Last Episode – THE CROWNED FALCON TAKES THE LEAD
These past musings about The Falcon may not directly touch non-European earthlings, but broad reader interest confirmed that the story of the Falcon has universal meaning: how people destroy on the one hand and how other people create on the other, helped by spiritual creatures such as The Falcon.
Don’t think that The Falcon sits there, lonely, on its column at the Hoogte Kadijk, just staring into the blue Amsterdam sky. From the moment that the Foundation discovered its exile in South Africa and sculptor Edwards managed to transpose its soul into its replica, relegating the cast-iron original to a dead piece of steel, the Falcon has managed the minds of the Foundation’s members. Actually, it did so even before they knew about the Falcon. Its Spirit had stayed hovering over its decapitated pillar, standing purposeless along the street. When fires broke out and bulldozers came in thundering, the Falcon’s Spirit saw destruction coming and beamed anxiety into the minds of the neighborhood. We have seen how that Spirit struck the three Musketeers of Hoogte Kadijk. How it inspired them to locate and cunningly resurrect the Falcon, left to a meaningless destiny of garden embellishment in a remote land, and how it pushed them to reinstate the resurrected Falcon onto its throne and relaunch its famous Stout.
The next step for The Foundation was to invite author Rolf van der Woude to commemorate Willem Hovy as one of the enlightened directors of Van Vollenhoven’s Beer, who had taken the Falcon’s fame to unsurpassed heights by the end of the 19th century. Rolf entitled his book “Faith in the brewery” – Geloof in de Brouwerij (see my blog “Murder of the Falcon”) – which had a double meaning in that Willem Hovy instilled a deep belief of the brewery’s success into the Falcon’s employees and at the same time created the ambiance of a strong Christian bond. The book’s tale is fascinating, frightening and faithful at the same time, illustrated with striking pictures in a memorable publication by Bas Lubberhuizen publishers (www.lubberhuizen.nl)
When the Amsterdam Free University commemorated William Hovy in 2009 and his bronze bust was unveiled, the book was issued as well.
Author Rolf van der Woude, Jan Nekkers, Pieter Teepe, Eymert van Manen, John and Junte Schwartz
The men who, guided by the Falcon, made it all possible: Pieter, Rolf with his book, Eymert, bust of Willem Hovy, Jan
Later, the book was welcomed by a large crowd at “De Engelse Reet”( The English Reet) at Happy Hour Time.
Eymert van Manen presents the book
Since 2006, every year in November, the “new Stout” is introduced, tasted and judged. In 2007, the Foundation received the Gold Pint Price, especially because it was able to keep an old special type of beer alive for the Dutch “beer culture”. Lastly, the introduction of the new Stout (much like the “nouveau beaujolais”) took place on November 28, 2013 in the “Eik en Linde” (“Oak and Lime Tree”) Bar, close to the Amsterdam Zoo “ARTIS”, this time produced in collaboration with “Stadsbrouwerij Wittenburg” in Zevenaar (City Brewery; Zevenaar is located in the eastern part of Holland). Foundation members (and sons) worked hard to brew the Falcon’s renowned old beverage. The crowded bar rated the Stout excellent.
A few pictures close the Falcon episodes. He will be busy making sure his Stout is served in Amsterdam and the rest of Holland. And what about the USA?
A few of the many guests and “The Master” himself
The bar is full, the Stout is great. Thumbs up! The Falcon succeeded.
Goodbye! Come again! My Van Vollenhoven’s Stout is great for your health!
I take a brief leave of absence to work on a manuscript. I’ll be back in early January 2014. Happy New Year!
