Jopen Brewery, Haarlem

Dutch Beer in Canada

Belgium to the south. Germany to the east. It’s not difficult to understand why The Netherlands doesn’t get much recognition for its beer, considering its entire land border is up against the world’s two most renowned brewing nations. Heineken, Grolsch, Amstel, Bavaria and La Trappe are well known, but even the more astute beer drinkers outside that region would have a hard time naming three more Dutch breweries.

Jopen Brewery, Haarlem
Jopen Brewery, Haarlem – from my 2013 cycling tour

Historically however, the Dutch were among the foremost producers of beer, exporting as far as Russia and even to colonies in the Pacific. Now several of the country’s new generation of craft brewers are working to put traditional Dutch beer back to into the mainstream and their research is bringing into question the origins of certain other well-known styles.

In the new issue of Taps Magazine I go into much more detail about the reawakening of Nederlandse Bier. The article was inspired by the best road trip of my life, cycling around the lowlands for two weeks in 2013.

There I learned that Poorterbier, which shows up in Dutch records as far back as 1301, may or may not have been the precursor to what we commonly call Porter. No one has unearthed a recipe for the older style so it’s impossible to compare the two, but while British beer history mostly neglects the period prior to the 18th century, it is known that most of the beer in England was produced by Dutch speaking “Strangers” who numbered 16,000, as far back as the 15th century.

Stranger beer was so popular in fact, that Edward VI brought a Dutchman by the name of Peter De Wolfe to England “for planting and setting of hoppes,” or basically, to teach hop farming to the locals.

And then there’s India Pale Ale, a more durable beverage first brewed by the English to withstand the long voyage across to India. Long before the first recorded use of the term IPA (1829), the Dutch were shipping stronger, hoppier beer to their colonies in the East.

Chief among exporters was Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (United East Indies Company), also known as the Dutch East Indies Company. Its beer had to survive the voyage to what we now know as Indonesia (then called Oost Indies).

Oat Malt
Oat Malt — about 50% of the grain bill.

In that spirit, Niagara Oast House Brewers has brewed the first known Oost Indie Bier by a Canadian brewery. This Dutch style Pale Ale makes its debut at WVRST, Tuesday, March 10th at 7:00 p.m., which will also be the launch party for TAPS new issue (more information here).

The wort, which will become Niagara Oast House's Oost Indie Bier (February, 2015)
The wort that became Niagara Oast House’s Oost Indie Bier

I had the privilege to sit in as Brewer Mike Pentesco whipped up this first batch, with imported oat malt and a variety of European hops (including Strisselspalt, which not only smell amazing, but are super fun to say when you’ve spent an afternoon sampling).

Strisselspalt Hops
Wonderfully aromatic Strisselspalt Hops

I hope you’ll join us at WVRST to celebrate the launch of this new beer, and pick up a copy of TAPS to learn more about two fascinating eras in Dutch brewing.

Oast House co-founder Andy Vanderkaay clearing  out the spent grain
Oast House co-founder and Dutch descendant Andy Vanderkaay clearing out the spent grain
Oast House Hockey Pucks
The most (m’oast?) Canadian beer coasters ever!
The Niagara Oast House taproom
The Niagara Oast House taproom
Bière de Garde, barrel-aging
Bière de Garde, barrel-aging like a pro.

5 thoughts on “Dutch Beer in Canada”

  1. Nice article And i would like to mention a website on Dutch brewing history
    And also that there is a official Dutch beerstyle KUITBEER.
    At the moment there are almost 300 breweries/brewery rentals active in the Netherlands.

  2. Thanks for this, Biercoach. I actually mention all of this in my article for Taps Magazine. It’s only available to subscribers right now, but Jopen Brewery posted a copy on their Facebook page.

  3. I was just at the Jopen brewery/pub 3 days ago. Fantastic place, great beer and excellent, knowledgable service. The brewery’s recipe ‘designers’ were just leaving when I arrived, but when I approached them they stayed for 15 minutes to chat with me about their upcoming pumpkin ale. They also brought out the spices for me to check out.
    A great place, and a must visit in Haarlem!

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