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From Pilsner Desert to Craft Beer Oasis: The Rise of Craft Brewing in the Netherlands


In this chapter, we describe and attempt to explain the rise of craft brewing in the Netherlands through a qualitative study of the industry’s evolution. Similar to other countries, the Dutch beer brewing industry experienced unprecedented concentration followed by a remarkable revival of craft brewing. Our study describes the historical evolution of the industry and subsequently traces the chain of events that led to the proliferation of craft brewing. We then compare our observations to relevant theories on resource partitioning and social movements to identify factors on both the demand and supply side that may explain the successful renewal. On the demand side, we point to the role of consumer resistance and broader changes in consumer preferences for food. On the supply side, we point to hobby brewing associations, the emergence of online communities, new forms of financing, and recyclable remnants of old breweries.


  • Craft brewing
  • The Netherlands
  • Industry Evolution
  • Resource Partitioning
  • Social Movements

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Fig. 10.1
Fig. 10.2


  1. 1.

    A large share of the interview data is taken from Kroezen (2014), who conducted 76 interviews between 2004 and 2011. Four additional interviews were conducted in 2015 to collect information that captures the recent dynamics in the sector.

  2. 2.

    Note that for the purposes of our paper, we collapse the distinction that Carroll and Swaminathan (2000) make between microbreweries, brew pubs, and contract brewers into one category. We decided to do this as we found the boundaries between the three subcategories were considerably fuzzy. We observed that contract brewers often acquired their own brewing capacity over time and that most breweries had tasting rooms and thus had at least some resemblance to a pub. In addition, it should be noted that setting a clear size limit for our definition of craft brewery is somewhat arbitrary. However, our data shows that by the end of our observation window (2015) the yearly production of the largest craft brewery (Jopen at 20,000 hectoliter) was still only a very small fraction (0.15%) of the yearly production of the largest industrial brewery (Heineken at 12,800,000 hectoliter).

  3. 3.

    De Beyerd in Breda was not a new pub, but ownership shifted to the next generation of the De Jong family in the 1960s which went hand in hand with a change in focus on specialty beer. The other three pubs mentioned here were established as new.

  4. 4.

    Bok or bock beer is a fuzzy category of beers that are produced seasonally (in autumn and spring) and is commonly acknowledged to be of German origin. Bock beer can be either bottom-fermenting, resembling the production process of lager, or top-fermenting, resembling the production process of ale. During the early 1980s, the few alternatives to Pilsner that were produced on Dutch soil fell typically in the bock category.

  5. 5.

    Nonetheless, prominent organizations in the Dutch craft brewery movement have drawn sharp distinctions between these organizations. PINT, for instance, distinguishes between a bierbrouwerij (beer brewery), which owns its own production equipment, a brouwerijhuurder (brewery renter), which uses another brewery’s equipment to produce its own beers, and a bierhandelaar (beer merchant), which commercializes someone else’s beer.

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van Dijk, M., Kroezen, J., Slob, B. (2018). From Pilsner Desert to Craft Beer Oasis: The Rise of Craft Brewing in the Netherlands. In: Garavaglia, C., Swinnen, J. (eds) Economic Perspectives on Craft Beer. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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