Why Dutch beer is so expensive

At an average price of €2,40, a freshly poured draft beer doesn’t come cheap in Dutch cafes. And as beer prices continue to rise, a glass of Heineken or Bavaria might soon end up costing even more. Why are you charged so heavily for ordering a beer at the bar in the Netherlands? Dutch cafe holders are pointing the finger at breweries.

Home to some of the world’s most famous beer brands, Holland has a proud beer history. But as beer prices continue to rise, Dutch cafe holders are now sounding the alarm. Unwilling to raise the price for a glass of draft beer even further, they are reportedly put in an impossible position by the breweries that continue to drive up the costs. In Tuesday’s Brabants Dagblad, the owner of cafe Burgemeester Jansen in Tilburg called it ‘mafia-like practices’.


In the newspaper article, owner Erwin van de Velde says that breweries have increased the beer prices by 60% over the last 11 years, putting cafe holders’ profit margins under heavy pressure. “That’s bizarre”, Van de Velde says. “And there is nothing you can do about it.” Now that the country’s largest breweries have announced a further increase of 3 to 4 percent, entrepreneurs like Van de Velde face a dilemma: charge customers even more, or make even less profit. “It really is a lot of money to ask €3,50 for a draft beer”, Björn Jansen, the owner of Slagroom, tells Brabants Dagblad. “You’re pricing beer out of the market this way.”

Choke hold

Koninklijke Horeca Nederlands (KHN), the Dutch trade association for the catering industry, has often warned that breweries have cafe owners in a choke hold. Because it’s difficult to get a loan from the bank, entrepreneurs wanting to open a cafe often turn to the beer industry for a loan. Some owners lease their space from a brewery, and many have draft beer systems on loan. Tied to a contract, they are unable to choose to do business with competing breweries.


For supermarkets, the situation is entirely different. They have no contracts with breweries, leaving it up to beer brands to compete with each other. As a result, a beer costs a lot less when you buy it at the supermarket than when you order it at the bar. A crate of beer sells for around €10, and contains 24 bottles. So if you’re a fan of Dutch beer and looking for a financially conscious way to party, just swing by the store and give a round of beer in your living room, not in the cafe on the corner.

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