Dutch lager on the Belgian border, in the 1950s

Labels and other printed matter from Van Waes-Boodts brewery. Source: Zeeuws Archief.Much of what has been written on beer history in recent years, would not have been there if it hadn’t been for modern digital resources. With one click of the mouse, you find yourself searching through thousands of newspaper pages with the wildest keywords, and retrieving obscure books which otherwise would have cost you an arm and a leg. Although I still leave home frequently to have a look at everything that hasn’t been digitised yet, what has been scanned by archives and libraries at home and abroad is substantial. (more…)


When Stella Artois made a ‘Special Dutch’ version for a country that didn’t like the taste of beer

Stella Artois 'Special Dutch': a 'punchy' lager that wasn't that punchy.Back in the 1970s, the Leuven-based Artois brewery was at the top of its game in Belgium: in 1974 it churned out no less than 4 million hectolitres of its Stella Artois lager. All over Belgium, people ordered a Stella at the bar, because in the eyes of the average Belgian that equalled ‘ordering good beer’. There were some exports to France and in the UK it started to catch on. No doubt Holland was longing for it as well. Or so the people at Artois thought. (more…)


Double saison from Maastricht

An old poster for steam brewery De Keyzer in Maastricht, specialised in 'young and old beer'.Researching lost beers demands quite a lot of imagination. More than often the available brewing records are illegible, messy, incomplete or they simply look like something from another planet. The problem is of course that the brewer who once wrote them down was completely familiar with his own brewery and the ingredients, so he didn’t record everything. Clearly he didn’t think: ‘Would someone still understand this in one and a half century’s time?’ Today’s breweries, big or small, differ greatly from the situation back then. What was a hopback at the time? How did you handle a mash tun or a fermenting vessel? Only slowly old texts start to make sense. Therefore, it’s very helpful to see everything for real. And that is possible in Maastricht, a city at the most southern tip of the Netherlands. (more…)


East-Indian Haantjesbier

Last week’s Friday I had the honour of introducing the rebirth of a lost beer: Haantjesbier. At a festival about 19th century rebellious Dutch writers, in Amsterdam, because they were among its original drinkers. And it turned out to be a really good beer! (more…)


The evolution of Luiks beer

Beers change over time. Even when they keep being made by the same brewer, even if they keep carrying the same name. Even lager is not immune: currently it is moving from sweet to bitter, under the influence of the popularity of IPA, at least in Holland. About fifteenth years ago however, it was moving the other way and our pils was only getting sweeter! The most well-known Dutch supermarket, Albert Heijn, has recently revamped its lager beer: they are now dry-hopping it. However, back in 2002 they announced the opposite: that they were giving their lager ‘a less bitter and more full-mouthed taste.’[1] A nice example from the more distant past is the taste evolution that Luiks beer went through, from a fresh, light-coloured spelt beer to an aged brown barley beer. Here is the whole story, including a recipe! (more…)


Bavarian beer from Breda

Publicity poster Drie Hoefijzers - Source: Stadsarchief BredaAn aspect of Dutch beer history I hadn’t dealt with sufficiently so far, is ‘Beijersch’ (which means, in old Dutch spelling, Bavarian) beer. From the middle of the 19th century onwards, it replaced the old Dutch beer types, especially after the 1868 beer law made its production a lot cheaper. Often this Beijersch beer has simply been equated to pilsener, but that’s not right. Pils came to the Netherlands only in 1876, and initially sold only  in modest quantities. So what kind of beer was Beijersch? (more…)


Gruit: nothing mysterious about it

Münster town hall, with the Gruetgasse (Gruit Alley) to the right. Inset: bog myrtle. Source: WikipediaGruit was a Medieval beer ingredient in the Low Countries and westernmost Germany, as we saw in the previous article. Local governments had a monopoly on it and made good money selling it. But too often, people like to pretend there is something mysterious about what exactly gruit was composed of, and what purpose it served. However, gruit isn’t such a big mystery: more information has been preserved than you may have thought. So here’s a quick survey of gruit, and now you never need to say anymore that we don’t know anything about it.

Aloys Schulte. Source: Wikipedia

Aloys Schulte. Source: Wikipedia

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Fact check: where did gruit occur?

British Library - Petrus de Crescentiis - Rustican des ruraulx p. 157Recently someone added me to a gruit chat group on Facebook, called ‘The Gruit Guild’. That meant many pictures of brews and of people picking herbs out on the heath. After all, gruit was a herb mix added to beer in the Middle Ages, before people started using hops. But recently, someone asked a historical question, so I was happy to interfere. The question was: where did gruit actually occur? A fact check!

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Dutch beer renaissance? Not yet, but…

Utrechtse Bierbrouwers Festival - Photo PINTKuit, princesse, Loender, more kuit… lately slowly but surely Dutch beers surface that are based on a rediscovered beer type from the past. It’s not yet a complete renaissance, but all in all there’s more and more Dutch beer history on the market, and then I’m not even mentioning the home brews. Time for a recap. (more…)


The book is here

There it is right in front of me, and how great it looks: the book. Verloren Bieren van Nederland, which is Dutch for ‘Lost Beers of the Netherlands’, released by Dutch publisher Unieboek/Spectrum. A blue hard cover, smooth paper inside, with full-colour illustrations. The story of Dutch beer from beginning to end, interwoven with recipes. I think it’s the most beautiful beer book to be published this year, but of course I’d find that. (more…)