Our story, strangely enough, began by drinking beer: drinking lots of different beers from breweries around the world. Oedipus Brewing actually traces its origins to when founders Alex, Paul, Sander and Rick worked in other renowned beer bars. Proof? Yes, that’s us in the BeerTemple – a USA-focused beer bar here in Amsterdam. From these humble origins we present to you the story of our unfolding, and at times meandering, growth and development.
In the BeerTemple, we discovered an array of flavors that we were not used to drinking in the Netherlands. Although we attended many Dutch beer events, sipping our way through festivals abroad really helped to open our eyes, imaginations and taste buds to new possibilities. We were amazed to see young people – men and women alike – enjoying craft beers. Our own love of beer, and exposure to a variety of alternative taste sensations, motived us to become part of a beer community where like-minded people enjoy the beauty and diversity of this drink. From then on our mission became clear: transform the Dutch beer landscape by making quality beer available and appealing to everyone.
Learning the basics
Of course before we could change beer, we first needed to learn how to actually brew something tasty. Like most amateurs we began by homebrewing in our kitchens. Yet we were serious from the start – experimenting with a variety of ingredients and carefully logging our recipes and results. From the get-go, diversity and the science of good taste were key to our approach.
So we decided to brew a different recipe each week and then split these batches between different fermenters. This taught us a great deal about ingredients, styles, fermentation and brewing methods. Much like we do today, we made quite some crazy brews!
How did we learn to brew?
Practice, tasting, practice, talking with countless home and professional brewers, more practice and even more tasting. Our approach has been: anyone can homebrew and shouldn’t be discouraged by the technical aspects of beer making. By relying on an active community of homebrewers (and their YouTube videos) we were able to troubleshoot complications and fix our own brewing equipment.
Elated that our first batches need not be flushed, we began taste testing. Yet we didn’t drink all the beer ourselves, instead choosing to save most bottles to enjoy, share and critique with others. Feedback from our friends, family, fellow brewers and festival goers continues to be a critical part of the process of refining Oedipus beers.
Brewing a ton of beer varieties meant we had enough to save and then share at all kinds of events. Since the beginning, we have pro-actively sought out art and music festivals, food markets and even organized our own events to share our brews. Sharing our beer is a way to bring people together to enjoy food, good conversation and other cultural activities. Involving and collecting feedback from a diverse range friends, enthusiasts and casual beer drinkers makes for better beer and is crucial to our approach.
On the spot
Attending festivals has proven to be an important space for spreading the word about craft beer and its diversity. We have taken this time with others to explain the brewing process and discuss the ins and outs of our beers in detail. Everywhere we’ve gone we seek to spark awe and curiosity, while also learning something along the way. With our brew kit always by our side, we have performed brewing demonstrations at the weirdest locations: beaches, public parks and festivals. After all, who could be more fun than an already intoxicated audience?
Mannenliefde is more than our first brew, it’s a statement! Mannenliefde is a brew with a mission to change the way people think about and drink beer. Thinking of today’s major commercial beers evokes images of macho men sitting on a couch watching football with other guys. The idea that beer is for men – particularly sports-loving men – and wine and cocktails are for women is a myth perpetuated by the big brands. But why does this depiction of beer as masculinity persist? Don’t women enjoy beer? And what’s up with all these gender stereotypes?
Mannenliefde was developed to poke fun at and dismantle this kind of stereotyping – both of people and their preferred tastes. Instead, this beer’s name expresses the complete opposite: a super soft, vulnerable guy who is full of love. Why? We want to show that beer is for everyone, and that it is all about flavor and personal choice.
Brewing beer is fun, but brewing and sharing beer with like-minded people is even more entertaining! Logically, we weren’t the only ones with this belief. Entering the second decade of the new millennium, small breweries, homebrewers and professional brewers have awoken to the potential of craft beer. We wanted to gather together these adventurous and taste-driven people to share knowledge, beers and generally have fun.
In 2012 under the summer sun, we organized our first-ever Kimchi Farm Festival to celebrate beer. The festival’s name was derived from another one of founder Rick’s creative enterprises: Kimchi Radio – a weekly radio program that brings together music, artists of every ilk, and, of course, craft beer.
