The first time I heard the name Bokkereyder was in early 2016. A friend of mine had suggested I get in touch with his buddy Raf because “his stuff was incredible.” Thinking my friend was solely trying to show some love for a homebrew friend, I originally shrugged it off. However, throughout the year leading up to the Copenhagen Beer Festival in Boston, I kept hearing the same thing over and over again: “You should catch up with Raf.” At first I thought, “how many people are friends with this Raf dude?” It seemed like everyone had a personal connection with the Belgium-based, bearded blender behind Bokkereyder. It wasn’t until I first met Raf in person at CBC that I soon found out for myself the reason why everyone kept gushing about “their friend Raf.” Because there’s a lot to gush about.
(We reviewed one of his beers in December.)
This was made clear at an event held this past month in Hoboken, New Jersey to celebrate the individuals who have helped make Bokkereyder what it is today.
The location: obviously, the home of one of Raf’s personal friends who has known him since he began blending under the name Bokkereyder. The attendees? Individuals from around the world including friends, Lambic enthusiasts and a few lucky lottery winners from TalkBeer.
For the 50 in attendance, the main attraction was a 15-liter Lambic that prompted individuals to stop at stare from the moment the 60-pound bottle was picked up from baggage claim Friday night. Inside that very bottle, which had “this is fun” inscribed in golden sharpie, was a new blend for the 2016 Framboos series, Framboos Noyaux.
The path leading up to the 15-liters of fruited heaven included 12 different three-liter bottles that showcased the array of styles Bokkereyder offers. From the Dalton series (characters from a Belgium cartoon) and Ghost Lambic (a collab with Fantome) to the Framboos series, Raf provided the story behind each blend, including any inspiration and experimentation decisions that went into the final product.
Then it was time for the finale. “This is the first time this beer is getting out of the brewery,” Raf told the crowd before popping the bottle. “It is the last of the Framboos series. It’s a two-year-old Lambic with raspberries,” he continued to explain. He informed us that the Noyaux part was actually from a peach Lambic he did in 2014. “I took all the pits from the peaches used and put them in a small tank, covering it with as much Lambic as possible. From that I was able to get a very concentrated peach-pit Lambic that gives off an almond flavor,” he described to the room of thirsty revelers. “That beer sat in bottles for about two years. I actually wasn’t really sure what to do with it at first, but then I decided to blend it with the raspberry Lambic, which actually softens the acidity, making it very smooth and easy to drink.”
For those of you who are interested in trying this beer he made sound so good—you’ll have to wait and see what happens. But you will get to try other Bokkereyder brews in the near future. There is a plan to begin US distro this summer, but bottles will only be stocked in a few select bars and restaurants as there’s still not enough production for bottles to be sold in shops. Another option will be to scour festivals in 2017 as Raf views them as the best way to get his beer to as many people as he can. Right now, there are three festivals Bokkereyder will attend this year: Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen (May), Night of the Great Thirst in Maine (August), and Mikkeller Beer Celebration Boston (September).
And while this wasn’t a festival per se, it certainly felt like a never-ending flow of brews as the three and 15 liter magnums of Bokkereyder weren’t even half of the beers available. Each individual and even some brewers in attendance brought their own beers as well, which is probably why by the end of the night, I found my friend passed out on the floor of this kind host’s house….
Jason Stein is a New York-based beer nerd. You can find more of his writing on NYC Beer Society.