(This is the sixth and final post detailing what I found to be the breweries of the year for 2011 in various regions. Note that there is no science to the choices I have made, just my own highly subjective reasoning as detailed in each post. You can find my pick of the Brewery of the Year for Ontario here, Brewery of the Year for Canada here, U.S. Brewery of the Year here, Latin American Brewery of the Year here and Australasian Brewery of the Year here.)
I had some tough decisions to make before arriving at my choice of European Brewery of the Year for 2011. First was, should I separate out the U.K. for its own Brewery of the Year award, as I did Ontario from Canada and Canada and the U.S. from North America? In my head, I made a good argument for so doing, since my experiences in Britain last year left me quite impressed and very optimistic about the future of brewing there. But then I stared down the prospect of also separating out the Benelux, Scandinavia and Germany-Austria, just for starters, and the whole thing grew rather daunting. So Europe alone it remains.
Next up, I had to decide whether to make my focus experimentation and innovation, of the type at which the Italians and the Danes, in particular, excel, or stick to the kind of solid, ultra-reliable brewing seen across Germany and amongst the old school breweries of Belgium. And should I reward persistence within undeveloped beer nations, taking me back to Italy and parts of Scandinavia, even a bit in France, or reliability and character within developed nations?
Ultimately, I swept all those questions aside and asked myself this: “What European brewery has had the most focused, forceful and practical presence both within their home market and beyond?”
My answer, and my choice of European Brewery of the Year, is Brouwerij de Molen of the Netherlands.
Yes, their beers are multitudinous, often fleeting and frequently next to impossible to find, but my experience has been that there are enough of them that something is usually available at the better beer shops in the Netherlands, and sometimes elsewhere, and even if it’s not precisely what you’re looking for, it’s usually pretty damn good anyway. And besides, how many European breweries have the tenacity and sheer brewing prowess to list on their website the beers they produce by national inspiration, ie: “Belgian-Style,” German-Style,” etc.?
But as good as the above reasons are, they are not why de Molen is receiving this particular nod. No, the reasoning behind this pick is rather the way in which De Molen has brought forward Dutch brewing, encouraging other breweries to shed their conservative ways and embrace the diversity of beer, and then introducing that emerging face of Dutch beer to the world via tireless travels to beer fests all over Europe. For that leadership, De Molen, I salute you, and recognize you as my choice for European Brewery of the Year.