Dutch and their beer

Amber el Zarow & Harold Verhagen, maandag 26 augustus 2013

Even James Bond discovered who make the best beer;  in his last movie he drunk a Dutch pale lager.
With 678 breweries in 1819, the Dutch have may years of experience with beer brewing. Even though this number declined over the years, the flavour and quality of our beer increased. The Dutch are ranked 14th on the list of beer consumption per capita, with around 77 liters per person per year. January 2014 the legal age for drinking shall be raised from 16 to 18 years. This will be the first time in the history of Holland that the legal age for driving and drinking will be the same.

The Dutch categorize beer into ‘bier’ (beer), that contains >7% alcohol, ‘pilsener’ or in short ‘pils’ (lager) with contains around 4% alcohol. Be careful with the terminology; Dutch beer-fanatics are quite fanatic about the correct designation. The Dutch are not the biggest consumers, but the little country is the biggest exporter of beer in the world. Nowadays 1.200.000.000 liters of beer is produced each year (from which 2/3 is for export), 3% of this production is done by small breweries. The Dutch have won many international beer awards. With a rich trading history the flavour of our beers is divers, with many intercultural influences. So what makes a good beer?

Water, water and…

It’s a good thing the Dutch are experts in water management, because from growing the grain until cleaning the brewing installation takes about 98 liters for each Dutch glass of beer (0.33 l.). If wine lovers tell you you’re wasting water, tell them that their glass of wine costs almost 3 times as much water.
Beer is made of up to 97% of water and 3 more essential ingredients are being used in the process; Barley, hop and yeast. You could read on the internet how beer is made, but a much better option is to visit one of Holland’s 160 small breweries. After listening to the brewer telling about his adventure between the shiny copper kettles, of course a tasting session can’t be skipped.

The brewer’s struggle

Beer brewers are traditionally closely connected to the society and therefore social responsibility is of high importance for Dutch brewers. Even though Dutch brewers belong to the the world top of sustainable brewers when it comes to energy efficiency, producing sustainable beer is difficult. Do you want to brew an organic beer? Get your hop from New Zealand. Do you want to re-use your bottles? Clean them with chemical detergents. Do you want a safe beer? Clean your thanks with loads of water. Thankfully one thing is easier for smaller breweries: local 2 local. Most small breweries brew the maximum amount possible with their installation and still have a gap between their supply and demand. So upscale you say? A decline in taste is unavoidable, since the kettles give a signature flavour to your beer. The production of beer is one with compensations. Thankfully one thing the smaller breweries don't do is making consessions when it comes to the flavour of their delicious beer.

The Roman Tacitus wrote how despicable he found the primitive Teutons (Germans) from Northern Europe, who were drinking beer instead of wine. Tacitus should have realized the craft of brewing beer is an art. Thankfully the Northern Europeans don’t care much about what the Romans say and until today the liquid gold still has a place in the Dutch culture.

(CBS.nl, NOS.nl, waterfootprint.org, food-info.net)