Ahhh, a shot-and-a-beer. It’s is a classic American quaff, yes?
Well, that may be true, but in the Netherlands, the Dutch have been enjoying it for a lot longer than we have — centuries longer. While our version usually involves whiskey or the like on the spirits side, the Dutch turn to their country’s own spirit, genever. And they give the combo a better name: kopstootje, which literally translates to “little head-butt.”
In Portland, Ore., last week, we got a lesson in both kopstootje and genever, thanks to a wonderful liaison between Lucas Bols Genever from Amsterdam and Portland’s Upright Brewing. Jacob Grier, who is the Oregon representative for Bols Genever, and is a master mixologist, approached Alex Ganum, of Upright Brewing, to create a special craft beer for the “back” to pair perfectly with Bols Genever.
Ganum, arguably one of the country’s most creative brewers, enjoys exploring unique styles and was more than up for the challenge. His Kopstootje Biere is in the biere de garde style, fermented with lager yeast at a higher temperature, much like a “common” or “steam” beer, and features many of the botanicals used in the genever. The result is a light, effervescent beer that is rich in flavor with herbal and spicy notes and a clean finish. After all, you don’t want your kopstootje to “head-butt” you too much.
Now that we have the beer back, here’s a bit on the genever, from Bols USA representative Tal Nadari. He says that genever, which is sometimes called “Dutch gin” really isn’t anything like gin at all. It’s more like a whiskey, because it’s malt-based, but it distilled with a number of botanicals to create different flavors. Nadari says it is “the” spirit in Holland, outselling all others by far. The Dutch mix it in cocktails, too, but mostly they enjoy it neat in the traditional kopstootje fashion.
And how does one kopstootje properly? Below is the process, illustrated by the framed postcards from a genever (also spelled jenever) place called Wynand Fockink in Amsterdam, where my hubby, Mark, and I spent a very fun night with our good friends, Eric & Val, once. The picture hangs in our kitchen as a wonderful reminder!
How to kopstootje like the Dutch:
1. First you take a lovely little tulip glass. Set it on the bar where you will be drinking it. Near the edge. You’ll find out why in a moment.
2. Fill the glass with genever. To the rim — actually to the point of it nearly overflowing. It needs to actually be filled slightly higher than the rim. Trust me, you can do this. Just don’t sneeze.
3. Set a small glass of beer to the side of the tulip glass of genever.
4. Now, drink the genever. But the trick is, you can’t pick up the glass because it’s so full. So you have to bend over (Look Ma! No hands!) and slurp the genever from the glass until you can’t slurp up any more.
5. Resume your usual full, upright position. Reach for the beer. Take a sip of beer in the usual manner.
6. Smile. You just kopstootje’d.
And, you can listen to both Jacob Grier and Tal Nadari (and me) kopstootje-ing on the weekly radio show, Beer O’Clock: The Show for People Who Love Great Beer.
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