I walk around this huge trade center, surrounded by robots, restaurant furniture, and huge fridges, and a recipe keeps on rolling into my brain: take the Belgian master brewing technique and twist it with creativity, imagination, colors, and entrepreneurship. Maybe we are not there yet, but this is the closest magic formula for me to define the Dutch Master Art of Brewing.
When we talk about mainstream, too often Dutch bubbly/foamy drinks environment is watered by big names not tasty and rememberable against the Belgian ones. But as soon as you dig deeper into the craft zone, well, there is exactly where the orange world starts shining.
Probably the first country in Europe to pick up American creativity and put it into a bottle, but with some colorful sparkles, a sea character so unique in this part of the world, and the influence of a so influential neighbor.
The tradeshow is called Horecava, a huge space filled with food, drinks, coffee, and everything of interest in the gastronomy industry. I walk around and I see so many innovative products and high-tech solutions for bars and restaurants, but my goal for the day is to breathe a bit of that Dutch creativity into the drinks branch by directing my steps sharply to the Craft Way, the long corridor surrounded but craft drinks producers and awesome characters of the community.
It doesn't take so much time but I bounce into a big stand, probably the biggest of the section. It is colorful, and bold, with a huge fridge of cans and a long tap line. The brewery is called Two Chefs, one of the OG in Amsterdam. "The Green Bullet is the first Amsterdam soil-brewed IPA" this is Jasper talking, sales manager for Two Chefs and very keen on telling some anecdotes about the brewery "the main idea was to produce fresh, smashable craft beer with a huge high on quality and taste, but also experimentation with funky ingredients". It is not only about ingredients and taste, though, Two Chefs has a solid foundation in his brand identity "Our designer Zolder is quite famous here in the area and makes poppy labels for our beers. Another main characteristic of our range of beers is their names: once a beer is ready to be distributed, we meet all together and drink a quite few of it. From this brainstorming usually comes the name that will end up on the tap and the can". So interesting story, and, even if it is just 11.15 in the morning when Jasper asks me "Do you want to try one?" I really can't say no. So I am there, keeping up with the chats, while Jasper hands over to me a glass "it is just half of a glass because, for us, our beer glasses are always half full".
It makes a lot of sense, positivity, just can be it, especially in a country where Craft Beers are distributed in the big supermarket and creativity, colors, and style are good means to get into people's homes.
"You come for the storytelling, then you stay for the tasty beer" – this is Pieter from Brouwerij de Werf. "We are a brewery that comes from the sea, that's why all our beers are inspired by the sea. Take the Meermoid: it means mermaid in Dutch and its sweet attractive taste resembles the temptation because it is a sweet and fresh beer that keeps on requesting another one." Brouwerij de Werf has a lot of cool stories to tell and they are translated into their design and advertising stunts "we present our beers on movies banners or record decks because we like being different. Of course, having delicious beers is the most important thing, but a strong brand identity is what attracts people to taste our products".
Hands down, this is one of the most creative places I have been since I am involved with the craft community. I can see around a lot of stands and stunts, and some of the coolest beer designs in the cans' and bottles world. Take Brouwerij De Eeuwige Jeugd with its bold storyline and the old school characters on bottles and taps, or like a mainstream brand attracting people to their stand by using a punching ball.
But the real story comes arriving at the Dutch Bargain stand. I know them, as they are the first Nomoq customer in the Nederlands, but I jump into the conversation with the founder, Marc, to know the whole story: "I got into brewing because it was always on my bucket list: have my own beer" – this is a nice intro, nothing to say – "and at the beginning, it was beer to be paired with good food. We had big bottles of beer because we had to be beer to share at the dining table. Then a Michelin Star restaurant wanted to have our beers at their restaurant, and because of this hype we decided to raise the level of our products, and that's when my partner Thibo, a Belgian schooled master brewer, joined the company creating awesome beers. Also, the image was for us very important, but when we started distributing our bottles to the consumer market we got feedback that we could do better. We got a lot of info and then we worked hard on a rebranding that was planned to be printed on plastic sleeves" – here the story becomes crunchy – "The order for the sleeves was placed when I received an email from Nomoq, and your new technology ticked my pioneering spirit. I put the order on hold and I asked the team to pick up the conversation about digitally printed cans. Well, now we are here to finally present our brand new design on decorated cans as the first brewery doing it in Holland, and the feedback has been amazing".
I finish this conversation over the moon, I love listening to how people feel supported by our products, and how much of a factor is technology to spread the creativity of a job made for passion more than for plain business.
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