Since 1870, the Meens family brews Alfa beers in the traditional ways. The independent family brewery, situated in Thull, Schinnen and surrounded by the green hills of South Limburg, has always remained true to its traditions and recipes. The history of the family brewery and the Meens family from Limburg can be divided into five generations.
Michelle & Martijn
2021 - Predicate supplier to the Alfa brewery has been extended
On Friday, 4 June 2021, Mayor Eric Geurts, on behalf of His Majesty the King, presented the Alfa Brewery with the designation ‘Supplier to the Royal Household’. This gives the family business the right to bear the royal coat of arms and the title ‘Supplier to the Royal Household by Royal Decree’ for a further twenty-five years. As a result of the coronation regulations in force, the presentation took place in a closed circle. Harry Meens accepted the predicate together with Michelle and Martijn Meens, who recently became the fifth generation to take the helm’.
2021 - ‘Best Lager in the World’ confirmed!
Alfa Noble Lager has once again won prizes. In addition to being ‘Country Winner’ at the internationally recognized World Beer Awards, Alfa Noble Lager has now also been named the ‘best Lager in the world’ in the ‘classic pilsner’ category of this competition. The entire Alfa Beer Brewery team is enormously proud of this amazing result.
1870 - 1870 – Farm and brewery
Joseph Meens expands his farm by adding a modest brewery. He starts to brew using his private natural source and home-grown barley malt, thus laying the foundation stones for Meens brewery.
1890 - 1890 – Dark brown beer
What do you do when a beer’s fermentation process doesn’t end well? Originally, the beer is sweetened to make it suitable for sale. Dark beer is such a type of beer. It is sweet and has a low alcohol percentage.
1880 - 1880 – Keeping it cool
Joseph Meens has his own ways to bring the brewing process to a successful conclusion. For example, he lets his employees make large blocks of ice to use in his cooling basement, which he called ices. Using fans, he managed to keep it cool even in summer.
1875 - 1875 – Sustainable, even back then
Nothing should go to waste. The brewing waste – bostel – turns out to be perfectly suitable for use as livestock feed. Even 150 years ago, sustainability was already on our agenda!
1872 - 1872 – The Minister says yes
Upon approval of none other than the Minister of Finance, Meens quickly acquires the necessary permits, including obligations to pay excise duty.
1895 - 1895 – Drinking beer as a working condition
One of the advantages of working at a brewery is that there is no getting around having to drink a beer yourself once in a while. Alfa, too, provided their employees with these sometimes ‘joyful’ benefits. Nowadays, we prefer to opt for slightly more moderate secondary working conditions. The picture shows the old road to the brewery.
1900 - 1900 – Changing to low-fermentation beer
Around the turn of the century, the brewery switches to low-fermentation beer, also known as Bavarian beer, thus following the well-known Reinheitsgebot from Bavaria, which defined beer as being made of only water, barley and hops.
1905 - 1905 – Delivering beer by wagon
Brewer Meens moves between pubs and cafés on a horse wagon to sell his kegs of beer, naturally having a beer himself from time to time. The coachman, too, occasionally enjoys a refreshing beer. Thanks goodness the horse always knows the way!
1918 - 1918 – Alfa survives the crisis
Between 1914 and 1918, many of the 800 Dutch breweries disappear due to a lack of the necessary raw materials. Joseph Meens has his own malting plant, allowing him to malt the barley himself, thus overcoming the crisis.
1923 - 1923 – Founder Joseph Meens passes away
Joseph Meens, who started a small brewery in 1870, passes away in 1923 at the age of eighty. His son Henri (1869-1960) has already taken over the business by then.
1927 - 1927 – Mining brings prosperity
The arrival of the mines in Limburg brings much prosperity to the region, incidentally influencing the drinking habits of the inhabitants. Many breweries do good business, as does Meens.
1930 - 1930 – Small breweries disappear
The large number of breweries in the area also leads to fiercer competition. Consequently, many breweries fail to keep business afloat. Meens prevails once again.
