When it Rains, Make Beer: Lessons from the Amsterdam Rainproof Programme

Rainy seasons are the perfect excuse for the Dutch to drink beer, especially Code Blond, a beer made from rainwater by Amsterdam-based brewery Rainbeer (formerly Hemelswater).

December 2017 | Report

When it pours in Amsterdam, more beer does too. Source: Martijn Kalkhoven


Rainy seasons are the perfect excuse for the Dutch to drink beer, especially Code Blond, a beer made from rainwater by Amsterdam-based brewery Rainbeer (formerly Hemelswater).


Code Blonde, a beer brewed from rainwater by Amsterdam-based brewery Rainbeer. Source: Maarten van Meer


Rainbeer co-founder Joris Hoebe created the motto: “No rain, no beer!” and cleverly named his beer Code Blond, which also refers to the color-coded Dutch weather forecast indicating dangerous weather such as storm, snowfall and heavy rainfall conditions.


Hoebe was inspired by Dutch breweries in the Middle Ages that were set up near churches and cathedrals to catch rainwater runoff from their roofs to make beer. He worked with students and researchers from MediaLAB Amsterdam, the start-up development initiative of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, to set up rainwater collection tanks on college grounds to gather the secret ingredient for brewing his beer.


Electric vehicles transport rainwater harnessed from rainwater collection tanks in the city to the beer brewery. Source: Michelle Chng


Rainbeer has since set up rainwater collection tanks elsewhere in the city, including the hotel Volkshotel and gardening company Intratuin, scaling up operations to make not just beer but also a special gin tonic, and possibly even ice cream and soup in the near future.


This is one example of a small but innovative solution that has come out of the Amsterdam Rainproof Programme, as shared by its programme director Daniel Goedbloed.


CLC Researcher Michelle Chng visited Amsterdam where CLC’s executive director Khoo Teng Chye presented Singapore’s resilience initiatives at the Resilient City Leaders Forum (Amsterdam International Water Week 2017). As part of the week’s activities, delegates toured sites of the Amsterdam Rainproof Programme and were hosted by its director Daniel Goedbloed (centred). Source: Michelle Chng


The Amsterdam Rainproof Programme was started in 2014 by Amsterdam’s water utility company, Waternet, in an effort to climate-proof the city against extreme rainfall. Under this programme, Waternet works with stakeholders to carry out city-wide interventions to capture every drop of rain and reduce the risk of flooding.


Shortly after the programme’s introduction, the city experienced an extreme rainfall event in July 2014. Some 90 mm of rain fell within a few hours, damaging houses and slowing traffic as tunnels filled with floodwater. This event increased the city’s urgency to climate proof urban areas, and catalysed Waternet to roll out its surface solutions before underground sewers reached carrying capacity. With an initial two-year budget, the team worked with the municipality and various stakeholders to raise awareness and get people to adapt to climate change and heavy rainfall.


Besides Hemelswater, other creative solutions that have emerged include a gravel playground and porous parking lots at Mirandabad, which both enable rainwater to be collected in crates beneath, saving the need to construct new sewers. Another example are “polder roofs” that store rainwater for irrigation or to be drained away at a later time. Most of such initiatives were funded by the programme’s initial budget, the city’s Delta tax (which funds the programme to protect the Netherlands against flooding and to secure freshwater) as well through existing policies such as school-building subsidies for green roofs.


This playground at Mirandabad allows rainwater to drain through the gravel-filled ground and into an underlying water-permeable canvas of geotextile and water collection tanks, which will drain to a well when necessary. Source: Michelle Chng


As cities worldwide look for ways to adapt to the new challenges brought on by climate change, the Dutch have proved that solutions do not have to be largescale. They can come from simply re-thinking traditional methods and even injecting a sense of fun!


About the Writer


Michelle Chng


Michelle Chng is a researcher at the Centre for Liveable Cities, specialising in environmental and urban development issues. She holds a Masters of Science in Environmental Management from NUS.