Episode #004 is all about Vandestreek Bier and I caught up with one half of the founding duo Ronald Van de Streek and we chat all things non-alcoholic beer and how their small brewery accidentally found itself as the poster child for non-alcoholic beers!
Haven’t got the time to listen? Check out the show notes below for
- Episode Recap
- Drinks and links we mention; and
- The full episode transcript
- The non-alcoholic range from Vandestreek came about after founding brothers Ronald and Sander both found their partners pregnant at the same time.
- The Vandestreek Bier non-alcoholic range started as part of the experimental playground series where the brothers would try new and innovative ways of brewing, packaging, aging and luckily for the world of non-alcoholic drinks, brewing beers without alcohol.
- The Vandestreek Playground IPA makes up more than half of the beer the brothers brew at their Netherlands brewery.
- The newest beer in the non-alcoholic range is the Vandestreek Fun House New England IPA created with Hong Kong brewery gwei lo.
- The brewery continues to expand to meet the growing demand for their beers, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic, globally.
Drinks Mentioned in Episode #004
Episode #004 Transcript
Hello and thank you so much for joining me on another episode of the non alcoholic drinks podcast brought to you by TippleZero.com where we believe enjoying a drink is all about the taste and the company you’re with while being a little bit less about the alcohol.
This is a podcast for anyone looking to take the guesswork out of what non alcoholic drinks to try next, while staying up to date with all the best new releases and hearing from people making waves in the community and the industry.
I am your host Jonathan Lambrianidis and on today’s episode we are going to be talking with Ronald Van de Streek.
One of the brothers and founders behind Van de Streek Bier. Ronald is going to share some stories around the way Van de Streek got started, how they got going with their non alcoholic range as well as a little bit around the products themselves.
So if you’re considering trying any of the Van de Streek range, or you’re thinking of getting involved with a new non alcoholic beer and you want to give this one a try, then this episode is absolutely for you.
By the way. One last thing before we get started, if you want to get in touch with me or you want to find out a little bit more about Tipple Zero, you can email me at podcast @ triplezero.com or head over to Instagram and follow me over there at @tipplezerodrinks. That is at T I P P L E zero drinks on Instagram.
Alrighty, I kicked off with Ronald talking about the journey Van de Streek went on from home brewers to commercial brewers. And we also kicked off by looking at the leap they took by developing the Playground series and how that came about as well is what the guys were looking to do and showcase with that series.
Ronald, great to have you on the show today.
Thank you so much. This is my first time in Australia.
Well, welcome. It is winter here. But we’re happy to have you I can’t wait to chat to you today about all things Vandestreek.
as the playground is one of the beers that I keep coming back to because of its depth of flavor maltiness as well as the bitterness that you get to balance everything out. So it would be great if you could chat to us today about a little bit around how everything got started over at Vandestreek.
So Vandestreek Bier itself, we started off as home brewers and back in 2010. Me my brother basically just getting together once a month to you know to brothers drinking some beers and brewing a beer as well without any focus, of course on non alcoholic beers it was every month we would brew a different beer and then also bottle the beer that we brewed the month before that.
After three years of brewing without the intention to become a commercial brewery, we started brewing commercially as Gypsy brewers. And we also quit so one day at our day jobs so that we could make some time free basically and have a beer day every week.
I can recommend this to everybody. Just tell your boss that you won’t be in for Friday’s because that’s going to be your beer day from now on.
Then we started to get the plan together to build our own brewery, which is here in Utrecht. Yeah, in that path towards our own brewery, we were sitting together with our designer, Jamie who designs all of our labels, and we came up with the idea for a playground series.
So a series of beers which would explain what this brewery was going to be for us. So finally we would have a physical place and we co-named it our playground. So in that series, we would already show off what people could expect once we had our own brewing equipment in and one of the ideas was to do you know, new stuff, crazy stuff. So we were packaging in different packaging than we would normally do our very first barrows, beer was in that series, new hop varieties.
And then finally also a non alcoholic beer. And it’s the only beer so far and up until this day that we get fan-mail about literally we get people emailing us thanking us for brewing playground. And that that’s something that started from the very early beginning. So right when it hit market here, and we were only brewing like 40 hectoliters or a month of it and it would sell out the first day that it was filled.
So we also got into a little problem here building the brewery, we weren’t able to brew it ourselves here we were still just you brewing it. And by the time that we were able to brew it here we were really relieved because we managed to bump that 40 Hecto to 80 Hecto a month but the demand for it was so crazy that we literally needed to brew it ourselves to be able to distribute it throughout the Netherlands, Europe and later on also the world.
