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Brewing Science in the Netherlands, 1815-1914

by Richard W Unger

Dutch brewing has enjoyed for over a century a reputation for the making of high quality beer in commercial quantities, produced and distributed throughout the world.1 Recognition came as early as 1889 at the Paris World's Fair. The Heineken brewery won a gold medal of honour for its pilsner, an impressive accolade and especially for a brewer who had only been in business for twenty-five years.2 The achievement of the 1880s, the ability to match techniques of the best brewers in the world and produce competitive beer, was even more remarkable because of the desperate state of brewing in the Kingdom of the Netherlands just thirty years before that. The long term change showed up most dramatically in the figures for output of beer in the nineteenth century [see Table 1]. Around 1865 a pattern of sustained and dramatically rising production replaced the unchanging low levels of production that had prevailed in first half of the nineteenth century. The compound rate of increase from 1860 to 1913 was 2.2% and in the truly torrid years from 1865 to 1905 the pace was 7.9%. All that was accomplished when population was growing slowly. The dramatic transformation of Dutch brewing from a sleepy fossil of a bygone era to an aggressive, rapidly expanding industry able to compete internationally depended very heavily on the adoption of new scientific techniques.

Table 1: Annual Average Production of Beer in the Netherlands in hectolitres

Years Holland Kingdom of the Netherlands
1620-40 2,185,500
1652 1,897,930
1665-69 1,696,638
1871-80 1,305,553
1881-90 2,206,334
1891-1900 2,237,860

Sources: Sources: R.J. Yntema (1992) The Brewing Industry in Holland, 1300-1800: A Study in Industrial Development. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, The University of Chicago, 63-68. J.P. Smits, E. Horlings and J.L. van Zanden c. (1992) The Measurement of Gross National Product and its Components. The Netherlands, 1800-1913, Research memorandum from the N.W. Posthumus Institute.

Though other factors played a role in the revival of brewing the turn to science, imported from other parts of Europe, was an essential component. Up to that revival starting from around 1870 Dutch brewing was typified by lethargy, by isolation from major trends in European brewing and, above all by a lack of interest in or use of the new scientific knowledge that flowed from the study of physics and chemistry. The history of brewing science in the Netherlands, up to the closing years of the nineteenth century, is the history of a non-existent phenomenon. It is difficult to describe events which did not occur and even more difficult to explain why they did not occur. At least in the case of the Dutch and brewing science there are many examples from Germany, Austria, Denmark, and Britain of the creation, promotion, and use of new knowledge both theoretical and practical. Those other parts of Europe offer a basis for measuring the laggard character of the industry in the Netherlands and also a basis for explaining why the Dutch took so long to join brewers and brewing around the world in the search for improvements so that they could enjoy the late nineteenth century brewing boom too.

The scientific basis for Dutch brewing after the 1870s separated it from its predecessor in the Renaissance. Dutch brewing had known great success in the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century. A number of towns in Holland had thriving brewing industries and there were sizeable annual exports to other parts of the Low Countries and to Britain. Dutch consumption and production levels were comparable to those anywhere in Europe.

It was only in the closing years of the nineteenth century, using techniques and equipment based on scientific advances, that large scale Dutch brewers even approached the levels of production of the many small independent breweries of the Golden Age. While that does suggest something about the skills of premodern brewers and their ability to control what was a complex biochemical process the revival of Dutch brewing attests to the importance of a series of changes in the understanding of brewing and how people were to practice the trade after the nineteenth century.

When Dutch brewing finally joined the trend toward the adoption of what could loosely be called scientific practices, in the 1860s and even more so in the 1870s, the advances in methods were not based on indigenous ideas, research or personnel. Virtually everything about the new technology in brewing came from elsewhere in Europe. At the time the adoption of foreign knowledge and techniques seemed logical since so many other states in Europe had brewing industries far more effective by any measure than the one in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Even after the adoption of new techniques and the establishment of large brewing corporations the Netherlands still found itself struggling to catch up with other states in Europe. Not surprisingly Dutch production was much smaller than that of the United Kingdom or Germany or the United States but as late as 1900 Dutch output was still only 13% of that of Belgium and less than that of Sweden.3 [see Table 2] Dutch brewing paid a high price for being late in turning to science as an aid in beer production compared to other parts of Europe. There was an advantage: knowledge came already formed and could be imported efficiently, embodied in immigrants who had experience with the new ways of making beer already in use elsewhere. Dutch brewers proved extremely good at accepting and exploiting the best of developments in England, Bavaria, Denmark and the rest of Europe. The adoption of imported technologies coincided with changes in government policies on brewing and the taxation of brewing, often made possible and certainly promoted by new scientific knowledge and instrumentation. Public policy in the late nineteenth century came to favour brewing, something not the case for many decades before that. Public policy, unlike in other jurisdictions, did little to generate an interest among brewers in what measurement could do to improve their product and their industry.

The transformation in Dutch brewing in the last third of the nineteenth century came from a number of sources including producers' adoption of steam power, a shift to making Bavarian style or pilsner beer, producers' adoption of improved cooling equipment, and their use of pasteurization which in turn allowed them to make reliable bottled beer. So science was not alone in causing the rapid development of Dutch brewing. However, more accurate measurement of temperature and specific gravity along with a greater ability to control yeasts, practices imported, hold a prominent place in the roots of Dutch beer makers’ success. That is not to say Dutch brewers leapt at the chance to bring novel methods to the workplace. Even as late as the 1850s the invasion of measurement had left little mark in breweries in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The small and declining industry up to mid century failed to find or seize opportunities and possibly even resisted change. Between 1813 and 1869 of the 4,538 patents registered in the Netherlands only 29 had anything to do with beer and brewing.4 The lethargy of the brewing industry would finally be disturbed by the growth in scientific knowledge and the example of brewers elsewhere who showed that it was worthwhile to invest in the use of that knowledge. While why Dutch brewing was so slow to adopt techniques developed elsewhere or to generate new methods at all remains a mystery it is still possible to suggest some of the reasons for the failure to follow the general trend toward scientific brewing. Whatever lay behind the delay, in the closing years of the nineteenth century when the industry closed the ground with foreign competitors it did so with a vengeance.

Table 2: Total Output by Countryin hectolitres

Year Netherlands Bavaria Belgium Germany UK Sweden
1880 12,322,272
1885 9,367,000
1900 2,110,000 14,761,000 66,831,000 59,953,087 2,893,910
1910 1,508,700 16,000,000 63,754,000 56,491,866 2,668,003
1911 17,800,000 64,465,000 58,813,300 2,869,418

Sources: H. Blink (1914) ‘Geschiedenis en verbreiding van de bierproductie en van den bierhandel’, Tijdschrift voor economische geographie 10 100-01. J. Siebel et al., (Eds.) (1903) One Hundred Years of Brewing A Complete History of the Progress made in the Art, Science and Industry of Brewing in the World, particularly during the Nineteenth Century. Historical Sketches and Views of Ancient and Modern Breweries. Lives and Portraits of Brewers of the Past and Present A Supplement to The Western Brewer Chicago and New York: H. S. Rich and Co., Publishers. Reproduced Evansville: Unigraphic, Inc., 1973. 697.

In the eighteenth century there were already signs of application of scientific knowledge to the brewing process and dissemination of that information in Europe. Even then Netherlanders were slow to follow the path away from a purely artisanal approach to making beer. A number of eighteenth century authors wrote about brewing, especially in England, offering advice on how to make beer at home and how to use new instruments. Such works started to appear in the last decade of the seventeenth century and became standard fare through the eighteenth.5 One Dutch work on beer appeared in the seventeenth century, a learned work in Latin of little if any practical value.6 A short work published in 1745 by a practical brewer who had been a pharmacist and later became a medical doctor showed the experience of a brewer, but despite the author's background there were few if any signs of an interest in science.7 A much more comprehensive Dutch work appeared at the end of the eighteenth century. A life long brewer, Jakobus Buijs retold in detail the tasks that were part of operating a brewery.8 He was recruited to write the section on beer making in what was a massive multi volume effort devoted to describing a broad range of trades, the goal being to promote domestic industry. The two eighteenth century Dutch works on brewing were unique and were the products of specific circumstances. The authors reported knowledge generated from experience. There was no effort at theorizing. There was in the Netherlands, unlike in England, no contribution to the growing scientific literature.

Research and the dissemination of the results of research into brewing continued in the nineteenth century with the Netherlands conspicuous for its limited contribution, that despite enjoying the highest per capita income among countries in Europe into the 1830s. The chemists who worked on the biochemistry of brewing may not have always reached the right conclusions, but they did, thanks to their research, develop novel methods of understanding the brewing process. Authors, especially in England, continued to promote the use of the thermometer. Descriptions of the value of measuring temperatures with some precision appeared in books by the mid eighteenth century. By the early nineteenth century in England brewers using thermometers became standard and assumed to some degree to be normal.9 James Joule, who was to become a renowned physicist, in the 1830s and 1840s spent his days working in the family brewery and his evenings doing experiments on mechanics and the physics of heat. He advanced the use of thermometers for scientific work but in the context of their use in breweries. The ability to measure temperature more accurately complemented efforts to measure specific gravity of the products of the brewing enterprise with the hydrometer or saccharometer. 10 In France the work of Anselm Payen on enzymes and fermentation and in Germany of Justus Liebig on the actions of different types of yeasts and in Bohemia of Carl Balling from 1837 on fermentation chemistry had no counterpart in the Netherlands.11 The final success with yeasts was marked in the 1870s by the publication, in a number of languages, of Louis Pasteur's book on beer.12 Pasteur insisted yeasts should be pure and he offered a lengthy description of how to purify them. Armed with his methods Emil C. Hansen, an employee of J.C. Jacobsen's Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen from 1879, was able to isolate a single yeast cell and so could produce reliable and predictable yeasts. Over the following thirty years chemists invaded European and North American breweries. Jacobsen had already set on the path to promote the use of science by setting up a laboratory in his brewery to do experiments and run control tests, that in 1875. Having given his laboratory a solid financial base it became the model for all breweries.13 The result was a final victory for the scientists in the brewing industry by the 1890s, even in the Netherlands.

Dutch brewing by the end of the century joined the general European trend but the road to that convergence had not been a simple one. Science in Dutch brewing in the nineteenth century was remarkable for its absence. While other parts of Europe could boast a number of scholars, scientists, and writers on science and brewing in the Kingdom of the Netherlands the physician and professor of medicine at the University of Utrecht, G.J. Mulder, was in the middle years of the century a lonely voice. At least there was in the Netherlands some discussion of brewing related to questions of workers' welfare. Beer, as the writer A.M. Ballot pointed out in 1856, made men stronger and healthier than did gin, the much more popular drink in Holland. In 1820, according to one estimate, for each litre of beer consumed people in the Netherlands drank .7 litres of gin, the latter of course having an alcohol content on average some eight to ten times the former. Ballot also noted that beer was getting better thanks to scientific advances in Germany and Britain. By implication he was pointing to the slow progress of domestic brewing.14 It was questions of health that drew Mulder to the study of beer. He was convinced that the shift from beer to Dutch gin implied a decline in the welfare of Hollanders since the food value of a given volume of beer is greater than that for the same volume of spirits. Going back to drinking beer would mean healthy bodies which would be homes for healthy souls. Promoting domestic brewing for social reasons, he even wrote a book on how to make beer designed to guide beer makers in improving quality. Dutch beer imports in 1854 were seven times what they were in 1826 he noted so obviously others could make good beer. Mulder thought one reason the Dutch could not produce quality beer was that they used canal water and well water, both contaminated by waste or impurities as well as salt from the sea.15 He did discuss the performance of different yeasts at different temperatures. He was certainly familiar with writers on fermentation such as Liebig. He was aware of measures of the specific gravity of various types of beer from Germany and Belgium as well as the Netherlands. He called for determination of the carbon dioxide, alcohol content and amount of unspent grains as well as the quality of water for differentiating beers. He identified various specific chemicals that would affect the quality of beer, implying that chemical analysis of water was valuable. He even outlined methods of research and ways to report the results of that research.16 While he did muster more or less what was known about the science of brewing in his life time his polemics against gin and in favour of beer were still more descriptive than analytical. In any case his calls for the use of chemistry to improve brewing and so make life better for Dutchmen appear to have had little effect. Even at mid century with the sharing of knowledge among brewers, voluntarily or by subterfuge, an established part of European brewing17 and with a rapidly growing scientific literature and even academic investigation of brewing Mulder was a rarity among Dutchmen. The impact of his writings was much less than that economic developments which forced Dutch entrepreneurs to take an interest in science.

