Over the last 20 years, the Netherlands has experienced a drastic change in beer tastes and beer drinking culture — especially in Amsterdam.
At the beginning of the 20th century, pilsner, a light-coloured and easy-drinking beer, became highly popular throughout Western Europe, including the Netherlands. In the 1990s, however, this market began to change. Nowadays, the Dutch — as well as expats and the millions of annual tourists to the Netherlands — have become much more interested in local and authentic handcrafted products.
Branie Bier, a new Amsterdam brewery, describes how Amsterdam craft beer has become a perfect example of this changing mindset and demand for real quality.
The growth of Amsterdam craft beers
More recently, an exponential growth in the love for craft beer appears to be influenced by microbreweries in the U.S. More conservative Belgian-style ales now share the market with a variety of IPAs, porters, stouts and ambers. Dust-covered recipes from Germany such as Berliner Weisse or Gose have even come back into play in a big way.
So, what comes next in this thirst for special and authentic tastes? Compare Amsterdam to Portland, Oregon, an American city often thought to be world’s craft beer paradise: Amsterdam has 840,000 inhabitants and 45 local breweries, while Portland has 610,000 inhabitants and 70 breweries. Amsterdammers may expect another 20 or more breweries in the coming years.
The days when bars and restaurants could keep adding new beers to their taps and coolers have come and gone. Along with the limitations in tap handles reserved under contract with macro-breweries, the physical space in refrigerators is also becoming scarce. Instead, differentiation in the broad beer market has become the way to reach a niche market of craft beer lovers.
Amsterdam breweries leading the charge
But making a good beer is no longer good enough, at least according to a report in Dutch news outlet NRC. Striking labels can be an effective way to quickly get attention on the shelf, but long-term value is achieved with an original brand image that matches and supports its quality. Gebrouwen door Vrouwen (“Brewed by Women”), a brewery in Amsterdam, uses a brand image that gives a nod to the industry traditionally considered to be manly. Branie Bier is labelled as a no-nonsense, quality beer to enjoy with friends at a party, while Oedipus Brewery creates an artistic image through experimental names and tastes.
Good places where local breweries like these come together are the new-style beer festivals in Amsterdam such as BierOOST and BierWEST, held 15 to 17 September 2017.
The future of craft breweries in Amsterdam
Many local breweries in Amsterdam and other cities do not have their own production facility. Instead, recipes are actually brewed under contract at larger breweries who have the capacity to do more. This business model has its limitations, however. Next to the brand image, a physical space where craft brewers are able to produce and sell their own product is becoming more important than ever for long-term success in such a competitive market.
These “brewpubs” become a place where a brewer can bring their hand-crafted product, as well as their brand, to beer drinkers in exactly the way they intended. Even with exciting beer festivals taking place at various times during the year, Amsterdam and its visitors are thirsty for quality craft beer each and every day. The most successful breweries in Amsterdam will be those who find that ideal spot in the city to serve their product, build their brand, and meet this growing demand.