In our ongoing discovery of the #DutchSpirit we went to the North of the Netherlands to the lovely town of Sneek, connected to the Frysian waters, with old details and bridges throughout the city. A place where you can feel and breath Dutch history.
At the site of the Weduwe Joustra, this is no different. Located in one of the older streets and buildings in the heart of Sneek. An old small building tucked away in the middle of the street, with a long history lying behind its walls. The Weduwe Joustra exists since 1864, and celebrated its 150th anniversary last year.
A company that has been family-run since its establishment in 1864 is quite a rare find nowadays,with all the industrialisation and commercialisation going on. Heleen Sonnenberg is currently the 6th generation running the company, and took over from her father Jaap Sonneberg in 1991 .
In 1864 Anjenette Joustra-Reinders started making Beerenburg. She was widowed (the “Weduwe” part of the brand) and needed the money to support her family and keep the house. Downstairs she opened a shop , while the family lived upstairs, and she started creating her own recipe of Beerenburg using the products that came in from Amsterdam by boat to the city.
The original recipe from that time has barely chanced since then, holding on to the same herbs and recipe. A product with nothing added other than a good “base” Jenever and herbs. No extra additives, or sugars to preserve. Trying to be innovative with new products is this swiftly changing world and staying true to the origin of the product and history of their Beerenburg, and their many other liquors.
The Beerenburg is made by letting the package of herbs mix with the soft Jenever for four weeks. During our visit, we got a chance to visit the factory. Here the maturation takes place in big stainless steel tanks. Steve who guided us around, explained to us that the timing of four weeks is crucial for getting the right amount of flavour strength and not letting it be to overpowering.
In the back of the factory they have a “cask room” where they now hold 39 oak casks where they let some of the Beerenburg mature for three, five or even ten years. This Beerenburg is also made with Korenwijn and not Jenever, and in the combination with the herbs it gets a taste that reminds of Cognac a bit.
There is a nostalgic feeling throughout the building where you can see nothing is wasted. The old equipment for making “Advocaat” is still sitting there and works, and although they can not use it anymore due to “health and safety” work regulations that are in place today are a little bit different then in 1864. It is a running factory with a shop and museum mixed in one package.
In the shop – that has the old fashioned feel and setup with the painting of the Weduwe Joustra looking at everyone and still keeping an eye on the business they also have a collection of living casks called a “Drank Orgel”, a drink organ, alas,not operational anymore due to those same regulations. But in the old times people would fill their own brought bottle and only pay for the content, not the bottle or other packaging. Something you see more and more happening at many modern distilleries something alike, the bottle your own, based on this old Dutch tradition (?)
It was fun discovering a #DutchSpirit with an authentic feel to it. Even though we can not call it a distillery because they do not have their own stills, yet they mature their products using a base of Jenever and/or Moutwijn from other producers and create their brand and feel on their products by the use of herbs and natural additives that give a rich and smooth flavour profile. A place to visit when in the neighbourhood for sure, and when you are there, make sure you buy some of their lovely products. Soon we will have some tasting notes on some of their products, so keep an eye out on the blogs!
On our facebook page you can find some pictures of our visit there.