Heineken buys Texels

Last year Heineken took a step into the Dutch craft beer world by buying into Oedipus. This raised some eyebrows. Not necessarily from Heineken’s side because it makes business sense but more from Oedipus’ side, as written about before. This and Heineken’s datamining company/online beer store BeerWulf means they are taking big steps into the craft beer market. They are also working together with a few smaller breweries like Oadaen but also Rotterdam’s Noordt, a bigger brewery.

Display in the Texels brewery

This week they struck again by buying the Texelse Bierbrouwerij. Yes, they bought the entire brewery, not just a stake. Texels has been brewing excellent, yet middle of the road, beers since 1999.  Their market is mostly in the western part of the country and on the heels of their Skuumkoppe, which is an undeniably nice beer. A dunkelweizen that Heineken doesn’t really have in their portfolio.

This deal is not part of the expected wave of takeovers of small breweries by bigger breweries when the small ones start to falter during Covid. This deal was about a year in the making and considering Texel’s position in the beermarket with Skuumkoppe and Heineken’s strong position in bars it was something that to me seemed only logical to happen one day.

Of course in the press releases you hear the same old stories about expertise, distribution and ‘the best possible partner’. Just like the facts that the brewery is staying on Texel and all employees will keep their job. For now… history has shown in the USA and the UK that this is not always the case.

Details about the money changing hands have not been released. Sure, it is sad to see an independent brewery leave for the money, but after 21 years it does make some sense.

Sad? Absoutely, but Texels beer occupied the market between the big pilsner breweries and people who are slightly more adventurous. It is when the good IPA brewers, sour blenders and stoutmakers get calls from the green giant that we should be more frightened.

Lockdown Part 3: a bar owner’s response

The bars and restaurants have been closed now for about two weeks. It was another blow for an industry that wasn’t doing too well since the reopening earlier this year. Some anger has been aimed towards the government for closing these places, but not shops or schools. On Facebook on Saturday I read remarks about the closed bars but very crowded streets. This is not helping. The Dutch people still think their right to move about is more important than someone else’s right to live and breathe. The hospitals are getting full and we started moving people to Germany already.

Last week I read a post from Jeroen Carol-Visser. Former chairmain of PINT (our version of Camra I guess) and now owner of the wonderful bar De Goudse Eend in Gouda. His post was exactly who I, and many others with me, think of the whole situation. With his permission I translated it for you to read:

“Fine. Again we are forced to close closure.

The bar and restaurant industry is once again a victim of stricter measures.
As an entrepreneur again I have to look for a way to survive.
And why?
Because people just don’t want to listen.

I would like to thank you very much for that.
Thanks for not listening to the five feet (1.5 meter) rule.
Thanks for not meeting in groups.
Thanks for not having a party at home,
Thanks for the “yes we 12 are all part of the same household”.
Thanks for the “oh I’ll grab a chair, so you can still get in between”

Thank you, you who think that rules do not apply to you.

Rules have always been drawn up. And YOU only had one job. STICK TO THE RULES.

Was it so difficult to keep that 1.5 meter distance for a while?

Or YOU colleagues in hospitality, did you really have to sit those 8 guys together at a table on that larger terrace? You understand that that was not a household, don’t you?

And do you own that large business with a mega terrace extension? Wasn’t that good enough? Why were guests allowed to sit shoulder to shoulder with you?

Using and implementing the rules is not difficult. All you need is discipline. Just do it.

For now we are closed again. We have to. Sitting in a corner and crying isn’t going to help my business.

Soon, someday, we may open again. And may I hereby make an appeal to you? Just stick to the rules. Not for me, not for you, but for society.

If together we can give the virus such calm waters that it is not gone but let it be infected now and then, we can continue living. Everything van run again and we can have a society where we learn to live with a deadly virus.

If we all just keep paying attention we can do this.

Thanks.”

This is a sentiment shared by me and others. The freedoms we enjoyed and have taken for granted have brought this country a lot. Now people don’t want to give it up. A form of selfishness that at this stage is not helping us beat this virus.