Return of the Crowned Falcon
In the early nineties, the Three Musketeers of the Hoogte Kadijk, Amsterdam, sat together, reportedly drinking bad beer.”Tastes like cat pee,” Eymert van Manen said, staring at his glass in disgust, shaking it left and right. “You know any better?” his host Pieter Teepe asked, feeling hurt. “That brewery across the street, what was it again, The Crowned Falcon? Van Vollenhoven’s Beer? Was much better I was told, ” Eymert said. “The municipality is going to tear down the last brewery’s buildings for renovation,” Jan Nekkers said. “They keep setting fires in it.” “I heard about that,” Pieter said. “Also that column where that Falcon stood on will be crushed.” “My dad took me there once,” Eymert remembered, dreaming of his youthful days. “He assured me that Falcon beer was a lot better than this cat pee they sell here today. My father knocked his hand against the column and said “Eymert my boy, once a great Falcon stood on this column. It made Stout beer. It was so healthy and nutritious that doctors recommended it. As good as mother’s milk. Good tides never stay.” “It was an impressive bird,” Jan said. “Sired the whole neighborhood.” “Did it fly away?” Eymert asked. “The grandson of one of the original directors, Willem Hovy, had it lifted from its base at the brewery’s closing,”Jan explained, “and shipped it to Johannesburg, South Africa where he lived, as a souvenir.” “But that’s robbery!” Eymert exclaimed. “It belongs to the neighborhood.” “Apparently nobody objected,” Jan said. “But at least they should preserve the column as a souvenir for us,” Pieter said. “All these houses here were once houses belonging to the brewery. It’s part of our heritage.” “Let’s go to Johannesburg and grab that Falcon,” Eymert said, getting excited. “If we put it back on the column, the municipality won’t destroy it. Over there it will die a lonely rusting death, with all those vultures pooping on it.” “Great idea,” Jan mused. “Go see some elephants, walk by the Hovy’s house and then put that 2000 pound Falcon in your suitcase. You’re insane.”
From left to right: Jan Nekkers, Pieter Teepe, Eymert van Manen
“We must get it back,” Pieter said, stamping his foot. “Okay, we will get it back,” Jan said, looking doubtful at his empty glass. “Up to Johannesburg, friends. Take your swords and pack your bags.” Eymert commandeered, throwing the rest of his glass of cat pee into the sink. “Good riddance.”
The threesome met again a few days later. “Got some information, friends,” Eymert announced. “No travel to South Africa needed. I called the Dutch Embassy in Pretoria. They passed me on to the Ambassador himself, Eduard Roëll. He knew about Van Vollenhoven’s Beer and Ferdinand Schwartz, distant in-laws of the Roëlls. I told him we were looking for the Falcon and that we’d heard it was kept by the grandson of Willem Hovy, who lived somewhere near Johannesburg. Roell said he would find out. When I called him again, he told me he’d contacted the younger Willem Hovy who confirmed that the Falcon stood in his garden, but he didn’t want to give it back.” “Maybe we should make him an offer he can’t refuse,” Pieter suggested. “With whose money?” Eymert asked. “I heard that if you create a foundation you can raise money without having to pay taxes,” Jan said. “Let’s do that and start begging.” “Foundation of the Crowned Falcon,” Pieter offered. “Deal,” Eymert said. They shook hands and went to work.
With legal help from friends, they set up the Foundation. Jan became President, Pieter Financial Manager, and Eymert Secretary. They sent letters to the neighborhood and cultural funds, and donations started flowing in. Soon there was enough money to offer Hovy twenty five thousand guilders (then about US$14,000), but Hovy said “No”. He wanted to keep it for posterity. No other solution but to have a replica made of the cast-iron original. Ambassador Roëll recommended Mike Edwards, a local sculptor and bronze-caster, and the arrangements with Hovy were made. Roëll also negotiated with KLM to transport the Falcon to Amsterdam for free. Edwards made sure the Spirit of the Falcon would inhabit the replica, and with magical craft he brought the Falcon back to life.
The Falcon Reborn
Awaiting the Falcon’s flight back to Amsterdam, the Foundation put out all stops to organize its landing on the old column. They had collected some 40,000 guilders (about US$22,000), of which Heineken Beer (yes, Heineken!) contributed 50%. The unveiling took place on a cold day in November 1993, by popular Dutch comic and author Youp van’t Hek, in the presence of many guests, among others Mike Edwards and the great-grandson of Willem Hovy.
Youp Van ‘t Hek in red jacket standing on a platform lifted by a crane defying his fear of heights
Heineken’s Beer served its version of Van Vollenhoven’s Stout that it had put back on the market. When the rumor of free beer spread, the crowd admiring the Falcon grew quickly to over 150 people. Ambassador Roëll, who had played such a memorable role in the Return of the Falcon, got a special toast.
