Starting a beer brewery
- Henk Herkink
- How to
- 9 May 2019
- Edited 31 Oct 2023
- 3 min
Do you brew beer at home, for yourself and your guests? That is perfectly fine. There are no rules to govern the use of popular DIY beer brewing kits. It is a different story once you start producing larger amounts for sales purposes. That makes you an entrepreneur. What do you need to do and take into account when you start a beer brewery? This article lists the most important matters.
Number of beer breweries in the Netherlands (2017-2022)
Number of beer breweries in the Netherlands (Source: KVK Business Register)
Brewing beer for beginners
You can start brewing beer from 3 places:
Brewing beer in your home
If you want to start brewing commercially from home, you need to check your municipality’s zoning plan to see if your home may be used for this purpose. If you rent a house, you also need to inform your landlord. This does not apply if you only brew beer as a hobby.
Brewing beer from business premises
You can rent business premises to start your own brewery. Check if the space meets your demands, and if your activities are within the zoning plan scope. Check with your municipality whether or not you need an All-in-one permit for physical aspects (Omgevingsvergunning) and a Notification of the environmental impact of your business as regards waste, pollution, odour or noise. This is called a ‘melding milieubeheer’.
Renting a brewery
You can also rent a location that has a beer brewing installation. You and the renting party agree on who does what. For instance, they can brew your beer, using your recipe. Or you can choose to only use the brewing installation and do the rest yourself. The advantage of renting a brewery is that you do not need to invest in a brewery. Besides that, the brewer who rents you their brewery has experience, knowhow, the right permits, and usually makes all the arrangements for excise goods.
Rules for beer breweries
The Commodities Act (Warenwet) details the rules you must follow when you produce, package, or sell foodstuffs. You can make use of the Beer breweries Hygiene Code (in Dutch), or you can draw up a food safety plan yourself. The Netherlands Food and Consumer Products Safety Authority (NVWA) checks if businesses abide by the hygiene rules.
The label is the customer’s main source of information about the beer. The European labelling regulation specifies what you are required to put on your label and/or your packaging, what you may optionally put on it, and what you are not allowed to include on the label. To help brewers find their way around this labelling regulation, sector organisation ‘Nederlandse Brouwers’ has published a labelling manual (in Dutch). This helps you to specify allergens or to draw up the quantitative ingredient declaration.
The EU labelling regulation also specifies what you have to put on the packaging of beer. As of 1 January 2023, producers of alcoholic beverages have to list the ingredients, nutritional values, and calories per 100 ml on the label.
Producers and sellers of alcoholic beverages have to pay excise duty. Excise goods may only be produced in a designated tax warehouse. Home brewers or starting brewers need to apply for a permit to that effect: a Vergunning Accijnsgoederenplaats (Tax Warehouse Permit) to the Tax Administration. The permit states, amongst other things, in which location you may produce and store your excise goods.
You pay excise duty digitally, at the end of a period (for example a month or a quarter). If you have questions about paying excise duty, contact the Customs Information Line.
When selling alcohol, you have to deal with VAT. Beer and beer mixtures containing more than 0.5% alcohol are subject to 21% VAT. Beer with an alcohol percentage below 0.5% falls under the 9% rate. For any merchandise, you also charge 21%.
How do you want to market your beer? Creating an experience is important. A few tips:
- When you are looking for customers, clearly define your target audience.
- Present your product in the right channels, offline as well as online. Choose the social media channels used by your target audience.
- Ask local hospitality businesses if they want to sell your beer.
- Organise workshops and think of fun ways to get in touch with your future customers. Remember that you need an alcohol licence if you sell or serve alcohol in your business.
- Take part in a beer festival and get people acquainted with your beer. Let them taste it, and stimulate their senses.
As a hobby brewer, you can decide to start a business while still in paid employment. Starting a part-time business in your spare time has its advantages and disadvantages: you will have a steady income, but you will have to manage your time much more efficiently. Once your part-time business takes off, you can always switch to being a full-time entrepreneur.
The sector organisations represent the brewers’ interests in contacts with the market, media, and politics. They also offer support in other areas, such as promotion.
These 2 sector organisations promote the interests of beer-brewing companies in the Netherlands: