When Antoinette van der Schriek brought her beer to festivals and shops it was the name that stood out. No last name, historic name or geographic name. Antoinette named her beer “Liefde”, the Dutch word for love. A name like that caught our eye and merited an article on the Dutch Beer Pages. We received great answers to our questions, answers that gave us more than we asked for actually. Antoinette is honest and told about the love of brewing, but also the struggles that a small brewer has to cope with. The economy of small brewers will be a separate article soon.
The woman behind Love
Antoinette is educated as a math teacher, though not currently employed as one. Besides brewing Liefde she is mostly spending her days as a fulltime mother, housekeeper, cook, painter, mechanic etc. This is all done from a rowhouse in a town in the province of Brabant. Too small for her own brewery, so she brews at Anders in Belgium.
Antoinette gets inspiration for new beers from the magazine Brew Your Own and online discussion forums like the Dutch site hobbybrouwen.nl. One of the reasons for starting Liefde was that she could not find great beers in the country. Her favorites are sour beers like Liefmans Goudenband, a beer she cannot make herself. Other favorites are the Scheldebrouwerij and Fullers’ London Porter. A Dutch beer she does mention is Jopen’s Ongelovige Thomas. She has a lot of contact with the Natte Gijt guys and with Martin of Muifel who give her tips on brewing. This has led to four beers so far: Stoute Liefde (playing on the translation of the Dutch word Stout meaning naughty) and Intense Liefde. The latter one is a combination of the first two Liefde beers: Intens and Teder (Tender).
The economy of brewing
So what does someone do when starting a brewery? Antoinette: “Getting the beers on the shelf was the first goal and the easy part because people are very willing to buy the beer. But here is where the tricky parts of owning a brewery begin. Goal number 2 was to have a nice side profit from making the beer, so far this has been unsuccessful. The profit margin is quite slim. The initial buying of the products is very expensive as it is and you don’t want your bottles to be too expensive. This means the margins are too small to be a profitable company. Unless you can make and sell more which of course means further traveling and higher distribution costs. Besides all of this I have to rent storage space which also eats into the turnover I have and want. This was something I had not expected beforehand. This all means Liefde will have to be smaller and more local.”
2013 will be Liefde’s second year. She bought a few kegs for her own and will make smaller batches (about 200 liter) at other breweries. This beer is meant for festivals and won’t be available in bottles. First of these will be a blonde that will be made with the help of Wesley from the Brouwcafé in Scheveningen (near The Hague). 2013 will mostly be about looking at the present lines of distribution will be enough to sell the 1600 liters she is contractually obliged to brew at the Anders Brewery where the Liefde beers are now made. Hopefully the local cafes, bars and restaurants will do that. If that turns out to be impossible the batches will have to become smaller and the problem then arises if there is a brewery that will allow that. But whatever happens, she will be on festivals with the Liefde beers, since that is the most fun to do. The kegs can be stored at home, for hundreds of bottles the house is too small.
But let us hope that these bottles stay on the shelves of our favorite beer stores. Why not try a new beer once in a while and help the smaller brewers at least make some profit. And most of all, do it for the love that we have for the beers who are loved by their brewers.
As a wise man once said: All you need is Love.