The Dutch beershops: catalysts for the Dutch Craft Beer Revolution

In the Netherlands we are in the middle of a beer revolution. A revolution that can be seen in the many festivals we have today and the cafés and restaurants who now serve some Dutch beers next to the Belgians. The main source for our bottles and the easiest way for brewers to get their beer sold to the public is still the liquor store, and especially the specialty beer stores. We are fortunate enough to have a few very good ones.

The rise of Dutch beer can be witnessed in these stores. Where in the past only a few breweries would actually have bottled beer for sale, now more and more different kinds of Dutch beer can be found in these stores. The same goes for the chain stores like Mitra, even supermarkets like Jumbo and Albert Heyn might now on occasion sell local beer if they have a manager with a good heart. Let’s not even start with the specialty food stores and natural food stores.  But is my initial thought that Dutch beer is taking up more and more space on the shelves a right one? And if so, doesn’t that automatically mean that other  beers had to give way to these? I started investigating, asking four of my favorite beer stores a few questions. The interrogated quartet are De Bierkoning in Amsterdam, Bert’s Bierhuis in Utrecht, Melgers in Haarlem and De Bierwinkel in Leiden.

A selection of beers bought at De Bierkoning late July

A selection of beers bought at De Bierkoning late July

The Stores.

A short introduction to the questioned stores might be in order before we go on. If you do not know De Bierkoning I am guessing you either don’t like craft beer or just started to become interested. For those of you visiting Amsterdam it is a must visit place. Not the biggest of stores but in a great location behind the Royal Palace on Dam Square in the middle of Amsterdam, and therefore also the middle of the public life in this country now for over 25 years.

De Bierwinkel in Leiden is nicely located on a church square where Peter Jongejans runs it. It also is not the biggest of stores and is not exclusively selling beer. Lovers of wine and whiskey can also find what they are looking for in Leiden.

Melgers too is a more-than-beer liquor store on a very old backstreet of downtown Haarlem. Not on a main road so you have to look for the it on a map it’s worth the wandering through Haarlem’s small streets. With the Jopen Church right around the corner it is no wonder that you can find many Jopen bottles here but they have a lot more as we will see later.

Bert’s Bierhuis is in one of the nicest parts of Utrecht. The Twijnstraat is one of those streets foodies love. Chocolate, fish, fresh produce and cooking stores you have to pass before reaching Bert’s Bierwinkel, and from there it is only a short walk to a good beercafé called Het Ledig Erf. Of all the stores I talk about here this store has by far the most room.

The Rise of Dutch Beer…

I started off with asking how much more Dutch beer they sell compared to 5 and 10 years ago. The averages over the shops seems to be a more than a 20% rise in the last ten years. Peter Jongejans (Leiden) thinks he offers about 15% more Dutch beer than a decade ago. Dennis of Melgers believes the number of Dutch beer right now in the store is around 35%. There is a shelf there that is quite impressive, about 5 meters of De Molen beer only. Their offering of specialty beer in general has risen from about 300 6 years ago to over 900 today. For De Bierkoning, manager Jan guesses that since the (Dutch) beer revolution really started about 5 years ago about a quarter of what the store offers is now from the Netherlands and that is an increase over the last decade. Besides being a bigger part of what is on offer, it is now also the best selling ‘country’.

…and the decline of the Belgian multiplications

Here’s a little math test for you all: If in a limited space something gains mass, something else has get smaller right? What do you think that something is? Did you guess Belgian dubbels and tripels? Then you are right. For a long time these were the only specialty beers available, including the ones that were ok yet not earth shattering or easily available somewhere else, as with the InBev Belgian beers. It is these bottles that have departed from the shelves to make way for the influx of Dutch bottles. It goes to show yet again that beerlovers these days seem to go more for the local, and newer beers instead of a mediocre Belgian one. The days of thinking: ‘it’s Belgian so it must be great’ are over. Beware neighbors to the South! That the Belgians are leaving is something you see in all the stores. Besides those the bigger Dutch ones (Heineken) and crates of beer have left De Bierkoning too and are being replaced by local ones and beers that are harder to find.

