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.
I’ll just tell some more about how I’ve structured this book and how it came into being. There’s nothing as great as making a book. You have a vision of what you want it to be about, you translate that into a synopsis, you devise a writing scheme and a planning, and then you lock yourself up to write. With a walk in the forest once in a while to put your ideas into order. Because it’s only going to be a good book if you don’t let your planning do the work, but your creativity.
I wanted a book that you’d finish in one read. Not too heavy: I wanted everyone who drinks a specialty beer once in a while to enjoy this book. But with some depth to it, because there’s already enough shallow information that keeps getting pumped around. In short, the book a bit like this blog, but then in the form of one big story. With a few side trips: from the ‘piss doctor’ from Brabant who was caught using beer, to a furious 17-century sailor leaving for the East Indies who smashed up an entire Rotterdam pub. And with recipes as candles on the cake.
Though I also would have loved to write a thick paperback, like a Bill Bryson in beer land, I’m very happy with the colourful, illustrated book that it became. With lots of well-known and not so well-known beer illustrations. And although I wanted to avoid making a book with only beer labels, I have to mention the wonderful help from the people at bieretiketten.nl, who provided me and the publisher time and again with beautiful free scans of the rarest old Dutch beer labels.
In any case, I cannot tell you how unbelievably sympathetic the Dutch craft beer scene is. Even for a relative newcomer like me, so many people were very approachable these last years. Before you know, you’ll find yourself at the bar sharing a drink with the boss of this brewery or the chairman of that foundation. Unfortunately, I could devote only a relatively small part of the book to the new post-1980 Dutch brewers, because all these pioneer stories could fill a book on its own.
In any case, I hope my book is a good addition to what was already available when it comes to Dutch beer books. With many thanks to all co-readers, co-thinkers, advisors, brewers, researchers and all the other people. This is also the place to briefly mention Marco Daane’s book that came out last year. I couldn’t read it while writing my book, because of course there was some overlap in the subject matter, and I wanted to write my own book with my own ideas. In the end, my book turned out completely different than his: in the way it looks and in the way it reads. I wanted to be more concise, tell more about the context, and of course provide recipes.
The book has been released, in Dutch, on the 11th of May and the launch party was on the 20th of May at the Jopen brewery in Haarlem. Will there be an English translation? Maybe. In the meantime, you’ll just have to follow this blog. As for where the blog goes from here, I’ll be writing more about historical Dutch beers, but you may just learn more about Belgium’s lost beers too.
-> Order the book (in Dutch)