Mum as an international beer-style

'The beers that came from over the sea were Hamborg-beer, Yepen-beer, and Mommen-beer' it says in the 'Sequel Chronicle of Mechelen' from early 16th century as it translates from Dutch/Flemish into English (1). For centuries these beers were a commodity, and they were seen as delicious, healthy and costly drinks. These were robust beers durable enough for transport and often in the barrel for a prolonged time.

The Company
Pieter van Dam entered the service of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as a young man in the first half of the 17th century and was asked to write a book about the VOC at his retirement. 'About the beers, that were sent from here, from all old times the Brunswick mom was the most durable and of best use'. And he describes a plan to try and make a contract about the purchase of beer in Brunswick in the special VOC-type barrel one thousand barrels at once (2).

Carpologia physica posthuma opusculum, 1661

Brunswick (like Einbeck) was inhabited by hop and grain farmers that sometimes made beer of their own crops on a very small scale, with a communal brewing copper (3). One brew yielded about two dozen barrels of beer of a remarkable quality. Small wonder nothing was ever heard of the VOC's plan to buy thousands of barrels in Brunswick. There was a big difference in scale between breweries located in seaports and these inland part-time brewers where the heavy barrels had to be loaded on carts and travel over bad roads.

'All sorts of other Mon' appear on tax lists in the second half of the 17th century as the Brunswick beer had become a renowned product. In many places there is production of Mom, Mum or Mon and sometimes it is marketed including the geographical designation. In Dordrecht one could have 'Mum' and 'English beer' and in Hamburg there was always enough 'Brunswick Mum' to be had. In Amsterdam mum was made for the VOC by the Witte Haan brewery (4).

Just as a delegation of the Dutch East India Company probably went to Brunswick, all kinds of other groups, spies, adventurers and queer folk must have roamed around Brunswick making inquiries about 'the Recipe'. For the locals these folk must have been quite obviously visible and what makes more sense (and fun) than selling them 'the original recipe'? Things may not have happened exactly like this but the fact remains many of the known recipes look very funny for they are contrasting heavily with the old German sources that speak of a lovely and pure beer made of malt and hops.

The way of making Mum, 1811

Andrew Yarranton writes extensively about imitating Mum in 17th century England and calls them 'Old Brunswick' and 'New Brunswick'. The assumptions and calculations made by Yarranton precede the rise of the UK brewing industry and later beer-styles and his book is a remarkable document. There's still not much experience with hopped beer and that could be one of the reasons for the strange recipes with bizarre spices and herbs. In continental sources there's only malt and hops, much hops (5). The fact that barrel-aged beer can develop complex flavors could perhaps have been at the bottom of this confusion.

Hanseactic cities in the eastern part of the Netherlands started brewing dark and heavy beers that had a good reputation. The VOC persuaded the father of Willem Menting of Deventer to start a brewery at the strategic Cape of Good Hope (6). In this place they longed for good beer, there was wine in abundance, but that's just not the same thing. In Zwolle and Deventer special Jopen-breweries were brewing dark beer, what used to be called 'Yepen-beer' in the 'Sequel Chronicle of Mechelen', but the name 'Deventer Mon' also returns, until well into the 19th century (7).

The Brunswick beer became a legend and at a certain moment it became unclear whether we're dealing with the real thing or with imitation. The real beer was made with especially reserved local ingredients and there was no distinction between a brewery and a malting like there is today. The same applies for the Hanseatic cities in the Netherlands with their limited output. Unfortunately it is no longer possible to brew beer like that today.

Frederik Ruis


Korte chronycke van vele gedenckweerdige geschiedenissen
soo in de principaele steden van het hertoghdom van Brabant als in de stadt en provincie van Mechelen
Volume 3 (Google eBoek)
J. Jacobs

Vervolgh der Chronycke van Mechelen
Van den 4. Februarii 1514
(volgens den ouden Stiel)
tot den Jaere 1519.

