If you are reading this, then you probably like beer. Nothing to be ashamed of, we do too. In the Netherlands there is a lot of great beer to choose from, so much in fact that it is easy to lose track of the ones you have tried. We are speaking from the wealth of experience that comes from many (blurry) nights at Gollem, Delirium, the Beer Temple, Arendsnest, and almost any respectable bar in Amsterdam. This is because living in Amsterdam, we are at a convergence point of German, Belgian and, our own, Dutch beer drinking and brewing traditions. While the Germans and Belgians have had a long history of specialty beers, the Netherlands has only recently come on par with Belgium in the number of breweries, meaning that craft beers and brewing is relatively new...at least from a domestically produced perspective.
Given these shocking facts we thought we would speak with one of the best craft brewers in Amsterdam to give us the low down on what makes craft beer culture tick. Just as strong as our love for drinking craft beers, there is a group of people with an even stronger love for making these beers. Those guys are from Oedipus Brewing.
How would you describe the culture of craft brewers and craft beer drinkers given your experience in the with brewing over the years?
It’s a very positive and growing culture, it’s often also seen as a movement, where people feel there is a new thing happening. New flavors and ideas are shared and that makes a lot of people enthusiastic, including ourselves. In the Netherlands, most [craft] brewers are self-taught amateurs and professionals, this creates a very DIY (do it yourself) culture with interesting characters. The four partners which we founded the company, we all came from different walks of life with no education or experience in business, but craft beer got us enthusiastic to start making something tasty and fun.
Speaking from your experience, is people’s choice to drink craft beers purely taste driven or is it an appreciation for craftsmanship?
I would say both, people want to try new flavors or better quality beers then what they were used to drinking, but they also want to be in the know about how it is made, by who, with what kind of ingredients. Next to that people also want to drink it because it’s a certain scene, event or in certain places, so it’s also becoming more and more a lifestyle thing.
What do you think started the craft brewing culture that we see today? Was it access to affordable equipment, decline in mass-produced beer quality, or access to a larger variety of beers that were locally produced which spark the interest to brew?
It started slow and in the Netherlands it took a long time, but there were already a few craft breweries at the end of the 80’s. People got inspired by the Belgian beers and wanted to recreate those flavors. By recreating existing styles, brewers in the USA often made new styles and new flavors, this gave a whole new boost to the IPA (India Pale Ale) culture. So, it was not only the locally produced craft beers that created more interest but also foreign craft beers, mainly US and Scandinavian beers. Quality in mass produced beer never declined, people just developed a taste for more flavors. When we started, we found out that brewing beer could also be done at home, that it wasn’t that difficult or expensive to start homebrewing. This was very encouraging, especially when we tried our first brew and it didn’t taste bad at all.
In your opinion what is the difference between craft brewers like yourself versus mass-scale brewers like Heineken or Budweiser?
The ownership, the goal of the owners, and the products they make. Is it a multinational or is it family owned and what do they aspire for, growth for profit for all the equity members or creating the most crazy and best beers out there? Also, the impact on the (local) community is a huge difference, we are deliberately inefficient, the profit we make with our brewery is much more shared with our community and employees. With our team of 25 people we make in a year time the same amount of beer that it takes for one staff member at Heineken to make in one brew day.
How do you feel about the commercialization of craft brewing?
I think it’s good and necessary, craft beer is a business and if you want to sustain it and be there in ten years you need to also think in a commercial way. However, it shouldn’t become the sole goal. Craft beer fans sometimes think craft beer is only about being artisanal, but often they don’t understand what it takes to make a beer and the business behind it.
What is the public’s perception of craft brewers that you have discovered over time?
It makes people happy, curious and hammered at times.
Craft brewing became immensely popular in the last two decades or so and larger companies have started trying to replicate the craft style? How do you feel about this and how does this resonate in the craft brewing culture?
I see it happening more and more and I wonder if new (craft) beer drinkers notice the difference. I hope they will eventually, they must taste the difference after a while, but I see through the tactics and flavors of these beers and fake craft brands. Sometimes it can be good though, to introduce a style like a porter or a saison to a mainstream crowd. This could be a gateway to similar beers from small craft breweries.
Is there a style of beer, method of brewing that is commonly known as the craft brewing turf within the community?
Not sure if I get your question, but what most craft brewers share is that they want to make new or old styles and create an ‘alternative’ of the mass-produced beers and brands. What most brewers make is an IPA nowadays but everyone has their own styles and interpretations as well.
What sets craft beer culture apart from the normal beer drinking culture? Have you seen the boundaries merge recently and does that force you to re-draw the boundary?
Well it makes people think of their choice. back in the day (and still for most people) you could go to a bar and order ‘a beer’, and the bar staff started pouring a big brand lager, there were no further questions or requests. Now you come with a choice or a question to the bar or a shop. So people are learning to discover their own taste. I see that happening in our taproom too, some people come in and have no clue and they leave with a new favorite beer that’s in a style they never heard of. Then they come back for more. In craft beer, it’s about crossing those boundaries and trying to think without too many boundaries, and creating new flavors, ways of being with people and to share a beer. These things should be done without boundaries.
After about two years of home brewing, Oedipus Brewing started officially brewing in 2012 and moved in to their tap room in 2016. Oedipus brews great beer that is both a safe choice for the less adventurous and the beer equivalent of bungee jumping off of a bridge (looking at you Salty Dick). Aside from making beer, Oedipus also puts on a lot of events like its Kimchi Festival and various weekly gatherings in their tap room.
So stop being a dummy and follow them on Facebook now to stay up to date on all the cool events.