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?


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…)

What is Holland’s oldest beer?

Bierreclamemuseum Breda - Beer coastersSometimes a question pops up in your head which makes you think: why has no-one asked it before? Like: what is the oldest beer in The Netherlands still in existence? All this time I have been talking about ‘lost beers’, but what beers actually didn’t go lost? Beers where you can draw a straight line between their origin and today? The answer comes from 1872, and it is surprising, but also nicely appropriate for this time of the year…


Tigre Bock

Tigre Bock - Kronenbourg - delcampeIt’s autumn, and in Holland this means: bock beer. All the big Dutch breweries produce their own dark brown variety, some of which are actually quite tasty. So you get a dark Heineken, a dark Amstel, a dark Grolsch. Where this tradition comes from, will be the scope of another article. Right now I’d like to discuss some historical bock beer news. French bock beer is back, courtesy of Kronenbourg. You know, that rather boring French lager.