This story was originally published in Dutch on MUNCHIES NL.
Many bars in the Netherlands have a huge selection of craft beer. Heavily bearded men in corduroy pants and women with small, round, gold glasses stand at the bar and pour over the massive beer list. In the eyes of the beer drinker who sticks to lager, craft-beer drinkers, blinded by their passion, often come across rather silly. Nonetheless, ordering craft beers has become the new normal for the average Dutch millennial.
In Belgium, where I was born, the word "craft beer" did not even exist until recently. There are plenty of young brewers who are creative with barley and spices (for instance, a 15-year-old boy who, for the time being, is still too young to drink his own beer), but Belgians have always made great beer.
The best proof of this can be found in the cellars and refrigerators of our grandmothers. In Belgium they are known for always having a generous stock of great beers at home, which they drink almost daily. I visited some beer-drinking grandmas to take a look at their assortment and to get some advice.
MUNCHIES: Hi Denise, what beer do you always have at home? Denise: There is always some blonde and dark Leffe and St. Bernard in my basement, and some Rodenbach that I use when preparing rabbit or a stew. And I also have some cold pilsners, but no one really drinks them. It's more for the youngsters.
Pilsner is not your thing? No, there is not much flavor and not enough malt. I do not understand what my grandchildren like about it. Anyway, they also drink beer from cans rather than bottles. I do not know why—maybe because students used to throw beer bottles around? But I'm against it. If the youngsters want to drink something here, they have to pour it in a nice glass first!
What's your favorite beer? I do like them all, but a dark St. Bernard with 6 percent alcohol content is definitely my favorite. I used to drink more abbey beer that contains 12 percent alcohol. My sons laugh at this: "Ma, you should now have two drinks! Two of six is the same as one of 12! "
When do you drink a good beer? In the evening with a delicious sandwich and a nice piece of cheese.
The stereotype of our generation is that women drink wine and men drink beer. Your generation seems to be completely different. In our younger years, just after the war, there wasn't much wine. We were brought up with beer in large bottles on the table, just like water. It would make you strong. Look at me: I do not take any pills and do swimming and gymnastics every week. Beer is healthy! But please do not overdo it as the youth often does now. They drink to get drunk and not for taste—but one beer every night doesn't hurt. When I visit someone in the nursing home, I bring some beer, and old people who are in hospital get more benefits from a beer than from a bowl of porridge with milk. Trust me!
These days, younger people have started brewing craft beers. When I go to the liquor store, there are shelves full with hundreds of different types of beers. But I hardly try anything new. My sons do, but I don't want to at my age.
Any great tips for the younger beer drinkers? A dark beer should not be kept in the refrigerator, as it loses its flavor. I see it often in bars, and that makes me angry. Good beer has nice foam. If the foam disappears immediately, the glass is not clean. When I serve beer at home, I always have a towel nearby to wipe the glass.
When did your love for beer start? Mary: When I was a young mother I sometimes had to iron all day long, as you do when you have a large family. I always drank a beer, much fresher and tastier than coffee.
What beer do you have at home? I always have a Kriek beer in my basement, and some other craft beers in the fridge that I got as a present on New Year's Eve. When I play cards, I prefer a Trappist beer with some grenadine, because it's too bitter otherwise. Those are strong, so one is enough.
Do you have a tip for the younger generation? Well, if you drink strong beer, make sure you eat well. Never drink on a empty stomach, as they say here. Have a nice steak or something—that's better.
What beer do you have at home? Dina: Hoegaarden, Leffe and Grimbergen. Now that I'm older, I throw fewer parties and I buy less beer, but these I always have in stock at home. Unfortunately, I have to buy Hoegaarden in cans these days, because bottles have become too heavy to carry, but I always pour it in a glass at home anyway. A beautiful glass for your beer is the most important thing.
And which is your favorite? For 20 years, I've been drinking a Hoegaarden around six o'clock with a cheese sandwich. Wheat beer tastes so much better than coffee and the beer is not too strong, so it is perfect for a meal. My mother always liked to drink a glass of beer with her dinner so I think I got it from her.
Craft beers are getting more and more popular. What do you think of that? Yes, I see that with my sons. It is good that there are so many types, so you can figure out for yourself what you like best. Only, there is a clear difference between my generation and the new: We only know a few types and remain faithful. We don't often try the new types. Youth is more experimental; if there is something new, they have to taste it.
Ha, and what is also nice: Girls now drink more beer than boys. When we were young you could only go to a bar if you were with a boy. Now girls can go alone and they try all different types.
Do you have some advice for youngsters when drinking? I always wait a bit before drinking my beer so that there is less foam, but maybe that's a personal thing. And I always warn my grandchildren not to leave their beer when going to the bathroom. I am afraid that people will spike their drink.
Mia (83) and Katje (88)
Hi, I heard you are best friends here in the nursing home. Do you often drink beer together? Mia: Sometimes, yes. Katje: We prefer to drink Kriek beer. Just one, otherwise we get tipsy. Mia: Two really is the limit, because otherwise I'm standing on my head.
That happens sometimes? Mia: Definitely. I used to get drunk more often, but since I got married, not as much. The older, the wiser, they say. Now I drink beer in a different way, to enjoy it rather than to get drunk.
Many new beers have a funny name: Pirate, Deugniet, Dikke Nek, Sloeber. Mia: Haha! I've never heard that. Those are all beers? And they exist already? When I'm going to the pub next time I'll order a Deugniet. Katje: And for me a Dikke Nek. Mia: What do you think of the name Kivelä? That's something I like to drink: beer mixed with lemonade and grenadine. Lovely.
Do you have some advice for young beer drinkers? Mia: If you don't drink, your glass remains full. Katje: That's right!
Hi Monique. Tell me about your love for beer. Monique: Every Monday I drive with my husband to Westvleteren, 35 kilometers, to drink a dark Westvleteren beer. The Twaalf is our favorite type. We drink one or two with a sandwich, and then drive back home.
And at home? We always drink half a glass of Rochefort 8 in the early afternoon, and around four o'clock another half glass. If you don't overdo it, strong beer doesn't hurt.