They’ve Got Bols

IMG_0208One of the most unexpected and interesting stops during our summer travels to Europe was to the House of Bols Museum in Amsterdam.

Deterred by the two-hour wait to get into the Van Gogh Museum, we stepped across the street and walked right in at the House of Bols Cocktail and Genever Experience. It’s basically an educational and historic look at liqueurs and spirits, culminating with a cocktail tasting.

Bols is best known in the U.S. for its many flavored liqueurs. In fact, you might even have a bottle of Bols schnapps or liqueur tucked at the back of your liquor cabinet right now.

Lucas Bols founded the world’s oldest spirit brand in Amsterdam in 1575. Today it is one of the oldest still-operating Dutch companies. Operation of the family-owned company was passed from generation to generation, and in the 17th century, the Bols grandson took over. He became a major stakeholder in the East India Trading Company, which gave him access to herbs and spices, from which he created some 300 liqueur recipes.

IMG_0206During the 1650s, the Bols distillery was apparently a regular hangout for Rembrandt, who had a studio across the road. A Rembrandt painting hangs today in the Bols building.

In 1664 Bols started producing genever, which became the company’s claim to fame in Europe. A distilled liquor made from rye, corn and wheat and blended with juniper and other botanicals, the spirit was modified over the years and eventually became one of the primary liquors used by U.S. bartenders in the 1800s, but seemingly disappeared during and after Prohibition.IMG_0152

Because of the juniper berries and even its name, I assumed that genever was basically a variation of gin. Not true. By itself, it has a very smooth malty flavor of whisky, although definitely not as full in flavor as bourbon. It tasted nothing like gin. The barrel-aged (six years) genever was very smooth and flavorful, minus the hot finish that is characteristic of many distilled liquors. As a base liquor for cocktails, Bols claims that genever has the mixing versatility of vodka. The proper way to drink genever is to fill a tulip glass to the very brim – almost overflowing – and then slurp it from the glass on the table.

Holland’s top spirit still today, genever is making a limited reappearance in the United States. I’ve seen the original version in stores and online, but the barrel-aged versions are harder to find. Moreover, I’ve not seen any differentiated by the number of years it was aged. Fortunately, the six-year aged genever was available for purchase at the House of Bols. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it since we’ve returned.IMG_0200

Still, Bols’ biggest market identity is its liqueurs. The company makes more than 35 different flavors today, and the House of Bols tour offered the opportunity to see, smell, touch and taste the ingredients that go into making the different liqueurs – from vanilla beans and cocoa beans, to peaches and cherries, to coconut and melon. Pretty much every flavor you can imagine is available in liqueur form. There is a room where all are displayed in unmarked bottles with a perfume atomizer. The challenge is to identify each scent.

The final stage of the House of Bols tour brings the opportunity to taste several liqueurs and sample a cocktail mixed with genever and various liqueurs.

The House of Bols may not rival Amsterdam’s museums honoring Van Gogh or Rembrandt and the great Dutch masters, but we still saw an original Rembrandt painting and learned a few things we didn’t know about Dutch culture.IMG_0205

Batten Down The Hatches

IMG_4362A tidal wave is about to hit the western Inland Empire.

The next big wave of craft breweries to come to the foothill communities is on the horizon. And when it comes, it won’t only be a boon for craft beer lovers, but also a source of economic growth for local cities.

If the industry’s rapid and ongoing success is any indication, we have much to look forward to.

Cities across California are recognizing that craft beer is a major growth industry, as evidenced by the skyrocketing number of breweries and tasting rooms that have opened over the past few years. At last count, there were 576 craft breweries in California, with another 260 scheduled to open over the coming year, said Michael “Porter” Barichere, who teaches extended university courses at Cal Poly Pomona about the craft beer industry.

“Wine Industry Insight” recently speculated that craft beer sales could surpass those of the entire wine industry in California by the end of 2016. While that might sound preposterous at first glance, the statistics support that forecast, which was based on 2014 growth rates and future projections. California’s wine sales continue to climb, and according to the Wine Institute, reached $24.6 billion last year, an increase of 6.7 percent. However, craft beer sales are closing fast; during the same period they jumped 22 percent to $19.6 billion, according to the Brewers Association.

Screen-Shot-2015-10-01-at-3.57.57-PMThe local region won’t be left out of the latest growth trend. In Rancho Cucamonga, three new craft breweries have been approved and are pending operation, while a fourth is currently under review. Those join the city’s two established breweries, Hamilton Family Brewery and No Clue Brewery, as well as the Joseph Filippi Winery and wine tasting locations at the Wine Tailor, BevMo and Total Wines and More, among others, giving Rancho Cucamonga a full array of beer and wine sampling opportunities. And there are rumors of additional craft breweries still in the early planning stages.

