Ode to Freddy

This summer, Freddy's Bar in De L'Europe will undergo a thorough renovation: it will become a grand café that will breathe the history of Freddy Heineken. A history that encompasses much more than making beer.
Vintage Photo Gallery Pim Westerweel

The history of Heineken and De L'Europe goes back to the early twentieth century, when the hotel was purchased by Henry Pierre Heineken (1886-1971) and two friends. The second director of the beer brewery saw it as a nice place to receive and accommodate business relations. Shortly after the Second World War, the Heineken company owned the majority of the shares. Ultimately, the beer giant became the sole shareholder. Under the leadership of Alfred 'Freddy' Heineken (1923-2002), who joined the company in 1941 and stayed on until 1989, Heineken grew into a world-famous brand. The striking entrepreneur was a regular guest at Le Bar, the in-house café of De L'Europe. In 1998, the bar changed its name to Freddy's, in reference to the hotel's owner. Now, twenty-five years later, Freddy's Bar is undergoing a thorough renovation, under the inspiring leadership of the brand new managing director Robert-Jan Woltering. From June to August the bar transforms into a grand café that breathes Freddy's history.

Smiley face

“When I came here in my new role, I examined everything,” Woltering explains. “I thought the completely restyled hotel was incredibly beautiful, a reflection of the rich history of De L'Europe. However, I felt that Freddy's Bar no longer fit with the De L'Europe of today, nor with what Heineken is and radiates. It was marked by the test of time. For example, there was a smoking area that was no longer relevant at all. Why don't we make something really beautiful out of it, I wondered. A café as a tribute to Freddy, where after entering you walk through all the phases of his life and think: yes, I get it, this is Freddy's! We want to achieve this in part by showcasing the highlights from his life, including art, memorabilia and personal items from the Heineken Archive. Don't be afraid, it won't be a museum, it will still be a pub. In fact, Freddy's Bar will not only be an ode to Freddy, but also a tribute to the tradition of the Grand Café. That idea, designing Freddy's Bar as a tribute to the namesake, has been embraced by everyone, both internally and by the brewery.” Of course, Heineken is more than just Freddy, it encompasses several generations and complete teams. But Freddy is the entrepreneur who made the company great and the marketer with brilliant discoveries. The slogan 'Delicious, Clear, Heineken' comes from his mind and also in the field of brand positioning he has changed things fundamentally. “It used to be Heineken's. But go explain that to an American. So he took the 's' off. He also introduced the smiling first 'e' in the name Heineken, by tilting it in such a way that it became, as it were, a smiley face. That man was way ahead of his time.”

Amsterdam curly letters

The fact that he was far ahead of his time is also evident from some of the memorabilia that is given a place in Freddy's Bar. In the renovated grand café, complete with chandeliers, lace curtains, Amsterdam curlicue letters, a central reading table and high tables by the window where you can enjoy a cappuccino in the morning with a view over the Amstel, you will find, for example, the map of The United States of Europe, also called Eurotopia by Freddy. “Freddy was extremely concerned with his environment. In addition to making beer, he also enjoyed taking other initiatives out of the box thinking. And not just to think, but also to think through and work out in detail.” He worked with an ecologist to discuss closing the hole in the ozone layer. And with the cooperation of historians Prof. Dr. Henk Wesseling and Wim van den Doel of Leiden University, he wrote a pamphlet in 1992 for a new division of Europe, in response to the Maastricht Treaty (establishment of the European Union, EU). and the Treaty of Porto in 1992 (establishment of the European Economic Area, EEA). Heineken regarded the power differences between national states as an obstacle to European unification: the large countries could push their own interests too much. Instead of a united Europe governed by one central body, he preferred to see a delegation of power to more or less autonomous regions, which should not differ too much in size. Heineken was thinking of 5 to 10 million inhabitants per region. That would lead to more efficient management. Moreover, the geographical leveling of power would provide better opportunities for stability, equality and peace.

Crystal trophy

“He not only had an eye for world (politics), but also for the importance of science and technology,” Woltering says. “That is why Freddy has created a number of major international science prizes.” Five of these Heineken Prizes are awarded every two years to people who have distinguished themselves in the fields of biochemistry and biophysics, historical science, medicine, environmental sciences and cognitive sciences, and a sixth is awarded to a Dutch visual artist. The science prizes carry a cash prize of 200.000 dollars, the art prize includes an amount of 100.000 euros, half of which is intended for a publication or exhibition. Scientists from all over the world can nominate colleagues for these prizes. An independent jury of scientists, members of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), selects the prize winners from the nominations. The award ceremony takes place every even year in the Beurs van Berlage during a special session of the KNAW. The scientific Heineken Prizes are financed by the Alfred Heineken Funds Foundation, the Heineken Prize for Art by the Dr. AH Heineken Foundation for the Arts. “The Dr. comes to Freddy's Bar. HP Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics,” says Woltering, not without pride. This crystal trophy is a replica of a miniature microscope, developed by the scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, and symbolizes the progress in biochemistry and biophysics since the prize was established in 1963. “It's amazing that this prize, Freddy's incentive for science , will soon be part of our café?” The trophy was designed by Willem Heesen, one of the pioneers of free glass art, and manufactured by the Royal Dutch Glass Factory Leerdam. The most recent winner of the Dr. HP Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics is won by Carolyn Bertozzi, professor of chemistry and professor of chemical systems biology at Stanford University in California. In 2022 she received the prize for her groundbreaking research into communication between cells and methods to influence it.


Want to read the entire article? The summer edition is a fresh cocktail of entrepreneurship and sport. In this edition, several entrepreneurs from the Champions League of business are reviewed. Including Freddy Heineken and hospitality tycoon Richard Caring, whose expanding empire has been called the 'restaurant equivalent of LVMH'. Doing business is top sport, but top sport is also doing business. Take Formula 1: the sport is increasingly developing into an octopus with arms that touch all aspects of our society. Jaap de Groot investigated how millions are converted into billions. Also interviews with gymnast Sanne Wevers, two-star chef Guido Braeken, hotelier Robert-Jan Woltering, designer Maarten Baas and Rico, together with his Naomy. The 'King of Kickboxing' also turns out to be an octopus (with very strong arms): as an entrepreneur he is active in various industries. “When I look back later, I don't want to think 'I wish I had this or that'. I just want to, boom, accelerate, do fun things, enjoy.” Boom, the new MASTERS: enjoy!

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