I’ve been wanting to write about my adventure to Borefts for a while but just haven’t had the time. I wish I done this when it was fresher in my mind but here goes.
From the start I have to say that it is without a doubt the greatest beer festival I have been to so far. (I’ve been told by those in the know that that it is indeed the best in the world and I’m certainly not disputing it!) It is about an hour outside of Amsterdam on a rather splendid double decker train in the beautiful Bodegraven, home of DeMolen brewery, who are the organisers of the event.
It is held on the last weekend in September which meant a rather frantic drive to the airport after work! It was incredibly easy to get to, simply jump on a train heading towards Utrecht at Schiphol airport and disembark at the tiny Bodegraven train station. Think rural Northumberalnd and you’re on the right track! It’s easy enough to find the Demolen brewery- simply follow the hordes of wobbly, happy folk walking in the opposite direction, all clutching their wonderful festival glasses. Myself and my travelling companion arrived at around about 8.30, bearing in mind it closes up shop at ten each night. We paid for a handful of tokens and received our thimbles (glasses!) and head towards the pop up bars. It was still reasonably busy at this time but it was easy enough to get to any bar and grab a fantastic beverage.
First up was Brewdog and it was nice to see Captain James serving the drinks to the excited beer drinkers. Not another damned saison was on offer which was a cracking opening drink, followed by Lizard Bride which is one of my favourite beers of the year. (It’s a super sour IPA!). I tried to engage James in conversation about his TV show Brewdogs but he seemed relucant- I’m sure he was tired and was a little sick of strangers trying to talk to him by the time I arrived so I wasn’t too emotionally wounded!
Next door to the Brewdog stand was the incredible Brewski from Sweden. They were serving up a superb range of IPAs, pales and berliner weisses. The crowning glory was Tropic Sneeze which is a tropical berlinner weisse. It’s seriously delicious- sherberty, tart and huge hits of mango, pineapple and other exotic fruits. My good friend, Martin was so in love with this beer that I’m pretty sure he drank the rest of the keg!
The sheer amount of breweries there was staggering- Burning Sky were showing off their exceptional selection of wild beers, Lervig had a mind blowing barrel aged barley wine, Magic Rock were showcasing Pina Collision, Grapefruit Highwire and Clown Juice amongst other gems and Omnipollo were hidden away so expertly that I missed them o the first night. Hugely disappointing as I missed the Ice cream IPA collab with Buxton.
The festival closed at 10 so we dragged our luggage to the De Molen brewery bar under the historic windmill.
Inside the bar, which was now crammed with happy, beery folk, the atmosphere was buzzing. Songs were being sung, possibly of Viking origin, laughter could be heard all around and beer was being served. Well two beers were- dark or pale! I opted for dark which turned out to be a 10% imperial stout. This wasn’t such a good decision after a day at work, a plane and train journey, several beers beforehand and not a great deal of food! Anyway, we got friendly with a couple and their friend who were from Holland and were amazed that we had actually heard of the festival! We spent a good few hours drinking and conversing (I’m not sure how coherent any of this was mind) and a good time was had by all. By now it was time to head back to the Tulip Inn, Bodegraven. I’d recommend staying there if you are planning on going to the festival.
The next morning we woke up at a reasonable 10 am and decided to stroll back down to the festival area. The festival wasn’t kicking off until 12pm but we were on a mission to find some freshly baked pretzels. We didn’t find any. One of the things I learned on my weekend is that Holland does not dig freshly baked pretzels!
Bodegraven itself is a beautiful town with a bridge and canal going right through the middle. Very expensive yachts can be seen moored up by the bridge during the day. We spent a good few hours walking around the town; it is immaculately clean and the people are so friendly. Make sure that you take the time to explore; you won’t regret it.
Back at De Molen, the festival was in full swing. Armed with our trusty glasses we set the goal of making it until 6pm! We sampled some exceptional beers during the day (including an 18.6% eisbock from De Molen themselves) as well as some fabulous food. There is everything from handcrafted double cooked chips to Thai noodles and sushi to huge, meaty sausages. Another life saver was the readily available ‘plastic aged’ water!
We actually made it past 6pm and met up with a friend off Twitter, who suggested I go in the first place. We decided to go to the De Molen shop which has some sensational offerings.
Such as this from Cascade Brewing, pricey but sour, tart and delicious. (Very hard to get a hold of too!)
We managed to find Omnipollo on the Saturday evening and tried the lemonade sour and raspberry and strawberry smoothies- all three were excellent. However, I’m so sad that I missed the Buxton collab on the Friday.
There were so many beers to choose from but the selection of imperial stouts and sours was really impressive. It’s also lovely to be served beer by the brewer or owner of the brewery themselves. There is also a merch shop which sold all manner of beer geeky goodness. Oh and one stand was selling beer sorbets. The Jackhammer one was mind blowing!
The atmosphere at the festival is so friendly and calm. Yes people have ‘had a few’ but there is no arguing or idiots fleeing around. It’s people enjoying sensational beer and each other’s company. People from all over the world, including the US, had made the journey to visit this secret gem of a festival. On top of the beer on offer you are free to walk around the De Molen brewery itself.
It was simply the best weekend I’ve had and I’m going to make the trip again next year. On the way back to the airport on Sunday we bumped into a couple of American’s looking for directions. Turned out it was the owner of Cascade brewing!