To our surprise, we were completely overwhelmed by our own success! We expected to organise a small event on a city farm that would attract beer geeks like us, but also young people, families, food-lovers and party-people. Since then, the Kimchi Festival has developed into quite a unique Dutch beer festival. The Kimchi Festival brings together great beers, cutting-edge food concepts and local underground music. Look out for our other upcoming events here.
In 2013, we took a leap forward by trying to establish our first ‘serious’ location in the heart Amsterdam. We wanted to begin our first brewpub in a 180m2 space that would allow us to brew professional quantities without sacrificing our spirit of experimentation. By serving our beers on site, we aimed to strengthen our brand and flavor profiles by gaining instantaneous feedback from our patrons.
Given the scope of the project, and the aim to include our avid fans and supporters, crowdfunding was decided upon as the way to go. The response to our campaign was utterly overwhelming… In just 1.5 months we raised a staggering €100.000 from 266 investors! These investors are our true believers and ambassadors. Want to know more about our crowdfunding campaign? Check out the movie.
Unfortunately, after 1.5 years of working hard to obtain funds and permits, our plans fell through. As most start-ups come to encounter, unexpected bureaucratic regulations made it impossible to realize our brewpub. But that didn’t stop us! Despite this set back, we didn’t lose faith and have kept working to realize our goal of becoming professional brewers with our own physical brewery.
To keep up with our customers’ thirsty demand, over the past year and a half we have focused on the art and craft of brewing by renting production capacity at other breweries. This has worked out well, and provided us the means and momentum to finally move into a bigger production space. In early 2015, we found our latest home in a 900m2 building on the Gedempt Hamerkanaal 85. It’s a beautiful space in the northern part of Amsterdam where we are busy building the production facility, taproom and creative melting pot of our dreams!
New brewery, new friends
Taproom & Brewery
We call our new facility the ‘Oedipus Headquarters’. Here we design new brews in the taste lab, welcome our guests in the taproom, serve beer-food pairings, host an artist-in-residence program and throw awesome parties. Oedipus Headquarters is the epicenter of the creative morass and taste sensations for which we are known.
Using the brewing equipment we originally purchased for the brewpub, production in our new location began last April. Given the time that has passed, we found the equipment we already had to be too small to match a growing demand. Therefore, with the purchase of a 25 HL brewery from our friends at Magic Rock, we will be up and running at full steam by early 2016.
As we’ve expanded our production facilities we’ve also welcomed: a new forklift, a bigger truck, and most importantly our new, adopted mother: Tristan. Tristan is our fifth partner and fits perfectly with our founding four. Although he’s nearly as wild as the rest of us, he helps keep us focused and ensures the alignment of our business strategy with our dream to brew the best beers possible. From time to time he also reminds us to close our zippers.
With 12 beers on tap, the brewery and taproom at Oedipus Headquarters opened on June 18th. The opening party was more than we could have wished for… For three days straight we welcomed fans, funders, beer geeks, party people, and curious family/friends. It was a great start and prelude for other events and memories we hope to share here. Finally! We opened our space, where we aim to bring all the good things in life together under one roof!
We invite you to enjoy a beer with us in our taproom every Friday through Sunday. Each weekend you’re welcome to sample our regular and unique Oedibrews. For those who like to stay ahead of the curve, note that all of our special, one-off brews hit our taproom first. The taproom promises a full sensory experience where, along with your favorite beer, you can come relax, enjoy live-music and/or partake in a special event. Occasionally we invite popular food trucks and caterers to pair yummy bites with your favorite Oedibrews.
As our journey continues to unfold, we currently find ourselves short of brewing capacity! Right now we are working hard to get our larger brew house producing in even greater quantities, and to make our specials more widely available. To realize this dream of sharing more and better beer with all of you, we plan to start running the 25HL brew house in early 2016. Furthermore, we’ve invested in a professional bottling line so that we can bottle your favorites on the spot.
In 2016, we also plan to purchase additional barrels in order to begin, in earnest, our sour and barrel aged beer programs. To make this possible we have already rented the adjacent warehouse to our brewery. Then we made a passage that connects the two spaces. We certainly have our work cut out for us over the next year, but we’re certainly up for the challenge!