December 26, 2013

Alcohol regulation hurts fair trade shops

Filed under: Food & Drink by Branko Collin @ 11:06 pm

fairhills-fair-trade-wine-branko-collinA recent tightening of the Dutch law regulating the sales of alcoholic drinks in supermarkets has affected fair trade stores, Volkskrant reports.

Another victim of the law are tourist information offices who often sell regional beers as part of their services. The new law states that a store needs to have a floor space of at least 15 square metres and needs to sell both pre-packaged and unpackaged food. Fair trade shops tend to fall short of this regulation.

Huub Jansen, spokesperson for Wereldwinkel (the Dutch fair trade chain), called the regulation “strange, because we are still allowed to sell wine through the iInternet and in Christmas packages.”

Junior minister Martin van Rijn hopes the new rule makes it harder for youths to purchase alcohol. “Producers in developing countries are hurt by this regulation”, parliamentarian Vera Bergkamp of D66 countered. She feels Van Rijn should see if a solution can be found for Wereldwinkel.

Jansen added: “Most of our customers are middle-aged women. Our wine turnover is 250,000 bottles a year. That is a substantial hit for wine producers in Chili and South Africa.”

See also: Botox voucher in employees’ Christmas package

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November 30, 2013

Netherlands gets a second Trappist beer after 125 years

Filed under: Food & Drink by Orangemaster @ 8:00 am

I knew that La Trappe was the only Trappist beer brewed in the Netherlands, as I used to annoyingly point this out to shopkeepers who placed the beer under Belgium simply because it had a French name. La Trappe is brewed by De Koningshoeven brewery in Berkel-Enschot near Tilburg, Noord-Brabant. There’s also my story about drinking all kinds of ‘Trippel’ (triple) beers on Queen’s Day (now King’s Day) and when it was my turn to buy a round, I showed up with La Trappe’s Quadruppel (quadruple) to kick it up a notch.

But now for the first time in 125 years there’s a new Trappist called ‘Zundert’, brewed by the Kievit brewery from the monks of the Maria Toevlucht Abbey in Zundert, Noord-Brabant. The beer will be available as of 4 pm on 30 November until 1 December at 25 participating Zundert cafes and restaurants.

In the entire world there are only eight other Trappist beers: six in Belgium, one in Austria and now two in the Netherlands.


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July 20, 2013

How Heineken branched out into bricks for a short while

Filed under: Design,Food & Drink,Sustainability by Branko Collin @ 11:36 pm

In the 1960 Dutch beer brewer Heineken came up with the idea of using rectangular, stackable beer bottles thinking that they could be re-used as building materials.

Cabinet Magazine writes how Freddy Heineken got the idea when visiting Curaçao in 1960:

[Heineken] noted with dismay the acres of trash underfoot—a good part of it produced by his own company. Heineken Breweries had an efficient bottle-return system in Holland, where the average bottle was used 30 times before being discarded. But without modern distribution, bottles in Curaçao were used once and thrown out. There was no lack of resulting trash: what the island did lack, however, was affordable housing. Heineken had a flash of brilliance: make beer bottles that you can build houses out of.

An initial bottle design by architect John Habraken—a long slender bottle to be stacked vertically—was vetoed by Heineken’s marketing department for being too ‘effeminate’. The second design was the squat bottle you see in the photo. Of this 100,000 bottles were produced and even a prototype shed near Freddy Heineken’s villa in Noordwijk.

(Photo by, some rights reserved)

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June 21, 2012

Ban on drinking standing up at terraces to be lifted

Filed under: Food & Drink by Orangemaster @ 11:57 am

A few years ago, the city of Amsterdam made it illegal to drink alcohol at a terrace standing up. If you were off to a sunny Friday afternoon happy hour at a packed terrace you had to have a place to sit down to have the right to drink anything. Pouring out onto the street because happy hour turned into a party pisses off the neighbours who like their peace and quiet at night.