And oh, if you are in Gouda getting cheese and stroopwafels, make an effort to visit Jeroen’s bar. Whenever I am in the position to do so again you will find me there.

So stay home if you don’t have to and follow the rules!

Lockdown Part 2

On Tuesday (October 13) the government decided to once again close all bars and restaurants for at least four weeks. The number of corona infections has risen rapidly in the last few weeks. So rapidly in fact that the Netherlands (and Belgium) are now among the nations with the highest number of daily infections. For two weeks the government tried to curtail it by adding a few minor restrictions. They did not help. To prevent the hospitals  being swamped by corona patients everything is done to not have too many people in the same space.

Bars and restaurants already had a difficult time during the spring when everything closed. The intervening period wasn’t great with fewer tourists and people who were still apprehensive to show up. Sure the government will try and help out but some owners will decide to pull the plug after this new setback.

Blame

So who is to blame for all of this? The government could have been more strict in their decisions. They were not very clear about what needed to be done. Where other countries have strict lines of number of infections that when crossed will lead to new restrictions we decided not to. Prime minister Rutte seems to rely on the common sense of people. But the people let him down. Where in most countries people just did what they needed to do we flaunt the rules and social constructs and just do what we want. Seemingly without any regard for those around us. We complain that we are restricted in our freedom. Yet no other country in Europe has as much freedom to move around as we do.

Breweries

The  breweries seem to have done ok. The first lockdown period made them aware that setting up online shops and pickup points would help and it did. The sales of bottles went up as well with people opting to drink more at home and not in bars. They will likely survive the next phase as well, though the breweries with pubs will have it harder.

Prohibition?

The police union has suggested that the best thing to do would be a complete prohibition of alcohol sales. Alcohol seems to play a part in the spread of the virus. Bars closed at 10 at night for a while and huge lines formed in front of supermarkets for people to get beer and continue drinking and partying at home. And yes, it seems alcohol at the moment is doing more bad than good with huge outbreaks happening during parties, sometimes in cafes. Sure, not the more thinking people of IPA and sour drinkers but still. And if you read this and are afraid you won’t have enough alcohol for the coming weeks then maybe you should get help first before raiding the supermarket for some Schultenbrau.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to the total ban of alcohol sales. This would mean that many more people will lose their jobs. With around 600 breweries in this country (not all professional) many depend on the income of selling beer. And let’s not even start thinking about all the liquor store owners, employees, suppliers etc. With bars closed shops are the only remaining thing.

How can you help

Stay the f&#* at home! And if you do have to leave the house wear a facemask. The sooner we get the hospitals empty again the better. In the meantime buy your beer directly from the brewery or from a local liquor store. Some (beer) distributors have opened the doors too for private buyers. Check out in your area what is available. And think of those around you. We can do this!

Buying Beer Online

Buying Beer Online

Corona has changed the way we consume. Beer is no different. Bars are not open as long as before and many of us have opted to drink more beer at home.

The shops have remained open so we were always able to get our beer. However for those living outside of the bigger cities, like me, it has been harder. I am fortunate that I have an excellent beer store in the tiny 5000 people village I live in, that’s De Zwart in case you are interested. Without a car and not wanting to lug around heavy bags of bottles I decided to order beer online.

I randomly picked 7 different stores, all small and independent. Of the shops six were from the Netherlands, and I bought beer from the U.K. on one occasion.

At first I thought I would review all the stores separately. But I am sticking to some points that I noticed or have made me thing about the whole process. And let’s say some things might need to change if the independent stores want to fight Beerwulf (Heineken) or Hopt (InBev).

The stores I have bought beer from were Bierloods22 in Woerden, Sterk in Amsterdam, Little Beer Shop in Utrecht, Just In Beer in Groningen, Lekker Bier Bier Winkel in Friesland, Specialbierpakket in Leiden and from the United Kingdom Premier Hop.

Here are some of the things that caught my eye:

Personal Touch

With the box of beer I ordered beer from Bierloods22 in Woerden came a postcard with a  handwritten note. It might be a small thing but it means they took some time to do so. It also had my name on it so you know they wrote it on the spot. It makes you feel appreciated as a customer.

Another personal touch is letting your customer know that the delivery will be delayed. Premier Hop, the only UK store I bought from, did this. Not that I even cared one bit but it is nice to see they are thinking of you. The order came days sooner than a delivery from a Dutch store I placed on the same day. One of the cans I bought from them exploded. A combination of some carbonation problem I think and extremely hot temperatures. I let both them and the brewery know and within minutes the money was refunded. Classy.

In one other case I had to email what was happening with my order and it felt as if my email restarted the process again. Let’s just say I would order beer from Bierloods again and not from this store.

Speedy

All orders came on time. With one order the store was waiting for one of the bottles to be delivered. Fine but I would have preferred knowing this in advance so that I had the option to either pick another beer. With smaller stores you have to take into account that if you place on order on Sunday it might take longer. Stores are not always open on Monday so they may only start making the orders on Tuesday. A good store should mention this on the website. Most did. The Speciaalbierpakket store in Leiden made the promise that any order before 21:00 would be delivered the next day. And it was. This was the second time I ordered beer on their website and I would happily do it again. And as I mentioned in the previous paragraph an order from the UK arrived here days before an order made on the same day at store in the Netherlands.

Everything I ordered with Premier Hop was available

Have what you say you have

Too often it happened that I ordered beers online that were not available after all. I would get emails back either with the question of picking other beers and getting the difference back, or a list of beers I could choose from with the same value as the ones that were not available. Fine by me because I am not too picky. A CMR system that automatically subtracts both store buys and online buys and corrects this on the website can be a hassle and a investment. However it offers a lot in return. Better for the store, better for the customer but also for the suppliers.  But I also admit it is a small thing and I was happy with the way the stores handled it. 

Local

From Just In Beer. Great American things but also a good selection of local Groninger beers

I bought beers from stores in Friesland and Groningen and was very happy that they stocked beers from local breweries. Things that never will make it to the stores in Amsterdam and Utrecht. Even stores in Leiden tend to have very local things too that don’t make it over here. And buying local is more important than ever these days to keep the beer culture all over the country vibrant.

Webpages

Not all webpages worked perfectly. In some cases after putting one bottle or can in the basket going back a page made you end up on the front page again. Annoying if you were only looking for beers from a certain country or in a certain category. One store was brazen enough to email me back saying ‘well it works on my phone’. Sure, but it should work on all platforms. The store will remain unnamed, but I won’t be buying beer there.

Social Media

Some stores have been very good on social media showing what is new. Little Beer Shop and Just In Beer for example pepper Instagram with cool, self-made, shots of new beers. Keeping the name of the store in the minds of people and showing you constantly renew is only a good thing.

Better for brewers

Buying at smaller independent stores is also better for the brewers. Webshops owned by multinationals (Heineken is 100% owner of Beerwulf, InBev owns hopt.nl and more in the UK) often ask for a bigger discount than the smaller stores. So breweries might sell a bit more in bulk, but get less per bottle sold. By supporting the smaller stores you are also helping the brewers.

In Conclusion

A good store should I think have the following: a good selection with plenty of local options. Good personal communication that makes you feel valued and a good working website. I will keep buying beer from most of these stores.

Stores I bought from, with one positive note

Bierloods22 in Woerden. Great selection and the personal touch is awesome

Little Beer Shop in Utrecht. Great and fast service and a good selection too, rotates.

Just In Beer. Happy to see a lot of local stuff and other cracking IPA’s.

Specialbierpakket winkel Leiden. Best website , fast service, great selection, fair prices.

Premier Hop. Fast in both service and delivery. UK beers not available here.

Specialbierwinkel. Lot of local Northern beer.

Sterk. Varied selection, some local Amsterdam beers and amazing selection.

A Decade of Beer Blogging.

Someone asked me the other day how long I have been writing about beer. Some sleuthing online and rummaging through some old files leads me to believe that the first time I published something on what was then still the Dutch Beer Pages was ten years ago. Probably about Wispe. So this means I can celebrate my decade long beer writing anniversary!