1944 - 1944 – Meens beer during the war
Even during the Second World War, the brewery keeps running, even though the Germans have an interest in the brewing kettles that can possibly serve in their soup kitchens. However, the bricked-in boilers prove to be far too large. Meens trucks drive to the nearby DSM site in Geleen to refuel gas there.
1949 - 1949 – Ice factory
In preparation for a major renovation and renewal of the company, the Meens family is having an ice factory constructed, perhaps the most modern one in the country at that time. This factory also provides neighboring cafés and butchers with ice.
1950 - 1950 – 3rd generation
Leo Meens takes over from his father Henri. His brother will withdraw from the brewery in 1969 due to health reasons.
1952 - 1952 – A new building
Construction work on the new brewery is completed. The brewery now has the latest technologies, allowing Meens to double its production.
1953 - 1953 – Party?
Free beer for everyone! The new building is celebrated exuberantly with a party that lasts for fourteen days. Tipsy partygoers are lying in the ditches and along the road. Because there is little traffic at that time, no accidents take place. Source: Limburgsch Dagblad
1953 - 1953 – Meens Beer becomes Alfa
After more than 80 years, Meens Beer takes the decision to change its name to Alfa. Obviously, the label on the bottles needs some tweaking as well. The first Alfa label looked like this.
1956 - 1956 – New yeast tanks
As a result of developments and growth, the brewery undergoes the necessary changes, such as the fitting of new fermentation tanks in 1956. This is a major transformation for the brewery.
1960 - 1960 – Crossing the regional border
The rest of the Netherlands gradually discovers our beer, brewed with nothing but the purest spring water, allowing Alfa to cross the regional border.
1967 - 1967 – First cash-and-carry liquor store
Leonard Meens laid the foundation stone of cash-and-carry liquor stores. He sells quality drinks, mainly spirits, below normal retail prices, dealing a blow to Dutch off-license sellers, but favouring the common people.
Source: De Trompetter
1968 - 1968 – Sustainability
For environmental reasons, Leo Meens creates cane and rush fields behind the brewery. In addition, he starts constructing a water purification plant at his own expense, which, in the following years, will result in a significant contribution to the sustainable design of the entire brewing process.
1970 - 1970 – 100 years of Alfa
Only 13 breweries remain in the Netherlands, one of which is the now 100-year-old Alfa. Naturally, this is celebrated, but in a much more modest way than the two-week libation held to celebrate the new building in 1953. Source: Limburgs Dagblad
1974 - 1974 – Special tanks
The brewery gets seventeen new tanks to aid in the fermentation- and maturation process of the beer. The lager tanks and yeast tanks are made of polyester, which is unique in that time.
1977 - 1977 – Doubled production capacity
With the purchase of the Skoll building, which will be used as a loading bay, the brewery can expand its production capacity even further. In order to meet the increasing demand for Alfa beer, a second filling line is placed in the brewery, thus increasing production capacity from 12,000 bottles to 24,000 bottles per day. Source: The Limburger
1979 - 1979 – Celebrations after reopening
Another party! After a major expansion, the brewery is reopened again. The opening is delayed by 45 minutes because the parachutists with the necessary key landed a bit later than planned. Source: De Limburger
1980 - 1980 – 4th generation
It is Harry Meens’s turn to take over from father Leo.
1981 - 1981 – Alfa scores in the US
Near the end of the 1970s, Alfa has already exported 600,000 bottles to the US, but now the brewery really means business. The heavier Dortmunder beer, too, is exported to the land of Uncle Sam. Source: Limburgs Dagblad
1984 - 1984 – Olympic beer
Although the bad summer in the Netherlands has an effect on beer sales, 1984 is a special year of export. In Los Angeles, the city where the Olympic Games are held in 1984, the last Alfa bottle is about to be sold. No problem for our brewery, though! We have been exporting to the US for quite some time by then. By acting accurately, a container with 28,000 bottles of Alfa beer is quickly sent to Los Angeles. Source: The Limburger
1986 - 1986 – Alfa Super Dortmunder from the barrel!
Up until now, our popular Alfa Super Dortmunder was only available in bottles. This is now changing at the request of the Alliance of Beer Taprooms.
1987 - 1987 – Officially the best lager there is!