Back in 2009, action group Ai! Amsterdam (a play on words of iamsterdam which serves up tourist and expat information) claimed that thousands of people showed up at the Noordermarkt to create a ‘big standing terrace’ to protest what they believed was a patronising city rule.

Not only will this ban be lifted, but cafés may also soon be able to stay open 24 hours. Although Amsterdam is a world city in stature, its rules resemble more those of a big village usually making exceptions for the particularly touristy centre, and often hindering its residents. The rules change very often, for good or bad, and café owners seem to have a hard time keeping up. It’s a tough balance to play the world city card and please the residents in such a crowded city.


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April 15, 2012

How Dutch beer created Belgium

Filed under: Food & Drink,History by Branko Collin @ 2:07 pm

Belgian beers are widely recognised as some of the best in the world, but ironically it was Dutch beer that had a hand in creating the country of Belgium.

The latter at least is something that two Belgian economists argue in their paper War, taxes and border: how beer created Belgium (PDF).

Between 1568 and 1609 the Dutch fought a war of attrition against the Spanish in an ultimately successful attempt to get out from under the rule of the house of Habsburg. At the end, the Seventeen Provinces split into a Northern part (largely coinciding with current-day Netherlands) and a Spanish controlled Southern part (Belgium).

Koen Deconinck and Johan Swinnen from the Economics faculty of the University of Leuven in Belgium argue that the high costs of the war were covered on the Dutch side by high taxes on beer. Small cities would have dozens of brewers, and the beer they sold would often account for as much as half of the municipal tax receipts, large chunks of which would go straight to the war effort.

The success of the beer excise was in part due to a highly efficient system of tax enforcement (Unger 2001; 2004). During the sixteenth century, most cities in the Netherlands developed a similar system to minimize the possibility of fraud and tax evasion based on a strict separation of beer production, beer transportation and beer selling. In practically every town, only officially licensed and sworn beer porters were allowed to transport beer. No barrel of beer could leave the brewery unless there was a receipt to prove that all necessary excises had been paid. Porters were forbidden from delivering beer unless there was a receipt, and it was their task to hand over the receipt to the buyer. Anyone who sold beer (e.g. in a tavern) needed receipts to prove that all taxes had been paid. […]

Governments were also concerned about other possibilities for tax evasion. Ship builders, for instance, could traditionally buy beer tax free. To avoid evasion, the town of Amsterdam decreed that they would have to pay the taxes first, and then ask a rebate afterwards. Another case concerns home brewing, which was in principle subject to taxation, although this was difficult to enforce in practice. In the 1580s the government of Holland, following an earlier move by the town of Amsterdam, simply outlawed home brewing in the entire province.

Beer was the go-to drink in those days. Wine was expensive, coffee and tea non-existant, water polluted and milk perishable.

(Via: Mick Hartley)

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August 3, 2011

The best places to live in the Netherlands

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 9:42 am

In a tongue-in-cheek article, daily De Pers figured out the ideal Dutch towns to live in for large groups of people:

For the poor, Vaals (in the Southernmost tip of the country), because it is apparently easy to get social security there. The town wants to crack down on social security tourism though.

For the gays, Hillegom (South of Haarlem), of which the Pink City Guide of Bureau Movisie says it’s the gay friendliest town in the country. The municipality is working on a policy to support eldery gays, amongst others.

For the elderly, Kerkrade (Limburg). The paper quotes a citizen as saying: “Perhaps we can even draw older people from the rest of the country or even from abroad, because growing old in Kerkrade is fun.” It doesn’t say why it is fun.

For muslims, Alblasserdam (near Rotterdam). The town sports the highest percentage of muslims in the country.

For the handicapped, Huizen (East of Amsterdam), which is quick in allotting funds for medical needs.

For the Polish, Venray (Limburg), which realizes it will always need seasonal workers, so why not be nice to them.

For the drug addicted both Amersfoort (near Utrecht) and Utrecht (near Amersfoort). Junkies get free beer in the former town, and free methadone in the latter. (Pretty girls get free beer in Weert, Limburg. From the bar owners, that is.)

