From kitchen table to brewery

His pursuit of a master’s degree in history teacher training had to be set aside to do it, but Jeroen Bax finally has his own beer brewery. With its opening, Groningen is now home to specialty beers like ‘Oma’s Pruim’ (Grandma’s Plum) and ‘Kon Minder’ (I’ve Had Worse).
By Beppie van der Sluis / Translation by Traci White

It all started in 2011. Bax started learning online about brewing beer, and he was immediately sold. Along with his father, he bought up pots and pans so that he could get started. Together, they transformed the family’s kitchen into a beer factory.

Nowadays, Bax’s father has gotten out of the brewing business – he saw himself as better suited to being a taste tester. Currently, his son is working together with Sepp Jansen, whom he knows from the Groningen student cycling team, Tandje Hoger (Shifting up a gear). ‘On Saturday afternoon, we didn’t have anything to do. Jeroen suggested that we could brew a beer. I was on board right away and I wanted to know exactly how everything works in that process’, says Jansen, who has a degree in biology.

Dynamic duo

Bax quickly decided to abandon his studies in order to fully focus on his brewery. ‘I was so driven to make this business a success because several degree programmes I had enrolled in hadn’t worked out’, he says. ‘I think that’s why it’s grown so much in just two and a half years.’

Jansen is continuing his studies: after getting his master’s degree, he wound up pursuing a PhD at a university in Germany. He works as a researcher there, but he tries to come by the brewery at least twice a month. ‘Since Sepp has joined us, the recipes have gotten much better’, Bax says. ‘I’m good at sampling, taste and smell. He is more focused on finding ways that we can improve our beer by reading lots of literature about it.’

Lack of space

The first 2,000 litres of beer were produced at a brewery in Amsterdam. Back in Groningen, the kitchen table turned out to be too small for all the barley juice they needed. He had no choice but to relocate to a shed in the backyard, but he also quickly outgrew that. ‘Then we moved to a bigger shed at a liquor store in Hoogezand. There was plenty of space and we could really expand there’, Bax says.

The beer brewers have moved once again in the meantime: now, they have set up shop in a brand new brewery on the Friesestraatweg. When Bax first laid eyes on the former construction company headquarters, the building was still full of dust and construction materials, but he was taken with the space straight away. ‘A few months later, we signed the contract and got the keys to the place, and then we got started with the renovations.’

Grandma’s Plum

The brewer duo is far from the only Dutch folks running a microbrewery these days. ‘Specialty beers and breweries are popping up everywhere like mushrooms. The competition is fierce’, Bax admits.

With ‘surprising flavours’ and ‘funny names’, they aim to set themselves apart from the rest of the pack. For example, at Bax Beer, you can pop the top off a bottle of ‘Kon Minder’ (I’ve Had Worse) or ‘Oma’s Pruim’ (Grandma’s Plum). The latter name may be a bit of a double entendre, Bax acknowledges with a laugh. ‘But it really is a reference to the plum tree in my grandma’s yard. You can just use your own imagination for the rest.’

With their ‘Koud vuur’ (Cold fire) beer, Bax and Jansen won the Brussel beer challenge, a sort of world championship for beer brewers, three weeks ago. The win has whetted their appetites for more, Bax says. ‘On Saturday, the brewery will officially open, and we will tell our origin story yet again. After that, it will be the beginning of a new era and a new chapter in the story. What does the future hold? I don’t know. But I hope that we can start exporting our beer throughout the Netherlands and the rest of the world.’

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