Beer drinking in Holland is a national pastime enjoyed in largely equal measure by men and women alike, but when it comes to actually brewing the stuff, that’s always been a man’s game. Until now.
Gebrouwen door Vrouwen (Brewing for women) , run by sisters Tessel and Do de Heij, is shaking up the traditionally male world of brewing with their deliciously innovative creations which have taken the Amsterdam bar scene by storm and will shortly be tantalising the taste buds of the Chinese.
The sisters began brewing beer as a hobby in Do’s kitchen back in 2013 with no real plans to expand professionally until a couple of bars in Amsterdam found out about their experiments. ‘They wanted to sell our beer if we could brew it at a constant quality. And that worked!’ says Tessel .
Tricky Tripel, their first beer which has a sweetness that derives from the malt used in the brewing process, went down exceedingly well and, encouraged by the unexpected success, they decided to give two release parties to see if anyone else was interested. Plenty of other bars and restaurants were. ‘So it became a business by itself.’
The sisters continued their experiments and went on to create Gin Weizen, a sweetly refreshing beer with juniper, coriander and orange peel, Bloesem Blond, a light lager with elderflower and Ijsbeer, a dark wheat beer with star anise, cinnamon and cardamom, brewed specifically for winter.
Their liking for brewing with spices and herbs instead of hops gives their beers a unique flavour and allows them to stand out in a crowded market.
But they’re clearly aware that it’s their sex which is their unique selling point and play on it in a tongue in cheek way in both their name and advertising. Their logo features the sisters smirking cheekily at the camera whilst sipping from bottles and flexing their biceps. The idea started as a joke, ‘lifting all that beer gives you muscles, so we decided to create an image of us with muscles!’ but it seems to sum up their attitude perfectly. ’The image of beer drinking women is mostly cool. Besides that, we are very cool!’
Despite the strong emphasis on their gender in their advertising, they‘re adamant that they’re not brewing solely for women. ‘We make beer for everybody!’ they insist. And the opposite sex certainly doesn’t appear to have been put off by the image. ‘There are a lot of men who drink our beer and love it.’
Now over a hundred bars in Amsterdam serve their beers and they’re venturing out into other Dutch cities. What started as a hobby has become a full time occupation. Tessel and Do gave up their day jobs in January to focus exclusively on Gebrouwen door Vrouwen and even had to take on an extra employee to cope with demand. ‘Now we’re three women!’
It was thanks to a friend of a friend who had contacts in China that their beers will soon be making inroads into the Chinese market. Let’s hope their increasing success brings them contacts across the rest of Europe too. Proost!