Friday, June 27, 2014

Common Core

Some people say that love is the international language. Based on a recent experience in the Netherlands, I would argue that beer is.

I was on a business trip in Ede, which is a town in the central part of the country between Utrecht and Arnhem. The population of the greater Ede area is around 107,000, but it has a quiet, laid back atmosphere. Knowing that I would have some time outside of work to explore, I hopped on the internets to see what Ede had to offer in terms of beer.

I was surprised to discover that there was a brewery in the area called De Heidebrouwerij (which translates as “Heather Brewery”). Not only that, it was but a short walk from my hotel. Excellent. The next challenge was finding a time to drop by for a visit.

All the people who wail and gnash their teeth because they can’t buy beer from at liquor stores on Sundays in Minnesota would likely not fare well in many European countries. While you can buy beer on Sundays in the Netherlands, finding a store that’s open isn’t always easy. And during the weekday, many stores close up shop at 5pm or 6pm.

Such was also the case with the brewery in Ede. It was closed on Mondays and Wednesdays and only open until 5pm Tuesday and Thursday. It was open until 8pm on Friday night and since I was heading home on Saturday morning, that was my only window.

I didn’t make it there until 7:30pm since I had some shopping to first. By the time I arrived, I was hungry, tired, hot, and thirsty (mostly thirsty). The brewery is located on the grounds of a former military base in a building that was once a kitchen. The area around the base is woody and they had a nice outdoor seating area to enjoy the surroundings and the weather (like Minnesota warm sunny days are precious in the Netherlands).

Shortly after dropping into a chair, a waitress approached and asked what I would like to drink. At least I assume she did since everything she said was in Dutch. I asked if she spoke English and she said, “A little.” I reasoned that should be enough to get a beer and asked what type of beers they had. “I’ll get the brewer, my son,” she responded.

Cool. The man himself.

A young chap approached my table and went through their selections. His English was quite good and he ran through the options in detail. I quickly settled on a choice which I believe was the Veluwe Heath Beer. After enjoying a couple of more offerings (from a different waitress), including a quadruple ale that knocked my socks off, I noticed that the young brewer was sitting nearby and struck up a conversation with him.

We talked about all things beer, including the craft beer boom in the US, how it’s becoming more popular in the Netherlands, and the story behind how the Heather Brewery got started. It turned out that Jaap’s father had long been a home brewer and after getting laid from an IT job in 2009, he fulfilled a long held dream of opening his own brewery. His son said he wanted to do it with his dad and so jumped in with him. And the first waitress I had encountered was his mom and the second his sister. For good measure, his brother-in-law also worked at the brewery. A true family affair.

Soon thereafter, his father appeared on the scene and Jaap introduced me. His name was Gerrit although he said he went by Jerry to English speakers. We talked even more beer and I learned more about the brewery’s background. They were extremely hospitable and spent a good deal of time indulging my curiosity.

It was well after 8pm, but it was apparent that was not a hard closing time. After a while, they had to get back to business and I went inside the brewery to check out their small store. Jerry found me again and we resumed our beer conversation. He mentioned that they were currently brewing a British Brown Ale called Pegasus (as in Operation Pegasus) which would be available in September to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the battles that had been fought in the area in World War II as part of Operation Market Garden. He then disappeared for a bit before returning with a bottle of said beer which he had quickly labeled.

It was a gift and he advised that I not open it for at least 2-3 weeks since it wasn’t ready yet. I realized that I would now be checking my luggage on the way home.

We then got into a discussion of World War II and I mentioned the movie “A Bridge Too Far.” Jerry then beamed and revealed that he was an extra in the film and had played German, British, and American soldiers in different scenes. Beer, history, and a movie? Does it get any better?

Eventually, I did have to depart and get back to my hotel while I could still walk reasonably straight. I told Jaap and Jerry that I would tell my work colleagues about their brewery and visit again the time I was in town. It’s always nice when you experience a little pleasure on a business trip.

Jaap and Jerry