The Dutch have traditionally been a humble population of seafaring people thriving on a lowland river delta on the European northwestern coast. Their territory has been repeatedly invaded by the Roman Empire, later the Francs (the medieval version of the French), the kingdom of Germany and even traded to Spanish catholic control. However this persecuting lack of national identity came to an abrupt end by the 16th century, when the Dutch Golden Age saw a deep and acute flourishing of trade, industry, the arts and the sciences. A rich worldwide Dutch empire established, and the Dutch East India Company came into being one of the earliest and most important national trading company. This is the era that saw the birth of Grolsch’s brewery in 1615, thus, it can’t be difficult for one to understand why its beer stands as a symbol for Dutch greatness.
The explicit historical context is greatly representative of what distinguishes Grolsch from other beers, namely, its bald and innovative creativity. Grolsh’s past can testify this: in 1676 the brewer master, Peter Cuyper, integrated two types of hops in the fabrication. This detail may seem insignificant but it became a revolution in the beer brewing process as well as its tasting, since hops are also what give the drink its characteristic bitter flavor and strong aroma. Later, the year 1897 saw the creation of the iconic Swingtop bottle designed by Theo de Groen. Its pioneering singularity resides in its ‘popping’ bottle top. Much later in 1959, Grolsch was the first beer to advertise on television. In 2004 the label opened in its native Netherlands the most environmentally sustainable brewing factory worldwide, with all bottles reused and waste recycled at 99%. In 2011 to honor its engagement in the arts it launched the Grolsch Off Prize enabling young artists to exhibit their work in the famous Palais de Tokyo in Paris, a museum in which the brand also became a benefactor.
It is only natural during your anniversary to contemplate where you came from. Today it is blatantly evident that Grolsch comes from a place of daring creativity. In order to honor this precious identity the label has decided to direct the festivities accordingly with an international campaign Celebrating 400 years of Creativity which will focus on a mosaic of bespoke canvases featuring the famous Grolsch Swingtop bottle by contemporary artists from all around the world. Some of the works have already been showcased in Amsterdam earlier this spring, a slection of painting will be featured on special edition packs of Grolsch, available in stores around the world.
However, the challenge is open to everyone, with a three-month competition inviting budding artists to download their crafted canvas and submit their re-imagining of the Swingtop via social media. Prizes include a chance to be profiled on Canvas and the top prize: a trip for two to Amsterdam.
Other celebratory collaborations include a project to build a hotel room – complete with its own Grolsch bar – using only 3D printing. The room will be part of Amsterdam’s celebrated 3D Print Canal House, which has been wowing visitors since it was unveiled by DUS Architects in May 2014.
There will be numerous other activities in the fields of art, music, film and design in the months and years to come, as Grolsch continues to stamp its mark on the urban creative community.
In retrospect, Grolsch does not vary fundamentally from what Willem Neerfeldt had initially set in motion back in 1615. The brewery’s founding father would have certainly favored the creativity and independent thinking that consistently remains the hallmark of this historical Dutch institution.