International beer day, celebrated annually on the first Friday of August, saw Mercure hotels present the results of its Beer Survey. A thousand Dutch and Belgian beer drinkers answered a variety of questions on their preferences in style, drinking occasions and combining beer with food. The results were sometimes remarkable.
A lot has been written about it already so I will not comment on all results: these can be found on many Dutch web sites. The question might arise why a hotel chain like Mercure has commissioned a study on beer: well, last year they launched their ‘About Beer’ program, where almost every Dutch Mercure was linked to a local brewery. Beers by these brewers are actively sold in the hotels, in the bar and restaurant. The English version of the accompanying magazine can be viewed here. I helped write the magazine and now was asked to comment on the results of this study for the press release – a few comments I would like to explain a bit further here.
We see big differences when we look at where we prefer to drink beer: the Dutch prefer drinking at home, whether their own or at friends and family. Belgians go out to the pub more: more than half indicated that they drink beer there, compared to only four in ten Dutch. Interestingly, the young Belgians drink out of home most: in a bar, at events or at sporting events. It seems they value the social aspect (enjoying together) more than others.
It is striking that over half of the respondents said “I discover myself what I like”, hardly asking advice to (local) staff: only a quarter do so. In stark contrast to this almost no one is looking for information about local beer – three-quarters to 80% is neutral to totally not interested. It is a greedy, hedonic way of experiencing beer with a relatively short concentration span. We like taste and ‘experience’, but not too many facts and information, please. The Dutch appreciate beer from countries more and earlier than Belgians – two out of three believe that “Foreign local beers usually cannot compete with beers from our country”, compared with only one in three Dutch.
The Netherlands is still indisputably a pilsner country with five out of ten men and three out of ten women mentioning it as their favorite beer style. Belgian men and women choose lager significantly less: 21% and 13% respectively. Almost half of our Southern neighbours name brown or dark beer as their favorite, well above the Dutch and substantially more than them naming wheat beer or amber ale. The latter style seems to resonate only with French speaking women these days. Dutch women cause Radler being ‘most popular’ for almost 13% of the Dutch: among themselves is, with 20%, it is even the second most popular style of all!
It has often been denied that such a thing as “women’s beer” exists, whereby one often refers to sweet or fruit beers. This study however clearly shows Dutch women emphatically naming ‘sweet’ as a favorite: 20% name Radler and 18.5% says ‘sweet fruit beer’ when asked what they prefer. Belgian women hardly seem to know Radler, yet just over 22% called sweet fruit beers as their favorite. When including Radler they represent 25% together. This calls for further research – or do prominent beer women overestimate the average taste preferences of their own sex?