So as you just heard, it was really amazing to hear the growth and the demand for that product and how it grew quite quickly. But what was also really refreshing to hear is the way that the Vandestreek street guys had this dedication to innovating and creating new beers and doing things a bit differently like barrel aging, changing packaging and including a non alcoholic beer in the mix. Following on from that Ronalad and explain how the inspiration for how the non alcoholic beer came about and the process behind Vandestreek settling on brewing a big hoppy IPA for their non alcoholic beer range
So basically how we came up with it, I don’t know if it’s a beer that you guys have. But there’s a German Pilsner brewery gaver. And they have a beer called, Jever Fun . And basically, my girlfriend and also my brother’s girlfriend, got pregnant, around the same time at their due date was two days apart.
So that’s really around the same time. And in my backyard, I happen to find after after a while pregnancy, a case of Javer Fun. And I noticed myself that I started drinking on Monday nights, Tuesday night, Wednesday nights, and actually enjoying the fact that I could drink beer more often without being unhealthy or being an alcoholic or being a fucking dick, because my wife is being pregnant, and I’m drinking all night, you know.
So I have quite some fun doing that. But then also in the conversation with my brother and also with the Brewers we were working with, we really started to wonder like, why is nobody throwing proper hops into a non alcoholic beer?
And you have to imagine here in Europe, we were brewing at one German brewery and that brewery, yeah, they have a more of a tradition of the non alcoholic weizen, for example. So I mean, I’m sure you’re aware of the weihenstephaner, and the paulaner and all those big breweries, while the small breweries in Bavaria, they also make non alcoholic beers.
And for the craft breweries at the time, in the Netherlands, it was kind of magic, you know, how do you make it? What kind of equipment do you need? Nobody knew.
So we had the little luck of being a gypsy Brewer at one of those German breweries, a small family Brewery, and I sat down with the guy in charge and asked him like, how do you brew your non-alcoholic? And why is nobody throwing hops in there? And as a real proper gentleman, he had about seven reasons why you couldn’t brew a hoppy, non alcoholic beer. So we started drinking his beer that night and try to overcome those seven issues or think about ways to overcome them.
And of course, he was way more knowledge about the brewing process. You know, he has like a master degree at some brewing school in Germany and me coming from the hobby brewing scene, of course brewing professionally for about three years by the end, but still really not in the know about non alcoholic beers and how to brew them. But as you see, we we did overcome them together with him.
And once things took off, basically, they took off like crazy, it’s actually more than half of the beer that we brew, here’s a playground.
As you just heard from Ronald, the demand for IPA is one of the big elements behind Vandesreek brewing a non alcoholic beer, and he went on to share some really interesting insights and information around how in brewing their non-alc beer, they’ve gone against the grain and really turned some of the approaches to brewing upside down and innovated their way to a great product.
So I asked Ronald to talk a little further about how the ingredients and elements that create the Vandestreek, non alcoholic range, turn standard and traditional approaches on their head. And it’s really interesting to hear how they’ve gone about this. So have a listen to what Renata has to say.
So here in the Netherlands I think with the craft beer scene the revolution has started I would say around that time that we started the brewery 2013.
2010 when we were starting to homebrew nobody I knew was home brewing. It wasn’t in the convenience shops like it is today. We were a little bit at the forefront there. And also I would say in 2012 13 there were like, I don’t know, 10-15 breweries opening and most of them that opened back then are still in existence. And if you look a little bit later in the curve 14, 15, 16 even more breweries opens but quite some of those are not around anymore as well.
So we were at the forefront of that little revolution here in the Netherlands. And back in the days everybody was brewing really crazy beers Of course, you know, smoke porters and brown IPA, and we could do English IPA, we could do Belgian triples, like didn’t really matter.
But of course, the West Coast IPA was getting its foothold here as well. And craft brewers naturally were the ones to present them to the markets. So yeah, so it was kind of a logical thing to us to grow into. And then again also for the beer itself playground in this in this case, we don’t have the expensive equipment to filter out alcohol. And also we don’t want to fiddle around with the beer adding natural aromas and adding weird ingredients to the beer. So it’s a completely naturally brewed beer. And of course, if it’s non alcoholic, there will be different flavors in there from when is a fully fermented alcoholic beverage.
So we are also quite happy that we could add quite some bitterness and also loads of aroma from the hops, which by then already were naturals people who are drinking IPAs. So those two things went hand in hand like if the whole IPA trend high growth wouldn’t be there. We wouldn’t be brewing non alcoholic beers because to be quite clear, the non alcoholic beers you know they are more warty more sweets more malty than than the original style would be basically.