Going Local

It would stand to reason that a store in Utrecht sells local beer, and Bert does just that. De Leckere, Maxmimus, Rooie Dop, Duits & Lauret can all be found there. Peter of the shop in Leiden strongly advocates selling local beer. I personally have bought most of the EleganT and Leidse Brouwerij there and he has a good selection of De Molens, Bodegraven being only a few trainstops away.

Haarlem is also perfectly located. First of all there is the giant that is Jopen, but they are no longer the only brewery from Haarlem with the start of het Uiltje. Being located so very close to Amsterdam brewers from the capitol can be found as well. Beers from the same province like SNAB and Texel sell well, and also Ramses’ colorful labeled beers seem to fly off the shelf.

Most Jopen beers are also available in De Bierkoning, as are all the brewers from Amsterdam like De Prael, 7 Deugden, ‘t IJ etcetera. Whenever a new brewery in Amsterdam pops up (with an astonishing rate this year it seems) their bottles can be found here. But don’t worry, you can find an impressive amount of De Molens and Emelisse bottles here too. This raises the question: do brewers benefit from a good beerstore nearby? Maybe a question for another day.

Interest

People seem to be genuinely interested in local , or at least regional beer. Peter sees that the small, mostly onetime batches sell the best, especially the Leiden beer that he sells to non-Dutchies. He has a very strict rule for himself and that is no InBev beers and Jopen is about the biggest Dutch brewery coming in through the door. Jopen’s neighbor Melgers hardly sells beer from the bigger breweries. De Bierkoning also doesn’t sell a lot of beer made by what Jan calls the Big 8 (Lindeboom through Heineken). Their big sellers are ‘t IJ, De Prael, De Molen, Jopen, Texel and Emelisse.

Due to its prime location De Bierkoning attracts two major groups. One is of course the local beer lover but being in the middle of the country also means that tourists are coming. Holland is rapidly making a name for itself across the borders as an up-and-coming ­craftbeer nation. The fact that most of these beers are for sale here attracts many. If people are only in the country for a few days Amsterdam usually is the only destination. Besides the beer hunters from across the border regular tourists also drop by to find something local.

Yes

So the answer to my question is a resounding yes. The specialty stores do show that we are in the middle of a revolution of local beer. With the still climbing number of Dutch breweries we can do this survey again in 5 years and see what new Dutch brews are available.

Advertisements

7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John Clarke on 03/08/2013 at 9:58 am

    I’ve been a big fan of Dutch beer for some years now and keep telling everyone here in Manchester just how great the scene is now. I have two visits planned this year (for Borefts and the Bokbier Festival) and in September I’ll be across on the train so I can take plenty of beer back with me! We now have anew beer shop called Beermoth and they plan to import plenty of new Dutch beer I’m pleased to say.

    I’d not heard of het Uiltje – their range of beer looks very interesting so I’ll be looking out for them.

    Reply

  2. Around my home town Utrecht things are definitely happening. We just had some Utrecht beers tested by Czech experts, and they were generally positive. We wrote an article and made a short film about it. http://marcveldt.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/with-a-big-bag-full-of-brewskis-to-brno/

    Reply

    • That guy on the left doesn’t really seem to like most beers :D. Nice article, mind if I share it? Exactly the kind of stuff I am looking for. Check out the stories in this site about Vat 13, Duits & Lauret, De Rooie Dop and the festival of Utrecht Beerbrewers on this blog. I wrote these because they make good beer, not just because I live in Utrecht too :D.

      Reply

  3. […] Three years ago I wrote about the role of the Specialty Beer Store in the Dutch Craft Beer Revolution. They are what the local music club and record store are for the music scene. A place where smaller, starting breweries can find a way to reach new customers. The first presence on the market. Some of these customers will give them feedback, from which they can continue. […]

    Reply

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: