Craft Brewers in the Netherlands Going Dutch (Craft Beer Week)
Just as has been seen in the United States, the number of brewers in the Netherlands has increased dramatically over the past decade. At the end of 2007, there were 100 active brewers and today, this figure has risen to 565. Although the Netherlands is the home of some of the largest players in the sector, most brewers are small. Only 10% of Dutch breweries have 5 or more employees. At the same time, almost 75% of brewers are one-person companies.
The Netherlands is a small country. Its area is 41,000km2, smaller than the 41st largest US state. It also has one of the best logistics networks in the world. Contract manufacturing is well developed in many sectors and it therefore does not come as a surprise that a large percentage of brewers outsource their production (see figure1). So called “gypsy brewing” has lower barriers to entry and lowers barriers to exit. The volatility in number of gypsy brewers is therefore greater than for brewers with their own brewery.
Source: Nederlandse Biercultuur
As most starting brewers with own capacity produce craft beer, the question rises whether gypsy brewers also fall under this definition? Many of their beers are innovative and full of taste, which would fit with the definition of craft. They are also small and independent operations. When the contractor becomes large however, some consumers might argue that the brewery where the product is made is not a craft brewery. Is it then possible for a craft beer to be brewed by a non-craft brewery? Rather than focus on definition, we see it as a big advantage when a beer is produced in a modern, state of the art brewery. One of the biggest threats to the entire craft beer industry is the risk of poor quality products, made by people who lack experience and capital. Craft brewers “going Dutch” with their brewing assets might not match everyone’s idea of craft, but it should result in an entrepreneurial, innovative sector with easy access to high quality equipment.