Saturday, 23 January 2016

A day in Bodegraven

"What the fuck are you doing here, Ron?"

"Nice to see you, too, Menno."

What a nice start to the day at De molen. Well, not quite the start. I'd already been hanging around the brewery for a good half hour before Menno spotted me. Why? I'll need to back up a little to explain.

Back in September I got an email from a contact in Phiadelphia: would I like to go along for the brew day of the Philly Beer Week raffle winner. Every year a lucky individual gets a free trip to Belgium to brew a collaborative beer. Except this year it wasn't at a Belgian brewery, but De Molen in Bodegraven. Would I like to hang around in a brewery for a day? Hell yes. I didn't asking twice. Nor know what to expect.

Like all those over from Philly, I was advised to be at De Molen by 8 AM. I almost managed it. I wouldn't have been more than 20 minutes late, if I hadn't missed my connection in the chaos that is Utrecht Centraal, surely one of the least user-friendly stations in the universe. They've helpfully removed the big departure board and almost all of the timetables. Evidently you're supposed to get train information from your phone. Fucking morons. When I did manage to discover which platform my train departed from, I got there just in time to see it leave. The train, I mean, not the platform. That wasn't going anywhere.

I know, use the 30 miuntes until the next Bodegraven train to have a wee. I followed the toilet signs all the way to the opposite end of the station without encountering any bogs. But did find a sign for toilets pointing back in the opposite direction. I was starting to feel good about my decision to get a coffee rather than a beer before boarding my train in Amsterdam Zuid.

Did I mention it was cold? Effing cold. Unnaturally cold. After two mild Dutch winters, I'm totally unused to cold weather. Last cold snap I encountered was in Denver in November 2014. That's why I was wearing an unusually large amount of clothing.

After a couple of minutes hanging around in the brewery yard, I kindly bearded brewer invited me in from the cold. "Are you here for the collaboration brew?" he asked in English. "I sure am."

I was relieved to see that I was one of the first to arrive. Only three of the Philly crew were inside: Clare, one of the organisers, raffle winner Adam and one other. Over a warming cup of coffee, I learned the others were on their way . . . down to reception in their hotels. Mmmm. . . I could have had another hour or two in bed. And missed the rush hour at Utrecht Centraal.

Kevin, our brewer for the day, talked us through the computer display for the brew. Which had a rather complicated mashing scheme, with rests at 52º C, 62º C and mash out at 72º C. Hang on, I've forgotten to tell you what the beer was. Something rather Dutch: a Porter with salty liquorice. We were having a nice chat about temperatures and rest times when Menno came in.

"What the fuck are you doing here, Ron?"

Next: we look around the brewery and some of us do some work. (Not me, thankfully. I was taking a day's holiday.)


Ed said...

Not even the token adding of the hops Ron?

Ron Pattinson said...


that was someone else's job.

Grey Ghost said...

I thought I may as well post here....

I have been to Amsterdam a few times, but I might be heading across again this year and be in Utrecht for a few days. Would you recommend staying a weekend in Utrecht or Amsterdam, for beer and general looking around? or a trip down to Belgium for a trappist?

Ron Pattinson said...

Grey Ghost,

Utrecht is pretty good for beer at the moment. And not quite as full of tourists as Amsterdam sadly is.

Grey Ghost said...

Cheers... I shall see how I get on... Might not quite have the same amount of time as I thought. But beer shall be drank. I have had a few of the spots in AMS, and have been looking at your beer travels - anywhere interesting?

Ron Pattinson said...

Grey Ghost,

do you mean anywhere intersting in Holland?