Interestingly for a Dutch brewery, they haven't looked to Belgium for inspiration, but rather Germany, brewing all of their beers in accordance with the Rhenheitsgebot (or, probably more accurately in the 21st century, the Biergesetz). Similarly, they've resisted the urge to brew a pilsner or lager-style beer. Instead, brewmaster Maurice Diks brews only top-fermenting ales ranging from a 5% Wit to their 9.5% Storm Bock.
A 5-foot bottle of Skuumkoppe; Maurice Diks signs The Rake 'Wall of Fame'; a typical Rake scene; Eyerlander Amber
The brewery is based on the island of Texel (pronounced TeSSel), which is the first in the archipelago formed by island masses stretching up to Denmark - it's about 20 minutes by ferry from the mainland. The island was enlarged by poldering an adjacent landmass (Eyerland) in the 17th century, and now supports some 14,000 inhabitants involved in tourism, agriculture, and management of a protected wildlife habitat that takes up a third of the island and has been accorded UNESCO World Heritage status. The local sheep population outnumbers the people by two to one, and provides noted local produce including lamb, cheese and wool.
Texels produces approximately 5,000 hl of beer annually from an 18bbl plant (I estimate). All of their barley and wheat is sourced from local growers, who take orders at each harvest, and send the brewery's grain to Belgium to be malted. Hops are sourced from Poperinge in Belgium and southern Germany, and they use their own strain of yeast in all of the beers. Apart from wheat, the only other adjunct used is sugar to help the yeast with the higher ABV beers. All of the beers are unfiltered and so some secondary fermentation takes place once racked or packaged.
The Rake had all of the beers available, and Maurice Diks conducted some tutored tastings. Their biggest seller is Skuumkoppe, a 6% dark wheat. The name refers to the foam which forms on a wave, and is said to come from a term coined by Texels' beachcombers. For me, the standout beers were their Wit at 5% - a refreshing but not overly carbonated beer which drinks well below its ABV; the draught Goudkoppe (Gold Cap, 6%) is a delicious hoppy ale with a drying, almost tart mouthfeel and a long finish. It has an obvious relationship to a smaller brother, the Amber at 5.5%, beautifully balanced with some sweetness and a gentle floral hoppy finish - it reminded me of a good pint of Youngs Ordinary; the Texel Bock, at 7%, has some fig (or dates - I couldn't make my mind up), toffee and liquorice and a warming finish. The Dutch have an annual Bockbeer competition every October, and this came first in 2009.
Most remarkably for a brewer with an eye on German brewing (their brewing copper and some of the other vessels were acquired from there), Maurice Diks brews a 'barleywine'1, Storm Bock, at 9.5%. Big alcohol warming on the tongue, which gives way to a complex palate in which I picked up raisins, some hop bitterness and a long finish. I asked him why he brewed this, and he replied that one year, he had an idea for something different, just to sell in the visitor centre adjacent to the brewery. After a couple of years, demand meant he started bottling it. The beer spends 3 weeks in the fermenter, then is aged in the bottle for 9 months before release.
To protect the island producers, a local association endorses genuine Texel produce with a quality mark, and the brewery participates in this. This whole idea of local provenance, of partnership and co-operation with local producers, while undoubtedly an economic imperative in a small island community, has a nice ring to it. And it feels as if it's a good time to extend their reach. London is undergoing a beer renaissance. The London Brewers Alliance promises to put high-quality, locally brewed beers in front of an increasingly discerning and demanding drinker. Good pubs offering wide ranges of the best beer from around the world are seeing increasing footfall. The way Texels approach their craft, they ought to fit right in...
NB: What's the 'Texels Twist'? Maurice Diks likes to do things slightly differently, so he says all of his beers have a 'twist' to them.
1Having read Martyn Cornell's treatise on whether there is such a style. I thought I'd better put this in quotes.