Classical Beer Review: Pandora Dutch Pale Ale

Way back in October, BCS asked around for some recommendations of Classically-themed beers. We were able to assemble a list of must-tries, but it turned out less than easy to come across some of these beers. In fact, it took me until December before I was able to review the first beer on the list – Mannenliefde by Oedipus. Today, it is time for the long-awaited follow-up! For the second installment of the ‘must-try series,’ I am reviewing Pandora by Brouwerij Maximus – suggested by Beer Geeks Facebook group member Wilco de Lange. Cheers Wilco!

Castellum Hoge Woerd
Before reviewing the beer, I want to briefly recount my journey to get this brew. I was invited by colleagues of the University of Amsterdam to tag along for an excursion to Castellum Hoge Woerd and Brouwerij Maximus. Because this offered the perfect opportunity to see some great archaeology and review Pandora, I naturally jumped at the occasion.

Excursion at Castellum Hoge Woerd, with a tour by Erik Graafstal.

As I wrote in an earlier post, Brouwerij Maximus is located in a new suburb of Utrecht that is famous for its Roman remains. The most significant of these remains is the fortress or castellum at Hoge Woerd. At the site of the castellum, a multi-purpose cultural center was recently built that offers a modern interpretation of the fortifications, a theater, a restaurant, a children’s petting zoo (!!!) and, of course, a museum.

The highlight of the exhibit is the extremely well-preserved river barge ‘De Meern 1,’ that was found in the vicinity of the castellum, complete with the ship’s cabin and a suite of artifacts on board. After an excellent, two-hour guided tour by the ship’s excavator, Erik Graafstal, we certainly had all earned ourselves a nice beer. At the nearby brewery, I was very pleased to find Pandora on draft and went straight for this goal with the first round.

De Meern 1 – Roman river barge found near the castellum.

Pandora is a Dutch Pale Ale. It is extremely sweet in the nose, but, upon drinking, the sweetness is far less pronounced. Instead, Pandora is characterized by a mild floral and fruity flavor profile, in which the bitterness from the hops is barely discernible. At 6% ABV, the beer is described on their website as a ‘real session beer.’ Although a session beer, the brew was a little weak and could have been improved with more alcohol and malt to provide a fuller flavor. Or perhaps, my palate has been ruined by the full-bodied, high-ABV stouts I have been grown to love recently. In any case, as my excursion companion Daan van Helden rightly remarked, Pandora would be a great, thirst-quencher for an afternoon of day-drinking in the sun.

Pandora’s logo, on display in a frame in the brewery.

In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman. She was created by the smith-god Hephaistos at the request of the main god, Zeus, who was angry with man for accepting the gift of fire from Prometheus the Titan. Prometheus, man’s original creator, had stolen the flame from the house of the gods at Mount Olympus. The ultimate punishment, Pandora, was also given various ‘gifts’ by the other gods, such as the ability to craft textiles by Athena, beauty and desire by Aphrodite, speech and cunning by Hermes and so on. For this reason, her name is often translated as the ‘all-gifted.’ Although, an alternative translation would actually is the ‘all-giving,’ instead. Before Pandora was sent to man, she was given a container with all of the evils in the world.

Fun fact: my Dutch compatriot Erasmus of Rotterdam mistranslated this container as a ‘box;’ originally, however, Pandora’s famed ‘box’ was a large storage jar, known as a pithos. Pandora and her pithos were given to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus, who – although a titan – also acted as a representative of men. While Pandora was told not to open the lid of her pithos, she simply could not resist. This immediately allowed all the evils to escape into the world of men. After Pandora managed to close the jar again, the only thing that had remained inside was Hope.

There are competing interpretations about the meaning of this myth. To some, the myth ends on a positive note, with hope preserved for humanity to help us cope with all evils now set free. Others read a more sinister plot in the myth: humanity is deprived of hope because it is the only thing Pandora did not set free from her pithos. Whatever the meaning, it is certain that her arrival changed the mythical, men-only paradise of the Golden Age into the lack-luster Silver Age, in which humanity fought one another and toiled for food. Now where did I hear that story before?

6.0% ABV
Brewed by: Brouwerij Maximus, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


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