you not!

Brouwerij Alvinne

Ever-present, ever-popular, and ever-producing beers that are unique and, quite frankly, mind-blowing. Brouwerij Alvinne is the port during a storm, when the storm is actually an overindulgence of new beers, new beer-styles and new breweries. An old faithful is always welcome, especially when that old faithful is producing unbelievable Sour Ales and Barrel Aged Beers. The number of unbelievable Sour Ales and Barrel Aged Beers at Borefts Beer Circus 2018 was enough to keep us sailing into harbour again and again.

Brouwerij Kees

Middelburg’s Brouwerij Kees is one of the premier Dutch Breweries, and the large number of visitors to its stand at the Borefts Beer Circus 2018 is evidence indeed of its stature in the big league.

Pick up a beer by Brouwerij Kees in a bottle shop and you’re likely to be impressed; pick up an impressive beer in a bottle shop that is not from Brouwerij Kees and check the label — it may possibly be another brewery’s collaboration with Brouwerij Kees. This fact is confirmed by the large number of brewer’s not participating at Borefts who appear to be visiting Brouwerij Kees’ stand.

Poch’s Cervesa Artesana

Is there any brewery from the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia that does not have the Midas touch? Evidence suggests it is highly unlikely there is any brewer in Catalonia who cannot turn the raw ingredients of beer into liquid gold?

Of all the breweries attending Borefts Beer Circus 2018, there was a handful or more who are genuinely doing something unique and creating beers that are not only extremely distinctive, but also unique in their approach. Girona’s Poch’s Cervesa Artesana, for example, astonished drinkers with its Strawberry Berliner, aged in “vi ranci” barrels. Considering “vi ranci” is a delicacy wine produced through an oxidation process, a locally speciality that literally translates as something like ‘bad wine’, it begins to be clear why this beer is so different, so appetisingly different.

And it doesn’t stop there. All of Poch’s Cervesa Artesana beers are doing something exceptional, whether it’s aging in barrels that have previously contained something unusual or beginning life as a wild flower that is foraged by the brewer himself. A brewer who, coincidently, more-or-less single-handedly runs the entire brewery operation — it is an impressive feat.

The countdown has begun to early 2019 when the great, the good and the radical of the beer world descend on Catalonia for Barcelona’s huge and well-respected beer event. Our list of breweries and beers to visit and revisit is lengthening day-by-day. But be assured, Poch’s Cervesa Artesana is high on that list.

Cervezas Dougall’s

As every craft-beer-loving fanatic will attest, northern Spain and its autonomous regions of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Cantabria are hotbeds of brewing talent. Time and again, breweries from these regions appear at a beer festival loaded with delightful goodies for the drinker anticipant of a great brew.

Liérganes’ Cervezas Dougall’s is no exception. Entombed deep in its fortress of KeyKegs that tempt passing visitors with labels describing the delicious sounding beer within, the brewery staff are adequately protected from the driving rain. However, they are certainly not hidden — just look for the long queue, and by following it you shall find the elusive pot o’ gold that sits at the end of Cervezas Dougall’s rainbow.

We did, and we’re adequately rewarded with some of the event’s best beers.

Brouwerij de Natte Gijt

“DE NATTE GIJT BAR” — it means exactly what it says, emblazoned on the new bar from Weert’s Brouwerij de Natte Gijt: it’s a bar selling their beer, and popular it is, too.

There are a couple of crossover points at Borefts Beer Circus 2018, occasional bottlenecks at which the hordes move from one area to another. Being the bar at a crossover point certainly has its advantages, as its one the most visible and visited bars of the event — and the aforementioned slogan is hard to miss.

Brouwerij de Natte Gijt’s beers are always impressive, and therefore impossible to miss (or recommended not to), with or without the large wording on its bar.

The wet weather brought plenty of wet goats — the eponymous Natte Gijt — in from the rain, and Brouwerij de Natte Gijt was a perfect place to shelter amid the farmyard funkiness.

Klostergården

Certainly, one of the highlights of Borefts Beer Circus 2018’s for fans of local traditions that express themselves as unique beers was Norway’s Klostergården, which is based in the municipality of Frosta, just north of Trondheim.Exceptional smoked beers, distinctive beers without hops, and the as yet undiscovered-by-the-mass-market yeast-strain, kveik — all present in Klostergården’s brewing

portfolio. All of which were pleasant encounters for the daring-drinker who enjoys venturing away from accepted beer-tastes into the personally uncharted waters of discernment.

If your relationship with beer is akin to a cart pulled by a blinkered horse that follows established routes, there are plenty of other beers and breweries to quench your thirst. If you’re up front and centre with the first wave of pathfinders, leading the way for drinkers following in your wake, Klostergården, and a couple of others, are the places to begin your journey.

Certain parts of Scandinavia are at the forefront of a beer revolution that places tradition, simplicity, (very) locally-sourced ingredients and no-nonsense brews ahead of mass-marketing. It ought to be both applauded and embraced by all who have an interest in beer.

