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?


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.


Berliner Alt: it sounds German, but it’s a Dutch lost beer

The former De Pauw brewery on Grote Kerkstraat in Culemborg, The Netherlands.‘Do you know this beer style?’ Marco Lauret, brewer at Duits & Lauret, asked me. To his e-mail, he attached a jpg file of a label from a long closed brewery in the town of Culemborg, the Netherlands. A label for a beer called ‘Berliner Oud’. When I receive such a message, I always hope that it will lead to an ancient recipe being brewed again, so I thought: great, I’ll just dig up an old brewing instruction from Berlin, send it to Marco, and my job is done. But.. what exactly was this Berliner Oud?


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…)