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The world’s most recognised beer brand, Heineken is a truly international pilsner-style pale lager beer and in order to satisfy demand it is brewed at over 20 different breweries around the world. However, all the Heineken sold in the UK is brewed at Heineken’s vast Zoeterwoude Brewery, some 40 minutes outside Amsterdam.
The flagship Heineken brewery, Zoeterwoude, is where the all-important Heineken A-yeast is cultivated for use in Heineken’s other breweries. It is also home to Heineken’s central laboratories which receive samples from the other breweries to ensure quality is maintained and Heineken’s flavour remains constant wherever it is enjoyed in the world. The other Heineken breweries have to replicate the beer brewed at Zoeterwoude by tweaking the recipe and the mineral content of local water.
Zoeterwoude is also where Amstel, the other great lager of Amsterdam, is brewed and 10 million hectolitres of the two brands are shipped from the brewery each year.
Zoeterwoude is Europe’s biggest brewery and unusually for what is a vast industrial complex, it sits amidst a landscaped park.
Heineken acquired the 80 hectares of land in the Netherlands municipality of Zoeterwoude in 1971, then a diked marsh known as ‘Oude Groenendijkse’ or the ‘Barrepolder’, the brewery built here opened on April 18th 1975, replacing the old Heineken brewery in Rotterdam which only occupied four hectares. At the opening ceremony, Alfred Heineken said in a speech, “when we decided to build the new brewery, we envisioned a landscape of industrial buildings, spread out over a beautiful park, as opposed to one massive construction.”
The Weipoortse Vliet, a picturesque tributary of the Old Rijn River runs through the middle of the brewery and landscaping included the planting of 1,000 trees and 42,000 bushes, including hop plants. The estate also includes the remains of Van Swieten Castle and the castle’s moat survives to this day. Written mentions of the castle date it to at least 1321 and it was a home to the van Zwieten family for centuries. It was destroyed by the Spaniards during the occupation of Leiden, but rebuilt in 1632 by the mayoral Bicker family of Amsterdam. At the end of the 18th century the house was abandoned and finally demolished in 1805.
If you visit Zoeterwoude also look out for the Barremolen windmill. Dating from 1661 the mill fell into disuse when electrical milling was introduced and became property of the Rijnland Mill Foundation. Heineken took over the heavily neglected mill in 1971 and thoroughly restored it, dedicating it to Leo van Munching, the man who put Heineken on the map in the United States.