MONYO Brewing Co.

In terms of appeal, visitor-numbers and quantities of beer sold, MONYO Brewing Co. is in a class above the rest. A willingness to experiment with tastes and styles brings its rewards, as this award-winning microbrewery from Hungary will attest. It is also one of the congruent breweries, insomuch as its staff appear to be enjoying what they do and relishing in the opportunity to make great beer and serve it to willing drinkers, consumers with whom the brewery is happy to chat with and engage about their processes — a contrast to the occasional incongruent breweries whose demeanour and nonchalance remains unconvincing.

MONYO Brewing Co.’s outlook can be defined by its imagery and iconography, as proudly displayed in glorious multicolour at Borefts Beer Circus 2018. If you’re looking for a new avatar, profile picture or fun and friendly graphic for your online presence, you could do far worse than adopt one of MONYO Brewing Co.’s image — with full attribution, of course!

The names of the beers, too, speak volumes. “The Ginger Unicorn Licks My Bagpipe” is not only somewhat of a tongue-twister, but is somewhat suggestive. Suggestive of something that we can’t quite picture! The “Nutty Moose” and “Dead Rabbit” seemingly belong in the same DVD box-set. It must be said, though, that the ‘Ginger’ unicorn is a delicious whisky barrel-aged scotch ale, the ‘Nutty Moose’ is an oak-aged chestnut barley wine, and the ‘Dead Rabbit’ is a double IPA.

Unusual ingredients cleverly used to produce distinctive, moreish beers is MONYO Brewing Co.’s forte. Syrah wine, maracuja fruit, cucumber and kaffir lime leaves, to name but a few.

MONYO Brewing Co. is a brewery to seek out, try and follow, since the future faces towards Budapest.

Närke kulturbryggeri

A mainstay of the Borefts Beer Festival is Orebro, Sweden’s Närke kulturbryggeri, having been a consistent presence since the early years of the event. Borefts Beer Circus 2018 is no exception, with Närke kulturbryggeri taking prime position once again in the main hall next to the merchandise shop.

Its beers are varied and delicious, notable for their production with foraged ingredients. Most notable, however, is the Baver (Beaver), a spicy, herby beer produced with a natural vanilla-flavouring: Castoreum, which beavers mix with urine to use as a scent that marks their territory. If you are trying to find the Baver tap, look for the urinal behind the counter!

North Brewing Co

A number of recent high-profile collaborations is simply the cherry on the cake for North Brewing Co, a brewery whose own portfolio of beers is of the highest calibre. Making an appearance at Borefts Beer Circus 2018, the brewery from Leeds made a lot of new fans and impressed even the hardest of beer critics.

Sour beer and gose have over recent years inexplicably become associated with the sun and summer-drinking, due in part to their reinvention and reinvigoration in the US. That being the case, it would be far too easy to dismiss beers in these styles if they emerged from cities like Leeds, in the northern English heartland. However, sour beer and gose are not traditionally drinks for — or from — the warmer climes, so in the skilful hands of breweries like North Brewing Co., these beer styles are delightful: perfectly balanced representations that are a joy to drink, whatever the weather.

The rain at Borefts didn’t stop the beers from North Brewing Co. from being heartily enjoyed — including the pale ales, IPAs and Kolsch styles. We look forward to our next encounter.

PacoVinha

Borefts Beer Circus 2018 is not all about beer. There is wine, too. Local wine merchant and drinks producer PacoVinha are present every year to provide a nice alternative to beer when a flavoursome break from hops is needed.

Põhjala Brewery

Estonia’s Põhjala Brewery is no stranger to Beer Festivals such as Borefts Beer Circus 2018 and consequently has a reputation to uphold. It is a challenge that is accomplished with some ease, as unmistakably evident by its popularity; there are three or four contenders for the hypothetical prize awarded to the brewery who generates the longest queue for its beers, and Põhjala Brewery maintained a strong enough patronage throughout the event to be easily vying for the honour.

If the ‘Talent From Tallinn’ is not a real thing, it ought to be. As a centre of brewing excellent, Tallinn has firmly stamped its imprint into the international world of beer. Tallinn (and Estonia itself) is represented at Borefts by several of the city’s top breweries, and they’ve been around long-enough to no longer be the best-kept secrets of the Baltic beer scene. The secret’s out there: Tallinn and Estonia, the place for great beer.

The invitation to visit Tallinn’s beer events in 2019 has been gladly accepted, and not for the international beer, of course. Home-grown brews are clearly world-class.

Reketye Brewing Co.

The 3D glasses laying on the beer cooler are not for adding some additional dimension to the beer themselves. No, the beers are prefect; they have enough depth, enough body and enough inherent interest to dispense with superfluous trickery. No, the 3D glasses allow visitors to the Reketye Brewing Co. stand at Borefts Beer Circus 2018 to gain maximum effect from the brewery’s advertising, which demonstrated what yeast looks like through a microscope. And Reketye Brewing Co. has great advertising.