Things have changed dramatically in this decade. In the beginning I could just send a couple of questions through email and get great answers back. Breweries then were often still one man operations and the brewers were often very enthusiastic about their craft and just very happy someone had shown an interest. For some I was apparently even the first interview. I remember some of the very first ones being Wispe and Vat 13. The former now has a great brewery in a church in their hometown Weesp while Vat 13 no longer exists. And these are two examples of how it has gone the last ten years. Almost all the breweries I interviewed either started their own brewery (many were gypsy brewers) or folded. Some of the most successful stories I wrote about for example are ‘t Uiltje, Bax, Rooie Dop (now Oproer), VandeStreek, Kompaan, Oersoep and Gooische. The better the brewer, the more passionate the replies I got.

Writing about beer has brought me to cities and towns I would never have dreamed of visiting. Every short trip or vacation became a trek to find local beer. And by looking for that beer I discovered a lot more in my own country as well. And made friends along the way.

Yet is was never my intention to write about the breweries alone. You can brew all you want but you need fans of your beer and they need to get the beer from somewhere. That is why I have always tried to also write about the bars and shops that sell the beer. They have also seen the changes happening.

The quality of the beer has gotten better significantly. The time of exploding bottles and weak beer seems to be mostly over. The standard of Dutch beer has gone up, but the influx of beer from other countries is bigger now as well. Every bar or restaurant I go to now has at least something local. Utrecht then was already a hub for great beer and it still is today. Other cities have also caught on but I am lucky to live between Amsterdam and Utrecht.

I have enjoyed writing and chronicling the Dutch “craft” beer revolution. I have put craft in quotation marks because I don’t really think this is the right term anymore. That is why you won’t see me use it a lot anymore. Another thing you won’t see me do is write about what I think of a certain beer. Flavor is something personal. A nicely made tripel or blonde might be great but I will likely never enjoy it as much as a double ipa or an imperial stout. I will leave that to others. My blog is not about me but about the great and varied group of people that has worked hard the last ten years to make beer into the multi million euro business that it is today.

And I will keep writing about it and inform you about the people and places that make up Dutch brewing. And in English so that everyone can understand what great beer we make here.

It has been a blast these last ten years, let’s add at least ten more.

Anthony Bourdain visits In De Wildeman

I don’t know exactly when I first saw Anthony Bourdain on TV. It must have been one of the first episodes of No Reservations on the Discovery Channel. He visited Iceland and even though it wasn’t much for food I kept watching having once been to this country. His somewhat sarcastic outlook, his willingness to try everything and his fondness for 70s punkrock struck a chord. When I started writing about beer he was a big influence. I knew that a slew of food allergies would prevent me from ever writing about food as he did, but I could tackle beer at least. The shows turned me onto his books. Both his television work and books were about more than just the food, they were also about the role that food played in the culture, sometimes he even went as far as to completely forgo the food and just talk about the history and culture of a part of the world. And my aim has always been to show the role beer and everything related to it plays in the world.

Then came the sad news that he took his own life while filming in France.

He never visited The Netherlands for an hour long episode of any of his shows and I can understand that. His only visit to Amsterdam was in 1970 when he, like so many other around that time, slept in the Vondelpark. Living here is great and the food is great too, but the local delicacies are few and not really worth a trip for. He did record an episode of The Layover where he stays in a city for 36 hours and eats and visits places. And in those 36 hours he basically ate what all tourists though. Some snacks but nothing earth shattering. Some cafes, pancakes, herring and yes even the FEBO. If you like fried stuff and have never been here visit one of these. It’s a wonderful smorgasbord of fried stuff with influences from Indonesia, America, Germany and more.

But there is one part of the episode that is very exciting. For a few hours he visited In De Wildeman. He sat outside with Dutch actor Cees Geel and drank beers. And for once he actually seems to enjoy sitting somewhere and not be part of the touristy nightmare that it most of Amsterdam. No more talk of prostitutes, herring and drugs.