From the 1870s the transfer of various technologies in use in brewing, rather than scientific advances, set Dutch brewing on a new course. But at the same time the adoption of new technologies did promote the injection of science into brewing. Technical change brought with it a complex of methods which then drew in science and promoted an interest in and adoption of scientific advances. The change was driven by a turn to making Bavarian or pilsner beer, made with yeast that fell to the bottom of the fermentation trough. The yeast worked more slowly than other types and at lower temperatures. Pilsner was less liable to go bad and so could be stored until customers were ready to buy it. The problem was that making pilsner was more expensive than using older established beer making methods. Mulder urged the brewing of pilsner but in that, as with calls for a more scientific approach, he was largely ignored, that is until the 1860s. About that time the development of effective mechanical refrigeration equipment made it possible for breweries to carry out fermentation at lower and better regulated temperatures. Dr. Carl Linde's system, available to brewers from the 1870s, became the preferred one and its presence opened the doors to dramatic changes in Dutch brewing.18

The growth of the rail network led by the 1850s to rising imports of pilsner into the Netherlands. From 1846 to 1863 beer imports increased twenty-fold. Beer in the Bavarian style had been brewed in Holland in the eighteenth century so the method was known. Dutch brewers did, in the 1840s and 1850s, make an effort to produce what was a luxury beer, but the costs proved too high to make that viable or at least that was the complaint in 1856 of the Hague brewer B.M. Perk who tried it and failed. He blamed the high cost on the tax system which made it virtually impossible for him to match the quality of what was made in Munich.19 Making beer in the Bavarian way meant new plant and new equipment, some of which was expensive and it was not possible to brew in both the new and old style in the same building because of the potential for contamination. Shifting to making pilsner entailed a major undertaking.

In 1866 some Amsterdam investors, along with the owner of a Nuremberg brewery, opened the first modern brewery in the Netherlands, the Royal Netherlands Bavarian Beer Brewery. Investors hoped to capitalize on the market for the new kind of beer and to replace German imports, and they succeeded. Imports fell by 20% between 1866 and 1868. The success led Heineken to go over to producing Bavarian beer in 1869 and to the establishment of another new brewery, the Bavarian Brewery De Amstel founded in 1871. Amstel, like Heineken, imported skilled experienced German workers to make pilsner. The brewers sold their new higher-priced type as a drink for gentlemen, saying the older style beer was a workman's drink.20 The change even generated a significant increase in Dutch beer exports. The end result was a marked improvement in the trade balance in beer. In the years 1887-96 the average annual surplus of exports over imports was about 5,000 hectolitres, but by 1911 it had climbed to 40,800 hectolitres, a great advance but still exports were only a small portion of total output. 21

The general growth in the economy in the Netherlands in the 1870s, along with changes in beer drinking and some help from changes in taxation, all made those years an excellent time to invest in Dutch brewing. The three Amsterdam Bavarian style breweries transformed the industry and, with new plant and equipment, rising sales, and sizeable profits, the brewers were in a position to and interested in taking advantage of scientific advances, something that the small, anemic, and shrinking industry of the first half of the nineteenth century was not capable of doing. Just as the new technology was imported so too was the science.

Gerard Adriaan Heineken entered brewing in 1864 when he bought an old established Amsterdam brewery. He took an active part in the import of equipment, personnel, techniques and know how, including scientific knowledge, that dominated the last third of the century in the Netherlands. In 1867 he travelled to Germany where he met and hired Wilhelm Feltmann, Jr., a strong advocate of the Bavarian brewing method. Feltmann was a major contributor to the 1869 decision to go over to the production of pilsner beer. Consciously imitating the standard practice among brewers at the time, Heineken sent his brewmaster on a long trip abroad to study brewing in Germany and Austria and to gain new information about technology. But Feltmann also brought back information about science.22 It was on a later trip to Copenhagen in 1879 that Feltmann saw a Linde refrigeration machine in action. He improved the machine when he installed one in 1881 in the Heineken brewery. He saved money because he no longer had to buy ice, but he also saved space which could then be used for making more beer. On another trip in 1885 at a meeting in Munich Feltmann learned of Hansen's work and came back to the Netherlands urging Heineken to adopt the practice at Carlsberg. Within a year there was a laboratory in the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam, producing cultured yeast in imitation of Hansen's Copenhagen laboratory.23

The new large enterprises, and especially the Heineken brewery, by the end of the nineteenth century integrated new science into breweries just as all the major brewers in Europe and North America did at that time. There were still signs of the Dutch being followers. Notably they was still no centre of research or brewing education in the Netherlands. Lectures on fermentation started in the engineering school in Prague in 1818, later to be given by Balling.24 Weihenstephan, near Munich, was home to a school of brewing from about 1850 and in 1872 it became a centre of research. Worms and Augsburg had brewers' academies by 1879. Berlin got a similar institution in 1883, Britain in 1899 at Birmingham University, and even Chicago got a brewing school which grew out of an earlier analytical lab and experiment station in 1884.25 There was nothing similar in the Netherlands. At least there was a serial devoted to the industry. The first number of the Dutch journal De Bierbrouwer, which was directed to small and middle-sized breweries, appeared only in 1895.26 That did, however, put it far behind its German predecessor, Der Bierbrauer: Monatsberichte über die Fortschritte des gesammten Brauwesens, which had its first number printed in 1859 at Leipzig. What is more there was a proliferation of journals in German by the 1880s and periodicals appeared throughout Europe in various languages about that time. In the dissemination of information and in training the Dutch again lagged.

