I am employed at Heineken to support our breweries worldwide in the field of water and wastewater treatment. I have the privilege to participate in the Heineken global sensory panel among others who are tasked with daily tasting and judging beers sent from our breweries all over the globe.
Outside of work, one of my passions is brewing my own beer at home. I started brewing in 2010 and I have a background in chemical engineering. Like many, I started with extract kits but quickly made the step to all-grain. I now have two manually controlled stainless steel mash tuns with false bottoms and two stainless steel conical fermenters. My typical batch size is 4–5 gallons (16–19 L), and my yearly volume is about 80 gallons (300 L).
For the last few years I have been reading Brew Your Own and often use information in its pages in order to create my recipes. In the December 2015 issue, I was inspired by Gordon Strong’s “Style Profile” article discussing (American) wheatwines and decided to brew my first wheatwine (with just a few substitutions to his recipe due to availability). I entered it into the Open Dutch Championship for homebrewers (ONK) — which is our national homebrew competition. ONK is an annual event, alternately organized by one of the largest homebrew clubs in the Netherlands. Unlike the National Homebrew Competition in the States, ONK has 6 categories for submission: Four categories (A, B, C, D) are based on original gravity and color of the beer (SG > or < 1060, EBC > or < 30). In each of these categories about 15–20 well-known beer styles are distinguished. There is one category (E) for clone brews of commercial beers, and the last category (F) is a “Free Class” in which you can enter your beer that does not fit any of the other categories. Unlike barleywine, wheatwine is not (yet) an official beer style in the Netherlands, so I had to enter this beer in the “Free Class” category.
Due to growing popularity in homebrewing in the Netherlands and the limited number of official beer judges, the number of beers to be entered this year had to be capped at 550. Each participant receives an extensive report of his/her judged beer with detailed visual and tasting notes, recommendations for improvement, and an overall score (the theoretical maximum is 100 points). There are prizes for the top three homebrews in each category and the overall winner is the highest scored first place finish from all of the categories. There are also prizes for the top homebrewing clubs.
This year the event was held in Amersfoort, situated in the heart of the Netherlands. During the day you can join brewing lectures and presentations and visit sponsor exhibits related to brewing. When it was time for the final round of judging, my wheatwine was selected to compete among 5 of the other top beers and to my surprise it won the first place prize in the Free Class with a total score of 89 points.
In addition to a prize and recognition, all of the top brewers in each category (except class E) are invited to participate with their winning beers in the European championship for homebrewers as part of the EurHop! Roma Beer Festival, which was held in Rome, Italy in October. This competition featured up to 140 of the best homebrews from 10 countries across Europe. I ran out of bottles of my wheatwine beforehand so had to re-brew it. Here’s to hoping I got a similar end product (or hopefully even better)!