For the students, Sittard (Limburg), as it has the cheapest student housing of the country.

And finally, for sailors, the devoutly religious town of Urk (near nowhere in particular) which refuses to charge boat owners money for delivering electricity and water on Sundays, as that would constitute working on a Sabbath.

(Photo: an abandoned looking factory in Huizen)

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May 31, 2011

Dutch beer ads with Playboy bunnies and famous guys

Filed under: Fashion,Food & Drink,General by Orangemaster @ 10:39 am

Bavaria beer ads on Dutch television currently feature two commercials with Mickey Rourke (see one below) playing upon his reputation as a major drinker. Besides the usual reasons for putting Americans in Dutch commercials, including sexing up your product, appealing to the youth and trying to be more international, Bavaria does sell 65% of its beer abroad, so it has good reasons for using heavy hitters. Although not a huge brand in the Netherlands, Bavaria is apparently sold in more than 120 countries and was caught up in controversy during the World Cup in South Africa 2010 with its Dutch dresses. The dresses were seen as advertising another beer brand than the main sponsor and some good looking blondes wearing the dresses got arrested, a fantastic marketing moment in retrospect.

I guess I like the Rourke ones better for the simple reason that the Dutch don’t censor English swear words no matter what time the ads come on television.

Here’s a funny Dutch ad with Snoop Dogg and Dutch singer Marco Borsato (a family man Neil Diamond, schmaltzy but much more ‘modern’) that anyone outside the Netherlands couldn’t have seen. It’s about having some choice when choosing a mobile phone, from a few years back.


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May 15, 2011

Chopper gangs on a beer and bikes tour (video)

Filed under: Bicycles,Food & Drink by Branko Collin @ 5:23 pm

Here’s a video of the Key Town Cruisers (Leiden), the Rollin’ Daddies (Leiderdorp) and Chopaderos (“worldwide drinking club with a bicycle problem”, Amsterdam) on their yearly bock beer tour.

I had no idea choppers still existed. It seems they’ve not only survived the 1970s, but have gotten fashionable in the interim. These mean machines look like they could take on a bakfiets!

(Via Cycling without a helmet)

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December 22, 2010

Free beer for girls in Limburg town

Filed under: Food & Drink,General,Religion by Orangemaster @ 12:28 pm

The owners of a few pubs in Weert, Limburg have decided to give free beer, wine and even kir (how classy) on the house to girls, so that boys stay away from those illegal beer-serving non-pubs called ‘zuipketens‘, modern-day Dutch speakeasies that have apparently increased in popularity since the smoking ban. By stay away I do mean come to their pubs instead because they have tipsy girls in them.

Free drinks are sure to get a few more girls into the pub, but at a cost and not on the long run. And then there’s the morally questionable idea of getting girls to drink more, knowing they get drunk more quickly, and all that jazz. The drinking age in the Netherlands is 16, an age when kids are not legally responsbile adults, which is also a major problem in smaller communities where there’s not much to do but drink — like in Weert, Limburg.

Back in 2008 we wrote about beer confiscation in Urk, a very religious town in Flevoland whose youth is drinking their youth away because there’s nothing to do there.

(Link:, Photo: me at Oktoberfest. If the Telegraaf can use a German picture for a Dutch article, so can we.)

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December 10, 2010

O Christmas Tree on Grolsch beer bottles

Filed under: Food & Drink,Music by Orangemaster @ 10:39 am

Dutch beer brand Grolsch jams out Christmas music with the Swingtop Philharmonic Orchestra, a troupe made up of some of the world’s leading musicians and sound engineers who play exclusively on instruments made from Grolsch Swingtop bottles.

A re-imagined version of the Christmas favourite by Ernst Anschütz has been arranged by composer Ross Power and is led by conductor Thomas Blunt, seven percussionists, woodwind players and a timpanist.

‘O Christmas Tree’ is the English translation of the German ‘O Tannebaum’.

(Link: christmasagogo)

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