Reketye Brewing Co. is from Budapest in Hungary, a country that is starting to emerge as a legitimate destination for discerning beer lovers. The quality of beer produced by Reketye Brewing Co. is high — exceptionally high! — so if it is a good representation of the Hungarian beer industry today, it is hardly surprising the country hosted one of the largest European beer events recently.

Besides the beers, which are extremely difficult to ignore, the Reketye Brewing Co. are adept at making visitors feel comfortable and welcomed into the fold; it is seemingly not only brewing beer at which they are skilled. Moreover, there is the innovative focus that deserves applause, not only for its originality with water chemistry and other aspects of the brewing process, but also for its environmental conscience in pioneering the use and promotion of canning in Hungary. Cans are, as we know, the optimal container for beer quality and flavour; a focus on canning is by its very nature a genuine care about the condition of its beer. Yet another reason to applaud the brewery.

Everybody at Kaeru Beer is an enthusiastic fan and supporter of sour beer, so finally having the opportunity to taste how Reketye Brewing Co. uses sour in its beers to both subtle and maximum effect is quite wonderful. From a low ABV Berliner to a Russian Imperial Sour Stout with Mango, from a Gose to a sour NEIPA, the manner in which Reketye Brewing Co. uses the possibility for sour is impressive. Furthermore, drinkability and sessionability are important to the brewery, so ABV levels are kept at a reasonable level, even for the beers that would ordinarily tend to appear with double-digit ABV levels.

All things considered, Reketye Brewing Co. was one of the event’s highlights, not only for trying the excellent beers on offer, but also for getting under the skin of the enterprise and learning more about its history, motivations, strategy and most salient of all, its desire to have a great time.

See you in Hungary, soon!

Sori Brewing

The mission of Sori Brewing, based in Estonia, Tallinn, is to “make the world more fun with better craft beer”. Not only do we agree with that sentiment, but we also believe Sori Brewing is contributing massively to a more fun through its excellent beer.

Good, better, best. Whether the use of the comparative form of good (better) is needed or not remains to be seen. Sori Brewing’s beers are better than good and deserve to be ranked among the best. Although, “make the world more fun with craft beer that is better than good and deserving of a ranking among the best” is perhaps too cumbersome a mission statement.

Sori Brewing has indeed come ‘From Tallinn To Bodegraven’ for the Borefts Beer Circus 2018, and the beer named after its travels — a 10.5% ABV stout with added bison grass specially brewed for the festival — is a festival highlight.

TRILHA cervejaria

Brazil is a long way from Bodegraven in the Netherlands — it is 6,000 miles (9,700 km) between Sao Paulo, the home of TRILHA cervejaria, and Borefts Beer Circus 2018. TRILHA cervejaria was one of several Brazilian breweries to make the epic journey, and the lengthy queue for its beers was deserving; not only because of the distance the brewery and beers have travelled, but also because of the quality of the beer.

Brewing beer is an artform; and much like many other breweries that produce high-quality beer, art is important to TRILHA cervejaria. Each of its beers is represented by a piece of artwork, a piece of abstract expressionism. The genius being that each piece of artwork carries the TRILHA cervejaria logo as a motif, the winged Icarus-like figure.

Fruit and other delicious ingredients are seemingly important to TRILHA cervejaria, since many of its beers are sour, described as ‘juicy’ or containing Strawberry, Mango, Melon, Passionfruit, amongst other things.

Wylam Brewery

It is a worthy distinction, being one of the few (if not the only) British brewery to present cask beers served via a Beer Engine at the annual BoreftsBeerFestival. At this year’s Borefts Beer Circus 2018, it was Newcastle’s Wylam Brewery that served some of their beers from either KeyKeg and cask (conditioned?); and the “SOLD OUT” signs clearly indicate there is a growing interest in Beer Engines and cask beers, conditioned or not.

There are more than enough CAMRA members living in the Netherlands to organise a Cask Conditioned Real Ale Festival, yet CAMRA is unresponsive. It is thankfully left to other forward-thinking beer festivals, therefore, to take a grown-up approach and introduce Beer Engines.

Wylam Brewery’s beers are ideal for cask and they’re both traditional and contemporary — a hard balance to find for beer, but the north of England has rarely played by the rules.

Wylam Brewery has perhaps one of the most unique brewery buildings in the world; it is located in the last building remaining 1929 North East Exhibition — the Palace of Arts in Exhibition Park — which subsequently became a science museum and military vehicle museum before its current role as a brewery.

Zagovor Brewery

Describing its product as “Craft beer from the deep end of the Moscow underground”, Russia’s Zagovor Brewery was another of the breweries at Borefts Beer Circus 2018 that caused lengthy queues and a smidgeon of mass hysteria as the sour or imperial gose takes effect.

Whilst it may be craft beer from the deep end of the Moscow underground, it is certainly craft beer from the deep end of taste too. ‘Imperial’ and ‘Double’ are prefixes to a vast majority of Zagovor Brewery’s beers, so it is hardly surprising they’re popular with a collection of drinkers thirsty for the next big hit.