Dutch brewers attacked and solved one long standing problem in the 1860s and 1870s. That was the one of getting supplies of good water. The effort to replace the contaminated and often brackish water that was close to brewing sites was another product of the adoption of Bavarian style brewing and the increase in scale which the new technology implied. It is not obvious the degree to which the effort was based on scientific knowledge. Mulder had pointed to problems of certain chemicals in water which could lead to poor quality beer. So at least there was one source of scientific information to support what had long been a widespread view that water quality was a problem for Dutch brewing. It was evolving engineering techniques that finally made it possible to overcome the difficulties of living in a delta with many slow running streams inundated daily by tides of salt water from the sea. Amsterdam brewers solved the problem by contracting with new companies that piped in water from wells in the dunes to the west of Haarlem. The sand acted as a natural filter so that water drawn from beneath them had been to a great degree freed from harmful chemicals. Heineken, for example, in 1869 signed an agreement with the Dunes Water Company to supply his brewery. In other towns it was the installation of systems of piped water to supply the entire population which gave brewers a steady supply of purified water. Dordrecht, for example, established such a system in 1884 and so freed brewers from using water from the harbour. Science may have indicated the problem with the water but since the sixteenth century Amsterdam brewers had been importing water by barge from inland in order to keep up the quality of their beer. The difficulty was well known long before any scientific evidence was produced.27 At least chemistry indicated what brewers did not want in their water and engineering in various forms made it possible for brewers to get what they needed. From the 1870s reliable supplies of quality water were available to make superior beer, removing another constraint and possibly generating in the process a somewhat greater interest in science.

There is no single adequate explanation for the slow process of the adoption of scientific brewing in the Netherlands. The pattern was, however, consistent. The Dutch were imitators and importers, borrowing from other parts of Europe, and that was still largely true even when Dutch brewing thrived at the close of the nineteenth century, finally regaining the status it had enjoyed in the Golden Age of the seventeenth century. Even by 1900 with a competitive Dutch industry comparable to those elsewhere the Dutch were still slow to generate scientific knowledge though quick to imitate others. The dependence on others was both consistent and surprising. Certainly the size of the market for beer, shrinking since the mid seventeenth century, must have been a deterrent to investment in new techniques and exploration of new theories at least up to the 1860s. Real incomes in the Netherlands stagnated, moving little between the Golden Age and the late nineteenth century. As the country finally fell behind Great Britain consumers were not as able to buy beer and especially expensive beer. The ability of their counterparts elsewhere in Europe to afford to buy more beer was reflected in the relative levels of the per capita consumption of beer. [see Table 3] Market forces certainly created constraints for Dutch brewing, the most important of which was competition from the most popular alcoholic beverage of nineteenth century Dutch consumers, genever. Distilled spirits were of course a threat to brewers everywhere in Europe but many overcame the threat. While Mulder might complain about the poor nutritional value of gin, in 1842 the government of the Netherlands collected almost 10 times the amount from taxing distiled spirits as from taxing beer, wine and vinegar combined. In 1881 the ratio was almost 25 times. Taxes on spirits in 1881 produced no less than 22% percent of all government income.28 The tax regime might move in the direction of favouring beer but the massive difference in the revenue from the two drinks showed that brewers faced stiff competition and that governments, no matter the welfare implications for consumers, could not ignore the role of gin in Dutch life. The continued consumption of gin was necessary for the fiscal health of the state, fortunate for brewers in that it drew attention away from them, but unfortunate as that tax system and government policy were not designed to promote innovation in brewing. Actions of the government may have been an even stronger deterrent to adopting scientific methods in beer making than market forces.

Table 3: Per Capita Consumption of Beer in litres per year

Netherlands Sweden Belgium Bavaria UK
1820 82
1874 32.9
1874-80 33.1
1875-79 150.4
1880 13.7 230
1881-90 34.6
1885 162 123.25
1890 20.6
1900 41.9 221
1900-04 136.8
1904 26.7
1911 29

Sources: H. Blink op. cit., 106. A.C. M. Jansen (1987) ‘Bier in nederland en belgië een geografie van de smaak’, Nederlandse Geografische Studies, 39 Amsterdam: Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap/ Economisch-Geografisch Instituut Universiteit van Amsterdam, 269. G.Z. Jol (1933) Ontwikkeling en Organisatie der Nederlandsche Brouwindustrie Haarlem: De Erven F. Bohn N.V. 55-8. J. Siebel op. cit., 697, 717. H. Thunæus (1968-1970) Ölets historia i Sverige 2 vols. Stockholm: Almquist & Wiksell II, 252-4, 281. R. Yntema op. cit., 110.

