BEER WITH A MOUSTACHE
Door: Anniek Volders & Marieke de Graaff
LEI & FRANK
A dream came true for Frank in 2015 when he and his wife Lei started brewing their own beer at home. They never had a place where they could brew, so the couple moved from a small house in Rotterdam to a bigger one in Amsterdam and started Brouwerij Frankendael. It started with complaints from Frank about all the beers he tasted. “They were all so boring! I thought about how I would do it myself, and I thought: I can do it much better” he said.
Frank and Lei always wanted to have their own company but in what sector? Well since Frank is a “lifetime drinker” is was no difficult decision to start a business in his favorite drink. He added: “for me, drinking beer has always been a passion, so making beer was the next step.” Making beers was not a complete logic step for Lei, whose origins lie in Shanghai. Some friends of her were surprised when they heard she started a brewery, because she was actually never a beer person. “However, that is because I was only introduced to cheap beer, but when we went to Belgium a few times I tasted some real good beers. That was the moment when I really started to like it.”
Do not drink alone
They went to the brouwmarkt (not the bouwmarkt) to get the toolkit and started brewing in their own kitchen. They brew 20 liters Frankendael beer, but shit, they didn’t have any bottles. What to do? Well, Frank and Lei came up with a great solution; they organized a party and afterwards they could use all the empty Grolsch bottles for their own beers. They tried different recipes and arranged another party for their close friends every time to perform some market research on their newly invented product. Not a bad part of the work of course. The babyroom changed into a beer storage room and they began to brew more and more.
How did the name Frankendael arise?
“We live very close to the park that is called Frankendael. It sounds like it has history and heritage. It also looks luxurious but we are the exact the opposite and that is a nice touch.” People sometimes think Frankendael is a mix of the names of the founders. For Frank it is a yes, however the name of his wife is Lei, not Dael.
The names of the beers are: White Bastard, Mello Pale Ale, T.I.T.S (three idiots tripel spiced) and Uberweizen. Names that are pretty extraordinary, but hey, so is the jolly couple that started the company.
What makes Brouwerij Frankendael different from all the other breweries?
“We differentiate ourselves with fun and we don’t want to bother our customers with technical terms. If you like it, then you just like it” Lei said. They also do not have a regular pils; “we just like strong beer, you gotta feel like you drink” Frank said. He thinks American IPA’s are very bitter and that is why they do not make a standard IPA. Theirs is a bit sweeter because they added amongst other things some lime aromas.
In Germany the Uberweizen of Brouwerij Frankendael is not recognized as a beer because it has some deviating ingredients. But for Lei and Frank that is absolutely no problem, because they do not care about all the strict rules. Also some other breweries in the Netherlands were shaking their heads, “but we push boundaries” Frank said. They just do what they want and do what gives them pleasure. They do think about surviving as a company, and maybe that’s why they have sexy girls on the labels of their beer. “Well, sex sells” said a smiling Frank in the room.
What did you do for the marketing of your beers?
“We visited almost all the cafes and the liquor stores in Oost.” And because of their funny labels, Frankendael distinguishes their beers from the more regular looking beer labels. “A nice thing to see, but also with the homemade simple labels from a printshop around the corner in our early days we managed it. We just wanted that people taste our beer and not only look at it” Lei said. In this phase Brouwerij Frankendael is already more professional and they work with several distributors and have a salesperson who recently joined the company.
On the website we saw many pictures of different people, are they all part of the business?
“Haha, no these people are our groupies. They are our longtime friends and we frequently brainstorm together about the beers, the designs and the new beer names. They also help us when we are bottling or need to test some beers. Or tapping at a festival for example.”
Do you still brew in your own kitchen?
“No no no, we brew at De Noord-Hollandse Bierbrouwerij en Troost in De Westergasfabriek and this afternoon I have a meeting with the people of Brouwerij Hoop in Zaandijk.” They go from place to place because it is very difficult to find brewing space. The number of breweries is growing rapidly in the Netherlands as you all may have noticed. So Frankendael has a lot of other parties to compete with.
Right now they are working on a pils and two other beers; “Currently I have to drink other people’s pils and that is frustrating.” When we asked which beers they really like to drink in a cafe they named of course their own little pearls. Lei’s favorite beer is T.I.T.S. and we end with a useful schedule from Frank; “For me as long as it is my beer. It depends what time of the day it is. Like you can have an Uberweizen for breakfast, the Mello after lunch, followed by the Bastard and finished by the T.I.T.S.”