Beer & Haarlem

Haarlem beer history

Because beer has played such an enormous role in the history of Haarlem and also plays a major role in the lives of our Haarlem guests, there are plenty of reasons to dedicate a blog to Haarlem and beer, we thought so.

Let’s start at the beginning. If people were thirsty in the Middle Ages, they drank beer, what a time, isn’t it.

It must be said that the beer, which flowed so freely in the Middle Ages, had a lower alcohol percentage than the beer that is drunk today, such as on our boats. Only the richer members of the Haarlem population could afford beer with alcohol percentages of up to 8%.

The reason people chose to drink only beer was not a result of a hedonistic lifestyle, but ironically had to do with health considerations.

The water from the canals and even the Spaarne was seriously polluted because it was used as an open sewer. However, the beer was brewed with clean water from the dunes.

So easy choice.

Haarlem beer and trade

A major change took place in the early 15th century when the ingredient gruit (a mixture of herbs) was replaced by hops.

This not only resulted in an improved taste of the golden yellow good, but also for an improved shelf life.

This in turn meant that trade became possible (far beyond the borders of Holland).

Because it could no longer be sold locally, it was scaled up considerably and eventually even Antwerp drank more beer from Haarlem than from any other city.

In 1550, Haarlem had as many as 100 large and small beer breweries.

This trade in beer continued for more than two centuries.

Beer & status

The position of beer brewers in the city was one of great status in the 15th century.

For example, in the 15th century, citizens already had a preference for professions that required a great deal of knowledge.

In addition, money was also a strong component of status in the Middle Ages.

And the beer brewers earned a lot of money.

She paid a lot of excise duties to the city of Haarlem on the turnover of their beer.

They paid so much excise duty that the city was largely dependent on the economic contribution of the beer brewers.

As a result, Haarlem beer brewers had special functions in the militia and the city council for a large part of history, which of course increased their status even more.

Many beautiful buildings that can be seen with a boat trip in Haarlem are originally owned by a brewer.

And the beautiful paintings by Frans Hals also show many strolling beer brewers.

The wealth and associated status of the beer brewers lasted from the early 15th century to the late 17th, early 18th century.

This was the moment when the golden age came to an end, the population of Haarlem declined, and excise taxes went up.

The biggest reason for the decline of the beer sector was the emergence of alternatives such as coffee, tea, wine and jenever.

Beer and Haarlem now

Haarlem is currently in possession of a few beer breweries where fantastic tasty beers are made.

Probably the best known is the Jopenbier and the Jopenkerk. The name alone is a special story. In the past, barrels of beer were made of 112 liters, called Jopen.

Nowadays, these barrels weighing more than 100 kg are no longer allowed by the health and safety, but god what they make and serve beautiful beers in the also cozy Jopenkerk!

If you want to learn more about the history of Haarlem, rent your private boat in Haarlem!

You can also learn a lot about this beautiful city during a boat trip in Amsterdam!

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