Utrecht revels in great beer and cider

Considering it was Bier en cider festival Utrecht’s first year, it is difficult to believe the event is not already an annual mainstay of the Utrecht beer- and cider-year.  Many beer-events try very hard.  Many beer-events fail very spectacularly.  Bier en cider festival Utrecht succeeds on every level and will undoubtedly become a firm favourite, a fixture in Utrecht’s summer season.  The organisation, approach and general attitude of relaxed, informal, home-away-from-home comfort will certainly see the festival grow, see its popularity and attendance increase, and see its reputation blossom.  And in this respect the festival’s esteem may make it a victim of its own success; anything that goes from strength-to-strength usually loses touch with that core values that earn its initial repute — unless it keeps its feet firmly on the ground.  However, the omens are good today.  Bier en cider festival Utrecht is likely to remain a go-to event for beer and cider lovers, discerning festival goers and those who enjoy spending a Saturday afternoon and evening wrapped in a cosy, warming blanket of contentment. The organisers’ judicious focus on creating an event that ticks all the boxes to make this a great, welcoming event shall ensure its feet remain firmly on the ground.

The setting for the Bier en Cider Festival Utrecht, the 300-year old jewel that sits in heart of the city, the Houtzaagmolen de Ster (the star woodmill), is certainly core to the event’s atmosphere.  A short stroll from the city’s main railway station, yet a million miles from the city’s hustle and bustle, the mill’s rail-encircled, grassy yard is the perfect venue, albeit a little too weather-dependent.  Thankfully, the festival’s reputation meant the great and good of the city — including the sun — made an appearance and remained until after dark.

The Bier en Cider Festival Utrecht is a rarity, insomuch as it embraces cider (and perry) as well as beer.  Cider is on the verge on an explosion, an explosion in a long-awaited and much-anticipated popularity that has been overdue to cider in the Netherlands for a very long time.  35% of producers attending today are cider-makers, the tip of a huge cider-flavoured iceberg that is slowly but surely floating into mainstream consciousness along the country’s many rivers and canals.

The brewing focus today is on Utrecht breweries, with some of the city’s (and surrounding area’s) most popular names in beer serving many wonderful brews.  The exception, of course, is Bodegraven’s Brouwerij De Molen, which is a necessary participant for a beer festival held at the foot of a historic windmill (a ‘molen’).  De Leckere’s organic beery delights inevitably fail to disappoint, and family ties are as strong as ever with Brothers In Law by BIL Brewing.  There is always something abuzz with The Sisters Brewery’s bee(r)-focused beers that take their cue from the family’s name to create a buzz of their own.  Local brewery vandeStreek are a big name on the beer-scene, a result of many uncompromising beers that continue to captivate festival-goers, as do Brouwerij het Licht’s extraordinary brews that prove to be the success of the day.  Not much can be said about Neobosski that is not already known; beers that push the envelope of taste to the extreme and continue to win plaudits for challenging conventionality — successfully challenging convention.  The day’s most serendipitous discovery is Brouwerij BorrelNoot, a brewery also pushing the limits of conventionality with unusual ingredients that create both unique and wonderful easy-drinking beers.  And no Utrecht beer festival would be complete without Oproer, one of the city’s premier brewpubs, delighting drinkers with its exceptional beers.

In the world of apples and pears, it is Steve’z and its delicious, paradoxically named Perencider (Pear Cider) Perry that ably proves the gap between ciders / perrys and fine wine is not too wide.  Bear Cider is popular, nationally and internationally, so it’s unsurprising that its cider stall is popular today.  The success of any cider-event is guaranteed with the addition of three cider-loving endeavours: De Vergeten Appel, Mister Tree and Ciderwinkel.  De Vergeten Appel’s enchanting ciders ensure the apple is never forgotten.  Mister Tree is seemingly a mystery, this enigmatic character’s small-batch, unique ciders generate plenty of interest today with their inimitable flavour-profile and quality.  And what can be said about Ciderwinkel?  Ciderwinkel’s love of all things cider is palpable — the enthusiasm and fervour have festival attendees enthralled.

With the addition of some great local caterers nourishing and sustaining the day’s attendees who relish in the mid-afternoon sun, the Bier en Cider Festival has a feel of exclusivity, a private garden party-cum-barbeque with excellent beers and ciders.  The presence of a small stage, on which some of the best local musical talent showcase their skills, brings an elegant touch of entertainment that adds to the ambience of the day.  The refined choice of music and artistes mirrors the day’s mood, imperceptibly shifting into a party mood as the day progresses.

The Bier en Cider Festival was a success, and the date for next year’s event needs to be pencilled into people’s diaries now because it’s one not to be missed.