Government tax policy and heavy taxation were targets for brewers' complaints for centuries. The motivation for those complaints went beyond the common desire to pay less in tax. The system in use in the first half of the nineteenth century was not only onerous, but also confusing and, unlike in other jurisdictions, probably delayed the adoption of scientific practices in breweries. The system almost certainly delayed the adoption of new techniques and the making of Bavarian beer. The tendency in the early nineteenth century to tax all alcoholic beverages on the basis of volume gave spirits and even wine a significant price advantage over beer. The shift to genever consumption which had started in the seventeenth century continued unabated. The new government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in general opted for greater freedom, more consistent with the principles of the French Revolution, but that lessening of restriction did not apply to brewing. A law of 1819 required extensive reporting, in writing, from anyone who set up a brewery. Hours of work were even fixed as were the maximum time of brewing and the minium size of the brew kettle. The goal might have been to guarantee the proper tax was paid but the rules could only act as constraints for innovators.29 The system and regulations not only deterred change by constantly subjecting brewers to surveillance, but also by making larger kettles a greater tax liability. That rewarded brewers who pumped more water through the tun, getting as much from the grain as possible and so pushing thinner beer through their breweries more quickly. What was more, tax payments were due in advance, before the beer could be sold, and so the brewer financed sales as well. The revised 1822 excise tax law, which remained in place largely unchanged until 1867, went even further in subjecting brewers to the strict control of government officials. The merger of the newly founded Kingdom of the Netherlands with the Austrian Netherlands after the Napoleonic Wars meant that the state had two different systems of brewing regulation to cover two different brewing traditions. The government had a hard time harmonizing the two because Holland brewers did not like the southern method of taxes based on the size of the mash tun. Brewers in the South, where weaker beers made up a much larger portion of output, liked that arrangement. The capacity tax had less of an impact on profitability since brewers could water down the wort in the fermentation trough after the levy had been assessed and so spread the tax across a larger quantity of beer. Brewers in the North wanted to keep their old system which was based on consumption and on the quality of beer as measured by the price. The new government opted for a uniform system for the kingdom in 1816 which followed the southern practice. The beer tax fell on the capacity of the mash tun, a fixed sum being due each time the tun was used no matter what beer was made. The method of levying the tax was incorporated into the law of 1822. The Dutch brewers lost but simply passed on the tax to consumers, raising prices and so hurting already poor sales.30 With tax levied on the size of the mash tun kettles remained smaller than those in other countries.31 Under the system which emerged in 1822 excise made up something on the order of 10-15% of brewers' total costs. In 1859 the charge was changed to an amount per barrel produced but much of the rest of the regulation stayed in place.32 Complaints about taxation yielded government studies in 1855 and 1863 which led to a new excise law in 1867. That legislation gave brewers the choice of being charged on the size of the mash tun, that is in the way taxes had been levied since 1816, or paying a tax on each pound of malt that they used. That the capacity tax should have survived that long and continue in use, even though the southern part of the Low Countries had broken away in 1830 to form the Kingdom of Belgium, is a sign of the conservatism and lack of consideration that the government extended to the brewing industry.

The dual system in place after 1867 had disadvantages but at least it did make producing pilsner beer economically viable. Before that brewers who changed over to making Bavarian beer did not have to face, as they had under the old regime, a 50 per cent increase in the effective tax rate. Not all the pilsner brewers were pleased with the new arrangement but at least it was an improvement for them.33 Many brewers stuck with the old method of taxation and as late as 1878 about half of the revenue from beer taxes came from the charge on the mash tun. Not incidentally the 1867 law increased the tax on spirits by 59 per cent. The new tax regime certainly tipped the balance toward brewers and helped to make the new pilsner brewers in Amsterdam successful. An 1871 law fixed the dual tax regime which would remain in place until 1917. All brewers certainly benefited from the dismantling of the entire excise tax system, a process which advanced slowly in the 1850s and 1860s. From 1856 brewers did not have to pay tax on grinding their malt and from 1864 they no longer had to pay tax on heating fuel.34 The lower taxes in general on brewing and the opportunity to brew higher quality beer without incurring a punitive increase in taxation helped to make investment in plant and equipment, and experiment in new types of brewing, interesting after that long period dating back to the Golden Age when the excise tax system became a constraining force for the industry. It was not just through heavy and varied taxes, though, that the government delayed the adoption of science in Dutch brewing.

The Netherlands was slow, compared to other jurisdictions, to accept the use of the saccharometer to measure the strength of beer. Dutch brewers knew about the use of thermometers by the 1830s but the hydrometer to measure sugar content in wort did not join their equipment until after mid century and then only in the largest breweries. The first number of the De Bierbrouwer in 1895 included a long article that explained the proper use of the saccharometer, the need for such information suggesting that the instrument was not widely used in the Netherlands even at that late date. Balling in the 1830s had already started experiments on the ratio between specific gravity and sugar concentrations. Earlier in England in the 1760s James Baverstock and then a Hull brewer, John Richardson, had already experimented with and published works on the proper use of the saccharometer. There was discussion of the relationship of temperature to measuring specific gravity and tables showing what readings meant in terms of fermentable matter. That gave English brewers and, thanks to Balling, Bohemian and German brewers an advantage.35 The Dutch again lagged far behind. The combination of the two instruments, the thermometer and saccharometer, along with newly available published tables did make possible more efficient extraction of vegetable matter in the mashing process.

In England the government, conscious of problems of measurement in assessing taxes, was interested in and promoted the use of the saccharometer. Excise inspectors may have been using a form of hydrometer as early as the 1750s and by 1837 those men were using 3,700 of the instruments. In 1842 the excise office even set up its own laboratory to do research on the measurement of alcohol content, work done in cooperation with professors of chemistry at the University of London. By 1856 in England the tax on beer was levied on the specific gravity of wort which made the use of the saccharometer ubiquitous. The decision to impose that practice forced English brewers through the rest of the nineteenth century to become aware of measurement and of the chemical processes that go on in making beer. The goal, expressed for example by the author of An Elementary Dictionary, or Cyclopaedia for the Use of Malsters, Brewers, Destillers, Rectifiers, Vinegar Manufacturers and Others, George Wigney, in 1838, that the brewery should be a chemistry laboratory following scientific knowledge, may not have been fully achieved, but the policies and practices of the British government certainly pushed brewers in that direction.36 The English method of taxing beer, based on its strength, rewarded skill and did not discriminate against quality.

