beer

as a bare necessity

The Us Heit Brewery in Bolsward offers
visitors a memorable experience

Hops, yeast, malt and water. That's all Bolsward-based Us Heit Brewery needs to brew beer. Unfortunately, water could be pretty scarce in the olden days. Nowadays we simply turn on the tap, but that was certainly not an option 700 years ago. Bolsward was located on the Zuiderzee in those days, and salt water flowed through the veins of this Frisian Hanseatic town. And so freshwater needed to be drawn from rivers and lakes. The process is depicted on the mural at Us Heit Brewery. Visitors coming to sample the beer or whisky will be fed the story along with the contents of their glass. Because owner and brewer Aart van der Linde wants to offer visitors a memorable experience.

Salty water in Bolsward

Let's travel back in time to the fourteenth century in Bolsward. The salty Zuiderzee water babbled through the town. A golden age. This water made it possible to trade on a large scale. Together with Stavoren, Bolsward formed the union of Hanseatic towns in Friesland. However, there was a downside to the saline water: it was not suitable for drinking. And water purification plants were yet to be developed. If you were thirsty, there was little choice. The elite mainly chose to drink wine and the average family drank beer. Freshwater was drawn from lakes or rivers, requiring the people of Bolsward to take to their boats.

Well worth the effort

Located around the lakes and rivers were well poles: wooden levers. Broad and heavy on one side, and tapered and light on the other. The man operating the enclosed well pole would sweep the lighter side of the lever downward. His side featured a large bucket that was submerged. The heavy weight on the other side pulled the full bucket back up, tipping the water into a gutter. In turn, the gutters led to barrels. Back in Bolsward, the barrels could be emptied again. At the brewery for example, which had its own well poles.

Beer as a bare necessity

When it came to drinking, beer was a bare necessity for many people. Though the beer brewed back then had a much lower alcohol percentage than nowadays. Hops were added to the beer as a preservative. In times of war, the Bolsward people had a serious drinking problem. With enemies abound, it was simply too dangerous to fetch water from the lakes or rivers. In order to be able to brew enough beer, they needed to collect rainwater. They did so in the so-called water houses, small extensions next to buildings that collected as much rainwater as possible in large barrels.

WALL PAINTING OFF THE WELL POLE, PAINTER: CEES HOMBURG

Brewing with ice age water

The modern-day brewery uses mineral water from Spannenburg. This spring dates from the ice age. Back in the Middle Ages, the resources to sink a well so deep were lacking. And a shallow well would have resulted in brackish water being pumped up. That too is undrinkable. Aart van der Linde: 'The well poles story is one of the fantastic stories that we still love to tell people during a guided tour. In fact, we've even dedicated the wall in our tasting room to that story. Unfortunately for us, Rembrandt chose to paint the well pole in Haarlem, rather than the one in Bolsward. Yet it depicts beautifully how much effort was required for a drink in the olden days.' While enjoying a beer at Us Heit Brewery, the mural will transport you back to the golden age of Bolsward. Out on the patio, summer days give the ideal opportunity to enjoy the field of hops next door. Wandering around the brewery, old instruments remind us of how beer used to be made. 'Though these aren't medieval instruments, by the way,' Aart chuckles.

Whisky tasting

Besides brewing beer, Aart has also mastered the art of distilling whisky. It's actually a lot more similar to brewing beer than you would imagine. Because he begins by brewing so-called whisky beer, for his single malt Whisky Frysk Hynder. For anyone interested in learning about the process, Aart is delighted to explain what makes whiskies so distinctive and how you can recognise that in the flavour and smell. Guided tours are always rounded off with a taster session. Aart has developed a special way of offering guests a unique experience when tasting and smelling his products. If you'd like to know more, please register on the site.

friesian horse

The Friesian horse is the oldest true horse breed of the country. The name is not entirely justified, as research has shown the Romans to have used the animal as a warhorse. It's famous for its very elegant gait.

us heit

Us Heit (Our father) is a reference to stadholder Willem van Lodewijk Nassau-Dillenburg (1560-1620). He acquired his nickname not only because of his role as stadholder (governor), but particularly due to his leadership role as captain-general of the Frisian Army that fought against the Spaniards.

Interested

If you’re interested in a visit and a taster session at Us Heit, please register on the website: www.usheit.com.
Guests will be welcomed in Dutch, English or German.