A person on the local production staff always liked In De Wildeman and somehow got it into the show. And he really is as long as they say in the city. No fancy editing or lying. 36 hours is 36 hours. If you seem him tired and cranky, it is because he is.

Beer is a common thread throughout all of Bourdain’s work. When you watch an episode, notice that he is usually drinking a beer at a meal. Whether this is in Europe or his beloved South-East Asia, a bottle of cold beer is usually standing on the table. Wine and spirits only when the item in the show is particularly about it.

After the episode aired, and especially after his death, people who visit Amsterdam sometimes try and visit all the places that Bourdain went to on his short trip. And of course In De Wildeman is part of that pilgrimage. Quite often people come up to the In De Wildeman staff to say they are there because of Bourdain.

The few hours spent there is what every traveler to Amsterdam should do. A quiet oasis of bliss in an otherwise overcrowded city.

Oh, and about that smoking of the weed you are probably wondering about? Throughout the episode he jokingly abstains from doing it, because of television rules and regulation in the US. But legend has it he did go smoke afterwards. And that it wasn’t a short time…

Walhalla, a boat ride to ‘beer’ heaven

My second destination my first day back in Amsterdam was Walhalla. The trip from In De Wildeman to Walhalla is a short one, but does include a 5-minute ferryride across the IJ river. Because this is public transport a facemask is obligatory. Life is turning back to normal slowly but there are small signs everywhere that the corona pandemic is not over, the mask being one of those.

When I was at In De Wildeman earlier that day I saw Walhalla’s Loki being poured the most. Proof that Walhalla has turned into one of Amsterdam’s premier breweries, when a world-renowned bar serves your beer in these quantities.

The moment I step through the door I recognize that familiar smell. The thick, slightly sweet odor of brewing. I am in Amsterdam-Noord to fulfill a wish and promise I have had for over two years now: to visit the Walhalla brewery. Owner Aart looks on while two employees are brewing. The Loki is on the schedule today it turns out.

Corona

I move into the adjoining taproom and look around. About 15 minutes later Aart joins me. Inevitably the conversation turns to how Walhalla faired while all the bars were closed.

Almost immediately after the bars closed they put their webshop online. This turned out to be a great move. The staff that usually took care of the bar now made the packages that they themselves delivered all over Amsterdam. Fans also came by to pick up beer, fans who really supported their locals. Through a deal with BeerWulf they were able to turn their kegs of leftover beer into two liter growlers that were sold for hometaps. A nice cooperation that benifits all.

Of course he, like every other brewer, feared in the beginning how it would end but things went more than fine. Shops and supermarkets kept ordering and people kept drinking Walhalla beer. But having the doors open is the best.

Brewery

Let’s return to the brewery for a second. 6 smaller tanks line the wall and a beautiful wood-finished mashtun immediately catches the eye. Walhalla only brews beer for kegs and cans at this premise. A mobile canning company comes by every so often from Luxemburg and cans the beer. Corona postponed this one time and Walhalla was able to use fellow Amsterdam brewery Poesiat + Kater’s canning machine. Once again showing that breweries are colleagues and not competitors.

This is not the first brewery Aart has made beer in. Before this he occupied a refurbished changing room of local football team. This was when he was still half of brewery De Vriendschap (The Friendship). It was even before this location that I interviewed him first and to see this amazing progress is wonderful. When this brewery folded he made a restart as Walhalla. From being a musician he is now a full-time brewery owner. The theme of gods is also part of the entire look of the labels and the names of the beers. There are names like Loki, Heimdall, Osiris and Aphrodite to name just a few. And he barrel ages too under the Daemon line with excellent results already 11 different versions through the years.

Walhalla Taproom

While Aart and I were talking the staff was slowly setting up the bar and the tables outside for the 4pm opening. The 1.5 meter taped lines still visible on the floor inside and ground outside. They got permission to use a piece of barren land across the street which should be great during nice warm summer evenings. And if you want to sit inside you need to leave a name and email address, just in case something corona related happens again. It is one of those things to get used to, just like asking if people have had coronatype symptoms in the last 24 hours.