The most fun or weird thing about the way that we brewed and non alcoholic beers is that it kind of goes against the natural way of brewing for a normal brewery. Normally we would have malt and tried to get as much easy sugars out of them for the yeast as possible and we want like a healthy fermentation is what we talk about even big beers you know, they got to be done in like one week or 7, 8, 9 days.
And now we’re trying to make a wart with the most complex sugars we can get, because we don’t want any of those easy edible sugars for the yeast, because the use that we’re using is a yeast which has a hard time making alcohol, but it has an even harder time making alcohol from the more difficult sugar strains that you get in your awards. So if you would have a wart full of simple sucose, glucose, it’s still going to ferment to like 2, 3, 4% and the favor will be really off. But if you have a lot of maltose and kind of the more difficult sugar strain in your wort, you’re going to end up with, with fermented products under the 0.5 percent.
Now, we know a little bit around the way that the beers are created and the process behind them, in case you haven’t tried the Vanderstreek street range, I asked Ronald about how he would go about describing the characteristics of the beer.
And he touches on a remarkable point around the result of some blind tastings. And a really interesting element around the challenges that come with the process of developing and building flavors and balance into a non alcoholic beer
It starts with the malts that we use. So we don’t use too much plain malts. So Pilsner malt and pill malt is not the main thing in the recipes for non alcoholics, we are able to do it but you know, there’s always like, you get a thinner beer and you get this kind of hard because you also want to have the mouthfeel basically, that fits the beer stop.
So it starts with the malt and we’re using a really unusual malt bill basically to brew the beer. So in comparison to a regular beer, there will be way too many caramalts in there way too many kind of aroma malts that you would normally use to kind of up a beer a little bit into some some direction. But if you look at the recipe here, it’s most of it.
Then the hops, of course, are American IPAs, we use American hops. We do love our Australian hops as well though, but they are quite hard to find here. We actually just released the galaxy and a secrets IPA, so I’m always stoked to get some Australian hops usually, if you have any connections, let me know.
But we use American hops for the for the playground at least which is mostly based on Mosaic and Cascade.
Right? So it sounds like it’s kind of a really nice blend of the two and you’re able to, like you said, create that beautiful mouthfeel as well, which is so important to people who are trying to drink something without the alcohol but still want that feeling of drinking a traditional beer.
Exactly. So the the actually, the malty backbone supports the bitterness as well. So even though it’s non alcoholic, and I don’t know, I don’t know how geeky you want me to get. But the level of bitterness is still quite high. It’s even similar to a beer that you would have at 6%, 7%, for example.
right? So I’d be using it at quite a high level. How did you manage to kind of do that from a technique point of view?
Adding more hops is always the answer, of course, but the beer takes it so well, because it has that sweet multi backbone, basically. So without the sugar, which are still left in the product as well, you wouldn’t be able to build it up to such a big bitterness.
Unknown Speaker 12:49
Like you heard Ronald touch on a little earlier, the first batches were absolutely flying, they were being bought and fully pre ordered before they even landed from Germany. And Ronald now touches on the growth of the brewery and the way it’s been impacted by the uptake of the non alcoholic beer, as well as a path to being able to produce it locally in the Netherlands.
So have a listen to what is some pretty amazing growth the team have and are currently experiencing on the back of the popularity of both their non alcoholic and traditional beers and what the team are currently up to in relation to expanding the brewery.
Our main beer or the biggest beer that we brew is the playground non alcoholic IPA, which is a West Coast interpretation non alcoholic West Coast IPA interpretation, it does give you the full experience of drinking a regular West Coast IPA, it is very often used here at least in tastings to also kind of do a blind tasting and ask people Hey, what do you think the alcohol is in this beer?
More than half the people definitely says like this is about 5%, for example. So it really mimics the mouthfeel and the experience there. Then we also have fruit machine which is a non alcoholic fruity sour with raspberry blueberry. And you did you have the Fun House?
Yeah, so we’ve got the Fun House and the playground here.
Cool and Funhouse is is actually created together with our friends in Hong Kong brewery named gwei lo there, they actually import our beers there as well. So we figured it makes a lot of sense to also brew together.
And this was our first attempt at a New England IPA non alcoholic, which of course brings that little bit of difficulty compared to what I was just saying, you know, we have the sweet backbone to build bitterness upon.
