Last Monday it finally happened! Together with 18 colleagues I participated in the Dutch Cup of Beer Sommeliers! Two years later than planned (Yay Covid) and unfortunately not as prepared and ready as I wished for (Yay burnout), but determined to still have fun and just enjoy the ride.
In June 2018 the Guild for Dutch Beer Sommeliers organised the first Dutch Cup of Beer Sommeliers. Back then, the Cup was won by Pepijn van der Waa, closely followed by Dennis Kort and Hubert Hecker. They were the team that represented the Netherlands in the World Cup in Rimini in 2019.
The second Dutch Cup was supposed to be in 2020, followed by again a World Cup in 2021, but obviously that did not happen. So instead we have the Dutch Cup ánd the World Cup both this year. The next Dutch Cup will be on 3 July 2023.
This year the Cup was held on a Monday at Fortbrouwerij Duits & Lauret. The first (closed) part of the Cup consisted of three rounds: two tasting rounds and one round of questions. Then there were the semi-finals and finals, both rounds a presentation, which were open to the general public.
Remember that in 2019 we planned a lot of training and practice to prepare for this Cup? Yeah, that had to stop in 2020 as well. And due to personal reasons, we never got a chance to start again this year. For me, I can only say that burnout is a bitch. Luckily I was not planning on winning, I went in for the experience and the fun and to see everyone again! However I did pretty well in the preparations we did manage to squeeze in the last few weeks, so I was still a little bit disappointed I did not make it to the semi-finals after all, but I am getting ahead of myself.
The Cup! We gathered at 9 o’clock at the beautiful location that is Fort Everdingen, part of the UNESCO World Heritage The New Dutch Waterline. After a brief introduction and some coffee for the daring we were led to a small cabin at the back of the fort (cue the Psycho soundtrack). In the first round we had to blindly taste and recognise 10 beer types, in which I should have done better, because I know I can do better, but it just did not happen today. In the second round we received 51 multiple choice questions. The questions ranged from current events via history, via brewing and chemical knowledge and knowledge of laws and regulations to beer-food pairings. The last round were off flavours. I did pretty well both in off flavours and theory, and it was almost enough to get me to the semi-finals. But on the upside, I did not have to do a presentation and could watch the others to learn from them for next year! Because I will participate again next year.
After these first three rounds we had lunch, while the public slowly trickled in, and the finalists were announced.
The semi-finals and finals were different from the Dutch Cup of 2018, but more similar to the World Cup in 2019. The semi-finals were a knockout round. The finalists had to present a beer back-to-back in pairs of two and the best of the two would go on to the finals. A sixth finalist would be chosen via a wild card. The crux was that they did not know which beers they had to present, while we, the public, did. So in three minutes time the finalists had to taste and guess the beer type while giving a presentation about it and they could receive bonus points for guessing the brewery and name of the beer as well. Yes, that is as difficult and intimidating as it sounds! But all finalists managed pretty well. The beers they had to guess were OMER Traditional Blond, Lupulus Blonde (which is a tripel), Schneider Weisse Aventinus Eisbock, O’Hara’s Irish Red and Brewdog Punk AF (alcohol free).
In the finale, the six finalists (Which were Dennis Kort, Hubert Hecker, Bas Schampers, Ton van Opstal, Yoran Zonneveld and Léon Rodenburg) had ten minutes each to properly present a beer they could choose beforehand out of three beers that were presented to them. In the presentation they would be judged on overall presentation skills and serving of the beer, knowledge of the beer type and/or beer and its background, the sensory description and description of its flavours and the beer-food pairing(s) they would advise with this beer. And I tell you, I was impressed! The presentations of the finalists were all top notch and although not entirely unexpected, I was especially impressed by the performances of Dennis and Hubert. They both managed to really sell the beers and dazzle the audience and it did not surprise anyone they got second and first place! The beers that were presented were Oude Geuze Boon black label, Rodenbach Alexander, Maisel’s Weisse Marc’s Chocolate Bock, St. Bernardus Abt 12, Gouden Carolus Cuvée van de Keizer Rood and La Trappe Bockbier.
In the end Hubert Hecker won the Dutch Cup and will be the Dutch Champion for the upcoming year! Together with Dennis Kort, Bas Schampers, Léon Rodenburg and Yoran Zonneveld he will represent the Netherlands in the World Cup in München in September. And of course, just like last time, we will join them as cheerleaders! ?
It was a taxing, but very fun and rewarding day and I urge all beer sommeliers to definitely participate next year. So will you?