Dutch brewers were slower to adopt the saccharomter than they had been, it would appear, in adopting the thermometer, and their government was slower to adopt specific gravity of the wort as a basis for taxation. The state only went over to what by then was common practice in other countries under the new beer law of 1917. The slow pace of adoption of the method is even more surprising since already by 1859 Dutch distillers paid their taxes based on the strength of the drink they sold and the strength was measured with hydrometers.37 It is difficult to say whether it was the Dutch government or Dutch brewers themselves who resisted a shift to using the saccharomter and to the more precise measurement of biochemical processes. The 1871 tax reform, incomplete by international standards, suggests that brewers in the Netherlands were not ready for a dramatic change in the method of levying duties but also suggests that the government was not in a position to impose a new and more scientific order either. There was a conservatism among brewers but also a lack of government interest in brewing so long as it was a small and relatively poor industry. The few new large pilsner brewers in Amsterdam starting in 1866 were the exception and the boom that they fostered in the industry drew increasing government attention from the 1870s on. There is an old saying in Dutch that meten ist weten, to measure is to know. Oddly it was not until the twentieth century and after brewing expanded dramatically that the industry embraced what was a common assumption in the country.

The Netherlands had been a centre of scientific achievement in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Individuals, universities, and many scientific societies produced and disseminated knowledge throughout Europe. But when it came to brewing the Kingdom of the Netherlands produced no stellar figures in the study of fermentation or measurement of relevant variables in the brewing process like those who had homes in England, Bohemia, Germany, France, and Denmark. The kingdom also had no institutions for research into or education in brewing practices like those that emerged in so many other parts of Europe in the nineteenth century. While there may well have been some interest in science among Dutch brewers and there may have been application of newer methods of measurement those were rare, of little note, and had no apparent effect on the industry until the closing decades of the century. The Dutch economy in general suffered in the first half of the nineteenth century. First the Napoleonic Wars and then the union with the Austrian Netherlands caused disruption in many facets of life and most notably in the economy. The system of urban political autonomy that had dominated the Dutch Republic got swept away by revolutionary changes at the close of the eighteenth century but the sense that each town, no matter how small, should have its own beer producer no matter how uneconomic, retained force. That kept the scale of beer production small and offered little opportunity or incentive for those small operators to change their practices. It would take improvements in transportation and especially the construction of a railroad network connecting the Netherlands to Germany to breakdown the local character of many beer markets. The addition of and then the loss of the southern provinces to a newly constituted Kingdom of Belgium created questions of how to tax beer production. The separation after 1830 did eliminate competition from the many breweries in the South but did not lead to any significant adjustment in the tax regime or at least not for some time. In Belgium beer consumption was higher per person and there was greater interest in manufacturing than in the North. After 1830 the Kingdom of the Netherlands was once again dominated by businessmen who were oriented more to trade and finance than to industry. That was true even during the Dutch Golden Age in the seventeenth century and the general tendency to favour banking and shipping can help to explain a lack of entrepreneurship and investment in brewing. But that explanation would only be valid up to the 1860s when Dutch investors backed first the Royal and then Heineken and then the Amstel brewery, all of which involved sinking sizeable amounts of capital in the risky venture of making beer in the Bavarian style. In retrospect the investment was not risky, but the choices of those investors was a departure from long standing practice and there was no certainty to the outcome. It is extremely doubtful that the backers had an interest in or understood much if anything at all about the science of brewing. But their commercial success and developments elsewhere in Europe quickly got them involved in incorporating learning into the production processes in their breweries. At least in the closing years of the nineteenth century there was, by design or default, no lack of men willing to promote and support the use of science in brewing.

By the 1860s and even more in the 1870s scientific knowledge about brewing was more sophisticated and improving rapidly, but above all it was free and available for the taking. The proliferation of scientific and engineering journals and ease of movement for people, including skilled workers, made the dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge easier than ever before and possibly easier than in any later period.38 The lack of barriers meant that Gerard Adriaan Heineken could hire a German brewmaster who, with no restrictions, could bring in refrigeration equipment from Germany and yeast from Denmark and imitate and improve what he found. The costs to Dutch brewers were only those of adoption since scientific work was already well advanced elsewhere. Because the Netherlands lagged behind other parts of Europe the issues in the late nineteenth century, during the period when brewers caught up with their counterparts, were adoption and adaptation.

G.J. Mulder in the middle of the nineteenth century had called on the Netherlands, on beer producers and beer nkers and the government to join in an effort to revive the domestic brewing industry. His works explored many aspects of the growing scientific knowledge about brewing, though it is true that he was a conservative when it came to the use of the saccharomter. But his calls through pamphlets and books had little effect. His guide to making beer might be translated into French, but its impact in his homeland apparently was limited. Mulder held a university post, but it was in a faculty of medicine and not in one devoted to chemistry or engineering, the common home for those working on the science of brewing in other countries in Europe. Mulder was in no way connected institutionally to the brewing industry. It was brewers in Bohemia who had pressed for and even agreed to pay for lectures on brewing at the engineering school in 1818.39 There was no similar ground swell of interest or support in the Netherlands. Disconnected from the practical side of beer making and with no institutional base for pressing research and teaching on brewing, Mulder could not have the impact of men such as Balling in Bohemia or Pasteur in France or, later, Hansen in Denmark. Mulder's circumstances may have been closest to those of Pasteur but Mulder lacked the unique characteristics, among others a willingness to exploit contemporary rising nationalism, to promote his own career and the financial support of research. Mulder's failure to influence his fellow Dutchmen meant that when science finally did invade Dutch breweries it came from other places in Europe. With the adoption and adaptation of scientific advances by the time of the First World War the Dutch brewing industry was like those all over Europe and the world and one with an excellent future based as much as any other on knowledge of the biochemistry of the brewing process. The Netherlands became, if belatedly, like the others.



