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Heineken: 150 years of pioneering brewing

We have always placed inspired innovation and continuous improvement at the heart of our brewing processes. By applying these same ideals to all other elements of our business, we have created a unique success story that spans more than 150 years and today encompasses the heritage of more than 300 brands.

An entrepreneurial spirit from day one

The HEINEKEN story really began on February 15, 1864, when Gerard Adriaan Heineken took over the Haystack brewery in Amsterdam. Aged just 22, Gerard had little brewing experience, but he had a lot of courage, self-confidence and an entrepreneurial spirit.

He knows that to succeed, he must take big risks. He decides to brew only lager, even though the Dutch are much better at brewing ale, porter and brown. This decision, as we now know, paid off – the second Heineken® brewery opened its doors less than ten years later in Rotterdam.

Gerard also knew how to run his business. Concerned about the overall situation, he treated his staff and customers well and ensured that his products were always of the highest quality.

The history of Haystack

How was the Haystack brewery acquired by young entrepreneur Gerard Heineken?

1841
Born in 1841, Gerard was the son of Cornelis Heineken and Anna Geertruida van der Paauw. Gerard’s father, Cornelis, was a successful businessman who traded in cheese and other food products.

1862
In 1862, Cornelis died and Gerard, aged 21, received a large inheritance from his father. He also inherited his father’s entrepreneurial spirit. Shortly after his father’s death, he spotted an Amsterdam brasserie for sale: the Haystack. In a letter to his mother, Gerard shares his excitement about buying the Haystack and his plans for the future.

1864
Due to his young age, Gerard must become an emancipated minor in order to use his father’s inheritance and legally and independently proceed with the purchase of the Haystack. In 1864, Gérard became the owner of a brewery at the age of 22.

1864+
It has been claimed that the purchase of the Haystack was financed by the income from slavery. What we do know is that Gerard’s mother, Anna, became the owner (shares) of slave plantations in Berbice (now Guyana) and Suriname through her first marriage in 1829 to Pieter Jacob Schumacher, who died in 1833. Anna and her second husband, Cornelis, were not married in “community of property”, meaning their estates were not united.

1864+
As Gerard purchased the haystack shortly after receiving an inheritance from his father, it is believed that Gerard used this money to finance the purchase, potentially combined with a family or bank loan. As such, it cannot be ruled out that money with a historical connection to the slave plantations – linked to the family of Gerard’s mother’s first husband – was used in some way to fund the purchase. However, so far, despite extensive research, we have been unable to find any documentation that validates these specific details.

1875: a star is born
Heineken® wins the gold medal at the international maritime exhibition and soon becomes the largest beer exporter in France.

1881
It is also interesting to note that Anna died in 1881, 17 years after purchasing the Haystack. Any inheritance from Anna’s estate would have taken place after this time.

1889: a historic honor
The new, pure-tasting pilsner from Heineken® wins the prestigious Grand Prix at the Universal Exhibition in Paris and, a year later, it begins to supply the restaurant at the Eiffel Tower.

Today
We believe it is important to understand the origins of our business and welcome questions and new information that helps clarify historical details. Our in-house historians have worked for many years to better understand our history and we have also engaged a series of external experts with in-depth knowledge of relevant archival resources and societal aspects related to slavery, to better understand these details. .

A transatlantic phenomenon


Heineken® was the first beer imported into the United States after the lifting of Prohibition in 1933. This proudly Dutch beer, which fully embraced the American art of advertising, saw its exports to the United States increase by 600 % in just four years.

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