The most difficult part of a @BeerCycling tour isn’t the peddling, the directions or even the weather (though this afternoon was downright miserable at times).
The toughest thing is trying to decide when it’s worth stopping to take pictures. The routes take riders above canals, below sea level, through medieval settlements and all around the most charming small towns.
Water is everywhere, and today’s ride took me through vast rural areas where windmills stand proudly above the lowlands, pumping the excess away from the fields, and outside the dykes.
Did I photograph this polder landscape? Nope. I wish I had, because it would take far too many words to properly describe this remarkable setting.
I did stop briefly outside of Gouda, to snap a pic of this lovely stretch of fietspath (below), and had a lamb walk over to say hello.
There have been a number of occasions this week when some beast or other will call out to me as I’m riding past. Animals here seem so much more outgoing.
I could have taken a thousand pictures, each worth a thousand more words, but instead I pushed on, anxious not to let the wind and rain throw me off schedule.
Also though, when I’m alone on my bike and there isn’t another human being in sight, that’s when I feel most alive. Stopping to take photos would interrupt the high of gliding headlong into the elements.
Then of course, there’s the beer, which demands some of my schedule. After 50+ km and two ferry crossings, I made it into Bodegraven against a ferocious wind and rain.
This brewery, built inside a windmill that has its origins in the 17th century, still employs the grindstone to crush the malt on occasion.
De Molen has only been around since 2004, but thanks to ratebeer.com, whose users have ranked it as high as #12 in the world a couple years back, it now exports the majority of its beers, and most of those shipments go to the USA.
I tried eight of their styles, including an excellent Russian Imperial Stout aged in Wild Turkey barrels. Unfortunately the beer being brewed with (actual) peanut butter, banana and jam wasn’t ready yet.
PBB&J? Yes, it’s De Molen’s newest experiment, but no one is expecting greatness.
Menno Olivier, who founded the brewery, used to work at De Prael (which I wrote about last week). Just like his old Amsterdam workplace, this Bodegraven brewhouse employs workers that might otherwise have a hard time finding a job.
De Molen bottles its beers by hand, and the assembly line works like this: one fills the bottles, the next sets the cork, a third twists on the wire crown, then a label is pasted on and finally someone dips the head and neck in red wax.
It seems like a lot of manpower for each bottle, but this workforce is made up of autistic employees; persons who require order and regularity.
De Molen not only provides them with structure but also organizes outings, since community is another basic need. Perhaps what’s most fun about this is De Molen also invested in an experimental brew system, to allow these employees to try their own recipes (with some expert guidance, of course). As you can imagine there have been some pretty interesting batches, and now it’s PBB&J’s turn.
One day of BeerCycling awaits me. Tonight they’ve put me in a hotel that has its own bird park. I didn’t know that until I checked in, and an ostrich wandered up to my balcony. Although I’m spending nearly all my time alone on this trip, honestly, I’ve never been bored!