If you live in Rotterdam or occasionally visit, you most likely will know the glass dome of Tropicana on the Maasboulevard. Formerly a tropical swimming pool, it has stood abandoned for many years. What you may not know is that it is back in use since 2016 and is thriving as a circular economy experiment called BlueCity. I have heard and seen many good things come out of that glass dome in recent months and could not pass up the opportunity to take a look inside yesterday during their first Blue Food Festival.
What is circular economy?
A circular economy is a regenerative system in which resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimised. In laymans terms it means the output of one production process (for example its waste products) is input for another, aiming to create zero waste. BlueCity is based on blue economy, a term coined by Gunter Pauli, the founder of Ecover. Blue economy goes beyond the circular economy by considering local economic development as a priority in addition to the zero waste circular production cycle.
Although presented as a relatively ‘new’ concept, the idea of circular economy and zero waste has been around for ages. The Japanese language has a saying or exclamation “mottainai!”, roughly meaning “what a waste!” or “don’t waste.” The English equivalent is the saying “waste not, want not”, which comes close, but lacks the more elaborate meaning of a sense of value and worthiness that the Japanese term embodies.
What does this have to do with beer?
There are over 30 social entrepreneurs active within BlueCity, one of which is the brewery Vet & Lazy. Used coffee grounds from the Aloha bar are one of the ingredients of their porter beer Dikke Paljas. In similar fashion RotterZwam uses the spent coffee as fertilizer for growing oyster mushrooms, which in turn are part of many dishes on the menu of the Aloha bar (like delicious oyster mushroom bitterballen!). The carbon dioxide that is released in the mushroom growing process is used by Spireaux to grow spirulina and so on, creating almost perfect recycling circles.
There are many more inspiring and creative people at work there. Just a few examples. FruitLeather is experimenting with ‘leather’ made from overripe and rotten fruit. It really does look similar to leather, and smells like apricots! OKKEHOUT makes furniture from old wood. KEES recycles materials such as rubber tires into accessories and jewelry. Anything is possible!
Vet & Lazy brewery
Vet & Lazy literally means fat and lazy. A funny name, originating from the time when the brewers Ruben Krommenhoek and Okke van Breuge were students and experimenting with making brews in their kitchen. They still experiment, but now they occupy the basement of BlueCity, brewing beer with ingredients such as apples, citrus peels, coffee grounds or oyster mushrooms from RotterZwam. Their newest invention is ‘breadbeer’, using old bread that wasn’t sold. To minimize waste almost all rest products are recycled. The spent grain is made into chickenfeed or used by fellow BlueCity entrepreneurs to make cookies and crackers. The cooling water from the brewing process is stored and used for other purposes.
I have found that the beers are quite hard to come by. Maybe because the production facilities are limited, so most of the brews are made for bars, but not yet for sale in beer stores. I managed to taste a few when visiting the Aloha bar and the food festival this weekend. The labels and beer names are just as intriguing as the brewing process. Their witbier Dubbel Wit Zomerfit is indeed a fresh summery beer with wonderful creamy mouthfeel and an interesting flowery and spicy twist. The mix of grapefruit, lime, orange, cardamom, Szechuan pepper and coriander is well balanced, so that it’s hard to distinguish any of them as a unique or dominant flavor. Don’t be fooled by the refreshing taste though. At a whopping 7,2% this is not a beer you want to tip back too fast.
I was even more impressed with my first ever graff beer Eva’s Appels, which is basically a cider with hops. Not being a fan of cider, I found this one to be even more refreshing than the double wit, more like lemonade than an actual beer. Made with Dutch apples from the area and rye malt, it is another example of successful experimental brewing. Again the taste is misleading, you can’t tell it has more alcohol than a pils (6,3%). Don’t ask me about the label, I really have no clue!
A few weeks ago I tried their new summer IPA called Snoeshaan, made with pineapple. Very fruity and exotic, like a beer cocktail! For a taste you’ll have to drop by bars De Ridder or Faas, as it is only available on tap there.
Vet & Lazy has several other interesting beers and I can’t wait to try them all. More information can be found on their website.
If you would like to support the circular city initiative, choose a Vet & Lazy beer the next time you visit one of these venues: Proeflokaal de Ridder, Sijf, Proeflokaal Faas, Aloha Bar, Green Delight, Locus Publicus, Pardoen and Uit Je Eigen Stad CS.
For more information on BlueCity and its entrepreneurs, check out their website at www.bluecity.nl Some of the products can be bought directly at their in-house shop BlueTiek, open on Wed – Fri from 13:30 – 16:30. Address: Maasboulevard 100.