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)