If we don’t add to bitterness, like during an IPA, what happens with that sweetness. So basically, we had to find a way to brew it less sweet, but to keep mouthfeel. And of course, that means adding oats and adding weet to the beer.
But you can’t do that like indefinitely if you’re brewing non alcoholic beer because you’re just going to have a stuck filter in the process here. The process is really basic, of course brewing and that’s here is to say me or we don’t have too much fancy equipment.
Of course, we have old equipment to brew the beer in a very high quality but we don’t have de-alcoholisation units or weird filters or something to make a different board than a regular beer.
And even all of the beers that we brew are going through the tanks like a regular beer so it’s not a mix we make it one day and then bottle it, it actually sits in a tank ferments and lagers as well. And before it gets into the can, it’s at least three to four weeks old, just like any other IPA or other beer that we brew would be. So the whole process of brewing, the non alcoholic approach that we take is only adding stuff to it, taking nothing out of it, which is really important for the flavor, of course, and then also following the natural process of what the beverage itself could be, and must be.
So I also wanted to chat to you about the way that you guys have grown and how the company has grown in terms of trying to keep up with that demand that you mentioned a bit earlier, because you said you started with 40 hecto batch first and then from there, you move to I think it was an 80Hector. So yeah, can you tell me a little bit about how your first couple of batches sold?
Yeah so the very first batch that we brewed, I think was sold within a week or something. And then we decided to brew it again, which we’re still doing as Gypsy brewers. In Germany. As soon as that came in the same data that came in from Germany, we were able to get everything out again, and have it sold.
So we of course, reordered, reorder, reorder, and we were able to update to 80 hecto. And all the time, we would sell out on the instant that it got here, which is really annoying because we you know, we don’t want to say no to people throughout demand.
And we were making lists, and people were over ordering as well, because if you can’t get it, I better order some more for next time. So yeah, we were really happy to be able to afford also the equipment to make it ourselves here. And it’s really boosted the growth of the brewery as well.
So we started off here with nine fermenters. At the moment, I think it’s 23 or something, and we are actually gearing up or getting ready for another 100% growth. So what we’re brewing at the moment is about 50% of what the things can have, it is about 100% of what our feeling team can have.
But that’s why we’re also again, investing in a new bottle line and new equipment there to kind of keep up with the demands.
Maybe quite a funny thing to know for consumers as well is when you build a brewery, for example, you’re building a 20,000 hectoliter Brewery you calculate with maybe filling 15,000 liters in bottle or can, because the rest will go and kegs right, while non alcoholic doesn’t go in kegs. So the first problem first bottleneck literally will be your bottom line. So we ran into that quite quick, we have been filling bottles for quite a long while we switched to canning and bottling last year and now already. So within one and a half year since that’s been installed, we are about to buy a huge quick canning line to be able to be way faster and filling the beers. So that’s how the growth has been affected by non alcoholic. And of course the growth is also in the alcoholic beers that we brew because they are amazing as well.
And I think that’s a really good point to note on you know, someone who drinks both a traditional beer and non alcoholic beer it is one which is kind of great to be able to start your night and have something with alcohol in it and then jump across to something like a playground and have that for the rest of your night and then still be okay the next day or if you want to drive home later on the night you can drive home.
So it’s really great to see that you’ve got that option for people to enjoy both and just kind of give them the ability to choose. And I also saw recently that you managed to finally get your own fully printed cans for this as well while we’re talking about the canning. So that’s something could be celebrated. It sounds like you guys were pretty excited about that.
Yeah. But at the moment, at least in Europe, there’s a big problem and a shortage of cans. So it’s really hard to get into the planning and to kind of have the spot there, but we finally have it so we really love the look of playground and then another beverage that we make is our hazy weekend, which is alcoholic IPA. Those are our two main beers and they are now in printed cans and I hope to be able to move into printed cans for most of our products because that as well saves a lot of work at the canning line.
Having touched on the Vandestreek range and the approach the team take to brewing the beers from the ingredients to the process. I asked Ronald where his beers can be found internationally and as you hear he goes into discuss the different locations these are found and the approaches people take to selling them or I should say distributors take the selling them internationally throughout the globe. So have a listen to where you can find the Vandestreek range internationally.
Yeah, most of the countries that we shipped to our or more English countries are under the British flag or how do you call it though we are in Hong Kong we are in Australia and New Zealand we are in the UK itself, of course Canada, just starting up a little bit in the US as well.
We have them here in Europe, of course our neighboring country Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, we are not a supermarket everywhere of course. But here in the Netherlands we you can find our normal non-alcoholic beers in most of the supermarkets outside and our alcoholic beers you would find in the better bottle shops and also in the in the bars etc.
