[onderzoek] 100 years of Dutch beer culture: shift from south to west

On the website, this foundation makes the rich past and wonderful future of Dutch beer culture accessible to a wide audience. The website shows reliable information about breweries from 1919. So this week more than a century of Dutch beer history is online.

Information about all Dutch breweries, their brewers and their beers can be found on the site of the Stichting Erfgoed Nederlandse Biercultuur. Thanks to the efforts of a loyal group of volunteers, it is possible to provide an overview of the past 100 years in Dutch beer culture. It is clear that there has been an explosive growth in the past hundred years, especially in the last decade.

Decline and Explosive Growth
In the period 1919-2021, 1,352 breweries were in operation in the Netherlands. In fact, ten of them have been active throughout the century. The number of breweries has undergone a remarkable development. In the 1920s to 1930s, there were 248 breweries, and that number steadily declined to 16 in 1979 and 1980. It is an understatement to say that the industry experienced unprecedented growth thereafter. The number of companies that released beer on a commercial basis in the period 2010-2020 increased to 952. Because breweries have also closed, there are currently 848 breweries active in the Netherlands, half of which consist of so-called brewer tenants. These are breweries without their own brewing kettles, where the brewers hire capacity from colleagues. A phenomenon that was unheard of 100 years ago. This explains some of the explosive growth now.

Shift from South to Northwest
Almost 80 percent of the breweries from the 1920s were located in North Brabant or Limburg. The province of Flevoland did not yet exist, but not a single brewery was established in Friesland and Drenthe either. That has changed significantly in the last decade. In the 2010s, only 6 percent of the breweries were located in Limburg and 21 percent in North Brabant. The share of North Holland rose from 2 to 21 percent and South Holland rose from 3 to 14 percent. The rise of so-called craft brewers in the Randstad (and the rest of the Netherlands), usually independent and sometimes slightly rebellious, can be explained by a movement that started in the United States in the 1980s.

Now more breweries in the Randstad
If we look at the municipalities with the most breweries, the top 3 in the 1920s consisted of Maastricht (17 breweries), Horst aan de Maas (11) and the current municipalities of Venlo, Leudal and Roermond (all 8 breweries). In the last decade, most breweries were located in Amsterdam (70), Utrecht (29) and Rotterdam (27). Many breweries in these cities also have their own brewpub or tasting room. It is not only about beer, but also about experience. Many of these local breweries have been supplying local restaurants, off-licences and other places that love craft beer for about a decade. Incidentally, this trend is not unique to the Randstad, but applies to the whole of the Netherlands.

Lifespan of breweries
Of the 125 breweries that closed in the 1920s, more than half had been in existence for more than 62 years. It remains to be seen which of the current breweries can last longer than two generations. Especially in these times of uncertainty surrounding the corona pandemic, it is clear that many smaller breweries (often one-man companies or a collective of brewing friends) are having a hard time or simply stop brewing commercially, only to go back to hobby brewing.

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