I am grateful to my colleague at the University of British Columbia, Robert Brain, for pointing me in new directions, to Richard Wilson of the University of East Anglia for urging me to look seriously at the nineteenth century, and to Michaela Knoer of the Lorberg Library at the Versuchs- und Lehranstalt für Brauerei in Berlin for the inspiration to look further into the scientific literature on brewing.


van Eeghen, I.H. (1958) ‘De Brouwerij de Hooiberg’. Jaarboek van het Genootschap Amstelodamum 58, 86-88. Korthals, H.A. (1948) Korte Geschiedenis der Heineken's Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij N.V. 1873-1948. Utrecht: Drukkerij Utrechtsch Nieuwsblad N.V. v/h Joh. de Liefde, 115.


Blink, H. (1914) ‘Geschiedenis en verbreiding van de bierproductie en van den bierhandel’, Tijdschrift voor economische geographie 10, 101. Jansen, A.C.M. (1987) Bier in nederland en belgië een geografie van de smaak, Nederlandse Geografische Studies, 39, Amsterdam: Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Gen-ootschap/ Economisch-Geografisch Instituut Universiteit van Amsterdam, 269. Siebel, J.E. et al., (Eds.) (1903) One Hundred Years of Brewing: A Complete History of the Progress made in the Art, Science and Industry of Brewing in the World, particularly during the Nineteenth Century. Historical Sketches and Views of Ancient and Modern Breweries. Lives and Portraits of Brewers of the Past and Present A Supplement to The Western Brewer, Chicago and New York: H. S. Rich and Co., Publishers. Reproduced Evansville: Unigraphic, Inc., 1973, 716.


Doorman, G. (1947) Het Nederlandsch Octrooiwezen en De Techniek der 19e Eeuw. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, passim.


For example, Tryon, T. (1691) A New Art of Brewing Beer, Ale and other Sorts of Liquors; so as to render them more Healthful to the Body, and Agreeable to Nature; and to keep them longer from souring with less Trouble and Charge than generally Practised. 3rd ed. London: Thomas Salusbury. Worth, W.P. (1692) Cerevisiarii Comes, or the New and true Art of Brewing. Illustrated by various Examples in Making Beer, Ale and other Liquors, So that they may be most Desirable, Brisk and Fragrant. London: J. Taylor and S. Clement and Combrune, M. (1758) An Essay on Brewing with a View of establishing the Principles of the Art London: K. and J. Dodsley. See also Mathias, P. (1959) The Brewing Industry in England 1700-1830. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 64-66.


Schookhuis, M. (1661) Liber de Cervisia quo Non modo omnia ad Cerealem potum pertinentia comprehendumtur, sed varia quoque Problemata, Philosophiphica & Philologica; discutiuntur; Simul incidentes quædam Authorum antiquorum loca illustratur. Groningen: Francisci Bronchortsii


Van Lis, W. (1745) Brouwkunde of Verhandeling van het voornaamste dat tot een Brouwery en Moutery en het Brouwen en Mouten behoort; alsmede een korte Beschryving van het Bier. Rottedam: Philippus en Jakobus Losel.


Buijs, J. (1799) ‘De Bierbrouwer of Volledige Beschrijving van het Brouwer der Bieren; Midsgaders van het Mouten der Graane, tot het Brouwen van Bier Gebruikt Wordende’, Volledige Beschrijving van Alle Konsten, Ambachten, Handwerken, Fabrieken, Trafieken, Derzelver Werkhiuzen, Gereedschappen, enz. ten deele overgenomen uit de Beroemdste Buitenlandsche Werken Zestiende Stuk. Dordrecht: A. Blussé en Zoon.


Combrune, M. op. cit. Blake, G. (1791) Strictures on a New Mode of Brewing Lately introduced into His Majesty's Brewhouse, London by - Long, Esq. of Dublin London: J. Johnson. Baverstock, J.H. (1824) Treatises on Brewing. London: G. & W.B. Whittaker. Sibum, H.O. (1995) ‘Reworking the Mechanical Value of Heat: Instruments of Precision and Gestures of Accuracy in Early Victorian England’, Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, 26, 1, 83, cites two works devoted to bringing science into brewing, indicating a rising force within English beer making: George Adolphus Wigney (1838) An Elementary Dictionary, or Cyclopaediafor the Use of Malsters, Brewers, Destillers, Rectifiers, Vinegar Manufacturers and Others Brighton, and John Levesque (1836) The Art of Brewing and Fermenting in the summer...also a description of the author's newly invented thermometer. On science in the work of Wigney see Sibum, H.O. (1998) ‘Les Gestes de la Mesure Joule, les pratiques de la brasserie et la science’, Annales HSS, juillet-octobre nos. 4-5, 747-52. For earlier works to promote measurement in breweries Sibum, H.O. (1995) ibid. 87.


Sibum, H.O. (1998) ibid. 763-69. Sibum, H.O. (1995) ibid. 87.


