Nationality and beer

Many misunderstandings about the nationality of a certain beer-name or style originate from looking at the past with a modern perspective. The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany are fairly new countries in the light of beer-history and the language and borders also change over time.

Central Europe, 919-1125

Hopped beer
An important source of information on beer in the past are the works of Richard Unger. Below a citation:
'Archeological finds of hops'
'The number jumps in the early Middle Ages and then increases even more in the years after 1000. The frequency of finds in the high Middle Ages in the Netherlands, northern Germany and the Czech Republic suggests those were places where hopped beer brewing was more common.'
(Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, R.W.Unger, 2004, p.54 - 55)

In the above Unger mentions 'the Netherlands' and 'northern Germany' in a time those countries did not exist. These names need to be placed in the perspective of the time. The hopped beer became durable and was now also merchandise:

'The story of brewing in Hanseatic times begins with reports about beer exports. Forerunner was the city of Bremen, surviving chronicles from the first quarter of the 13th century tell us about a lively trade of beer against cattle with Frisian farmer-tradesmen. Latest mid-13th century Bremer merchants brought their product also to Flanders'
(Translation: Die Hanse und ihr Bier, Christine von Blanckenburg, 2001, p.223-224)

low countries 1477
Central Europe, 1477

Export trade
Another important book on beer is that of the eminent scholar van Uytven; a short translated citation:
'Dutch beer cities'
'The 'Hamburg' beer that the cities Haarlem and Gouda brewed with consent of their count, must have been about as good as the original, for Flemish cities in 1392 supposed that Northern-Germans managed to sell Holland beer for their own product. According to the Germans it was fraud because Holland merchants sold Holland beer in German barrels. They could easily because most trade to Flanders was through Amsterdam and Stavoren.
(Geschiedenis van de dorst, Raymond van Uytven, 2007, p.79)

Nation states
Van Uytven mentions 'German beer' at a place and time where no German nation existed. By the end of the 15th century the Holy Roman empire gets the addition 'Teutscher Nation', but even then this remains problematic, in part because pieces of Italy belong to the empire. Inhabitants of the Holy Roman Empire will not have had shared nationalistic feelings, but were foremost part of their village, 'Poorter' to their city or perhaps subject to their Duke, Bishop or Lord.

Tax regulation of 15th century Zutphen

In the High Middle Ages the Hanseatic sphere and Holland were part of the Holy Roman Empire (1) and borders like we know them now were not there. Hanze merchants wrote each other letters in a kind of Low-German and from those times are names of beercities like Hoemborg and Brunswijk. The Hamburg beer, Brunswick Mum and also the Koyt beers are from these olden times.

Neighboring harbor
An Amsterdam merchant or skipper in the 16th century did not think Hamburg was in Germany, it was just a neighboring harbor and no borders were crossed. In the 'Tresoir vande maten' by Nicolaus Petri, ghedruckt t'Amsteredam, 1590 (2) the various measures are ordered by country. Emden, Hamburg and Lübeck are not categorized under 'Duytsland' that begins with Cleven, Colonia, Straesburch and Weenen (Vienna), listed much later.

Low-German (yellow), Middle-German (blue) and High-German (green) language areas

Developing states
In later days what comes exactly from which country remains somewhat uncertain. Peter Kolbe writes in 'Naauwkeurige beschryving van de Kaap de Goede Hoop' (Accurate description of Cape of good hope, 1727 translated): 'The Hollanders, who take much Brunswick, Zerbster and other strong Holland, Lubeck, Bremen etc., beers to East-India…'
Nation states are developing slowly and in rear view we wonder why it was so vague (3-10).

Englands improvement by sea and land to out-do the Dutch without fighting, 1677

Out-doing the Dutch
In Andrew Yarrantons words above the 'Dutch' defense goes all the way to the mouth of the Elbe and the 'German' shore begins at Texel. Confusing perhaps for us now but in those days perfectly normal, it was one part of an empire with largely one language and different regions and city states. Like the old Ossenbrugge and Brunswick changed into high German Osnabrück and Braunschweig, the beer changed along with the concept of nationality itself.