'de Bieren die over zee quamen waren Hamborgs-bier, Yepen-bier, en Mommen-bier'

[The beers that came from over the sea were Hamborg-beer, Yepen-beer, and Mommen-beer]



Beschrijvinge van de Oostindische Compagnie
Pieter van Dam
eerste boek, deel 1
uitgegeven door Dr. F.W. Stapel
Nijhoff, 1927
(eerste uitgave 1701)

'En belangende de mom is verstaan, dat men een accoord soude traghten te maeken met eenige van de gequalificeerste brouwers tot Bronswijck'

[About the Mum is agreed, we will try to negotiate a deal with the most qualified brewers in Brunswick]



Die Hanse und ihr Bier
Christine von Blanckenburg

'bedeutend wichtiger als die Brauerei selbst'

[producing the ingredients was much more important than brewing]


'Die Stadtpfanne wurde für jeweils einen Sud von Haus zu Haus getragen'

[The city brewing-copper was caried from house to house for each brew]



Bookkeeper-General Batavia
The circulation of commodities of the Dutch East India Company in the eighteenth century
Huygens ING

Number: 14591
Bookyear: 1702/1703
Folio: 4
Ships name: Vosmaar
Departure place and region: Amsterdam, Republic
Arrival place and region: Batavia
Currency: Indian guilders

110 barrels Haantjes beer ƒ 2.832,10 (= ƒ 25,75 per barrel)
24 heavy beer ƒ 710,- (= ƒ 29,58 per barrel)
16 barrels heavy Haantjes mum ƒ 535,- (= ƒ 33,44 per barrel)


Englands improvement by sea and land to out-do the Dutch without fighting
Andrew Yarranton

Mum, Brunswick Mum, New-Brunswick, Old-Brunswick

and then Bristol will be unto New-Brunswick, as Hamborough now is to Old-Brunswick; for Trade will go and creep into any part where it can be cheapest done.

My answer is, That the Sea is the occasion of its being so good, it puts it to a second working, or Fermentation, which is the absolute cause.

ba mom 121 1677


Oeconomia Ruralis Et Domestica:
Darin das gantz Ampt aller trewer Hauß-Vätter, Hauß-Mütter, beständiges und allgemeines Hauß-Buch, vom Haußhalten, Wein-, Acker-, Gärten-, Blumen und Feld-Baw begrieffen…
(Google eBoek)
Johann Coler

'und viel hopffen'

[and much hops]



Haus- Feld- Arzney- Koch- Kunst und Wunderbuch

(Google eBoek)
Johann Christoph Thieme
1694 - 1587

Und weil das dritte Theil Korn zu diesem Bier der Waizzen ist / also hat es den Vorzug für andern Gersten-Bieren /

 [And because the third Part of Grain is the Wheat / therefore it is preferred over other Barley-Beers /]



Georgica Curiosa Aucta
oder: Adelichen Land- und Feld-Lebens
Volume 3 (Google eBoek)
Wolf Helmhardt von Hohberg

Braunschweigisch Bier, Mumme genannt.

Dieses ist also des Englischen Autoris Beschreibung der Mumme, welche zwar an-und vor sich ein gut Kräuter-Bier, aber gar keine Braunschweigische Mumme, dafür sie ausgegeben wird, ist.

[So this is an English authors deschription of Mum, which could in itself be a good herb-beer, but not at all the Brunswick Mum, for which it is being passed.]

Georgica Curiosa Aucta p.58-60 in PDF


Naaukeurige en uitvoerige beschryving van de kaap de Goede Hoop
Peter Kolbe
By Balthazar Lakeman,

'door de Compagnie kosteloos hier is gebragt, om alhier op zijn Deventers bier te brouwen'

[brought here by the Company free of charge, to brew beer in the Deventer manner]


'Daar word hier ook wel bier, uit zeer schone gerst, die hier valt, gebrouwen, zoo dat men juist niet altyd wyn behoefde te drinken; daarenboven worden verscheide treffelyke bieren herwaards gezonden, zoo van Zerbst, Brunswyk, als uit Holland, die de plaats van wyn wel zouden konnen bekleden'

[There is also beer, of very good barley, that's harvested here, brewed, so one would not always have to drink wine; and above that several marvelous beers are send over here, as of Serbst, Brunswick, as from Holland, that could replace wine very well]


Casteel de Goede Hoop, Cape Town, South-Africa
Cape Town was first developed by the Dutch East India Company as a victualling (supply) station for Dutch ships sailing to East Africa, India, and the Far East.

Kasteel de Goede Hoop circa 1680


Leydse Courant
20 november

Deventer Mon



Tijdschrift voor staathuishoudkunde en statistiek
Volumes 23-24 (Google eBoek)
Batholomeus Willem Anne Elisa Baron Sloet tot Oldhuis
W.E.J. Tjeenk Willink

Deventer minnebier

[Deventer wet-nurse beer]

[we could bring that to England just as well as those of Dantzig]



Leeuwarder courant
Uitgever: D.R. Smeding en M. Koon