Fifty seasoned Dutch beer connoisseurs proclaim Alfa Noble Lager the best bottled lager of the year, leaving all of the modest brewery’s rivals far behind in the competition. Source: Limburgs Dagblad
1988 - 1988 – Cadmium-free crates
The fact that Alfa beer considers sustainability of paramount importance is also shown by Alfa switching to cadmium-free crates. Although it is a very expensive measure (costs: about one million guilders) to replace all old crates, owner Harry Meens attaches great importance to the use of ‘clean crates’. “It is a pity that we only found out now, otherwise we would have switched to cadmium-free crates fifteen years ago,” says Meens in the newspaper. Source: Limburgs Dagblad
1990 - 1990 – A new filling machine
With the installation of a new filling machine, the capacity of the Alfa brewery has once again been expanded. Thanks to the new machine, which is made in Belgium and costs more than 1.2 million guilders, the filling capacity is doubled to 40,000 bottles. Beer sales are growing by about 15% annually. The total production in 1990 is about 5 million liters. Source: Limburgs Dagblad
1991 - 1991 – Taking a step back
As the demand for Alfa beer continues to grow, the brewery is forced to purchase new tanks for fermentation and lagering of the beer. That is why three new tanks with a diameter of 4.3 meters and a length of 16 meters are transported to the hamlet of Thull in Schinnen. The tanks have a capacity of about 130,000 liters. From an economic point of view, the tanks should have been even higher, but that would have been too great an intrusion into the landscape. Source: The Limburger
1991 - 1991 – Controlled growth
In the Financieele Dagblad, director Harry Meens talks about the strategy that makes clear that Alfa must not grow too fast. Although Meens admits that saying no is difficult, he has previously rejected an offer for a lucrative supply contract. ‘’If we had done so, we would have had to double our capacity, but we did not want to. The growth would have been far too fast for us and the risks would have been too great’’. Typically, Meens attaches importance to matters such as family tradition, craftsmanship and quality, which may be pressured due to rapid growth. Source: Financieele Dagblad
1992 - 1992 – Gold!
At the 31st World Selection of Beers in Brussels, Alfa wins two gold medals. Alfa Noble Lager gets a gold medal and Alfa Super Dortmunder receives the highest distinction: the Grande Medaille d’Or. Source: De Uitkijk
1993 - 1993 – Spring Bock
Why would you only drink bock beer in autumn? Alfa restores an old tradition and commercializes its Spring Bock.
1993 - 1993 – Certified spring water
Since 1993, Alfa’s water source has been certified. Minister d’Ancona officially recognizes the brewery’s spring water.
1993 - 1993 – Alfa donates ten grand
The federation of the Oud Limburgs Schuttersfeest (OLS) receives a check from the Alfa Brewery with a value of 10.000 guilders. By doing so, the brewery in Schinnen wants to initiate scientific research into soil pollution by lead bullets. Source: Limburgs Dagblad
1995 - 1995 – Purveyor
As of this year, Alfa is able to indicate on its label that it is a purveyor to the Royal Household. The title grants recognition for the lager that is still brewed with pure spring water.
1996 - 1996 – Unveiling of the source house
On Saturday, June 29th, the new source house of Alfa is festively inaugurated by mayor Loeffen. On Sunday, June 30th, the festive weekend is concluded with two walking routes in the vicinity of Thull and the brewery.
1997 - 1997 – Russia chooses Super Strong
In 1997, Alfa starts exporting to Russia and Estonia. Particularly popular there is Alfa Super Strong, with an alcohol percentage of almost 9%, in half-liter cans. Source: Limburgs Dagblad
1997 - 1997 – Distinguished visitors from Poland
Former President of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa also visits the Alfa Brewery in Schinnen during his tour in the Netherlands. He is welcomed at the brewery by mayor Frans Beckers and two aldermen. ”Tastes good,” says Walesa’s interpreter about Alfa Noble Lager, which is also available in Poland. The former president of Poland is also photographed together with Aunt Wies and Martijn Meens, the son of owner Harry Meens. Source: Brabants Dagblad
2000 - 2000 – Alfa goes Caribbean
From 2000 onwards, the residents of Curaçao can enjoy Alfa Noble Lager, Dortmunder and Old Brown. The Algemeen Dagblad reports ‘’naturally pure beer from Limburg source’’, ‘’beer for the real enthusiast’’ and ‘’a premium A-1 beer’’ in its article. Moreover, half-liter cans of Alfa are also exported to the island for the heavier drinkers. Source: Algemeen Dagblad
2001 - 2001 – Alfa supports Volumia!
