Fact check: the 112 litre ‘Jopen’ barrels

The mythical 'jopen' barrels seen on Haarlem's city walls. After Nicolaes Pietersz. Berchem, Rijksmuseum.Congratulations to Jopen in 2014: it was exactly thirty years ago that this brewery released its first beer, and the taps are still running, in their home town Haarlem. An occasion to celebrate! However, where does that name ‘Jopen’ come from? From the Medieval 112 litre barrels in which Haarlem beer was shipped, as the story goes. So let’s fact check that. (more…)

The shifting Dutch bock beer season

A typical beer tradition of the Netherlands: bock beer. This dark, malty and slightly sweet brew, usually about 6,5 to 7,5% ABV, is released every year in autumn. When the leaves start falling, head out through mist and rain to your bottle shop or local pub for this seasonal delight. There was a time, not long ago, that every Dutch brewer was making it, and though today the tradition is slightly obscured by all the other beer events going on in Holland (collabs, tap take-overs, barrel aged editions…), there still are lots of bock beer festivals that attract enormous crowds. That’s why a new book has hit the stores: Het Bockbierboek, ‘The Bock beer book’. In it, beer writers Marco Daane, Rick Kempen and I describe past, present and future of Dutch bock beer (in Dutch). To summarise its contents here would lead a bit far, but let’s have a look at these two questions: how old is the Dutch bock beer tradition? And was it always an autumn beer?


Listen to me talking about saison on the Beer Temple podcast

Recently, I was invited by Christopher Quinn and Mike Schallau of the Chicago-based Beer Temple podcast to join them to talk about saison history and on Belgian and Dutch beer history in general. In fact, I had been doing additional research on saison this year, so I had some new stuff to tell as well.
Why don’t you give it a listen, it goes on for one hour and a half or so, after which Chris and Mike continue without me talking on American saison (which is something I don’t know very much about). (more…)

Thanks to the magic lantern: lambic is (slightly) older than we thought

It will happen someday: my book on the history of Belgian beers. Already I’m working on a timeline, not unlike the one featured in my book on lost Dutch beers, published in 2017: an overview of which beer types existed from when, and in many cases, when they disappeared. Therefore, I keep on looking for the earliest (and latest) mentions of certain beers. Since when have we known white beer, grisette, Flemish old brown and saison? That’s why I was happy as a pig in muck last week, when I found a new starting date for one of my favourite beer types: lambic. And it has everything to do with a magic lantern.


Caves: another lost Belgian beer

Time to look another long lost Belgian beer, this time from Lier, a nice old little town on the Nete river. It has quaint little streets in the beguinage, a beautiful old town hall, and a Medieval tower with an astronomical clock. Currently, it does not have its own brewery. It does however have a story to tell about historical beers.[1]


Become an expert on Belgian beer history with these 10 books

Studying Belgian beer history can be overwhelming. Even I have a huge pile of books and articles that are still waiting for me to read them. But what if you’d just like a manageable introduction by going through some of the most relevant literature available? It’s the summer holidays, so brush up your knowledge reading on the beach, at the campsite, under a tree or in your tent. And brush up your Dutch and French, because sorry, English speakers: the world doesn’t revolve around you this time. (more…)

In remembrance of Wieckse Witte

Saddened by the emptiness its passing leaves in our lives, but deeply thankful for all the great moments we  shared together, and shocked that the end was more sudden than we expected, we now say goodbye to… Wieckse Witte. The Heineken brewery is killing it off. In September 2021 this white beer will disappear from the Dutch market. It has reached the respectable age of 31, a quiet funeral service will be held. In short, it’s time to look back on the life of a beer that may be a symbol of a specific era in Dutch beer history.


Crabbeleer, a historic beer returns… or does it?

In June 1847 several newspapers featured a remarkable story. For instance, the Leydse Courant (from Leiden in Holland) told its readers: ‘Gent, 22 June. A new or rather old type of beer is brewed here now, which is called crabbeleire and which was highly regarded by the citizens of Gent in the 15th century… Mr. Van der Haagen has retrieved the recipe and is now supplying tasty, foaming crabbeleire to several innkeepers.’[1] Nice, a lost beer brought back to life, that’s how we like it. But what was the story behind it?


Drijdraad: a lost strong brown beer (and sometimes weak coffee)

Label: jacquestrifin.be. Image: The yarn twister, Caspar Luyken, Rijksmuseum.September 1901. In the East-Flanders town of Sint-Niklaas demolition workers were busy tearing down the old post office. Suddenly, one of them saw something glittering beneath a wooden floor. A two franc coin. A stroke of luck that doesn’t happen every day! It was quickly decided to go and spend the coin in the adjacent pub. As you do when it’s Friday. ‘After the first round there was a second, and they liked the drijdraad so very much that soon they were all slightly “in the wind”.’ And then, they started arguing about the level of their wages…[1]


Fact check: the 1852 Belgian beer law

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from writing about Dutch and Belgian beer during the past few years, it’s that you really need to check anything and that you should never take anything at face value. Of course not everything is easy to verify, but eventually you develop a gut feeling that makes certain claims linger in the back of your head. Claims that make you think: yeah, I need to check those at some point. Which is why today I’ll discuss the 1852 Belgian beer law.