My first visit to Borefts was filled with both expectation and a sense of open anticipation. I've been to several beer festivals that have been impressive in their own way, from my most local real ale offering in South Manchester, and Manchester's increasingly renowned Indy Man Beer Con, to the many events during Toronto's Beer Week, and every one of Mikkeller's Copenhagen Beer Celebrations. I've gotten to appreciate what I really like in a festival, and what I find a little less enjoyable, but I've also found, time and again, that each festival is best enjoyed for what it is. Sure, my local real ale festival is comparatively lacking in boldly flavoured modern beer, and it is packed to the rafters with all manner of session drinkers, but it's also just a few minutes walk away from my front door, and a place to enjoy what almost feels like the start of the festive season in the late October transition into winter. I've also really enjoyed London's Craft Beer Festival, where not a single beer (to my knowledge) was a festival one off – I could relax, not having to worry one bit about missing out. I spent the evening there talking to friends, enjoying some very good beer, and soaking up the party atmosphere once the band started playing.
Specialist festivals, where the line up is chiefly rare and limited edition are great fun for expanding the pallet and reframing expectations of what beer is and what it can be. This year's Indy Man Beer Con looks set to be the best yet in terms of the quantity of experimental beer available, with many breweries bringing collaborations, one offs and festival specials. At the pinnacle of modern specialist beer festivals in Europe is Mikkeller's Copenhagen Beer Celebration, where even the most relaxed and reserved beer geeks can find themselves dashing to one stand then the other in pursuit of rarely seen and one off beers. It's a festival that buzzes with excitement, but for that matter it is also one at which it is easy, without enough restraint, to burn out – the pallet can get fatigued after too many Barrel Aged Imperial Stouts, or Double IPAs, all of which are available for such a short space of time that it feels absolutely necessary to get through as many as possible.
Brouweij De Molen's Borefts Festival, from this first impression, seems to be positioned somewhere in between traditional beer festivals where quaffing beer is the key to enjoyment and the cost is relatively economical, and the modern specialist beer festivals where scarcity and boldness foster much deserved excitement, and the costs can run up to a rather more considerable amount. With an abundance of high quality beer on offer from 18 European breweries there was certainly lots of choice that appeared to appeal to everyone, but with almost all of the beers being on tap the whole festival until supplies ran out, the impetus to dash round didn't arise at all. There's no better way to illustrate this point than to say that I managed to have three measures of my favourite beer in the festival (De Molen's Twenty One Grams, a 10.2% extra strong beer that is dosed with 21g of hops per litre of beer), over the two days, whilst sat relaxing under the sun. I'm not sure I've ever had such a highly hopped beer that was as balanced whilst also overtly, boldly flavourful, nor have I ever been able to so easily get hold of such a potent beer without something in between a long queue and a scramble.
De Molen thoroughly deserve their reputation of invigorator and moderniser of The Netherland's beer scene. Their year round line up and one off specials are often nothing short of stunning and innovative, and their role as long standing pioneers (Menno Olivier founded De Molen in 2004) positions them as something of an old guard modern brewery that hasn't lost one bit of relevance or insight into cutting edge tastes and trends.
Borefts Festival has now firmly cemented its place in my beery calendar, proving itself to be interesting and specialist, yet relaxed and informal. Here's to 2015!