The Alfa Brewery aims at a young audience by means of targeted promotional actions in cooperation with Volumia!, the popular pop group. The brewery gives away 25,000 copies of the single Leef, specially recorded for Alfa, free of charge upon purchase of a crate of Alfa beer. Source: Limburgs Dagblad
2003 - 2003 – Big hit in Londen
The United Kingdom also falls for Alfa. The beer from Schinnen is a real hit in the business life of the City of London. Source: De Telegraaf
2004 - 2004 – Replacing copper boiler
In 2004, under the watchful eye of Aunt Wies, the fifty-year-old copper brewing kettle is replaced by a hypermodern stainless steel one. The new boiler is necessary to meet the growing demand for Alfa Nobel Lager. Source: De Telegraaf
2006 - 2006 – Beer museum
Alfa opens a museum and a cinema in two rooms of the beer brewery. Source: Limburgs Dagblad
2006 - 2006 – The fifth generation is coming
With a full-page advertisement in the Limburgs Dagblad, Alfa emphasizes the authenticity of the real family brewery. For four generations, excellent beer has been brewed using traditional methods, without compromising on the process and quality. A small nod to the future: the children playing in and running through the image are the fifth generation.
2009 - 2009 – Aunt Wies (1913-2009)
Who says beer is bad for you? ‘Aunt Wies’ Meens tasted the first glass of Alfa Nobel Lager every morning at 8 o’clock for 65 years. If she decided it did not have the real Alfa taste, it wouldn’t be allowed to leave the brewery. Aunt Wies reached the age of 96. Her last wish: free beer for the whole of Limburg. It comes as no surprise that the brewery is going through a storm of visitors for weeks on end.
2011 - 2011 – Brewing families join forces
The unique collaboration of the Alfa Brewery with Budels, Lindeboom and Gulpener results in the creation of the Taste of Truth, a special and unique beer that was brewed only once by the four family brewers. ”While supplies last,” says Harry Meens in the Eindhovens Dagblad when he is asked about this beer’s availability. “No, this is no prelude to a merger. We remain independent but will work together to strengthen the image of traditional beer.’’ Source: Eindhovens Dagblad
2012 - 2012 – Tree-free
A large oak tree is blocking access to the Alfa Brewery in Schinnen when transporting new, larger beer kettles necessary for the brewery’s expansion. Director Harry Meens consequently decides to buy the house with the garden in which the oak tree is standing to then remove the tree, thus allowing the larger kettles to be transported to the brewery. With the new boilers, production capacity increases from 1.7 liters to 2.2 million liters per year. Source: De Telegraaf
2014 - 2014 – Alfa Trail Run
360 runners participate in the first edition of the Alfa Trail Run. The route goes right through the forests and hills of Limburg, with both the start and finish at the Alfa Brewery.
2015 - 2015 – Alfa & China
Although Alfa first explored the Chinese market back in 2013, exports to the east continue in 2015. Around 5% of the turnover comes from exports to China. In Shanghai, Alfa justifiably holds the status of a premium lager.
2016 - Sustainable brewing
In 2014, Alfa’s brewery was the second most energy-efficient in Europe. Alfa is therefore committed to sustainable business, energy efficiency and saving water. ”Energy efficiency is not marketing, it is our second nature”, says owner Harry Meens.
2017 - 2017 – Renewing landscape
Together with various parties including the municipality of Schinnen, the province of Limburg, IBA, the Water Board and natural monuments, Alfa refurbishes the brewery and the Muldersplas area. The Mulderplas becomes more visible and a brasserie is built on the site of the former restaurant. The outside area of the brewery is also redecorated.