Bud, R. (1993) The Uses of Life : a history of biotechnology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 11. Holter, H. and Møller, K.M. (Eds.) (1976) The Carlsberg Laboratory 1876/1976. Rhodos:International Science and Art Publishers, 22. Mulder, G.J. (1857) ‘Het Bier’, Scheikundige Verhandelingen en Onderzoekingen, vol. 1, part 3, Mulder, G.J. (Ed.) Rotterdam: H.K. Kramers, 13, 276. Payen, A. et al. (1837) Traité de la Fabrication des Diverses Sortes de Bières; suivi d'un Traité de la Culture et des Emplois du Houblon. Brussels:Société Belge de Librairie, etc. The Netherlands also lacked practical treatises which explained the application of knowledge about fermentation and temperature measurement such as that on Bavarian brewing by Benno Scharl which was in its third edition by 1843. Scharl, B. (1843) Beschreibug der Braunbier-Brauerei in Bayern mit damit verbundener Brenntweinbrenneri und Essigstederei nebst Nachricht über die jüngst errichte erste Dampfbrauerei in München. 3rd ed. Expanded by Dr.K.W. Dempp Munich: Joseph Lindaur'sche Buchhandlung.


Pasteur, L. (1879) Studies on Fermentation. The Diseases of Beer, Their Causes, and the Means of Preventing Them. A Translation, Made with the Author's Sanction, of ‘Etudes Sur La Biere,’ with Notes, Index and Original Illustrations by Frank Faulkner, author of ‘The Art of Brewing’, etc. and D. Constable Robb. London: Macmillan and Co.


Glamann, K. (1991) Jacobsen of Carlsberg Brewer and Philanthropist. G. French, trans. Copenhagen: Glydendal, 186- 90, 220-1.


Ballot, A.M. (1856) Het Bier beschowd als Volksdrank. Rotterdam: H.A. Kremers. 10-17. Yntema, R. (1992) The Brewing Industry in Holland, 1300-1800: A Study in Industrial Development. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, The University of Chicago, 110.


Mulder, G.J. (1857) op.cit. 9-10, 90--3, 368-70. Mulder, G.J. (n.d.) Le Guide du Brasseur ou L'Art de Faire La Bière. Traité élémentaire théorique et pratique. L.F. Dubiet, trans. Paris: J. Hetzel et Cie. Mulder, G.J. (1847) De Voeding in Nederland in Verband tot den Volksgeest. Rotterdam: H.A. Kramers, 77.


Mulder, G.J. (1857) op. cit. 258-76, 305-45. Mulder, G.J. (n.d.) op. cit.. 43.


Glamann, K. (1984) ‘The scientific brewer: founders and successors during the rise of the modern brewing industry’, Enterprise and History: Essays in honour of Charles Wilson. Coleman, D.C. and Mathias, P. (Eds.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 186-98, 187-90.


Jansen, A.C.M. op. cit. 21.


Hallema, A. and Emmens, J.A. (1968) Het bier en zijn brouwers. De geschiendenis van onze oudste volksdrank. Amsterdam: J.H. DeBussy, 175, 190-1. Schippers, H. (1992) ‘Bier’, Geschiedenis van de Techniek in Nederland De wording van een moderne samenleving 1800-1890, vol. I, Techniek en modernisering Landbouw en voeding, Lintsen, H.W. (Ed.) Zutphen: Walburg Pers, 171-213, 189-90.


Schippers, H. ibid. 192, 195.


Blink, H. op. cit. 106.


Jansen, A.C.M. op.cit. 33. Korthals, H.A. op.cit. 13-4, 26-36. Schippers, H. op. cit. 195-6.


Schippers, H. ibid. 198-203, 207-08.


Bud, R. op. cit. 18.


Bud, R. ibid. 18-24. Siebel op. cit. 152.


Schippers, H. op.cit. 186.


Alleblas, J. (1963) ‘Nieuw Leven in een Oud Brouwerij? Geschiedenis en Toekomst van De Sleutel’, Kwartaal & Teken van Dordrecht Gemeentelijke Archiefdienst Dordrecht, 9, 2, 10. Korthals, H.A. op.cit. 34. Unger, R.W. (2001) A History of Brewing in Holland 900-1900 Economy, Technology and the State. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 167-69, 298-303.


Sickenga, F.N. (1883) Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Belastingen Sedert het Jaar 1810. Utrecht: J.L. Beijers, 66-7, 173-4.


Sickenga, F.N. ibid. 9-10, 19-20, 29.


Jansen, A.C.M. op. cit. 53. Timmer, E.M.A. (1918) De Generale Brouwers van Holland Een bijdrage tot de geschiedenis der brouwnering in Holland in de 17de, 18de en 19de Eeuw. Haarlem: Kleynenberg & Co., 261-65.


Engels, P.H. (1848) De Geschiedenis der Belastingen in Nederland, van de Vroegste Tijden tot op Heden mit eenen Beknopten Inhoud der Tegenwoordig in Werking zijnde Belastingwetten. Rotterdam: H.A. Kramers,. 307-10. Jol, G.Z. (1933) Ontwikkeling en Organisatie der Nederlandsche Brouwindustrie. Haarlem: De Erven F. Bohn N.V., 136-8. De Jonge, J.A. (1968) De Industrialisatie in Nederland tussen 1850 en 1914. Amsterdam: Scheltema en Holkema, 318. Schippers, H. op. cit. 189.


Engels, P.H. (1862) De Belastingen en de Geldmiddelen van den Aanvang der Republiek tot op Heden. Utrecht:Kemink en Zoon. 386.


Jol, G.Z. op. cit. 45-7, 52, 135-9. Korthals, H.A. op.cit. 48-50.


De Jonge, J.A. op. cit. 319. Sickenga, F.N. op. cit. 39, 49-51.


Glamann, K. (1991) op. cit. 37. Schippers, H. (1992) op.cit. 186. Siebel, J.E. op. cit. 48-49.


Sibum, H.O. (1995) op.cit. 85-95. Sibum, H.O. (1998) op. cit. 759-61.


Engels, P.H. (1862) op. cit. 381-87. Hallema, A. and Emmens, J.A. op. cit. 176-77.


Robert Allen noticed the pattern in the contemporary iron and steel industry but his observations apply equally to brewing. Allen, R. (1983) ‘Collective Invention’, Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization, 4, 1.


Bud, R. op. cit. 18.

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