Expertly engineered beer, from the brothers
Tuesday 10 May 2022
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It’s been almost two years since Ferment last spoke to Moersleutel and, like everything else in the world, much has changed in terms of priority and production since then. It’s hard to believe, considering what the brewery is now, that it started out in 40m² of rented kitchen space, available only because the clients who used to inhabit the “asylum” it was based in had been moved to another facility. It was here that the oldest and second youngest of the four Zomerdijk brothers, Pim and Rob, started brewing with their father and his friend, who were already seasoned homebrewers at the time. They rolled in, started brewing beers, and quickly established they had different taste preferences to their elders – they wanted bigger, fuller flavours, higher ABVs, more hops, more everything – so they decided to go it alone. Lacking the funds to make their dreams a reality, they did what brothers do; they asked their siblings to pitch in.
With the remaining two brothers, Tom and Max, coming on board in 2016, Moersleutel found itself with four engineers as founders, meaning that as time went on, and Moersleutel ran into difficulties and challenges, the brothers could draw on their varied skill sets to design and create solutions. This became such a central feature of how Moersleutel operated, that they added a sister company, Zomerdijk Engineering. So now, Pim (oldest) is head of business and focuses on improving the company in accordance with the Moersleutel mission; Tom (second oldest) is the leading man of Zomerdijk Engineering and works on new machines; Rob (second youngest) works on production, installation and recipe design; and Max (youngest) designs new machines to fit the customers’ needs, and also helps the ZE team with assembling. Is it any surprise that Moersleutel means ‘wrench’, in English, or that this independent, family run brewery in Alkmaar is now producing some of the best rated beers in the Netherlands?
“It started as a joke,” says Rob, as we pass around cans of Daily Grind, taking shelter from the elements in Moersleutel’s cosy office in North Holland, the heat from the brewery below seeping into the room. But the ‘Beer Engineers’ story grew legs and fitted with what they were doing – “marketing was never the motivation behind the name”. Coincidentally, at this point, we spy some of the colourful cans characteristic of our friends at Belfast’s Boundary, in a nearby fridge. “Yes, we did a collab with them recently,” confirms Fenna Min, Moersleutel’s marketing guru, “we actually fitted their canning line infeed for them!”.
In terms of the last year, and indeed the next, Ron de Haan, Moersleutel’s National Sales Rep, says the brewery has “one goal for this year, and that’s to brew better beers. No turnover, no volume target, just make better beers”. Rob says, jokingly, that when they first started brewing “we would throw mud at the wall and see what sticks”, a self-deprecating comment, given how stellar Moersleutel beers have always been, but now Rob’s top priority is continuous improvement across all processes and production that takes place in the brewery.
“I do recipe design together with the lead brewer,” he says, “not only the malt recipe, but also the additions, trying to source the best vanilla, the best coffee, the best cacao nibs that are available on the market and not just taking the first one off the shelf. And that process is more my specialty, so we can try to get the most extract from the ingredients, instead of just throwing a lot in”.
Ron tells us that now, the brewery’s focus is on reaching and satisfying the right market; and if prioritising the time and resources to do that means they have to say “Yeah sorry, you want 50 boxes of beers but we can only supply you with 40”, then so be it.
“Obviously, if you have the space, it's so easy to make more volume, and then focus on that more and more”, says Fenna, “but I think for us, it’s good to have a real check back, look at the quality. Why did we start making craft beer?”. While fine-tuning process and procedure has been a priority for Moersleutel in recent times, it has not lost sight of its passion for big, bold, flavours and the high quality beers that got it started on this whirlwind journey. “Last year, we made our version of our vision and mission of the company” she continues, “and we kind of came to the conclusion that enjoying life, that that's our mission… that speaks for not only the beer, but also making the machines; you do it to make your life and your job easier, and more enjoyable.”
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