On 11 May this year Grolsch celebrated its 400th birthday, an unbroken run of brewing excellence which has cemented its place as one of the world’s most famous beers

Grolsch derives its name from the location of its first brewery, in the Dutch town of Grolle (now Groenlo). It was there that Willem Neerfeldt began brewing in 1615, although the beer he produced at that time would be unfamiliar to today’s Grolsch drinkers. 

It wasn’t until 1676 that a young member of the brewing team named Peter Kuijper added a second hop to the recipe, a masterstroke that created the recognisable Grolsch taste and earned him the accolade ‘Grollee’s Master of the Beer Brewers Guild’.

If stories from the time are to be believed, this wasn’t the only prize collected by young Kuijper: he is also said to have won the hand of brewery owner Neerfeldt’s daughter in marriage, having met his future father-in-law’s challenge to "brew the perfect beer"!

 

The next important figure to enter the Grolsch story was Theo de Groen, a man from an established Dutch brewing family who purchased the brewery, then known as ‘De Klok’, in 1897. He also introduced the famous Grolsch Swingtop in 1897, eliminating the need for a bottle opener. Though this clever innovation was widely copied, many imitators fell by the wayside during the years of post-World War Two austerity. Theo de Groen, however, stuck to his guns and the Swingtop remains a celebrated Grolsch feature to this day.

With the owners of a rival brewery in nearby Enschede selling out to de Groen in 1922, the enlarged company – subsequently renamed ‘N.V. Bierbrouwerij de Klok and in 1954 ‘Grolsche Bierbrouwerij N.V.’ – operated from both Groenlo and Enschede until 2004, when a new, state-of-the-art brewing facility was opened on a site between Enschede and Boekelo, close to the border with Germany.

Although the old breweries were closed, nothing was left to chance in maintaining the unique Grolsch taste, with a 7km pipeline enabling the new brewery to continue drawing soft spring water from the original source.

The acquisition of Royal Grolsch NV by SABMiller, which was completed in March 2008, brings this brief history right up to date. But it is far from the end of the story. Click here for a full report into Grolsch’s 400th birthday celebrations and a glimpse into the future of this iconic beer.

 

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