But don’t let the ferry or the social distancing rules hold you back. Walhalla is a great spot for beer lovers. Oh, and make sure to get a tasting paddle. Not just for the great beer but the board itself is already a small work of art. The W of Walhalla lends itself for this perfectly. I really should have visited a lot earlier…

My next time definitely won’t take another two years.

Here is a video our friends over at Tasty Tales made a while ago

And In De Wildeman is open too

My first beer visit after the reopening of the bars was at Oproer where I was at 12:00 sharp, the exact time when bars and restaurants were allowed to open again. Utrecht is not too far from where I live by bike. My second trip to a beer destination had to be In De Wildeman. Because public transport is still only for essential personnel I again got on my bike and cycled the 20 kilometres to Amsterdam. It was fortunately a nice day. A perfect day for this happy occasion.

In De Wildeman is my favorite bar in Amsterdam and it fortunately opens every day at 12:00. So I had made a reservation by e-mail from 12 till 2. Reservations are only needed inside. You don’t need one to sit outside. You can just sit down if there is space of course. You can still just walk into a bar and ask if there is space, but that can lead to being turned away because of the no-more-than-30-people rule. If you are in luck and there is a seat available inside you have to leave your name, email address and phonenumber. Just in case a contact investigation has to be done later.

When I arrived owner Simon was already outside talking to some customers. Finally, he had been looking forward to this for weeks.

The days before the inside was tuned into a social distancing bar. Immediately at the door you are shown the hand sanitizer station and most people are asked if you are feeling well and if you had any coronalike symptoms in the last 24 hours. A question that every bar and restaurant has to ask, though the awkwardness of the question often leads to not asking it all.

There are now screens everywhere between seats to stay at a save distance from the table next to you. This means a reduction in the number of seats, even though 30 is the maximum at the moment anyway. The big Jever cardboard screens and crates do make you thirsty. There are signs every where warning telling you to keep the 1,5 meter distance.

Different menu

The legendary menu above the door was not full but only had 11 spots for beer, half of the board is empty. With fewer people it makes no sense to open all of them. Some of the usual standard beers here like a Weizen and Jever but some good sours from Wild Beer and Brewdog too. The book with all the bottled beers and snacks has disappeared from the table. Too many people could touch it and spread the virus. And to wipe a book with a lot of pages every time is a waste of time. But you can always ask what else is available.

Yet some things remain the same. Simon still knows almost everyone and talks to everyone. The beers are still great and the service ditto. It is interesting to see him don the red Wildeman outfit himself again, something I had not seen for a while. And they are also opening the door on Sunday, usually a day when it was closed.

Everyone, both bars and guests, are still getting used to all the rules. Some bars across the country have already run into trouble. People tend to stand and don’t keep to social distancing. Figuring all of this out takes time. But let’s also hope this period will end soon. Not that we should all of sudden abandon all the social distancing rules that try and keep us safe from a horrible disease. Let’s hope we get rid of the disease, I want to see a full board about the door again and even though this helps the bars, they still need more guest. So support your local bar as much as you can.

One Love?

Racism in the craft beer community is real. Like in the rest of the world it should be confronted whenever it is seen and called out for what it is. We do not tolerate racism in any form and want to play our part in confronting it and making the beer a place where everyone is welcome. It’s time to listen, learn and change. One Love.

Nice sentiment in these troubled times isn’t? This is a statement from Oedipus released on their Facebook page on June 8th. It is great that people in general and breweries specifically take a stand, something that should happen more in Holland. And racism in the craft beer community is real, just look at the brewers who still stand behind the outdated tradition of Zwarte Piet.

However that this statement is coming from Oedipus is surprising to say the least. Last year Oedipus announced that they were partnering with Heineken. Heineken’s track record on racial matters, especially in Africa, is one of contempt for human rights for decades.

