It is officially bok beer season in the Netherlands. Official rules, origin and four bok beers not to miss.
PINT (Promotie Informatie Traditioneel Bier), the largest beer association in the Netherlands, sets specific standards for bok beer, including that it must only be for sale between September 21 and December 21 each year.
Boks herald from Germany and were traditionally strong, dark lagers brewed for special occasions. The first bock beer was probably a fermented beer brewed from multiple grains. This beer was developed in the German town of Einbeck, later called Ein Bock. It is so popular in the Netherlands, there are even bok beer festivals in Amsterdam, Utrecht and Haarlem every year.
All of the big Dutch breweries produce a bok bier, including Heineken, Gulpener, Hertog Jan, Brand, Amstel, Bavaria and Grolsch. They will all be showing up in your local Albert Heijn, probably alongside the all-too-early Sinterklaas treats.
Here are six you should not miss.
Jopen (from Haarlem!)
The Jopen bok is brewed a bit differently than other boks. In addition to the traditional combination of oats, wheat and barley, typical of Haarlem, a fourth historical brewing grain, rye, is added. The Jopen bok beer is a reddish brown four grains seasonal beer, type Herfstbok with an alcohol content of 6.5%. The high fermentation causes that the Jopen four-cereal Bok Beer has a fruity aroma. The special blend of the different types of pale and dark malt result in a slightly malty taste.
Jopen bok tastes the best in the Jopen Church in the center of Haarlem. The “Jopenkerk” is fabulous, the bar is gorgeous, the beers are great and the food-beer combinations in the restaurant at the restaurant are excellent. The Jopenkerk often organises beer tastings as well.
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Officially Brouwerij de Koningshoeven, La Trappe is the biggest and oldest of the Dutch trappist beers. Still produced by monks, they make a bok (but spell it as the Germans do, bock.) You can likely find this one in Albert Heijn as well.
If you want to get a craft bok but don’t want to leave Amsterdam, head over to ‘t IJ for their IJbok. You can try their bok while sitting in the shadow of a windmill. Bike to the brewery and your experience can’t get more Dutch than that.
Their IJsbok has won a bunch of awards, including Lekkerste Bokbier and a silver medal at the Beer World Cup. The recipe is based on a travelogue from a Dutchman aboard a ship searching for the Northeast passage in 1597. You can watch a movie, Nova Zembla, about the journey while enjoying your beer.