Alkmaar is known all over the world as “the cheese city” of the Netherlands. The tradition of the now Friday cheese market is an age-old spectacle of berries full of cheeses, weighing and hard-running cheese carriers. The market attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors and is therefore very important for the city of Alkmaar.

Alkmaar also has a rich beer history. As in several cities in the Netherlands, a lot of beer was brewed in Alkmaar. The story that in the past people drank more beer than water is quite well known. From the Middle Ages, canal water became so polluted that drinking it made you sick. Beer is boiled during preparation, and cooking kills harmful bacteria. The beer that was brewed was completely different from the lager or craft beer that we drink today. It had 1.5 to 2% alcohol by volume, was cloudy and probably smoky and sour in taste.

But, in addition to the rich brewing history of the city, Alkmaar has even more connection with beer. The name 'Alkmaar' contains more beer history than you might think at first. Over the years, the spelling has changed little by little from Allecmere in the tenth century, to Alcmere in 1063, Alcmare in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and Alkmare in 1132.

In old Dutch "Allec" means cloudy or muddy. "Mere" means water or pond. Freely translated, the name Alkmaar means cloudy water. The city of Alkmaar is built on a dune top. There were many swamps around it, which could be the reason that the water in Alkmaar was so cloudy. In short; the water in the immediate vicinity of Alkmaar was unsuitable for drinking or brewing, regardless of the lack of sewage! Precisely because the water quality in Alkmaar was so bad, beer has always been very important to the city!

You will rightly wonder from which water the Alkmaar beer was brewed. Brewing water was imported by boats from Skirmere, the present Schermer. Skir means clear, fencer therefore clear water. Later dune water was also used.

On March 1, 1584, by order of the States General, it was forbidden to brew beer outside city limits. The villages of Graft and de Rijp filed a deposit against the brewing ban in the polder, but only Texel and Wieringen were given an exceptional position. The result was that Alkmaar beer breweries flourished through consumption in the city, but a lot of Alkmaar beer was also exported to surrounding villages. Hence, Alkmaar beer city!

Richard Moerkerk

International Beer Sommelier

Winner Entrance Award 2019