Some examples, taken from Olivier van Beemen’s excellent Heineken in Africa:

During the genocide in Rwanda Heineken did not stop brewing. In fact its business went quite well. Many of the participating in the ethnic slaughter were drinking beer from Heineken

When the white South African installed apartheid in the early 60’s some international companies left but Shell and Heineken stayed. There was backlash against both throughout the decades. Shell had to deal boycotts and slashed hoses at gasstations. But Shell and Heineken could make more there then it lost so it stayed. In fact it was urged to senior people within the company “not to act in opposition to the letter/spirit of Apartheid”. 

In the decade when many African countries gained their independence Heineken used the chaos and lack of government oversight to funnel their profit to banks in Switzerland, thereby paying hardly any tax. They also wrote the alcohol tax code in some instances.

In Cambodia girls were used to promote the beer, something that turned into indirect prostitution. They were harassed, forced into having sex with customers just to sell beer. This has also happened in Africa. Time and time again Heineken vowed to do something about it and some steps were made but the problem existed. Research was done, by an intern no less. Parliament tried to force Heineken to stop doing this, Dutch bank ASN pulled it from their investment funds and Bill Gates stopped working with Heineken in Africa.

In 2018 it was still going on. Can you imagine this happening in Europe and with white beer promotion girls?

I am ok with a company making a business decision to join forces with a multination like Oedipus has done with Heineken. But in doing so you are also saying you are fine with their business practices. If you were not you should find another, better suited partner to do business with. Much of Heineken’s dealings in Africa stem from a deeprooted racism since the time they started there.  Or as someone in Heineken said “the negro stands, no matter how you think about it, on a much lower step on the cultural ladder than the Javanese”. Attitudes have changed somewhat since this was said in the 1950s but Heineken has kept doing its business in more than dirty ways, as their dealings in Rwanda and South-Africa have shown. And Oedipus, you didn’t really help the world become a better place when you combined with Heineken. Did you confront Heineken or was the bag of Euros mightier?

If you want to read more about Heineken in Africa read Olivier van Beemen’s excellent book, or start with his equally excellent piece in The Guardian.

The Bars are Open Again!

Monday June 1st, the day a large part of the country was looking forward to. The day the bars and restaurants were allowed to open again. They were in luck. Monday was a holiday and the weather turned out to be great for sitting outside.

I decided to go to Oproer whose doors opened at noon sharp. Because public transport is still only meant for people in important jobs I took my bike. Something I will forced to do more in the coming weeks.

Bars had been working hard the days before to get things ready. Heavy use of rulers and tape was needed to divide the inside part and outside terrace to make sure there would be distance between seats and to make sure that when you walk you don’t run into each other thanks to the assigned walking routes.

City officials had come by a day earlier to see if everything was correct. In Oproer’s case it was. The police won’t actively patrol to see if everyone follows the 1,5 meter rule. Only when they get a credible call that something is not ok will they come. This has happened a few times in the Netherlands on Monday. Maybe having a conga line through your restaurant is not the best idea, as the owner of a restaurant in the south had to admit.

The 1,5 meter rule is a hard one to adhere to but people are at least trying. If it was not 1,5 it was not very close together. Although I don’t know how it would be after several people had a big glass of double stout. Staff also has to ask visitors if they had symptoms in the last 24 hours. A weird question to be honest. People will either not go out when they are sick or when they have been sick won’t answer truthfully. There was cleaning stuff all over the place to wash your hands. Staff was wearing gloves and dirty glasses had to be deposited in blue boxes.

From what I heard downtown Utrecht took a little longer to fill up. People might still be somewhat cautious. But it is great to see people laughing while drinking a beer. Hopefully this will last for the time being and the second wave of corona won’t hit it so hard and that the bars can stay open.

The weather turned out to be beautiful, I even got a sunburn sitting outside. This was needed because even though the bars are open again the owners still need the income to recover some of the losses of the last three months. Oproer turned out to have a good day, indoors there were reserved signs on most of the tables, which is good. You did not need a reservation to sit outside but that got fuller as well by the time I left.

It is still a situation everyone is getting used to and bars will have run into problems they had not thought of. In good Dutch ways the government won’t immediately start. Let’s hope for more good days like this to restart the Dutch brewing world.