29 Sep Herfstbok beer in Autumn Amsterdam
It’s autumn: rain, wind, short days, no sunlight… But, fortunately there is Herfstbok! So find one of the cafés selling this seasonal beer and watch the rain slap against the windows. Enjoy it when you leave the faculty at 4 o’clock and it’s already dark outside. Or even drink one on a terrace with the last bit of sun shine of the year.
Herfstbok beer: sweet, dark and German
If someone puts a lovely dark beer in front of you, you’re definitely confronted with a Herfstbok or Bokbier when it:
- Is sold from October till February
- Has its origin in Germany (Bockbier, also produced by several Dutch brewers)
- Doesn’t have the usual bitter beer flavour, but is slightly sweeter with a malty and toasty aroma
- Is produced at low temperatures, between 4-12⁰C and has 6.5% abv (alcohol by volume) – these are common, but not official, requirements
- Contains at least 15.5 Plato specific gravity (so bring your chemistry set)
We know that yeast is used to produce alcohol from the sugars contained in grains and most of us love this. But how was this discovered? What is the science behind making beer?
Beer and wine (and of course the effects of the alcohol it contains) were most likely discovered by accident. People realized that when you leave grains in covered containers for a long time, it will produce alcohol (apparently somebody lost a dare and had to try the “rotten-grain-juice”). By trial and error they found out at what temperatures and how long the grains should be left in the containers to produce something drinkable. However, no one knew where the alcohol came from.
When the first microscopes were built, yeast was discovered. First they thought it was a catalyst, helping the sugar in the grains transform to alcohol and carbon dioxide. But in the mid-1800s Louis Pasteur discovered that yeast was an organism. The unicellular yeast organism converts sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide by fermentation. Thus, to the yeast, the alcohol and carbon dioxide are just waste. Whereas to us, it is a way to get wasted.
Bock beer recipe
In 1992 brewing beer for your own use was legalized in The Netherlands. So why not give it a try yourself? Beware though: making stronger drinks, requiring distillation, is still illegal because it’s quite dangerous. If you want to pursue a career in brewing you can order starting kits online which will contain the ingredients you need, but basically all you need is:
- malt extract (liquid or dried)
- very clean equipment (you don’t want any organisms except your yeast in your beer)
- a recipe (can be found all over the internet)
Where to find the best herfstbok
Every café in Amsterdam with a bit of self-respect will serve bock beer from about October till February. However, there are some places you should definitely go when on an autumn themed pub crawl:
- Brouwerij ‘t IJ: relatively close to Science Park and sells it’s own bock beer: IJbok
- Café Hesp: next to the river Amstel, with a variety of beers and serves diner as well
- De Bekeerde Susters: in the city centre, their beer came in third in last year’s bock beer elections
- In De Wildeman: another one in the city centre with a great variety of beers
Let us know when you find a better herfstbok spot or when you make your own bock beer. We’ll be happy to try it!