Zwolle, an old town on the IJssel River. For me the halfway point in the trip from Amsterdam to Groningen. Zwolle once, like many old cities in the Netherlands and northern Germany, was once a member of the Hanseatic league. A city that has a lot of history and that also appears to have quite the beer history. We wanted to know more about Witte Klavervier and asked owner Freek Ruis some questions.
Ruis sees Witte Klavervier as a true network organization. Like other breweries he is looking for investors and new partners. Many are involved in Witte Klavervier like Ruud van Moorst (Eem), Peter van der Eijnden, Oskar Moerman and Ruud van de Gevel. Ruis himself is, with the help of many others, trying out his own batches now.
Unlike most breweries Witte Klavervier did not start life with a few guys brewing beer in their kitchen or shed. Freek has great interest in the history of beer in his own city. One of the breweries he and others read about was called Witte Klavervier (White four leave clover). From this research came a more broader look at the beer history of the country as a whole and led to a lot of surprising information. Much of their findings can be found on their website, which has a history section unlike any other we have seen so far. The idea then came to put this history even more into the spotlight by brewing a new beer.
The research into Dutch brewing history is quite extensive and impressive. Freek: “A lot of reading of books, followed by visits to archives and libraries (the Historical Center Overijssel and the University of Groningen), conversations with historians and last but not least Google Books that offers a wide range of old books that are easy to search. There seems to be a great interest in the history of Dutch beer if you look at the visitors to our page.”
With Michiel Ordeman of Jopen Freek Ruis has started the CNB (Campagne Nederlandse Bierstijlen or the Campaign for Dutch beerstyles). CNB’s aim is to highlight old and forgotten beerstyles and beer history in the Netherlands.
As so many breweries do these days Witte Klavervier tries to use as many local products as possible. This is however still complicated. Hops have to be imported, though a small field is being used for hops near Epe. Grains are more easy to come by but the malting process is still an obstruction. Early 2013 however a small batch of local barley malts will be used for brewing.
So far Witte Klavervier has released an IPA and a porter. The porter has also been released in a limited barrel aged version. This was not done because of the modern trend of making barrel aged beers but more a look back at history where storing beers in this way was normal. Besides these three beers the guys are currently working on a koyt beer, another old Dutch beer style.
People seem to enjoy local beer more and more. Several bars in Zwolle have it on tap now and in some of them it’s the most tapped specialty beer. Demand is big but often the bars have either no room or are contractually bound to other beers. The bottles are almost only sold in specialty beer shops are delis.
The future of history
The research into the history of Dutch beer has so far been limited. With a centuries old history and Hanseatic cities that sometimes numbered dozens of breweries there is still a lot to be discovered. A good start has been made by Freek Ruis in Zwolle, let us hope that many will follow in his footsteps. We here at the Dutch Beer Pages certainly will start doing research as well. Let us also hope that those doing the research will start releasing beer as well.