VandeStreek Beer: Going Dutch without the Alcohol!
The availability of no and low alcohol beers is improving all the time. New breweries and new beers from well-established breweries are showing good sales and the category is booming. Amid health concerns and lifestyle choices, many consumers are turning to lower alcohol alternatives, particularly within beer and spirits. Quality is also getting better and shows no sign of plateauing.
Low Alcohol at BrewLDN
While the UK is edging ever closer, Germany and Holland are arguably leading the way in producing flavourful beers of less than 0.5% ABV. One of the best, available in selected UK retailers, is Playground IPA. Made by Dutch brewer VandeStreek, who also brew a varied range of alcoholic options, it has already received much critical acclaim.
Ryebeck spoke to co-founder, Ronald van de Streek, at this year’s inaugural BrewLDN beer festival, which featured many lower alcohol drinks.
Origins of VandeStreek
“I first started brewing with my brother Sander at home, back in 2010, with no ambition to start a brewery whatsoever. Once a month, we were just two brothers coming together to brew a beer and bottle the one we made the previous month as well. Soon we upgraded our system and went from 20L to 50L. Then, after three years, we decided to start brewing commercially. This was all alcoholic, full-strength beer – anything we could think of. So, in 2013 we started making beer commercially as ‘gypsy brewers’ in other people’s breweries. We gained some fame in the Netherlands and we were still doing this alongside our day jobs!”
Ronald was previously working in marketing for a conference organiser, often within the medical sector. Changing circumstances meant that in 2016, he and his brother decided to work full-time in the business. So, they secured investment to help fund building their brewery. “At the same time, we were also brewing at a German brewery and our girlfriends became pregnant. The brewer was quite familiar with non-alcoholic beers. Because we were missing non-alcoholic IPA, we bought a case of non-alcoholic lager. Then we asked him, why is nobody throwing hops in here!?”
Ronald remembers going through the process of trying to eliminate the various reasons the German brewer gave him for not adding hops. “We wanted to prove him wrong“, he recalls.
“For example, dry-hopping means the beer ferments out a little bit further due to more enzymatic reactions. So this is something we needed to overcome. Otherwise we would have gone over the 0.5% ABV level to call it alcohol-free.”
Changing the Process
As a result, the brothers decided to change their whole process of brewing, as Ronald describes. “We changed the yeast and many other things. In the end, we ended up with a beer that is completely naturally brewed. There’s no dealcoholisation. Nothing is taken out. We’re just adding to the beer and it goes through the same process as all of our alcoholic beers. It will sit in a tank for three or four weeks. We just add more hops, including dry-hopping just like a normal beer, to pack so much flavour in.” … and so Playground Non-Alcoholic IPA was born.
Ronald sees Playground IPA as unique, because of this extra flavour. “After we launched it in 2016, many other non-alcoholic beers came on to the market, including IPAs. To me, I have not yet found any which is this bitter. We can make this style, because there’s actually quite a lot of residual sugar in it. For me, IPA has to be bitter. Of course, there are some beautiful, hazy New England alcoholic IPAs which really are much like fruit juice. I like them as well. However, Playground is still the only naturally brewed non-alcoholic beer which also has a real bitterness from the hops. The brewery is now making about 5000 hl, of which half is non-alcoholic! We have a team of 15 and we’re still growing really fast. This is mostly thanks to our Playground non-alcoholic IPA.”
VandeStreek’s Non-Alcoholic Range
VandeStreek brews three beers under 0.5% ABV, which in most of Europe can be classified as ‘alcohol free’. In the UK, the legal limit is 0.05%.
Playground was vandeStreek’s first beer under 0.5% ABV. Since then, they have also created the first non-alcoholic Bock in the world. This is traditionally a high alcohol beer style! Sadly, the beer was not available to sample at BrewLDN. However, Fruit Machine was. It’s a deliciously refreshing raspberry/blueberry sour, which Ronald particularly enjoyed earlier this year. “I did Dry January and this was the beer I kept going back to. It’s only a little bit sour. Drinking IPA all the time and wanting more variation, this was the fruit beer that helped me through the month.”
Playground IPA gains International Recognition
The high quality of VandeStreek Playground Non Alcoholic IPA has been formally recognised within the industry. This mouth-watering, citrus and tropical fruit-laden beer won a Silver Medal at the 2019 Barcelona Beer Challenge. Tasting it at BrewLDN, along with Fruit Machine and their new core beer Hazy Weekend NEIPA, packing a beer with flavour does not appear to present a problem for these innovative brothers!
Playground IPA and Fruit Machine are distributed in the UK by Morgenrot. They are available in selected independent retailers throughout the country. VandeStreek beers can also be purchased online from DryDrinker or LightDrinks.
Other articles featuring beers with lower alcohol levels can be found on Ryebeck’s Industry Insight pages.
Author: Robin Goldsmith of The Write Taste