Hop, yeast, malt and water. Bierbrouwer Us Heit from Bolsward does not need more to brew. Unfortunately water used to be rather scarce. Now people just open the tap, but 700 years ago it was completely different. Back then Bolsward was situated on the Zuiderzee and salt water flowed through the veins of this Frisian Hanseatic city. Fresh water had to be drawn from rivers and lakes. How this was done can be seen on the mural at the Us Heit beer brewery. Because whoever comes to taste beer or whiskey will get the story behind it in the same gulp. Owner and brewer Aart van der Linde wants to give people a good percentage of experience.
Salt water in Bolsward
We travel back in time to the fourteenth century in Bolsward. The salty Zuiderzee water ripples through the city. A golden age. Because thanks to this water, trade could be traded on a large scale. Bolsward and Stavoren belonged to the alliance of Hanseatic cities in Friesland. The salt water also had a downside: it is undrinkable. And water purification was unknown at the time. So those who were thirsty had little choice. The elite usually opted for wine and the common man for beer. Fresh water was extracted from lakes or rivers. For this the Bolswarders went out with their boats.
There were well seats: wooden levers near the lakes and rivers. Broad and heavy on one side, tapered and light on the other. The man standing in the covered chair could pull down the light side of the lever. On that side was a large bucket that was submerged. The heavy weight on the other side lifted the full bucket, causing the water to fall into a gutter. The gutters ended at the barrels. Once back in Bolsward, the barrels were unloaded again. For example at the brewery where there were also pit seats.
Beer as a basic necessity of life
In terms of drinking, beer was a basic necessity for many people. Although the beer that was brewed back then had a much lower alcohol percentage than is the case today. Hops were added to the beer for shelf life. In wartime, the Bolswarders had a serious drinking problem. With the enemy nearby it was dangerous to get water from lakes or rivers. In order to be able to brew enough beer, rainwater had to be collected. This happened with so-called water houses. These small extensions next to buildings collected as much as possible all the rainwater in large tons.
“ The story of the pit chair is one of the beautiful stories that we still like to tell during a tour ”
Brewing with ice age water
Spring water from Spannenburg is now used for brewing. This water source dates back to the Ice Age. The means to dig a well so deep were lacking in the Middle Ages. And less deep then meant that brackish water was being pumped up. And that is also undrinkable. Aart van der Linde: "The story of the pit chair is one of the beautiful stories that we still like to tell during a tour. We even dedicated the wall in the tasting room to this story. Unfortunately, Rembrandt did not paint the well chair from Bolsward, but that from Haarlem. Still, the scene shows very nicely how much effort they used to have to make to drink. "When you come to drink a beer at Us Heit, you will feel like looking at the mural back in the golden age of Bolsward. On the terrace it is summer day to enjoy the hop field next to it. Walking around the brewery, old instruments remind you how beer was brewed in the past. "Although these are not instruments from the Middle Ages," laughs Aart.
In addition to brewing beer, Aart has also mastered the skill of distilling whiskey. This is closer to beer brewing than many people think. Because for its single malt Whiskey Frysk Hynder, so-called whiskey beer is first brewed. For people who would like to be informed about the process, Aart is happy to explain how whiskeys distinguish themselves and how you can recognize this in the taste and smell.
Tours are always sealed with a tasting. Aart has developed a special way for the guests to give them a unique experience in tasting and smelling. Those who are curious about this can register here.
The Friesian horse is the oldest home-grown race horse. The name is not entirely correct, as research shows that the Romans already used the animal as a war horse. The animal is known for its jaunty gait.
Us Heit (Our father) refers to the stadtholder Willem van Lodewijk Nassau-Dillenburg (1560-1620). He acquired this nickname not only because of his role as stadtholder, but especially because of his leading role as captain-general of the army of Friesland that fought against the Spanish.