Translating a Dutch Beer Label

This article was posted a few years ago on this blog when it was still called Dutch Beer Pages. 90% of what I wrote back then is not relevant anymore but this one still is.

If you are a non-Dutch speaker buying bottles from Dutch breweries it can often be a puzzle to figure out what the ingredients exactly are. So here I bring you a basic translation guide to Dutch beer labels!

Basic vocabulary

If you have heard or read any Dutch at all you will notice that with a good grasp of English you can translate most of the words. A good knowledge of German aids this even more significantly. The Dutch language is like on the map, stuck between English and German. This also explains why tourists coming here have a hard time finding anyone who doesn’t speak English. It really is our second language and we have no trouble using it. In fact we are so lazy that new words from English don’t even get a Dutch translation. Computer, Manager, smartphone all mean the same. In beer lingo it isn’t any different. Stouts, porters, IPA’s, DIPA’s, Saisons, Russian Stouts are the same here as they are in most of the brewing world. And the classic styles like dubbel and tripel are from Belgium where they also speak Dutch. To reach most of their drinkers many breweries don’t even bother writing the label in Dutch anymore but choose English from the get-go.

But just in case you do find a label in Dutch, here are some of the most used words.

Bier = beer. Surprising isn’t it?

Brouwerij = brewery. See the resemblance now between both languages? Gebrouwen door is brewed by.

Fles = bottle

Blik = can

Ten Minste Houdbaar Tot literally translates as ‘at least best before until’. It is the best before date.

Another pointer for storing the bottle is ‘koel en donker bewaren’: keep cool and dark.

Statiegeld = bottle refund. Most bottles now can be thrown in the glasbak (glass container found often near supermarkets), certain types of bottle still offer a ten cent refund and in rare cases 25. The bigger craft breweries like Jopen, Uiltje, De Molen and Emelisse use non-refundable bottles. If you live here, take all your bottles to the supermarket and try feeding them to the bottle return machine. Even labels that say there is no statiegeld might give you a return of 10 cents. After a while you will figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Bier van hoge gisting = is a beer with top fermentation. If the description is lage instead of hoge it means the opposite.

Kan gluten bevatten = May contain gluten. Gluten vrij means gluten free.


Bottles of beer are 33 centiliters. That’s little over 11 oz for you on the other side of the ocean. Occasionally you will find larger ones like 50cl and 75cl. Some of the more commercial bigger breweries may have smaller bottles of 25cl. The size will be translated as ‘inhoud’. In the last year the number of Dutch breweries who put their beer in cans, mostly in 33 centiliters as well. And yes ‘gebotteld’ means bottled.


It is here that the words start to become a different. Water and hop are Water and hops. The names of the grains are different:

  • Gerst = Barley
  • Tarwe = Wheat
  • Rogge = Rye
  • Boekweit = Buckwheat
  • Rijst = Rice
  • Mais = Corn
  • Spelt and Emmer are the same

Mout = malt.
Geroosterd = roasted.
Gerookte = smoked
zuur = sour.

Other often used ingredients:

Suiker = sugar

  • Rietsuiker = canesugar
  • Kristalsuiker = crystallized or granulated sugar
  • Kandijsuiker = candied sugar

Gist = Yeast. It may be the hardest beer word to pronounce in Dutch. It is pronounced like ‘jist’ if that was a Spanish word.

Other ingredients:

Other ingredients I have come across:

Zeewier = seaweed

Zoethout = liquirice root

Sinaasappel = orange (and bloed means blood)

Jeneverbes = juniperberry

Korianderzaad = coriander / cilantroseed

Specerijen = spices

Citroengras = lemongrass

Honing = honey

Kruiden = herbs

Cat I, Cat II, III and Cat S

Every beer gets one of these categories. What does this actually mean? This is a purely Dutch categorization and done for taxation purposes. Taxes are paid according to the height of the Plato, but the actual Plato cannot be mentioned on the label. The four categories are:

  • III = Plato 1-7
  • II = 7-11
  • I = 11-15.5
  • S = 15.5 and upwards


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