“This Heineken Stout is not the real Stout,” a member of the Körner family said, hearing the Spirit of the Falcon talking to him. “We have to make our own,” Eymert agreed, but where to find the recipe? “My mother may know, ” Körner said. “My father brewed it.” The Foundation contacted Mrs. Körner, who happily gave it audience in a senior citizens home near Arnhem. She gave them the five page recipe that her husband had left, “strictly confidential”. But what to do with it? “You need a threefold boiler system for this, a brewer told me,” Eymert said. They traveled to breweries in Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg, but no luck, until they heard of a small brewery”De Schans” (unpronounceable name for non-Dutch speakers, and even harder to translate, something like “The Trench”), some ten miles south of Amsterdam. The Spirit of the Falcon kept holding out the torch to move forward. Heineken stopped brewing their stout in 2002, and handed The Foundation the license to brew it under the name of Van Vollenhoven’s Stout, using the original recipe Heineken was never given. The Foundation got in touch with “De Schans”, which accepted the challenge and concocted the new stout according to the old proven recipe. In November 2006, it was served for the first time in a bar, called “The English Reet”, in a small side street in the center of Amsterdam, and tasted quite good. Some said the Falcon stood smiling on its column.
Picture Left: The Falcon is smiling
Picture Right: The Falcon’s Stout Reborn
Fact-checked by The Foundation of the Crowned Falcon
Next Issue: The Falcon Remembers its Glorious Past (and looks towards the Future)
Born in Amsterdam Three – Murder of the Falcon
Once upon a time….there was a blooming beer brewery, Thew Crowned Falcon, employing hundreds of employees at the Hoogte Kadijk in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. It started in the early part of the 18th century. As described in “Geloof in de Brouwerij” by Rolf van der Woude (“Faith in the Brewery”, 2009, an excellent book on which much of this material is based, but unfortunately only available in Dutch), Jan Messchert van Vollenhoven, a businessman from Rotterdam origin and a known literary personality and poet, bought the small brewery in 1791. Together with his wife, the wealthy Elisabeth van der Poorten from Amsterdam, they were eminent ancestors in my family. The brewery became “Van Vollenhoven’s Beer”, and The Crowned Falcon became its trademark.
Though brewing beer proved a tough business with small margins, The Crowned Falcon survived competition and heavy taxation. In the second half of the 19th century, following consolidation in the industry and more favorable tax liabilities,Van Vollenhoven’s Beer turned more profitable.
This etch of Van Vollenhoven’s Beer in the 19th century hangs in my dining room.
Jan Messchert and Elisabeth had six children. One of those children, Antoni, had a daughter, also called Elisabeth,who married Hendrik Hovy. Their son, Willem Hovy, starting as an apprentice in the family brewery at the age of 18, became one of the prominent directors of The Crowned Falcon in the 19th century, establishing social benefits, including pension, and fixed wages for the brewery’s employees, which was rather innovative for that period. A man of strong Christian conviction, he ran the brewery in an atmosphere of managers and employees forming one family working for its common good.
Another daughter of Antoni, Cornelia, married Carl A.F. Schwartz, a prominent reverend of the Free Scottish Church in Amsterdam and the great grandfather of the Schwartz family. One of their sons, John Schwartz (my grand father), became co-director with Willem Hovy, thus keeping management fully in family hands. His other son, Joshua van der Poorten Schwartz, became a member of the board, but left this position to devote himself to writing (under the pseudonym of “Maarten Maartens”, 1858-1915, authoring some 30 books in English – see my blog “A Prolific Ancestor”), successfully applying the talents he had inherited from his great-grandfather Jan Messchert.
The Crowned Falcon started the production of Van Vollenhoven’s Stout, a dark beer that was promoted, among others in France (“Bière brune du Faucon”), as a “healthy, highly nutritious beer with curative elements, recommended by doctors”. In French hospitals, it was admitted “by decision of The Public Assistance” (“Consult your doctor”!). An article about the famous stout was published in “Moniteur Illustré”, issued at the World Exposition in Paris in 1889, for which the Eiffel Tower was built. As you can imagine, sales shot up. Think of seeing an ad like this on today’s TV!
