Does Dutch Beer deserve an entire week?

The Dutch Beer Week starts this week. A whole week to promote beer from The Netherlands. Bars are serving Dutch beers only, there are many beertastings en chefs are doing food and beer pairing.

Those involved are the people and companies making money on Dutch beer: the corporate brewers, the craft brewers, the beer sellers, the pubs and the off-licenses. All these groups are united for a joint cause: ‘Realisation of a positive image regarding Dutch beer. An ugly sentence for a noble cause.

Newly found self-confidence
All these tastings, festivities and food pairings are signs of a newly found self-confidence. For years producing and consuming beer in The Netherlands equaled that of, let’s say, soft drinks: large quantities, industrialized production and equalized taste. Lager: cheap and not very profitable in the end.

In the 1980’s the consumption of beer started to change very slowly. Out of neighboring Belgium a very tiny stream of ale started to find its way onto the Dutch marked. ‘Special beer’, we called it. The stream grew and grew. In the 1990’s the first new breweries came to life and now they are popping up everywhere.

A true renaissance
America has replaced Belgium as the big example for Dutch craft brewers. And shrinking profit margins on mass-produced lagers is even forcing mid-sized brewers to produce more ale and “special beer”. The brewing part of The Netherlands is even discovering its historic roots, as if there’s a true renaissance after the dark ages of the 1970’s.

And now? Do The Netherlands have a beer culture so great and diverse it justifies a whole week? Are we as beer makers and especially beer drinkers so good we can compete with for instance, wine? Do you complain about the lack of a beer menu in a restaurant?

Lots of lager for the buck
The Dutch Beer Week is a good sign of the present ambitions, but no more than that. Besides pilsner and bok, there really isn’t much of a craft beer culture in The Netherlands. Brewers a highly influenced by beers coming from Belgium and the United States and imitate what’s happening in these countries. And let’s be honest: the majority of beer drinkers only care for the most lager for the buck.

And those brewers who are really creative often lack quality. Only a handful of craft brewers can make a very extraordinary beer extraordinary well. While mid-sized brewers like to play it safe and brew yet another  tripel.

It’s a start
But it’s a start. Every year there a more breweries in The Netherlands. Almost everyone sitting on a sunny terrace is drinking craft beer. It seems that no month goes by without the launch of a new beer or brewery. The tides are starting to turn. 10 years ago the situation was completely different. Now there are even some regions where people drink mainly beer brewed by their own, regional brewery.

So a Dutch Beer Week? That’s still a little long. We’ll settle for a good weekend. A long weekend that is.


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