Lambic: the real story

Lambic busted - Original from: delcampe.netSometimes you suddenly see the light. At least I did last Saturday, at the Carnivale Brettanomyces in Amsterdam. I was invited to do a talk at this wild yeast festival, and it was another nice opportunity to socialise with other Dutch beer enthusiasts. Blending my own Mestreechs Aajt with beer writer Henri Reuchlin at the bar at the Arendsnest for instance, from the extremely sour barrel beer and a few commercially available beers by Gulpener. Great fun, but to me the climax was the (undeservedly poorly-attended) talk by Raf Meert, the lambic mythbuster.

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White beer from Etten anno 1783

Letter White beer from Etten anno 1783 - City Archives RotterdamOnce in a while a recipe surfaces in a place where you don’t expect it. Earlier this week I was asked if I had already found a historical beer recipe for every Dutch region. I haven’t got that far yet, however. Sometimes I can be a bit jealous of a country like England, where there is a vast corpus of old brewing records, in which people like Ron Pattinson can browse to their hearts’ content, and in which they can follow clear trends from decade to decade and from one place to another.

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Queen’s beer with poppies

PoppiesThe roadsides are filled with poppies again. So this is the right moment for a poppy beer recipe. I’ll keep it short, so you can start brewing right away.

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Lager is doomed

H41 - Will lager free itself of its cheap Schultenbräu image?It has arrived: when I walked through the sunny historic centre of Utrecht this morning, my eye was caught by some big pub windows announcing the ‘Limited H41 Lager Explorations’. The new Heineken beer had reached my town. ‘Specially brewed with a rare yeast from Patagonia’. And all I could think of was: New Coke.

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Oud bruin: a tale of two beers

Heineken Oud bruinAnd now, let’s talk about the least known Dutch beer type: oud bruin. You won’t see it in fancy beer pubs, or at craft beer festivals. The most likely place where you’ll find it, is the highest shelves in the supermarket. It’s hard to find anyone who actually likes this ‘old brown’, a low-alcohol beverage that tastes like diet coke. A sweetened, weak, bottom-fermented 2,5 ABV dark beer. What on earth is to be said of such a depressingly plain drink?

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Princesse beer (2)

Ravenswaaij princesse beer - Source: bieretiketten.nlIn the last article, we saw how princesse beer first surfaced in Amsterdam in 1748, and that it disappeared around 1900, outcompeted by modern bottom-fermenting beer. And now it’s back, because I found an original recipe which enabled brewers to produce it again. And… you can make it yourself.

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Princesse Beer (1)

Kampen Dubbel Princessebier - Source: bieretiketten.nlNow let’s talk about one of the most popular Dutch beers of the 19th century: princessebier. Where did this ‘princess beer’ come from, when did it disappear, and what is that funny name about? And of course, is there a recipe? There is, and not only has the renowned Anchor brewery made a one-off reconstruction, it is going to be re-brewed by a once-famous Dutch beer brand as well.

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Nijmegen Mol

Nijmegen molLooking for lost beers is fun. But what do you do once you’ve found such an old recipe? Do you start brewing it again? Can you brew it again? An interesting example is a beer from Nijmegen. This nice Dutch university town by the Waal river is a good beery place to visit. It has De Hemel brewery in the town centre in what is originally a 12th century building. Young brewers like Oersoep and Katjelam are not afraid of the odd experiment. But once Nijmegen was really famous for its beer: mol. Which in Dutch means ‘mole’.

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Health beer

Johan Hoff's Malt extractWouldn’t it be wonderful, if beer was actually really healthy? Instead of damaging your liver and giving you hangovers? Oddly, in the 19th century beer was seen as a perfectly healthy drink. This was of course an age when many people drank themselves half-conscious with gin, and then beer didn’t look so bad.

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Gruit & Kuit

Verloren bieren 21 Pivo-i-eda-v-Olde-HansaTo be perfectly honest, I started this quest for the lost beers of Holland mainly looking for recipes of the 18th and 19th century. Why? Two reasons: they are easier to find and to interpret, and nobody had really written about them before. So far, every new beer recipe feels like a lost treasure found after deep digging. Still, the 19th century is not exactly the heyday of Dutch beer. The Middle Ages were. For a few centuries Holland was the leading beer exporting country that taught even the British and Belgians how to brew beer with hops. But we’ll get to that.

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