Frederik Ruis

(1)  The Holy Roman Empire around 1550 (present borders in white)


Tresoir vande maten, van gewichten, van coorn, lande, vande elle ende natte mate, oock vanden gelde ende wissel, ende ander practijcquen ende vergaderinchen, seer profytich ende ghenoechlijck
Nicolaus Petri
ghedruct by my Herman Jansz. Muller,

Dansick, Embden, Hamburg, Lubeck





Germans in Britain Since 1500
Panikos Panayi
Continuum International Publishing Group,

The members of the German congregation consisted of Niederdeutschen from the Netherlands and Westphalia. (1550)
the distiction between artisans from the Low Countries and from Germany was not always accurately drawn in sixteenth-century sources.


Naauwkeurige en uitvoerige beschryving van de kaap de Goede Hoop
(Google eBoek)
Peter Kolbe, Claas Bruin, Jacob Houbraken (graveur), Jan Wandelaar
By Balthazar Lakeman,

De Hollanders, die zeer veel Brunswykse, Zerbster en andere sterke Hollandsche, Lubeksche, Breemsche enz., bieren na Oost-Indie voeren


Moscowitischer Kauffmann
(Google eBoek)
Paul Jacob Marperger


jede Nation nemlich Holländer, Engelländer und Hamburger, auf den Zoll ihre eigene Zoll-Bücher, damit seiner Nation Handlung mit der andern confundiret werde.

'every Nation, Dutch, English and Hamburg, according to their Tax books, so each Nation can trade with another'




Journals of the House of Lords

Volume 3 (Google eBoek)
Great Britain House of Lords
H.M. Stationery Office,


Reputation of our Nation
and when The Low Countries had no Being



Public gebedt ofte Consideratien tegens het nominatim bidden in de publique kerken voor particuliere persoonen, en specialijken voor den jegenwoordigen Heere prince van Orangien

(Google eBoek)
Johan de Witt
Cyprianus van der Gracht,


de natuer van onze natie

'the nature of our Nation'



Oud en nieuw Oost-Indiën

vervattende een naaukeurige en uitvoerige verhandelinge van Nederlands mogentheyd in die gewesten
(Google eBoek)
François Valentijn
by Joannes van Braam,


De eerste van onze Natie, die hier quam, was Wybrand van Warwyk

'The first of our Nation, who was there, was Wybrand van Warwyk'



De eerste beginselen van een Burger-staat.
(Google eBoek)
Thomas Hobbes

'First priciples of a Nation State'



Neuw Kreuterbuch
Jacobus Theodorus
Iacobum Theodorum Tabernaemontanum
Franckfurt am Maijn,

Es ist das Bier ein nüttslicher Tranck, welcher den Mittnächtigen Landen da kein Wein wächst inn grosser meng gesotten und bereijtet wirdt, welcher heutigs Tags in Teutschlandt, nit allein in den Niderlanden, Frieslandt, Westphalen, Hessen, Düringen, Sachsen, Beijern, Pomern, In de Marck und andern dergleichen Nationen darinnen kein Wein wächst, sondern auch am Rheinstrom, Elsass und andern Orten, da die köstlichsten und edelsten Wein wachsen, als ein gesunder und nütslicher Tranck in gemeinen gebrauch ist

[Beer is a useful Drink, which in the Nordics where no Wine grows is brewed and prepared in large quantities, which to Day in Germany, not only in the Netherlands, Friesland, Westphalen, Hessen, Thüringen, Saxony, Bayern, Pommern, in the Mark and other similar Nations where no Wine grows, but also at the river basin of the Rhine, Elsas and other Areas, where the most delicious and noble Wine grows, in common use as a healthy and useful Drink
f ]


Citizens without Nations
Maarten Prak, Universiteit Utrecht, The Netherlands
Cambridge University Press