February 6, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Gerard Heineken

Gerard Adriaan Heineken was looking to get into the beer business. In 1863 he convinced his wealthy mother that there would be fewer problems with alcoholism in the Netherlands if the Dutch could be induced to drink beer instead of gin. His mother bought De Hooiberg (“The Haystack”), a brewery that had been operating since 1592. At the age of 22 Gerard Heineken was running the largest brewery in Amsterdam.

Heineken proved to be an astute brewer and businessman. Sales multiplied within a few years and in 1867 he started work on a sprawling new brewery. Six years later work was started on a brewery in Rotterdam. In 1873 Heineken developed a new cooling technique for wort that eliminated a brewer’s traditional dependence on seasonal ice. Heineken commenced year-round brewing.

Heineken traveled throughout Europe in search of better raw materials. In 1879 he hired a former student of Louis Pasteur, Dr. Elion, to work in the Heineken’s laboratory - unique in the brewing world at the time. Dr. Elion developed a specific yeast cell, which yields the alcohol in beer, which came to be known as the Heineken A yeast. Still the primary ingredient in Heineken today the new yeast gave Heineken excellent consistency in its expanding range of breweries.

The pinnacle of Gerard Heineken’s career came four years before his death when the gold medal of honor was awarded to his brewery during the Paris World Fair of 1889. At the time Heineken was selling 200,000 hectoliters of beer each year, while the average Dutch brewery sold only 3,000 hectoliters.

Heineken began exporting beer after just 12 years of operation, establishing a long tradition in the opening of new markets that led it to be the most widely exported beer in the world. In 1914 Dr. Henri P. Heineken, the founder’s son, took control of the brewery. Traveling by oceanliner to New York City he met Leo van Munching, the ship Dutch bartender. Impressed by his knowledge of beer Heineken offered him a position as the company’s importer in New York City, a relationship that endures to this day. In 1933 when Prohibition ended in America Heineken was the first foreign beer to be on sale. It remains America’s top-selling imported beer.

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