Autumn is coming on, and for beer lovers in the Netherlands this means the start of the bock beer season! Though bock beer is not a traditional Dutch beer style, brewing and drinking bock beers has become a tradition in The Netherlands during the past few decades. If you want to join in to the fun, be welcome and visit one of the bock beer festivals in the Netherlands.
About bock beer
Bock beer is a traditional seasonal beer. I say traditional, because the tradition of bock beer goes back to the 16th century. However, traditions seem to have shifted quite a bit over the centuries. Originally these beers were presented in spring, which is still the case in Germany, but in Holland bock beer is now something that very much belongs to the autumn. And whereas bock beer was originally a bottom-fermenting beer style, many Dutch bock beers are now top-fermenting. The only thing they have in common is their dark color. It is interesting to try different bock beers and taste the differences.
Bock beer styles
There are many bock beer styles, and it is often difficult to know in advance what a beer is going to taste like. Generally speaking, you may find the following styles at a bock beer festival in the Netherlands:
- (normal) bock beer: taste ranges from sweet and caramel to coffee-ish. Bock by big brewers such as Heineken will generally be sweeter, and bock by microbreweries may be more experimental and go towards the stout or porter style. Usually between 5 and 7% of alcohol.
- Doppelbock (in Dutch Dubbelbok): an extra strong style of bock beer, containing more alcohol.
- Eisbock: extremely strong bockbeer. Made by freezing a doppelbock, and then removing the ice water and so increasing the alcohol percentage. Eisbock can have an alcohol percentage of up to 13%, so be careful with this one!
- Weizenbock: bock that contains a percentage of wheat instead of only barley.
- (Maibock is a light bock beer style that is presented in spring. You won’t find this at the bock beer festivals in autumn)
Bock beer festivals in the Netherlands in 2019: agenda
Underneath a list of the bock beer events that I found for 2019. It is probably not complete, but a start! Check when you are in the Netherlands and what bock beer festival you could visit:
Weekend of 28 September 2019
- 28 September: opening of the bock beer season in Elburg. Starts at 12.15. Yearly event with traditional boats bringing in the first barrel of bock beer. No entrance fee.
Weekend of 4, 5 & 6 October 2019
- 4 & 5 October: Rootz Bockbier & Blues festival in bar Rootz in The Hague. Taste some of the 10 available bock beers and listen to blues music. No entrance fee, pay per drink.
- 4, 5 & 6 October: Amersfoorts bockbier festival in Amersfoort. Taste bock beers in a beer garden in the historic center of Amersfoort. Tickets from 13 euro (entrance + 2 beer coins).
- 5 October: Roosendaals Bockbier festival in Roosendaal. Choose from about 45 different bock beers in 6 participating bars. Free entrance, pay per drink.
- 5 October: Bockbiertocht in Groningen. Visit the 6 participating bars and taste a bock beer in each one. Plus snacks. Tickets 27,50 euro.
- 6 October: Bokken en happen in Hoorn. Taste 6 bock beers in 6 different bars. Tickets 27,50 euro, available in the participating bars.
- 6 October: Woerdens Bockbierfestival in Woerden. Taste bock beers from 20 different brewers and enjoy the food presented by local restaurants. No entrance fee, pay per drink.
- 6 October: Bokbier introductie in beautiful Zwolle. A bit of a copy of the Elburg festival 1 week before: a barrel of bock beer will be brought in by a classic boat and opened. After that a bock beer market around Broederenkerk. Music. Pay per drink, no entrance fee.
- 6 October: Bonte Koe Bokbier Festival in Purmerend. Taste some of the 30 bock beers in and around bar De Bonte Koe. Pay per drink.
Weekend of 11, 12 & 13 October 2019
- 11, 12 & 13 October: Bockbier festival in bar Proeflokaal België in Almelo. Taste some of the 30 bock beers available. Pay per drink.
- 12 October: Deventer Bock beer Festival in the Lebuinuskerk (church) in Deventer. Much smaller and less crowded than the bock beer event in nearby Zutphen (see below), great location in an old church. About 14 brewers present a bock beer and may bring along some other brews. Starts at 14.00. No entrance fee, pay per drink.
- 12 October: Bossche bokbierwandeling in Den Bosch. Walk from bar to bar and try different bock beers. Pay per drink.
- 12 October: Vitasys Bokkentoer Experience in Kasteel Radboud in Medemblik. Tickets 39,95 euro.
- 13 October: National Bock beer Day in Zutphen. Yearly event in which 20 Zutphen bars take part, each presenting 1 or 2 different bock beers. Festivities start at 12.00 with a parade. Taps open from 13.00 to 18.30. Live music. Usually extremely crowded! No entrance fee, pay per drink.
- 13 October: Bokbierdag in Haarlem. Walk from bar to bar and taste different bock beers. Tickets 5 euro + pay per drink.
- 13 October: Bockbierfestival in Hotel Abdij de Westerburcht near Westerbork in Drenthe province. As yet unclear which brewers will participate. No entrance fee.
Weekend of 18, 19 & 20 October 2019
- 17-20 October: Bockbier weekend in Twentsche foodhal in Enschede. Taste 10 different local bock beers in the foodcourt of Enschede. I am sure you will find some great accompanying snacks and bites there as well. The good thing: this is not in the open air!
- 20 October: Bockbierdag in Nijmegen. Taste some of the 25 available bock beers in 5 participating bars. Tickets 17 euro.
- 20 October: Bokbierdag organized by bar ‘t Pleintje in Hengelo. Taste some of the 15 available bock beers. With music and food. Pay per drink.
Weekend of 25, 26 & 27 October 2019
- 25-27 October: Amsterdams Bokbier weekend, in Amsterdam. As for now unclear what they’ll do, keep an eye on their Facebookpage.
- 27 October: Amsterdamse Bokkentocht: hike from bar to bar in Amsterdam and taste different bock beers + snacks in each bar. Tickets (all inclusive) 29,75 euro, buy via link in Facebook page.
- 1, 2 & 3 November: Vriendenbock festival in the Grote Sint Laurenskerk (church) in Alkmaar. Entrance fee 17/20 euro. Pay per drink on top of that. You will help with the restoration of the church by attending.
- 3 November: Bokkenwandeling in Leiden. Taste 6 bock beers + additional snacks in 6 different pubs. Buy your ticket online. Entrance fee 34,50 euro.
- 3 November: Bock in de Haven in Tilburg. Taste bock beers and enjoy accompanying food. Pay per drink/snack combination.
What is a bock beer festival?
The idea of bock beer festivals in the Netherlands is that you taste small amounts of different bock beers during one afternoon or evening. Some bock beer festivals are organized at one location, at others you’ll have to move around between a couple of bars. Sometimes there is live music or a DJ. And sometimes you pay a set prize, which includes a festival glass, sometimes you pay per drink and rent a glass.