“We are very supportive of this trend and quite excited to see that it is not only maintained, but that it grows in scope month by month,” said Rancho Cucamonga City Manager John Gillison. “I would love to see the number of wineries and breweries in Rancho Cucamonga grow by three or four times what they are now, and to have a wine and brew tour for Rancho Cucamonga one day. It ties the past to the future, is of interest to all generations, and will help us build out the one segment of our housing market that demographically is notably lacking – young urban professionals. I would love to have the vibe that San Diego has, or Fort Collins (Colo.).”

Set to open soon in Rancho Cucamonga are Solorio Brewing Co. on Feron Blvd., Rowdy’s Brew Co. on Sixth Street and Grabrewski Beer Co. on Base Line east of Day Creek. Sour Cellars on Ninth Street is not far behind. When complete, Solorio, Rowdy’s and Sour Cellars will all be a stone’s throw from each other, forming a mini-craft beer district along the Archibald corridor between Arrow Route and Sixth Street.IMG_4367

When Dragon’s Tale Brewery comes on line in Montclair on Vernon Ave. east of Central, it will be just a few blocks south of Upland’s Rök House Brewery, which is already part of the Upland-Claremont triangle that also includes Dale Bros. Brewery and Claremont Craft Ales.

Two more may soon be added to the mix in Upland, although no official applications had been filed with the city’s development services department as of early October. Nevertheless, city officials reported that there have been several inquiries, and Whitewater Brewers has a website promoting its future home on Ninth at Mountain. In addition, Oggi’s, a major regional restaurant and brew house that serves its own craft beer, will open at the Colonies  this year.

Down the street in Ontario, Strum Brewing Co. plans to open soon on South Campus Avenue below Holt Boulevard. Chino Valley Brewery had been the city’s only craft brewery, but closed to relocate. There is talk that it will reopen soon at its new location, although nothing official as of yet.

Emporia Brewing Co. is another brewery in Ontario, but without a tasting room. No word on if the three-year-old brewery will open its doors to the public, but you can find them at various events around town.

There has been a lot of activity recently in Pomona as well. Old Stump Brewery opened in September in a spacious facility along Bonita Avenue just west of Garey Avenue. Another, Homage Brewing, is also in the works.

Lagunitas, which recently sold 50 percent ownership to Heineken, is currently building one of the largest craft brewery facilities in the United States in Azusa, to go along with its Petaluma, Calif., and Chicago breweries. The new Azusa facility will cover 178,000 square feet and will have the capacity to brew 420,000 barrels per year – with potential to grow to one million barrels. Lagunitas has targeted a 2017 opening for the brewery, which will also include a taproom, restaurant and music venue.

Given craft beer’s recent growth impact, it’s not surprising to see what has been happening in San Diego County for years finally take root closer to home. With well more than 20 percent of California’s small and independent breweries, San Diego is widely acknowledged as the nation’s craft brew capital. According to a study by the National University System Institute for Policy Research, the craft beer industry generated $600 million in economic impact in San Diego last year.

The same organization recently published a survey of the 54 breweries, brewpubs and related brewing businesses in Los Angeles County, reporting that they generated $66 million in direct economic impact on the region. It’s not yet at the level of San Diego, but headed in the right direction.

So when do we have too many breweries? That question has been tossed around for years in San Diego County, where more than 100 breweries are still thriving. That alone is amazing, especially when you consider that as recently as the late 1970s, there were only around 100 breweries in America.

There are currently now more than 4,000 active breweries across the country. The United States has yet to approach its peak number of 4,131 from the year 1873, although the current pace should top the record year very soon – possibly before the end of 2015. Still, it’s unlikely we’ll ever approach the per-capita numbers from the pre-Prohibition era, and industry experts claim we are still nowhere near the saturation point.

An abbreviated version of this article also appears in the November edition of 9-0-9 Magazine.

Congratulations to Dale Bros. Brewery

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Photo courtesy of the Brewers Association

Congratulations to Dale Bros. Brewery in Upland, the Inland region’s pioneer craft brewery, which captured a bronze medal at this year’s Great American Beer Festival in September, the most prestigious and important competition in the U.S. In addition to Dale Bros., another local brewer, Ritual Brewing in Redlands, won two gold medals at GABF.

IMG_0547Earlier this year, Dale Bros. was named “Small Business of the Year” for the 41st Assembly District by Assemblymajority leader Chris Holden, D-Pasadena.