Interview with Robbert Uyleman of Het Uiltje

Sometimes it only takes one beer and you know the brewery is something special. One of those beers was Bosuil (Strix aluco) by Dutch Brewery Het Uiltje. An immense Black IPA. Accordingly we are happy to introduce to you Robbert Uyleman, man behind Het Ultje.

Which of your beers would you serve to the beer hunter Michael Jackson?

Probably the freshest IPA we have in stock. In this case it will be Big Fat Double 5 IPA, an Imperial IPA, or our Velduil or Short Eared Owl, a session IPA.
But perhaps the new Auchroisk whisky cask aged Barleywine… decisions, decisions…

Tell us a little about who you are, what you do.

My name is Robbert Uyleman, founder and brewer of ”Het Uiltje” what stands for ”small owl”, like my last name. Basically we make beer… And we love American style IPAs. And we are really into barrel aging beers.

What is it that you love about barrel aging?

First of all, I LOVE Scottish whisky. Before I started getting interested in brewing I already had a passion for whiskies.
Barrel aging is adding complex flavor to a beers and is creating so much more depth. When you age an imperial stout that has notes of chocolate, coffee, with barrel aging you can add flavors like the specific wood/vanilla flavours of French or American oak or flavors from the style of whisky, like Owland, Speyside, bourbon or a peated Islay cask. A sherry cask gives woody vanilla flavors or tones of ripe fruit and hints of apple. You can go so many ways with cask ageing.

When did you start brewing, when did Het Uiltje start?

We started almost three years ago. My interest in brewing and craft beer started a year and a half earlier almost.

So you’ve been a homebrewer for one and a half years first?

Yup, that is about right. I brewed at home approximately 4 to 6 times a week. And no, I did not have a personal life during that time [smiles]. I had fucking kegs of beer under my bed.

What made you take this step to brew commercially?

In the Netherlands you had so much shitty Belgian beers in all the bars and cafes. We got so fed up with the lack of availability of a good hoppy beer so that we started creating them ourselves. Therefore we started with three different IPA style beers.

You talk about “we”. Who is “we”?

Brewery related it is all me. I have a crew now who are helping with financial stuff and such. And Tjebbe Kuijper is my partner with the bar, he is the man behind it and runs it daily. In the near future he will be doing a lot more for the brewery as well as being busy with new bars.

What are your mid-term goals?

First of all we love creating beer and we have a hell of a lot of fun doing it. That is our main goal. That and trying to expand the business without losing the quality we are so hammered on. We make fresh IPAs and beers that unfortunately do not have a very long shelf life. So we brew many smaller batches to always have the freshest beer available.

How much do you brew by batch?

We tend to brew smaller batches to keep the quality better and the freshest beers on the shelves. We brew between 20HL and 60HL per batch.

How much do you brew in total?

It is going so fast at the moment that we cannot even really tell. I think this year we’ll brew somewhere between 3000-4000HL

Is there an exchange of knowledge, information, and help between brewers?

Some of us do. I am in contact with the younger generation of brewers who tend to call, email and talk about beer stuff a lot more.

Who are the “younger generation” of Dutch brewers?

Younger guys who are starting brewing companies. The have a new way of thinking, are friendly and open for new ideas and experimentation. Most of them are under the age of 40.

What beer made you move away from regular lagers to other beers as a drinker?

As a drinker, I never enjoyed commercially brewed lagers. I drank them though, but did not enjoy it. I always used to drink Belgian beer that I don’t like any more or Guinness that I definitely still like.
And we as a brewery, we never brewed commercial lagers. And we will never make one.

What beers would you like to brew in the future?

We will keep on brewing with copious amounts of hops and cask age our beers. However we are also getting a bit into fruit beers [smiles]. We’ll just do whatever we feel like doing at that time!

How is the influence of Heineken felt in the Netherlands?

Heineken is everywhere. Heineken or one of their sub brands like Brand or Amstel. However they are losing a lot of ground to the up and coming craft beer scene in the Netherlands.

How is the close proximity to Belgium felt in the Netherlands?

It’s an hour and a half drive from where we live. But nope, no Belgian beers or us.
The quality is good, but personally I totally had it with most of the beers from Belgium. I want something new and refreshing. Not the same beers we got thrown at us for the last years.

How would you call the current stage of the Craft Beer scene in the Netherlands?

Oh wow, it is going mental! People are drinking more and more craft beer. Even supermarkets are adding more different beer styles to their range. Bars with more and more craft beer are popping up everywhere.

Do you have an explanation for this development?

Don’t know really. But people are more aware of what they eat and drink. Less gluten, less this, less that. More and specific/extremer flavors are popular. Also in beer I guess. I find this an excellent development, by the way!

Who are your Dutch-beer-heroes?

Oh, several guys who I can laugh with and chat about beer. My heroes have to be the ones who got me into IPA style beers, so Jopen, Leidsche Brouwerij and SNAB. When I was finding my way into the beer scene in the Netherlands, they all had an IPA on the market what got me interested into making that kind of beers myself.

What beer places should a visitor to the Netherlands go to?

In Amsterdam, pop in by two breweries: Brouwerij ‘t IJ and Brouwerij de Prael. Good food and nice beers. Visit the Beertemple, an American bar that offers craft beers from around the world, Proeflokaal Arendsnest, a bar with only Dutch craft beers and the Bierproeflokaal “In de Wildeman”.
And obviously drop by in Haarlem to visit the Jopen brewery inside of an old church and our own Bar. We offer 30 craft beers from draft and more than a 100 from bottle. All of our own beers and beers from all over the globe.

Who drinks at your bar?

The bar we recently opened is being visited by all different kinds of people: old, young and people who are more interested in what the world has to offer other than Belgian stuff everyone knows or commercially brewed lagers.

What are the most popular beers at the bar?

Imperial IPAs are most popular at the moment, as well as all low alcohol ales and stouts. It’s getting spring and a bit warmer outside. People are going to choose a 4% session IPA instead of a 13.4% barley wine or Imperial Stout.

And the most popular among the ones you brew?

Our bar pale ale at 5% is going excellent, as is our hoppy red ale at 4.5%, called the Velduil or Short Eared Owl. Those, I think, are some of the most popular ones.
Then again, at the moment also our Schreeuwuil or Screech Owl, an Imperial IPA with 9% and Big Fat Double 5 Imperial IPA at 8% are very popular. Both Double/Imperial IPA and we recently won the gold and bronze medal in category best double IPA in the Netherlands [and apparently also bronze for the stout „F*ck de kerstboom staat in de fik!“ and silver for the Amber Ale „Velduil – Short eared owl“ – ed.].

Which five beers would you recommend to somebody to drink before they die?

Pfeww, hard one. I’m going to list some beers that no one has probably ever heard of, but they are some of my favorite beers I had in the last years.
• 3-Way IPA by Fort George Brewery from Oregon
• Ungespundet from Spezial in Bamberg
• Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen
• something from Boon, Cantillon or another good spontaneous fermented wild ale
• Something whisky cask aged, maybe our own, or something from Emelisse or De Molen. Scottish whisky FTW!

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