Dutch beer history

The story of brewing in Hanzeatic times begins with reports about beer exports. Forerunner was the city of Bremen, surviving chronicles from the first quarter of the 13th century tell us about a lively trade of beer against cattle with Frisian farmer-tradesmen. Latest mid-13th century Bremer merchants brought their product also to Flanders (1).

Hanseatic cities
Early 14th century a longer lasting and very good tasting ‘hoppenbier’ was made in Hanseatic cities like Hamburg. This cleared the way for a new development: a beer trade with higher volumes and a much wider range was made possible. The new beer was so good that it was especially mentioned for ages to come. But not only mentioned, it was consumed, taxed heavily and large efforts were made to copy it.

low countries 1477
The Low Countries around 1477

Beer exports
In the Hanseatic city Zwolle the old Gruyt beer without hops was abandoned, hop gardens were planted and within a hundred years there was no more Gruyt beer. In other cities, like Delft, Gouda and Haarlem (Harlem) an exporting beer trade started with large volumes and good quality beers.

Trade barriers
In reaction to this other cities made special rules to protect their beer industry. It could be ruled for instance that imported beer could not be sold for a higher price than the local beer. In other cities the domestic Poorters beer was made tax free, only for Poorters to the city, outside of regular trade. These measures must have had a big impact because beer was taxed heavily and the cost and risks of transport must have made it very hard to compete with the local beer.

Nation states
As time passed cities became less important and the nation states The Netherlands and Belgium came into being and the concept of ‘poorter’ started to fade. The economic point of gravity shifted from the Hanseatic sphere to the Netherlands of the Golden Age to England.

Dutch brewers
Citation of historian Unger: 'Low Countries immigrants dominated beer production and trade in England through the sixteenth century, with a complaint about aliens controlling the beer trade coming as late as 1607. Even in 1574 more than half of London's beer breweries were owned and operated by aliens. The 'Dutch' as they were called, brought not only a new type of beer, but a larger scale of production and more complex systems of organisation.' (2) Hops were imported at first (6), later Dutch and Flemish farmers crossed the channel and started hop gardens in Kent.

Frederik Ruis

Die Hanse und ihr Bier,
Christine von Blanckenburg,


Beer in the Middle ages and the Renaissance
Richard W Unger

Immigrants and industries of London, 1400-1750

Liên Luu
Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

From the beginning beer brewing was closely associated with the 'Dutch', who introduced the skills. Throughout the fifteenth and the early part of the sixteenth centuries, aliens owned the majority of beer brewhouses
A careful analysis of available evidence suggests that beer breweries were in fact first set up in London by migrants from Holland in the early fifteenth century
p264 In the fifteenth century, beer was regarded as a Dutch cultural product
Dutch brewers brought the art of beer brewing to England

Germans in Britain Since 1500
Panikos Panayi
Continuum International Publishing Group,

Beer-brewing had been introduced into England by north German immigrants in the fourteenth century. 200 years later at least half of the greater breweries in London were still owned by German or Dutch brewers, while many of their English collegues employed skilled foreigners.(24) Here the distiction between artisans from the Low Countries and from Germany was not always accurately drawn in sixteenth-century sources.

Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England:
Women's Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600
Judith M. Bennett
Oxford University Press



The theory and practice of brewing illustrated

William Littell Tizard

introducing the hop, in 1524, from the Netherlands,