We have a lot to thank the Dutch for: the telescope, the microscope, Wi-Fi, and — perhaps most importantly — great beer. Among the greatest and most well known of those Dutch beers is none other than Amstel Light. The slightly bitter pale lager is celebrated across the globe, even if some of its limelight is admittedly stolen by Heineken.
Read on for nine things you should know about Amstel Light.
1. It was founded by BFFs.
Amstel’s “born out of friendship” slogan is no joke. The brand was founded in 1870 by Charles de Pesters and Johannes van Marwijk Kooy, best buddies and brothers-in-law. The friends wanted to bring Bavarian-style beer to Amsterdam because they believed that a heavier pilsner would be more popular among the Dutch than thinner top-fermented beers. They were right. And not only was Amstel born out of friendship, it can also help create new connections (if you’ve ever had one too many pints at the pub, you’ll know what we mean.)
2. It’s Heineken’s frenemy.
After nearly a century of being top competitors, Amstel was acquired by Heineken in 1968. It wasn’t their first time partnering, though. In 1941, Heineken and Amstel joined forces to buy the Van Vollenhoven Beer Brewery (which was then the largest Dutch beer exporter) to prevent it from being sold to Germans.
3. Amstel Light is the only Amstel beverage available across the States.
Amstel Light is the only one of the Amstel beers that is available for purchase across the United States, likely because Heineken doesn’t want to cannibalize its own brand’s success in the American market. Americans will have to travel internationally to taste the brand’s other products: Amstel Lager, Amstel Premium Pilsener, Amstel Bright, Amstel Radler, and Amstel ULTRA.
4. Amstel’s proof that beer and college go hand-in-hand.
After being merged with Heineken, the original Amstel brewery in Amsterdam closed down and was moved to Zoeterwoude in the Netherlands to be closer to the Heineken factory. Part of the original brewery was turned into a university, Hogeschool van Amsterdam. If we’re being honest, beer and college go together like eggs and bacon. We’re hoping they kept a few operating drafts in there for the parched pupils.
5. Amstel is Heineken’s guinea pig.
Heineken’s experimental beers are often launched under the Amstel brand. This is done to avoid tainting Heineken’s name if the brews aren’t well received.
6. Amstel’s named after a river — but it’s a special one.
The Amstel River is not just any old body of water — it feeds into 165 canals that served as Amsterdam’s most vital source of transportation for over 800 years, and it remains one of the most iconic features of the city to this day. It’s even been painted by one of the most famous artists of all time, Rembrandt, so we’d say it’s pretty important. In the early days of Amstel, ice was drawn from canals near the brewery and was stored in double-walled cellars for refrigeration.
7. Amstel has pride for its hometown.
No one has more pride in their hometown than Amstel (with the exception of a few rappers and a number of fanatical sports fans). The brand is so proud of its origins that it centered its entire logo around Amsterdam. The red and white split on the Amstel label represents the river that flows through the center of the city, and the two lions on the top of the label are the same lions found on the city crest. Talk about civic pride.
8. It’s one of the biggest beer brands in the world by volume.
In 2016, Amstel was named the seventh-biggest beer brand in the world by volume, and was available in over 100 markets. We’re not in Kansas Amsterdam anymore.
9. Amstel enjoys a good game of footie.
The brand was a longtime sponsor of UEFA Europa League, one of the biggest soccer tournaments in the world. Amstel’s sponsorship of the competition stems back to 1994, but the brand was subbed out in 2020 for Heineken’s first non-alcoholic beer. It’s OK, Amstel, we’ve all been benchwarmers at one point or another.