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.

Inhoud

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.

Ingredients

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

Enjoy!

Welcome Back

Welcome my beer loving friends.

I don’t know if you remember me. For a long time I wrote a blog about Dutch beer. But about two and a half years ago I stopped. And for a great reason! I was one of the fortunate ones who made a hobby into a career. For two years I helped out Oproer, a brewery I was already a fan of before when they were still Rooie Dop and Ruig.

It was an experience that made me look at the world of beer from the inside. An experience that I think will be invaluable for the restart of what once were the Dutch Beer Pages. My plan about a decade ago was to build a site that gave the reader all the needed information about beer in Holland. But the number of breweries and cafes is now so vast that an attempt to be all encompassing will only lead to a huge muddled mess. And the name was rather lame right?

But the blog will still be about the world of Dutch brewing and the people who create, form and inhabit it. It will definitely not be about me. I see too many blogs where the focus seems to be on the writer and not the subject. So here is what I promise:

  1. No pictures of me. I don’t think your appreciation of a brewery, bar, or festival is in anyway enhanced with my face.
  2. No reviews of beer. Just read my rating on Untappd if you really want to know. Taste is very personal and I see no reason to tell you a particular beer makes me think of some long last candy from the 80s. Do you guys really read a page long review of an Amstel light? It will definitely be part of articles if I really like it, but never the focus.
  3. No style hierarchy. Of course I have my preferences. I will never be a triple fan and love Russian Stouts. But that doesn’t make one brewery less than the other. Only quality does. What I aim to find out is why a brewery chose to make a triple instead of DIPA. If they didn’t make both of course.

What I am going for is making the brewery or bar the main focus. Why do they do what they do? What has influenced them to take this route and how have their own views changed over the years. My former blog was always focused on telling the reader things that were new. Background or a deeper insight if you will. That will not change.

And this won’t only be about the present. I will also write about beer culture in the past. There are a lot of stories still untold about that as well. Maybe not for a local, but a lot of it has never really been told in English.

So I present to you: Hop Culture Reference. A blog on which I am going to attempt to tell you more about this wonderful sub-culture. Because of family and a fulltime job I don’t know how often I will write something. The aim is two new articles per month. I already have some things lined up. Follow the blog on all the social media I am using.

I am looking forward to writing again and I hope you are willing to read it once in a while. The blog will grow and change and I would like you all to be part of it. A lot has changed in a decade, let’s see what the beer world looks like now.

See you all soon.