2018 - 2018 – Silver with a golden edge
Alfa Noble Lager is awarded the silver medal during the fourth edition of the Dutch Beer Challenge. In the lager category, Alfa Noble Lager finishes in a fantastic second place behind De Leckere from Utrecht, thus scoring the best of all beers in this category that are available in supermarkets nationwide. A golden edge, if you ask us! In addition, Alfa Spring Bock wins the bronze medal. Of the three times that Alfa participated in the Dutch Beer Challenge, it also won three prizes.
2018 - The most beautiful bottle ever
A fresh new look with beautiful new bottles, a new corporate identity, but also a stylish, modern website. Inspired by our 80-year-old bottled Meens beer, 8 million new bottles are introduced in supermarkets, liquor stores, pubs and events from March onwards, with our family crest embossed on the glass, stylish new labels and a beautiful seal. A premium beer comes with a premium bottle! In fact, we are just as proud of our new bottles, labels and website as we are of the preservation of our four-generation long family tradition and the way we brew our beer. As far as we are concerned, modernization and tradition go hand in hand!
2018 - 5th Generation
Michelle and Martijn Meens start in the brewery and start to master the craft of Harry Meens.
2018 - New cans
After the introduction of the new bottles in March of this year, next up are the Alfa Noble Lager cans. We put a lot of care in creating a look that matches our new brand identity: quality linked to craftsmanship and tradition. We decided on a stylish silver appearance with red and yellow accents. The Alfa logo of our Limburg family brewery is prominently displayed and supported by the visualization of our seal as found on our Alfa bottles.
2018 - TV-report ‘De Opvolgers’
Alfa is an independent family brewery! This has prompted the NPO to approach us for a documentary about succession at Alfa. A film crew of the NPO and presenter Sander Schimmelpenninck spend two days recording and interviewing for ‘De Opvolgers’ (The Successors), as the documentary is called. We are extremely proud of the cooperation with the program makers, creating an open-hearted image. The episode of ‘De Opvolgers’, which is broadcast at WNL on Tuesday 7 August 2018, can be found on the website of NPO Start. Click here to watch it right away.
- Meens magazine
”Because we love to share our story. Not to show the world how good we are, but to share our pride. Our love. From Beer lovers, for Beer lovers. Because Beer fraternizes.”
Read the whole magazine here
- Introduction 75cl bottle
This special recipe from 1953, from the third generation of Meens, made Krachtig Dort one of the first special beers in the Netherlands. The recipe has remained within the family and passed on from generation to generation. We are now two generations further and we still know how to retain the unique taste today.
2020 - 2020 – Opening Proeflokaal Anno ‘1870’The Alfa Brewery in Schinnen celebrated the official opening of the renewed tasting room on Friday 7 August 2020. Completely in style of the year 1870. On the sun-drenched afternoon, the press and relations present were introduced to the reopened ‘Meens Bier tasting room’. Of course, the beer flowed abundantly. The beer that has been brewed for more than 150 years by the independent family brewery in the hamlet of Thull. Click here to book a brewery tour!
- Best lager in the world
During the London Beer Competition, Alfa Edel Pils and Alfa Krachtig Dort won prizes for the second year in a row. Within the “International Lager” category, Alfa Edel Pils achieved the highest score. With this, Alfa Edel Pils can crown itself “Best lager in the world”.
- realisatie verlengstuk proeflokaal; Bie de Bron
Ontdek, geniet en beleef
Bie de Bron is het verlengstuk van het proeflokaal van de Alfa Bierbrouwerij en biedt daarnaast ontbijt, lunch, diner, feesten, evenementen, private-dining, vergadermogelijkheden, groepsarrangementen, taptafels en nog zo veel meer! ? www.biedebron.nl
Op de eerste etage vind je de vernieuwde en uitgebreide Alfa Bier merchandise shop, waar je terecht kunt voor merchandise, cadeaus, de bieren voor thuis en het (ter plekke) boeken van rondleidingen.
1953 - 1953 – First special beer of the Netherlands
This special recipe from 1953, from the third generation of Meens, made Powerful Dort one of the first special beers in the Netherlands. The recipe remained within the family and was passed on from generation to generation. We are now two generations further down the line and still manage to retain the unique taste.