In 1892 furniture maker Johan Martin (‘Jan’) Sips (1859-1941), together with a certain Cornelis Marijnissen, started a soft drink factory in Oosterhout. In the opening years of the twentieth century Jan Sips and his companion also moved into the beer bottling business. The beer was supplied by a local brewery which went by the name Noordbrabantsche Beiersch Bierbrouwerij De Gekroonde Bel (= North Brabant Bavarian Beer Brewery The Crowned Bell). This brewery no longer produced the traditional dark-coloured top fermentation types of beer (like most other breweries in the province of North Brabant did) but had been specially set up in 1901 as a plant for producing so-called Bavarian beers. These were bottom fermentation types of beer that were mostly light-coloured such as lager, Dortmunder and pilsener. In 1912 Jan Sips shifted his economic activities towards the nearby city of Breda. The soft drink factory in Oosterhout was let out to and continued by Sips’ former employee Marinus van Riel (1876-1948), who eventually was able to turn this leasehold into a full ownership (1922). The reason for starting a new soft drink factory in Breda was that Jan Sips had acquired exclusive soft drink supplying contracts for three large military bases in Breda (Kloosterkazerne, Cavaleriekazerne and Chassékazerne).
It is interesting to note that Jans older brother Pieter Aloysius (‘Piet’) Sips (1852-1915) had already established a soft drink factory and beer bottling business in Breda in 1903, so that when Jan opened up his new factory at the Academiesingel 33 he became a direct competitor to his brother, whose business was located at the nearby Mauritssingel 6. Whereas Piet Sips was a beer bottler and distributor for the Amstel Brouwerij (Amsterdam), Jan Sips continued to obtain keg beer from De Gekroonde Bel (Oosterhout). After the First World War Jan Sips became a beer bottler and distributor for the much larger Zuid-Hollandsche Bierbrouwerij (The Hague). The business of Piet Sips, who had died in 1915, was continued by his son Hubertus Johan Mathijs Sips (1881-1963).
A nice sideline business that Jan Sips got himself engaged in was the used bottle trade. Empty swing stopper, screw stopper and Codd bottles that were not retrieved by their rightful owners at pubs and restaurants, were collected by Jan Sips and then rinsed, sorted out and finally sold in batches to his colleagues and contestants in the beer bottling and soft drink trade. In the 1920s and 1930s Jan Sips was one of the few Dutch soft drink manufacturers who used stoneware bottles. These stoneware bottles were of a hard-shouldered model with a crown cork closure lip. They had a dark blue top and blue underglaze prints. There are two known varieties of the Jan Sips stoneware bottle: one with the flavour specification grape-fruit printed directly above the generic product name limonade gazeuse, the other one with grape-fruit and limonade gazeuse printed in reversed order. The latter bottle also has a volume specification printed at the bottom (inhoud: 0.3 liter). The bottles without a printed volume specification bear the mark Price 24 Bristol, indicating that they were made by Price, Powell & Co. (Bristol).
Jan Sips’ eldest son Johannes Adriaan (‘Jan’) Sips (1897-1946), who had been assisting his father since 1918, was handed over the family business in 1931. Around this time Jan Sips’ youngest son Pieter Johan Maria (‘Piet’) Sips was set up with a local coal distributing business called De Kolenmijn (The Coal Mine), which was purchased from Henricus Franciscus Johannes Kessels (1876-1932). In the first half of the 20th century it was not uncommon in The Netherlands to combine the distribution of beverages (beer and soft drinks) with the distribution of coal as both trades had their own seasonal peak demand: beer and soft drinks in the summer and coal in the winter. It can not completely be ruled out that Jan Sips the elder had combined both trades as well, though it seems more likely that the Sips family only entered the coal distributing business around 1930 by the purchase of De Kolenmijn. It is an intriguing fact however that Piet Sips’ coal distributing business and Jan Sips’ beverage distributing business shared the same office address (Academiesingel 33). In 1946 Jan Sips the younger passed away. His affairs were continued by his widow Cornelia Johanna Maria (‘Corrie’) van Baarle (1901-1969). In 1952 she handed over the company to her son Wilhelmus Johannes (‘Wil’) Sips (1937). At that time soft drink production did no longer amount to much, as the Breda military bases which had once favoured Sips’ limonadegazeuses had now switched to Coca-Cola and the fruit juice-based Hero soft drinks. In 1962 the company was dissolved and Wil Sips started a wine and liquor retail shop on the Langendijk 9 in Breda. This shop could hold out against the nationwide liquor store chains until 1970.
© Peter Zwaal, 2011, 2016