Just some thoughts about the beer world: part one.

In my line of work you stumble upon the weirdest facts, yet one doesn’t always take the time to put it all in perspective – let’s take some time for it! Let me share some thoughts and useless facts about the beer world with you.

One of the most fascinating developments in recent years is of course the huge growth of small breweries producing all kinds of beer – but virtually no lager. The Netherlands had ninety breweries in 2006, boasted 167 in 2012 and that number increased to 352 with 36 breweries in planning (all data from Cambrinus.nl) – quite an explosion. Simultaneously, beer consumption is falling: in 2014 the Dutch consumed almost 83 liters per person, while in 2006 it was still 96 liters – and ten years before even 110 liters per Dutchman! All together we drink a lot less beer, say 325 million liters per year (average Dutch population over 18 years times 27 liters).

Grolsch Brewery in Enschede

Grolsch Brewery in Enschede

With the explosive emergence of ‘other’ beers it actually must mean even less lager is being drunk. Putting it in an understandable perspective: Grolsch brewery capacity is 320 million liters. They don’t brew that much, but the annual capacity of the brewery in Enschede is what we drink less when compared to twenty years ago. The Grolsch brewery is, slightly exaggerated, therefore unnecessary.

But what does it say about the more than three hundred new Dutch breweries? Their existence is based on selling beer – of which we drink less and less. So it has to mean The Netherlands drinks even much less lager than the already “lost” 325 million liters – but how much less?het ij In other words, how much beer do these small breweries make exactly? It is hard to find hard numbers about this, so let’s do some guessing. There are really only three “big ones”: Texel, Jopen and ‘t IJ. I’m guessing they jointly brew around seven million liters. Then there’s De Molen, who brew around one million liters – the majority of the brewers do significantly less. Renowned names do between 100,000 and 300,000 liters per year, the vast majority gets will not even hit 100,000 liters. An average of 50,000 liters seems realistic and you need a number to work with. That means 340 breweries times 50,000 liters, they brew some 17 million liters. That would mean the smallest 344 breweries in the Netherlands together brew 25 million liters of beer: an average of over 72 500 liters per year.

One of Heineken filling lines in Zoeterwoude

One of Heineken filling lines in Zoeterwoude

Brewers tend to talk hectoliters, or units of 100 liters. Heineken produces worldwide around 200 million hectoliters of beer, or 20.000.000.000 (20 billion) liters. Just like any industry brewers deal with ‘waste and losses’, and let’s restrict ourselves to losses like spillage during filling bottles. Assuming Heineken operates very efficiently and only has a ten-thousandth of spillage, we’re still talking about 2 million liters. Twenty thousand hectoliters – that’s the annual production of Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Or, if we stick to the average: Heineken’s annual spillage on its filling lines almost equals the combined annual production of 28 small Dutch breweries.

grolsch bottellijnLast thought for today: as the brewery in Enschede theoretically could be closed, doesn’t that open some funny perspectives? After all, it can brew per year what all ‘small’ Dutch brewers currently put out in thirteen years. Conversely, with the current average of 72.500 liters more than 4,000 brewers could be brewing their ‘own’ beer there! I guess the point of this all, and then I’ll lie down again with a cold cloth on my fevered forehead: there is still plenty of room for growth in the Dutch market.

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