Advertorial • October 2017
Heineken’s master brewers spent years experimenting before they finally came up with the ultimate non-alcoholic lager, Heineken 0.0. The Club caught up with Willem van Waesberghe, global Heineken master brewer, to talk all things beer and why he feels Heineken 0.0 has been worth the wait
How did you become a brew master?
I’m a geologist by profession, but my father was a brewer. I decided I liked beer more than stones, so I started training and, in 1995, I joined Heineken. Now I am global Heineken master brewer. My role varies hugely, from helping identify beers for certain markets and steering champion product development to training the brewers. I inspire or influence, that’s what I do.
Heineken’s master brewer, Willem van Waesberghe, at work
Ok, let’s clear this up: what’s the difference between an ale and a lager?
They have different yeasts. An ale yeast ferments at room temperature, while a lager yeast can only ferment at 10 degrees Celsius. By fermenting at a lower temperature it gives lager a crisp taste, while an ale is more complex. Fruitiness you can find in both.
Has the perception of beer changed with the rise of craft beers?
What it has shown is that people are increasingly into variety and the nice thing about beer is that it has a broad spectrum of tastes. The range which craft brewers offer is helping us to diversify – Heineken now has more than 250 brands and 2,000 different beers.
Is brewing beer an art or a science?
It’s both. It is very handy to have science behind you to understand what is happening. That’s why brew masters spend time in multiple breweries, because the equipment influences the taste and you need to experience that to make the right decisions. But you also need to experiment a bit, and this is where the art comes in. You need to have a feeling of what goes together well.
Do you experiment with different ingredients?
Not for Heineken, which is made from malt, hops, water, and then we add the Heineken A-yeast – an ancient yeast, which was isolated in 1889, and which gives that specific fruity flavour. But with other lagers, we experiment with different yeasts. Most smaller breweries aren’t able to do this, so that’s why it’s interesting.
Heineken 0.0: the newest non-alcoholic brew on the block
Why have you introduced Heineken 0.0 to the Heineken family?
We could see markets were changing. These days there’s more of an emphasis on moderation and leading a healthy lifestyle, and being in control of your evening is increasingly important. Heineken couldn’t stay behind. So we started the Heineken 0.0 project more than one and half years ago, after 15 years of research.
Tell us about the process of creating Heineken 0.0…
We knew that to get a nice, balanced beer with a little bit of body is difficult if it’s alcohol-free. Alcohol has taste – if you remove the alcohol, you remove part of the taste. So for Heineken 0.0, we decided to brew two brews with the same natural ingredients as Heineken. We then gently removed the alcohol at a low-temperature distillation, before blending the two brews together. The secret is in the blending, which brings back the distinct Heineken aroma. You will always detect that Heineken 0.0 is an alcohol-free beer, but it tastes like it should be in the Heineken family. It’s a fruity, non-alcoholic, well-balanced beer.
What’s the future of beer drinking?
Being in control of your evening will be increasingly important. When you are designated driver, you might be a bit fed up with your water or soft drink – the nice thing about alcohol-free beer is that you can join the gang. Alcohol-free beers haven’t always been popular because most are not so nice to drink. But as soon as you taste Heineken 0.0 you’ll go ‘OK, this is a different proposition’.
To find out more about Heineken 0.0, visit heineken.com/Heineken00
Interview by Harriet Cooper