Saturday, 13 October 2007

Heineken's Amsterdam brewery

Where is Heineken Brewed?
Reading the back label, you could be mistaken for thinking that Heineken operated three breweries in Holland. This what it says:

"Heineken Brouwerijen - 's Hertogenbosch - Amsterdam - Zoeterwoude"

If I tell you that "brouerijen means "breweries", I'm sure that you'll agree that the label sort of implies that they are still brewing in Amsterdam. Without actually really saying it. Because obviously they couldn't, as it's untrue. Isn't it? Don't they brew all their beer in giant factories in Den Bosch and Zoeterwoude?

I thought their Amsterdam brewery closed in 1989. Most of it was demolished and replaced by a sqaure of shops and a crappy highrise block of flats.

A Big Surprise
Last summer I visited the Heineken Experience (what´s left of their Amsterdam brewery) for the first time. Entering the brewhouse, the familiar sweet scent of mashing washed over me.

I was just mentally complimeting them on the excellent quality of the multi-sensory experience, when I realised it wasn´t just a piped in fake. In the middle of the enormous copper mash tuns, a man was stirring something in what looked liked an old-fashioned washtub. They really were mashing!

Conversation with a brewer
Intrigued, I went and had a chat with the guy, who had a name badge with "brouwer" on it.
"Are you really mashing?"

"What do you do with the wort? Do you make it into beer?"
"Of course - what do you think this is?" he said pointing at a couple of glass demijohns that couldn´t have held more than 2 gallons each. Sure enough, they were bubbling away nicely.

"Is the beer available here?"
"Yes, but only about once every six weeks."

"Do you bottom ferment?"
"No. We use a top-fermenting yeast. It´s too warm in here for a bottom-fermenting yeast and we have no way of cooling."

"What style of beer is it?"
"A tripel. It´s safer to brew a high-alcohol beer, given the conditions."

Heineken Amsterdam Tripel
So Heineken do still brew in Amsterdam, but in tiny quantities.

Amsterdam-brewed Heineken Tripel has gone straight in at number one in my beers-I-most-want-to-try hit parade. I wonder how many people have ever tried it?

Seeing someone essentially homebrewing, surrounded by massive industrial vessels, designed to make several hundred hectolitres at a time, was surreal.


Jason said...

Wow, I had no idea Heineken actually does some real brewing. I would love to try that tripel! Great article.

Knut Albert said...

Do they bottle the stuff?

Ron Pattinson said...

Knut, yes they do bottle it. From what the brewer said it is occasionally available at the bar in the Heineken Experience.

The Beer Nut said...

I see the Experience is closed until June. Do we think their in-house brewer will be back?