The Bokbier Festival had its 39th edition last weekend, making it one of the oldest beer festivals in Europe. But it’s starting to show its age.
With the name and theme, for one thing. Why a festival just for Bokbier? Because when it started, Boks were about the only interesting beers brewed in Holland. Dutch beer was in a sorry state, with 95% of all beer sold being Pils. The seasonal special Bok was a rare highlight in a dismally dull scene.
But Dutch beer has moved on. The number of breweries has increased from a couple of dozen to well over 100. And there’s a lot more than just Pils being knocked out by them. There’s a wider range of beers brewed – from revived historical Dutch styles to ever so hip IPA and Imperial Stout – than at any time in living memory. None of this is reflected by the Bokbier Festival.
Most beer consumer organisations have a national festival. Like the GBBF or ZBF. Yet for the PINT, Dutch one, the place of a national event is taken by the Bokbier Festival. Which concentrates on what is now just a tiny part of the Dutch beer world.
Nevertheless, I trundled down to the Beurs with Dolores on Saturday. Early doors, obviously. We got in 5 minutes after opening. Yet were still lucky to find a seat. By the toilets. And there’s my biggest problem with the festival: way too few seats. Maybe 30. When attendance is probably over 1,000.
Having so little seating is strange when you look at the event’s demographics. I’d estimate the average age of punters around 45, but many are 60 plus. An age group that likes a sit down. I know I do.
I forgot to moan about the price: 20 euros for a glass, programme and three tokens. And 2.75 for extra tokens, which get you 20cl of beer. Not exactly cheap.
As for breweries, many are significant by their absence. So no De Molen or Rooie Dop.
That said, I enjoyed myself. Had a few very nice beers, chatted with people and managed to leave before I had to use the bog (for which you have to pay 50 cents).
Best beer of the day was at my toilet stop on the way to the tram. Schlenkerla Rauchbock in Wildeman. Lovely, lovely drink. Why wasn’t that at the festival?