The popular stout was made in accordance with a special recipe only the Falcon brewers knew of.
In 1891, to attract capital for renovation, modernization and expansion, The Crowned Falcon became a public company, a decision that turned out a fatal mistake, as the brewery exposed itself to growing robber-competitors such as neighboring Heineken and Amstel, who were out to take over or destroy competition in the industry, as they wanted to be the only chiefs in town. But in the latter part of the 19th century, The Crowned Falcon was the largest beer brewery in The Netherlands.
Composition of Tiles of Van Vollenhoven’s Beer by Distel Cy., Dutch Tile Museum, The Netherlands.
As a result of World War I (1914-18), and the great depression of the 1930s, The Crowned Falcon – and many other family breweries in Holland – began to face economic hardship because of sluggish demand. In 1908, some 380 breweries populated The Netherlands and by 1930 this number was reduced to 63, employing on average about 85 workers (source: “Faith in the Brewery”, 2009). Consolidation of breweries became unavoidable due to falling market shares and bankruptcies. In one bankruptcy of a small brewery, Heineken and The Crowned Falcon shared the booty, but that’s the only time they worked together.
Modernization followed, but operating costs, including wages, continued to soar and forced The Crowned Falcon to greater expenses.
Production stagnated and competition from Amstel, which produced a cheaper Stout, reduced the Falcon’s market share. Marketing too many labels proved also uneconomic. During the 1930s, Heineken and Amstel grew rapidly, among others by producing “cheaper” beer (that is, of lesser quality by shortening the period of fermentation that determines the beer’s good taste, in order to get quicker turn around in sales), leaving The Crowned Falcon behind. It struggled to regain its leading position, especially maintaining its lead in the export market to South-Asia, the Far-East and the Middle-East that Director Ferdinand Schwartz (my father) had developed. Many movies and pictures evidence this achievement.
Directors Van Reede and Ferdinand Schwartz seated from left. Mr. Körner, Technical Director, seated far right.
An effort to seek collaboration with Heineken failed. The Falcon was forced to obtain loans from Amsterdam Bank, which demanded a seat at the brewery’s board. This brought in The Troyan Horse. Heineken, Amstel and The Falcon started discussions over a possible take-over, with Amsterdam Bank luring eagerly in the back. Heineken was particularly interested in The Falcon’s export market. Sneakingly, Heineken set up director Van Reede, recruited earlier from another brewery, against Ferdinand Schwartz, the last Van Vollenhoven’s family member, by offering Van Reede a position at Heineken’s if The Falcon would go under in its financial quagmire. Heineken clearly wanted the last Mohican of the Van Vollenhoven/Hovy/Schwartz family “out”.
World War II (1940-45) became the final blow. Though the brewery was allowed to continue after Nazi invasion (Hitler would have said that “beer must stay”), its revenues did not match costs, while it carried a substantial loan liability with Amsterdam Bank. Through stock manipulations, the origin of which was never uncovered, Heineken and Amstel strengthened their grip on The Crowned Falcon through the appointment of board members sympathetic to their views. Differences over national industry production agreements in Holland soured the relations further. Quarrels in the board between Heineken appointed members and The Falcon’s Executive Officers (Ferdinand Schwartz and Van Reede) about the brewery’s management were at the order of the day.
Shipping for local delivery and export
The Crowned Falcon began to operate notably better after the war during 1945-46, among others by increased export deals secured by Ferdinand Schwartz, but Heineken remained utter negative about the brewery’s future. Then fate struck. Ferdinand died in a car accident in January 1946, when a truck hit him while biking to the brewery, as he had done many years due to the lack of transport during the war. Van Reede died mysteriously a year later. Were these murders or was it just coincidence?
