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The Heineken Story

Barbara Smit

Early beers, dark ales, were top-fermented, because they fermented at the top of the brewing vessel, forming bubbles and thick foam. The problem was that this exposed the brew to all sorts of microbes which could alter the taste from one batch to the next, or spoil it altogether. Bavarian monks worked out a way to ferment at colder temperatures, so the yeast sank to the bottom. Took longer than top-fermenting, but the beer was lighter and more consistent. Lengthy maturation led to name lager, from German lagere to store.

The new beer wiped out smaller breweries because needed cold cellar to store fermenting beer. Bavarians could use local caves, but Dutch needed expensive ice shipped in from Norway.

Louis Pasteur, famous from vaccine research, wanted to undermine the German brewing companies as a protest at war with Prussia in 1870. So he produced a detailed study of yeast and shared the results with everyone except the Germans. For the first time it was understood that fermenting yeast splits sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. And he showed how to destroy bacteria in fermenting beer to prevent random spoilage.

Guiness was marketed to men in Africa with the argument that it was good for them, "and your wife knows why".

Ad agency came up with the tag-line "Heineken refreshes the parts other beers can't reach." It became a commonplace saying. After Prince Charles wrote that painting refreshed parts of his soul that other activities couldn't reach, the art director wrote to him, asking that he be recognized as the purveyor of slogans to HRH.

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