Winter 2013: From Brewery to ....Museum

HEINEKEN EXPERIENCE TEXT BENJAMIN ROBERTS PHOTOGRAPHY HEINEKEN COLLECTION FOUNDATION Water, barley, hops, and the special ingredient known as ‘A’  yeast.  That’s it. For more than 125 years that’s been the winning receipt for the world famous Heineken Beer. And chances are, it won’t change anytime soon either. At Amsterdam’s Heineken Experience, a stone-throw away from the Rijksmuseum and other major tourist attractions, visitors will learn that the history of beer brewing is not a museale tour, but rather a full-sensory experience. In 1868, the foundation of the first Heineken brewery was laid at the present location on the Stadhouderskade. The building designed by Isaac Gosschalk in 1867, features stained-glass windows and interiors decorated with elaborate yellow tile, remained the main brewing operations until the 1980s when it was moved to larger facilities in the small town of Zoeterwoude, near Leiden. Then the brewery was converted into the Heineken Experience, a comprehensive visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory - and gustatory experience, permeating every pore of the body.   It’s a family affairThe Heineken story reads like a family history, starting back in 1864 when Gerard Adriaan Heineken bought the brewery, De Hooiberg or The Haystack on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, in the center of the city. Gerard was a young, 24-year old entrepreneur in who did not know much about brewing beer but he did have a talent for hiring the best people to brew the beer for him.  In the late the nineteenth century, Amsterdam had hundreds of beer breweries. Beer was a more reliable beverage that water, which was often contaminated. Unlike his contemporary brewers, Heineken was one of the first brewers that started a laboratory and developed a beer with Elion’s “A’ yeast that could ensure that each brew of beer was consistent and had the same concentration. This offered a standardization of the beverage.  Besides standardizing each brew of beer,  Heineken also recognized that beer could be easily transported. Within less than 30 years Gerard turned his brewery into one of the largest in the Netherlands. Brewing HistoryAfter Gerard died, his son, Dr. Henry Pierre Heineken, who was a chemist, developed the quality of Heineken beer, and introduced modern technology into the beer brewing process. He also extended the brand name outside of the Netherlands. Under Henry’s leadership Heineken became an export beer, exporting beer also the United States. Only three days after prohibition had ended in 1933, the first bottles of Heineken were unloaded on to a dock in New York City.    Mad MenIn 1941, Henry’s son, Alfred’ Freddy’ Heineken took over the reigns of the company. Freddy’s charismatic personality turned Heineken into a world brand name. Freddy came up with the half-turned up ‘e’ in the Heineken logo, which resembles a smile, and the catchy TV slogan ‘heerlijk, helder, Heineken’ pronounced "hay-r-laick hell-dur hine-e-ken. Every Dutchmen watching TV in the last four decades can easily recite ‘Wonderful, Bright, Heineken’ on command. For the marketing, Freddy also improved the company image and logo and came up with the scheme of using the color green, now simply known as ‘Heineken Green’, the same color as the bottles, the black banner, and red star above the name.  In the exhibition, without a doubt visitors are likely to associate the 1960s photograph of Freddy as a character from the Emmy-winning TV series Mad Men in him. Dressed in a black suit, slim tie, slicked back hair, and nonchalantly poised with a cigarette is his hand could have easily been a Madison Avenue advertising guru in the 1960s. Ironically enough, Freddy is reported to have said that if he hadn't worked for Heineken he would have been in the advertising business.  Today, Heineken is headed by Freddy’s daughter, Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken, who holds controlling interest in the world’s third largest brewer. HopsAfter walking through the ‘brewing’ history, the nearly 600,000 visitors that come to the Heineken Experience each year are overwhelmed by the sweet, nutty smell coming from the giant stainless vats, the mixture of steeping water and barley (two Heineken’s four main ingredients). Visitors can taste in serving samples the yellow-greenish liquid before the next ingredient – hops – is added, which gives flavor and aroma to beer.  Full montyTo illustrate the next stage of the beer brewing process, known as the whirlpool, visitors take the ‘Brew Ride’, a full-monty kinesthetic experience similar to a roller-coaster ride, on how yeast in the brew mix becomes fermented, and turns grain-sugar into alcohol. Heat, moisture, coldness are just some of the tactile feelings that are experienced. At the end of the ride, the thirst needs to be quenched with a ‘Wonderful, bright, Heineken’. That’s when the gustatory part of the Heineken Experience comes into play. As the visitors are led off their Brew Ride, they are guided to a large red, star-shaped bar where glistening sample glasses stand lined up with freshly brewed Heineken await them. ProostSimilar to a wine tasting specialist describing the aroma and flavors of a Chateau Cheval Blanc 1947, a young beer cicerone instructs visitors to hold their glass up to the light and admire the clear, golden hues of the mixture, to notice the thick frothy white head of the beer, and to take a good whiff. Most visitors jerk their heads back in discuss. “Yes, that’s right. It smells awful”. The connoisseur continues with a smile, ‘that froth protects your beer from oxidizing. If it didn’t, your beer would be flat and tasteless”. He continues, ‘grab your beer and look each other in the eye, because you know what that brings if you don’t, wink, wink. And now, proost! That’s how we say cheers in Holland”. WHEN AND WHERE? Address:The Heineken Experience, Stadhouderskade 78,1072 AE Amsterdam, T 020 Opening hoursMonday thru Thursday 11.00 till 19.30. Last entry and ticket sales at 17.30.Friday thru Sunday 11.00 till 20.30. Last entry and ticket sales at 18.30.Closed on Jan. 1st, April 30th, and Dec. 25th.Dec. 24th and Dec. 31st. Last entry and ticket sales at 16.00. The visit takes approximately 90 minutes. You will be served two drinks and a taste of Heineken. Non-alcoholic beverages are also available. Prices:Adults € 18.00, visitors under 18 years old are only allowed entrance when accompanied by an adult.

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