A New Beer on the Market: Wispe – Brash with a touch of cocoa

While looking at the railroad track leading eastwards from Amsterdam, an American friend told me about a beer from Weesp, a town located to the south-east of the city. Curious about a beer I had not heard of before, I went online and discovered that the name of the beer was ‘Wispe’, an old name for Weesp. Thanks to the ‘verkoop’ (sales) page on the Wispe website I found out that the Cracked Kettle had it for sale so I headed over and got myself a bottle. I was pleasantly surprised by this nice smooth blonde with a touch of cocoa as well as the great design of both bottle and website.

The fact that Weesp was chosen as a town that should have a beer again is not strange. For centuries breweries from Weesp made beer that was shipped to nearby Amsterdam and even across the border. Weesp had easy access to clean water and could ship it easily over the many rivers and canals. The town was also the home of chocolate maker Van Houten. This company invented the process of making cocoa in such a way that it could be made into a drink and for a long time sold its products in the US.

Funeral Insurance and Banks

Wispe was started by brothers Remko and Jitze Vellenga from Weesp and Amsterdam. The Vellengas did not have any prior experience in beermaking but did have a genuine interest however. As with any start-up it is a lot of work without financial reward straight away. In addition to working on Wispe 40 hours a week, Jitze is a regional manager at Yarden (a funeral insurance chain) while Remko is a public spokesman for De Nederlandsche Bank (the Dutch central bank). With Wispe they are targeting the market between pilsner/lager drinkers and specialty beer drinkers.

Green

Wispe is a blond beer with a hint/whiff of cocoa and is a nice and easy beer to drink. Made from all natural ingredients, it is brewed at de Leckere in Utrecht after brewing at the Prael in Amsterdam for some time. The choice for de Leckere makes perfect sense because they make their beer with natural ingredients as well whereas De Prael does not. The ‘green’ aspect of the company is also noticeable in their bottles: its polyethylene label has been replaced by environmentally friendly ink printed directly onto the bottle.

At the moment 3000 liters (10.000 bottles) are brewed every 4 months. The brothers Vellenga developed the recipe for Wispe beer together with the brewers. The addition of cocoa is not that unusual, it gives a subtle bitterness to beer but for a beer from Weesp the link with Van Houten is easily made.

21st Century Style

The name Wispe might be old, the beer and the concept are very 21st century. Both the bottle and the website look very modern. When we asked Remko why they opted for the modern look of the label and bottle he told us the following:

“What you often see with specialty beers is the label showing a river, a city or an abbey, in the standard brown bottle with a reference to the original recipe. This is not what we are pursuing, however. We want to show that specialty beers can also exist without this type of ‘historical experience’. We believe that specialty beer can still have character when you translate the product to modern times, although in our case with a reference to the past: Van Houten’s cacao and Weesp’s history concerning beerbrewing. We are not claiming to have an original recipe, but rather a modern recipe. We have made our style such that it reflects that as well. A modern 33cl longneck that has the product info printed on, though the font is sort of traditional.”

Wispe for Sale

Some Mitra (the best chain liquor store for beer) stores are already selling it. This seems to us to be a big help. Remko agrees:

“Mitra is a well-known liquor store for consumers. Soon we will properly launch Wispe beer in Amsterdam with a campaign to improve brand awareness among consumers. In this case it’s convenient to point to the Mitra. Naturally every vendor of Wispe is important, including the smaller liquor stores who have more time to tell the customer a little more about the product.”

The Future

Breaking into the large Amsterdam market would already be a big step. Are there any other plans in the near future?

Remko: “We want to take things slow. After Weesp, we are now trying to introduce the beer in Amsterdam. Our main focus here will be on synchronizing supply with demand and building a solid local base for the brand. From that we wish to grow.

Some shops in Amsterdam are already selling the beer. The Cracked Kettle and Daily Delis are always worth checking out. Check their site for more selling points and updates.

by Martijn Buisman

thanks Kelly Lemaire & Joel Uckelman

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: