Being a regular customer at student bar In De Smitse pays off. At least, if your name is Frank Smitshoek it does. The former law student frequented the brown café often after long days on campus, so much so that he became good friends with the bar staff. Now, years since his graduation, De Smitse is selling beers from the brewery Frank started alongside long-time friend Eric Krommenhoek.

In January, De Smitse proudly announced it would start exclusively offering its very own beer: a Tripel crafted from rosemary, juniper berries and orange. Both tangy and spicy, it’s the unusual addition of rosemary that makes it a special beer, one with a special backstory that begins long before De Smitse ever thought about serving their own brew.

“How long have we known each other?” Eric asks Frank as they walk down a spiral staircase within Blue City, the abandoned water park turned sustainable business centre that overlooks the Maas river.

“Since middle school,” answers Frank. “So at least 13 years now.”

The staircase leads the brewers beneath Blue City’s empty pool and into a cold, spacious basement. Weaving past a number of makeshift offices, the duo arrive at a huge sliding door made of steel and push it open. Inside, racks upon racks of bottled beer line the walls and massive metallic pots filled with golden ale spew steam into the air. It’s not the kind of brewery you see in a Bavaria commercial, but it’s a hell of a lot better than where they used to brew beer: in the shared kitchen of a student flat, using a homemade contraption.

“We told our other room-mates we were going to make beer, but they never expected us to roll in this 60-litre pan on wheels,” laughs Frank, who currently works at a law firm. “Our whole building always smelled like beer. I think the others would have minded if they weren’t getting free beer all the time.”

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The request

A year after his time as a board member of the JFR, Frank made an unordinary trip to De Smitse in 2017 not as a customer, but as a bringer of beer. He poured some samples of the home brew he and Eric had been making for the staff behind the bar, and just like any time people have a few drinks in them, good ideas arose.

“The board members that run De Smitse loved what we made and asked us if we could start selling our beer to them,” said Frank. “Of course, having done my Master’s in corporate law, I knew it doesn’t work like that. If you want to sell, there are permits you have to get and regulations to follow. You have to register as a company and all that.”

“At that time, we were brewing too much beer for us to be able to drink ourselves, so we were giving it away all the time; it was costing us too much money to keep giving it away,” adds Eric, who works as a physiotherapist. “When De Smitse asked us to make them a beer, it was a good incentive to start our own brewery.”

“You could say their request was the droplet that cause the bucket to overflow,” said Frank, eloquently. “It’s what led us to turn our hobby into something bigger.”

frank-smitshoek-eric-krommenhoek-start-up-brouwerij-tureluur-Sanne-van-der-Most
Image credit: Sanne van der Most

The birth of Tureluur

A shared kitchen wasn’t going to cut it any more if the duo were going to set up a legitimate brewery. Fortunately for both of them, Eric’s brother Ruben established a brewery in Rotterdam four years earlier by the name of Vet & Lazy, and offered them the opportunity to jointly rent the space within Blue City.

Now the two had a bigger place to brew, all that was left for Frank and Eric was to decide on a name and register it with the government. After some debate, they landed on the name Tureluur.

“Tureluur is actually a type of bird,” Eric explains. “We thought it was a funny name because when you drink quite a few beers, you start to feel tureluurs (dizzy).”

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The benefits of a law degree

Talking to Frank, it becomes clear that a law degree doesn’t equate to a life as just a lawyer or a judge. Rather, it opens your eyes to all the possibilities a businessman has within the scope of the law.

“There is law in everything. If you buy a beer somewhere in a supermarket or a bar, that is an agreement of purchase, and basically everything can be seen through lens of the law. You probably didn’t know that the law makes it so that we have to pay 48 cents in tax per litre of beer that we sell.”

Per litre?

“For a Tripel, yes. The heavier the beer in terms of alcohol percentage, the more you pay in tax. These are the kinds of things that are useful to know before you set up a brewery and that’s why it helped to study law.”

Rosemary

With all their paperwork in place, Frank and Eric set out to craft a beer just for De Smitse. For this beer, the student bar had one wish. Well, actually two: add rosemary to it, and make sure it has an unforgettable taste. After a few weekends of experimenting, they decided on adding orange and juniper berries to the distinct flair of rosemary to give it a flavour like none other, which some people love and some others hate.

“Whether you love it or hate it, we’ll take it as a compliment,” said Frank. “It just means we’ve done our job in creating something that’s truly unique. The good thing is De Smitse loved it, and now they have the honour of being invoice #000001.”

Expanding

De Smitse isn’t the only place where you can get a bottle of Tureluur. The young brewery currently sells its beers at a couple of different bars, four stores around Rotterdam and has somehow managed to get shelf space at an Albert Heijn—which is impressive since not even Vet & Lazy has got their beers into the grocery store yet. Now the question is: how will Tureluur move on from here?

“The goal for this year is to have three special beers on the market, with each one of them being something you would pair with a special type of food,” answers Eric. “So, take the Rosemary Tripel, for instance. You can go on the website and see a recipe that matches it, like a beef stew.”

“We sold out our first batch so we know things are going well, and we’ll continue trying to grow in the coming years,” Frank adds. “The main thing though is that we don’t want to put too much stress on making it grow. We started this as a hobby and it still is for us. Of course, running a brewery on top of a full-time job takes up a lot of your free time, but that’s how I like it. I can never sit still.”

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