There are beer drinkers, there are beer gurus, there are beer brewers and then there is Willem van Waesberghe, global Heineken master brewer. You might recognize him from somewhere, since Heineken is enjoyed pretty much everywhere.
Heineken’s brewmasters spend 15 years honing their craft—so you can assume they know a thing or two about beer. We recently had the chance to check out Heineken’s Zoeterwoude Brewery just outside of Amsterdam and catch up with van Waesberghe ourselves. So, naturally, we asked him to bust a few age-old beer myths for us. Namely, the following…
“A firm foam head is crucial. It’s a seal that keeps the air out and the fine bubbles in, so you can enjoy the taste as it’s meant to be.”
1. Yeast is an ingredient.
“Many debate this claim, but we believe yeast is not an ingredient, rather it’s just a catalyst in the brewing process. An analogy we use is similar to gasoline and vehicles. Gas is a vital part of any car, and it’s the catalyst that makes it go and perform at a high level, but it’s not a car part. Heineken’s proprietary A-Yeast is a significant part of the brewing process because it converts sugar into alcohol, and produces the signature golden color and fruity taste that the world has come to know distinctly as Heineken. But after the fermentation process, the yeast is filtered out. So, it’s not an ingredient in the sense that it is not something you are actually ingesting. Thus, Heineken is made up of just three ingredients: malted barley, water and hops.”
2. Beer should only be served ice cold.
“An ice-cold Heineken is certainly refreshing, especially on a hot summer day. But when any beer is close to freezing, it numbs your taste buds and can actually block out the flavors. Beers can have such broad and complex flavor profiles, and the colder a beer gets, the less identifiable its various flavors can be to the palate. The next time you drink a Heineken, try it lightly chilled to enjoy its rich, fruity and slightly bitter taste even more.”
3. Bottled beer is better than canned beer.
“The green Heineken bottle is iconic, and that’s one of the reasons why I love it. But bottled is not necessarily better than canned. Cans can actually be a great mechanism for preserving the integrity of a beer, because they protect the beer from any light, which helps to retain its intended flavor.”
4. The same beer tastes differently depending where in the world you drink it.
“I cannot vouch for all beers, but I can certainly dispute this for Heineken. Our brewmasters spend 15 years mastering their craft to ensure every Heineken beer has the same perfectly balanced taste, no matter where in the world you drink it. We even collect samples from every global brewery once a month to taste them and ensure the flavor is consistent worldwide—using the same recipe since 1873. The signature Heineken taste is in large part due to our proprietary A-Yeast.”
5. There should be close to no head on a glass of beer.
“Less foam does not mean better beer! Beer doesn’t like air. It affects the fresh, crisp taste. A firm foam head is crucial. It’s a seal that keeps the air out and the fine bubbles in, so you can enjoy the taste as it’s meant to be. Next time a bartender pours you a beer with a bit of foam at the top, thank them for keeping the beers’ freshness locked in.”
6. Wine is more complex than beer.
“We say that Heineken is only made up of three natural ingredients, so it sounds very simple, right? If it were, everyone would brew beer! Beer is incredibly complex. Similar to wine, there are countless variables that can affect the final product. The climate, soil, water, et cetera that the hops, barley and yeast are grown in, and where the water comes from, all affect the flavor and aroma of the final beer that’s produced. With so many variables involved, you can imagine how challenging it can be to always create the same great tasting beer every single time. That’s where our brewmasters’ expertise and 15 years of training comes through.”
7. Beer is bad for your health.
“While anything in significant excess may not positively influence your health, there have been many academic studies and research that has shown that moderate and responsible consumption of beer can have positive effects on one’s lifestyle. Beer contains a number of vitamins and even protein—and in the case of Heineken, it’s GMO free and uses all natural ingredients.”