Survey ‘quality with Dutch breweries’: part one, the numbers

Dutch brewers is a diverse community, varying from one man operations to huge multinational companies. Respondents are all possible forms and shapes and the outcome of the survey as representative, given the 27% response rate. It means the results give a clear picture of how Dutch breweries view the subject of quality.

Remarkably the majority own their own hardware – only 34% can be classified as gypsy brewers. This is very remarkable since gypsy brewers make up more than 50% of the total Dutch brewing community. To clarify: my defintion of a gypsy brewery is that of a company profiling itself as a brewery or beer producing entity, selling beer under its own name and for its own risk, yet producing in hardware owned by someone else. This can be an existing brewery with overcapacity, or a production facility build with the sole purpose to cater to gypsy brewers. Some respondents started out as gypsy brewers and now own their own hardware yet, incidentally and often when lacking owned capacity, contract out with a third party. Almost 13 percent fall into that category.

Does your brewery own its brewing equipment?

Over three-quarters of respondents is very small and have three employees at most. 107 out of 139 respondents fall into this category. Nine breweries have 26 employees or more – 6,5% in all. Since we deem the outcome as representative for the Dutch brewing community, one could argue the vast majority of breweries is so small one could question calling them professional. This becomes even more clear when we look at their production levels.

How many FTE does your brewery employ?

A remarkable outcome too is the fact the vast majority produces less than 250 hectoliter per year. A hectoliter is 100 liter, so just over half of Dutch breweries produces less than 25.000 liter of beer per annum. This may sound as much, but the average bar on the corner sells more per year. It is the equivalent of 3,150 cases of beer per year. Sizeable as it is, one cannot live off this and when compared to bigger players like De Leckere (10,000 HL) or Texelse Brouwerij (35,000 HL) they are drops in the bucket. And of course, there’s Heineken with 220.000.000 hectoliter per year.

What’s your brewery’s annual production (2017)?

Equally interesting as the staff count is the question on how beer is packaged. Almost all package in bottle (98%) of draught (85%). 6,5% also package in cans:

Do you package your beer, and if so, how?

Not everyone can package on site. 3,5% of respondents say they package somewhere else than where the beer is produced. Speculating (since it was not specifically asked) I can only assume this reflects brewers using an remote canning facility.

Do you package beer on-site or elsewhere?

Additional interesting data is on tasting rooms. The brewpub, still incredibly underweighed as a business model, is the driving force behind growth in the States. In the Netherlands it remains largely untested. A third of respondents say they have a tasting room serving only home-brewed beers, a quarter also serves beer brewed by others. A fifth serves food too, yet almost half (46%) has no tasting room at all. It makes sense when looking at average staff count, truly small companies dominating the landscape, yet is almost unbelievable. The opportunities for this business model is huge, and it totally fits today’s demand for ‘small, authentic and tangable enterprise – it’s a no-brainer, really.

Does your brewery operate a tasting room?

‘The’ Dutch brewer is largely a very small-scale entrepreneur, producing a very modest amount of beer. This beer is certainly intended to be sold, as almost all package their beer. Almost half are so small they don’t operate a tasting room – the reason may also be they are contracting out. It would go too far calling this majority hobbyists, but this requires a lot of self-restraint. How these businesses and entrepreneurs will develop over the next years remains to be seen. Story and quality will be decisive factors, so much is for sure. We can’t say much about their stories – so let’s focus on their quality.

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