And then in the UK. We’re doing both as well. So alcoholic and non alcoholic. And that’s also sold throughout the country in mostly bars at the moment. We have a really traditional importer there that really wants to focus on the bars first before go into retail. And I think in Hong Kong, it’s also in supermarket there. So it’s quite crazy to I mean, Australia, of course is further away than Hong Kong is but saying that your beer in the supermarket in Hong Kong is kind of a surreal thing because now Hong Kong itself is surreal to me, Australia I can still imagine a little bit.
Yeah, it’s one Those ones where you kind of start to see it grow and really say it out there in the wild, like it’s your baby that you’ve taken care of for so long. And all of a sudden now you see everyone enjoying it and must kind of be a feeling, which kind of makes you really happy and glad to get up every day and go to work.
I hope Corona is over soon. So we can do a little world tour and kind of have three weeks of my time or something dedicated to visiting all the places where Playground is being sold.
Unknown Speaker 20:22
Absolutely. That would be amazing. We got to make sure it’s summertime down here because Melbourne is freezing during the winter. You don’t want to be here.
What does freezing mean?
I mean, well, I mean, that’s exactly right. It’s all relative. I think for us today, I think it was nine to 10, but not quite zero. So if you’re used to the winter in the snow, you’re fine.
Exactly. Well, actually nine to 10 sounds like good, good beer, drinking water as well.
It’s always good be drinking, whether you know.
So before wrapping up, I wanted to leave you with a couple of stories. Ronald’s passed on around the way that they innovate and develop a couple of their core range Beer’s, so their traditional alcoholic beers. And I think you’re really going to love their approach to innovation and just trying different things to create a beer of their own and kind of having their own trademark or their own stamp on a traditional style.
So have a listen to the way Ronald talks about developing the hazy weekend product in their range, as well as the way that they went out one night and tasted a whole bunch of Belgian Triples before landing on a style that they really wanted to brew themselves.
The Hazy Weekend that’s our New England IPA. Basically what we do, it’s a core range beer, but we still mess around with the hops. So hazy weekend, we say we brew it on Monday, when we’re still a little bit hazy from the weekends.
And the story started off that we kind of forgot what the recipe was. And we just threw in different hops all the time. It kind of morphed into being 50%, our Amarillo dry hops and then 50% with something else. So there is always a steady you know, the the flavor is always kind of steadily the same, but there’s something on top of it or next to it or extra or blended in with it.
You can always see in the print on the bottom again, which hops are there. And the other one would be our Turf and Surf. Turf and Surf is a triple beer and we are in the Netherlands and below us is Belgium where so many traditional Belgian triples come from and it’s actually a beer that we did and I needed to hassle my brother over a little bit.
He didn’t want to brew a triple because he you know, it was like Yeah, it sounds crafts it’s the traditional beer from Belgium it’s not craft so we actually went around town here in Utrecht one night drinking triples and I can recommend this to everybody as well.
We only drank triples everywhere and really the last place was really close to his house and still had pepper and salt on the table. So I finally after you know trying for 20 times like you got to do a triple let’s try it like this. Let’s do this. I got the salt grinder some salt into his triple I said okay, it’s gonna be a salty triple. He’s like nah, you know what, why would we do salted triple it’s basically said there’s not a good addition to a triple and then I got the brewing it after about 10 drinking 10 triples to walk to the bar and ask for a smoky whiskey.
So peated whiskey kind of dip my fingers into the glass through some some drips of it into his glass as well and say, okay, smoky, salty, surf and turf. And then we also directly decided that it wouldn’t be surf and turf, because that’s the dish, and it’s going to be turf and surf.
That is an absolutely brilliant story to end on. I love it. I hope to one day see them down here in Australia. And you know, we’d love to drink them. Otherwise, if we can’t get them down here, it would be a great opportunity to travel over and have a reason to come over and drink your beer.
I welcome everybody here behind me in our tap room. And we have it on all night.
I’ll put the links to the brewery and the tap room in the show notes. And hopefully you can get some people over there who have had a listen as well.
Cool. Let’s let’s agree on like a secret handshake and they get a they get a little discount.
Yeah. I love it.
That sounds good. Ronald, thanks so much for talking to me today. It’s been a great opportunity to chat everything Vandestreek, and it’s been great to chat.
Cool. Well, thanks so much.
Want to get involved and feature in the show?
If you’re keen to chat non-alcoholic drinks, share your story or talk about the zero alcohols scene, drop me an email – email@example.com!