Mr. Körner, son of The Falcon’s master brewer, replaced Ferdinand Schwartz, but despite his heroic efforts to keep the brewery going, he was stabbed in the back by Heineken and Amstel, with help from Amsterdam Bank. The trio grabbed their chance, took over, and finally closed the brewery in 1949, rendering some 400 employees unemployed and cutting three Schwartz kids (14, 12 and 10) loose from a long-held family tradition. The matter was raised in parliament but to no avail. The kids wouldn’t touch Heineken beer with a long pole. I drink Samuel Adams in the USA, which I think is closest to the unmatched Falcon taste.
A grandson of Willem Hovy had The Falcon lifted from its column at the entrance of the brewery and took it as a souvenir to Johannesburg in South Africa, where he moved, leaving a naked column standing at the Hoogte Kadijk. End of story for the glorious Falcon, once renowned over the world. Amsterdam Municipality was planning to remove the column in a reconstruction of the brewery’s neighborhood.
But some inventive people living on Hoogte Kadijk remembered.
Next issue: The Return of the Falcon.
Nelson Mandela, The Miracle Man
The passing of Nelson Mandela, the greatest African ever, brought memories way back to my boarding school years in the fifties in Holland. During those years, South Africa became a news item in our School Paper as a potential spark for World War III between communism and the “free world”. As schoolboys, we did not realize in those days what “apartheid” really meant. In Holland, everybody was “white” and the few “colored” people, among which boys from Indonesia and the Dutch Caribbean, were our best friends. But the South African struggle between African natives and white descendants from Holland (“the Boers”) and Great Britain became a subject of hot discussion. The Dutch Boers and British settlers fought two bitter wars well before African natives from surrounding nations started moving into South Africa to find jobs in a growing economy. They fought the local Zulus as well, but after the colonists settled in South Africa from the 17th century onwards, the Boers did not consider themselves “invaders” but “Afrikaners”.
Nelson Mandela when I was just one year old (1937, credit to Wikipedia)
The young Mandela became a prominent figure in the papers during the fifties as his political importance rose in the African National Congress (ANC) party and he was arrested in 1956 for “communist”activity. I still remember friends contributing articles to the School Paper on the “apartheid”struggle at that time. We did not think it was right.
Nelson Mandela in the fifties (credit Bing Images)
Many years later, on consultancy for the World Bank, I traveled to Lesotho (a country situated in the middle of South Africa) and South Africa, when Nelson Mandela miraculously had become President in 1994, without the huge bloodshed we expected when I was at school. An achievement only a visionary person with a unique capacity for sound leadership, moral strength and smart persuasion could accomplish.
But, having traveled to many countries on the African continent before, I did not feel “safe” in Johannesburg. During a visit to a luxurious Shopping Mall to buy Christmas presents for the folks at home, shots rang close by me and several miscreants stormed out of a bank office tugging large bags behind them, probably filled with cash. Everybody bent down on the floor hearing bullets hissing and ricocheting against the walls, but I fled back to my nearby hotel as fast as I could. Shortly thereafter, I heard police cars screaming into the parking lots and saw armed squads storming into the Mall. Courageous me stayed inside the rest of the day. Press reports later spoke of one death policeman, three thieves apprehended and one still at large, who would soon be captured as well. But the papers also said that they would not stay in prison for very long as they would make a deal with the police and share the booty with them. This showed that Mandela’s South Africa still had teething problems.
Nelson Mandela wins Nobel Prize for Peace (together with De Klerk – Credit Corbis). What I like about this photograph are the white faces among the African natives, visibly at “ease”.
But crime apart, South Africa was a fast developing country, quite different from the rest of Africa. What if Nelson Mandela and his ANC had chosen wrath instead of reconciliation? What if he had followed the path of Mugabe in Zimbabwe that destroyed the country?
Again, a few years later, in 2002, I was asked to travel to Cape Town for a conference. Admittedly a “more pleasant”environment than “Joburg”. Cosmopolitan, beautiful vineyards, excellent wines, a heavenly climate. I felt a close relationship with the Dutch Jan van Riebeeck who established a colony of the Dutch East India Company there in 1652, to re-provision Dutch ships on the way to the Far East. With that, many “Afrikaners” considered him the founder of South Africa. Till Nelson Mandela became President. He can rightly claim to be the Founder, not perhaps from a chronological point of view, but as the visionary man who saved a blooming country from terrible bloodshed and destruction, as many other African countries are still suffering from, and set it on a path to prosperity.
