Beer is not one of the topics I would normally contemplate writing about for a travel blog, considering I grew up in the “bible belt.”
However, I had a rather unusual parental upbringing. My father abstained totally from alcohol. My mother emigrated from Europe and occasionally loved a cold beer on a hot summer day. I was privileged to try some of the best beer since I periodically visited my grandparents in Munich, Germany. I am not overly fond of any particular alcoholic beverage, but I do like to try different drinks while traveling.
One of my favorite beers (no judgement please), is Stella Artois, a Belgium pilsner. While researching the breweries I could visit in The Netherlands and Belgium, I discovered that the Stella Artois company is listed as the 4th oldest company in Belgium – 652 years old as of 2018. Most information about Stella Artois states that the beer was introduced in 1926. But after further digging, I found that the brewery started as the Den Hoorn brewery in 1366. It was purchased several times over its continuous operation, but maintains the 1366 and original horn design symbol on the cartouche label. I went to the brewery while in Leuven, Belgium. Then of course, I had to have a glass of Stella with my mussels in Brussels!
The 5th oldest company in Belgium (573 years old) was another brewery, Hoegaarden. In the village of Hoegaarden, the company by that name started making beer one of the traditional and oldest white beers in 1445. I had to go to Hoegaarden to check out their upgraded facilities, which was not that far from Brussels or Leuven.
Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV or AB InBev for short (after Anheuser-Busch InBev purchased SABMiller) eventually bought both Stella Artois and Hoegaarden. AB InBev also owns brands such as, Labatt, Modelo, Corona, Pacifico, Fosters, Beck’s, Asahi, etc.
Making my way back to Amsterdam – a little outside Amsterdam – I came to the town of Zoeterwoude. That is where the actual Heineken brewery is now, although most people think it is in what is known as the Heineken Experience building in Amsterdam.
Founded in 1864, Heineken is a relatively young beer company at only 154 years old. The original brewery in Amsterdam was closed in 1988 and was moved to Zoeterwoude. Now, Heineken is the second largest brewery in the world. Heineken International owns over 170 beer brands, the two largest being Heineken and Amstel. Last year, the Heineken conglomerate bought Mexican brewery FEMSA Cerveza, which includes brands such as Dos Equis, Tecate, Sol, etc.
So, next time you are drinking a good beer, see if it’s brewed by one of the two largest brewing empires in the world, AB InBev or Heineken International.