Brouwerij vandeStreek Playground Non-Alchoholic IPAYes, non-alcoholic. And, yes, pretty damn good too. There's a thing.
Low and no-alcohol beers (NAB/LABs)are having a bit of a moment as numerous craft breweries turn their attentions to the category. Indeed London's Nirvana Brewery is entirely devoted to them. Predictions are the NAB/LABs are destined to take up 10 per cent or more of the beer market.
Those of us with long memories will have a sense of déja vu at this point because we have indeed been here before. How long ago was it now when every brewer jumped on the low alcohol bandwagon? I'm guessing 25 years at least. Predictions of spectacular market share gains were equally spectacularly way off the mark and most of the new entrants quickly crashed and burned. Anyone remember Robinsons Wheelwright? Thought not. The underlying problem was really two-fold. Firstly, they sold at a notable premium to regular beers and it was difficult to shake of the perception that people were being asked to pay more for less. Secondly, and more to the point, they really weren't very good. In fact many were pretty grim.
The new generation of NAB/LABs differs from its predecessor in those two crucial respects. For a start more come from craft breweries and I think it's pretty well established that craft can command a price premium without too much difficulty. Secondly, and crucially, the handful I've tried have been rather good. So, on to the current beer in hand.
Brouwerij vandeStreek is based in Utrecht and was founded by brothers Sander and Ronald vandeStreek in 2013. For a while they cuckoo brewed elsewhere as is often the case with new Dutch start-ups. However on 2016 they got their own kit and launched the 'Playground' series of more experimental series of beers alongside the core range. I've always been a fan of vandeStreek beers and recall one enjoyable afternoon at a beer festival in Delft when I sat next to their bar and happily worked my way through the range.
This Non-Alcoholic IPA was launched last year and was an instant hit and is now stocked nationally in the Netherlands by the Albert Hein supermarket chain. I was put on to it by Ronald vandeStreek himself on a visit to Amsterdam in June. In fact he was so enthusiastic that he ran to the large Albert Hein around the corner to buy me a bottle to try! I was impressed but when I went there myself to get a couple of bottles to bring home they'd sold out. Luckily I was able to pick up a bottle on a trip to Eindoven in August. I wish I'd bought more.
It pours a deep clear gold and on the nose there's a good, fruity hop aroma with perthaps peach and pineapple there. It's not a thin beer either - there's a good mouthfeel with more sweet fruit notes in here - say touches of peach and apricot? A decent and lingering bitterness comes on to play to balance it all out.
I can certainly see why this has proved so popular - if my local bottle shop sold it I'd be buying quite a lo.