Nelson Mandela, a unique man of Peace and Vision, whose spirit will remain with us forever (photo credit Corbis)
Born in Amsterdam Two – The Miracle Kids
Two busy weeks of absence in Holland and a backlog of blogs! Apologies!
Besides sightseeing Amsterdam’s canals in a glass boat, having a good Indonesian “rijstafel”, or admiring the sacred paintings of Rembrandt and Van Gogh in the Rijks and Van Gogh Museums, Amsterdam is a city of music. So are New York, London and Paris you will say, but Amsterdam has its special sphere. My father, who was a classical pianist while being a beer brewer at the same time, lived a few hundred yards from the Concert Hall when I was born, and the family had even bought permanent seats there, so that they could attend a concert on short notice when they had time. Naturally, I had to take piano lessons as well, but unfortunately was not endowed with his tremendous talent and more inclined to play pop music and jazz. His early death avoided a definite father-son conflict in this area, but I always remained impressed with young people playing classical piano so well.
This is why I attended the recent Amsterdam Young Pianists Festival in November. Remembering how I struggled to read notes and translate them to the keyboard, I listened in awe to three finalists in the Youth Competition of the Young Pianists Festival. Yang Yang Cai (Dutch, 14 years old), Jorian van Nee (Dutch, 13 years old) and Youngjae Kim (Korean, a brilliant 13 year old autistic (!) youngster) played difficult Sonatas by Domenica Scarlatti and Piano concerto nr. 14 by Amadeus Mozart, ALL BY HEART! You wonder how these young talents keep popping up in today’s lowbrow world. The accompanying Yehudi Menuhin School orchestra, flown over from London especially for this occasion, was a miracle by itself. These young musicians are still at school and play like full-fledged professionals.
The Yehudin Menuhin school orchestra with four young soloists directed by Malcom Singer.
If I had to be in the 8-member jury, I would have had a great problem choosing the best. I gave Yang Yang Cai the edge because she played her Sonatas very Scarlatti-like and the Mozart concerto as playfully as Mozart would have done it. So when I met her during the intermission, I took a picture of her, wishing her she would get the first place, which she did. Another point of surprise: these 13/14 year olds are not like 13 0r 14 year old kids anymore: they are way ahead in personal growth compared to the “normal”13 year olds. They are naturally bright with a God-given talent.
Yang Yang Cai, a “professional”at age 14.
Jorian Van Nee (Dutch) 13. Chatting with his Dad? He got second place this time, but many ranked him first.
The jury included several renowned pianists (Anne Queffélec (Fr), Emile Naoumoff (Romania), Boris Berman (Russia), Evgeni Koroliov (Russia), Jorge-Luis Prats (Cuba), who each played individually. Jorge-Luis Prats played the most difficult “Valse” by Maurice Ravel to an audience that went ballistic about his virtuosity. Then they played all together on three pianos at the same time! It was so spectacular that they had to give two encores.
At a Sunday matinee concert, renowned pianist Paul Badura – Skoda (Austrian from Vienna) played Bach and Mozart on a “pianoforte” instrument, between the clavecimbel and the later “piano”as we know it today, accompanied by an engaging quartet of two violinists, a cellist and a bassist. As much as you admire the “Miracle Kids”, you admire an 86 year old pianist, considered one of the most important pianists of our time. If I look at my fingers, half bent with arthritis, and his lean fingers still flying over the keyboard, I wonder what kind of miracle medicine he’s taking to stay at that height of pure professionalism, and that ALL BY HEART!
Eymert Van Manen was the unsurpassed Business Leader of the YPF.
The YPF took place in memory of Youri Egorov, a phenomenal Dutch-Russian pianist who succumbed to AIDS in 1988 at the age of 34 much the same famous dancer Rudolf Nureyev did in 1992 when the disease took many unsuspecting victims.
Youri Egorov. You cannot but love him when you hear him play.
His fabulous records can now be ordered at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is available at
A most endearing and successful festival that I would not have missed for a million.