NWBCA Top 30 – Bavaria, Swinkels Family Brewers

Swinkels Family Brewers

Founded in 1719, in the small Dutch village of Lieshout, Swinkels Family Brewers are still based at the same location over three centuries later. The 100 percent independent family brewer offers the right beer for every occasion, each with its own taste and character. Brewed with love in one of its breweries, brewing beer has been in its genes for 300 years.  Swinkels Family Brewers has grown to a 8mHL, €900m turnover, 1,800 employee brewing group and export its brands to over 130 markets around the world with its seven breweries in the Netherlands, Belgium and Ethiopia producing a portfolio of over 300 beers.

The brand’s non-alcoholic adventure started in 1978 when Wim Swinkels pioneered to create a non-alcoholic beer, one of the first breweries in the world to do so.

“In those times, we already shipped low alcohol products to the Middle East and Africa, but for religious reasons, it could not contain any alcohol,” said Simon Holland, country manager for Australia and New Zealand.

During a visit in Helsinki, Wim saw an experiment with lagering beer. It gave him inspiration on how to create alcohol-free beer. He ordered a test installation right away and after six months of team work, the process for creating alcohol-free beer was there, fully Halal and Kosher.

“Back then, people chose a non-alcoholic beer mostly because they had to, for religious reasons or because they were the designated sober driver.”

Today, the seventh generation of Swinkels is leading the business and within the wide portfolio of beautiful beers, there is a very strong role and position for zero alcohol beers. The brand has recently invested in a new technique to make non-alcoholic beer taste even more like an alcoholic beer.

Gijs Swinkels, CCO of the company, believes that non-alcoholic beers are the future and it will rapidly expand across the world. “The taste of 0.0% evolves in the direction of alcoholic beers,” said Swinkels. “Within our company we have a wide range of non-alcoholic beers. We are proud of our 0.0% Wit beer and our other 0.0% flavours. Thanks to our unique brewing methods and our down to earth mentality, we always try to innovate to bring new tastes, while keeping the quality high. That way we pass on an even better brewery to the next generation”.

Master brewer at Swinkels Family Brewers for almost 20 years, Emiel Hendrikx, said new techniques will enable the business to close the gap between 0.0% beers and 5% beers. “Consumers are more and more focused on the health benefits of drinking 0.0%, for example, because of the lower calories,” said Hendrikx. “With this realisation there are lots of new things waiting to happen, innovations, and a lot more – watch this space!”

The brand’s award-winning Bavaria 0.0% Wit is a refreshing white beer without alcohol based on natural ingredients and natural mineral water from its own spring. Light coloured, clouded, a typical mild wheat character with a pleasant bitterness. A fresh mix of fruity and herbal tones in the scent is what characterises Bavaria 0.0% Wit. It’s a worthy alcohol-free beer with light cloudiness, pleasant foam and a refreshing aftertaste.

Last year, the brand received Royal accreditation from the Dutch Royal Family meaning that it can be officially called Royal Swinkels Family Brewers. Prior to this, in 2019, the brand celebrated its 300th anniversary.

During the pandemic, the business, like most, has had to adapt quickly to the new normal, especially in its home town Holland, where it has a significant amount of on-premise business. “During this time, we converted all of the alcohol in our kegs of beer, that would have gone to waste otherwise, into hand sanitiser which we donated to various organisations in need during the short supply.”

Not only is the brand launching a Bavaria 0.0% IPA, it is also going through a full redesign to further stand-out on shelves.

“Consumers are really starting to embrace the alcohol-free category, but with this comes increased expectations of the quality, range and availability. We are constantly pushing ourselves to improve our range and techniques to create the best alcohol-free beers in the world. The holy grail is to create a 0.0% beer where consumers can’t tell there is no alcohol in it. A beer that has the bite and depth of a regular beer but with zero alcohol.”

Also available in New Zealand is the Bavaria Pilsner 5%, 0.0%, 3.3%, Belgian Amber Ale (Palm), Sour Ales (Rodenbach), Belgian Blond and Wheat Beers (Steenbrugge), Belgian Heavy Blond (Cornet) and other beers including Hollandia Pilsner.