Archive for the ‘Amsterdam bars’ Category

Amsterdam-West:Buying Beer, Drinking Beer and Eating (with a beer)

A piece about beer in Amsterdam five years ago would be one blogpost. There just wasn’t much to visit when this decade started. Oh things have changed my friends.

Much of it was centered on downtown Amsterdam with places like De Bierkoning, ‘t Arendsnest, Brouwerij ‘t IJ and In De Wildeman. But a lot more is going on in other parts of the city. New enterprises have started, and older stores have hooked onto the craft beer hype by adapting to the new type of alcohol consumer.

When I moved to Amsterdam in 2000 Amsterdam-West (or to be more precise Oud West or Old West, adjacent to the center of the city) wasn’t much. Maybe a few good places to drink coffee or eat, but not a neighborhood you’d base your visit to Amsterdam on. Though it is still not a Jordaan or De Pijp, it is changing. Like all the other neighborhoods this part too has been through a positive renewal.

So here I want to focus on some beer places in Oud-West, and in the area from De Clerqsstraat to the Overtoom. There are more places to mention, but I chose my favorite two in each category: buying, eating, drinking.

Buying Beer

IMG_8029Avondwinkel Sterk (De Clercqstraat 7)

Let’s start here, just outside the Centrum district. Take tram 13, 14 or 17 from wherever you are, or just walk from Dam Square past the Westerkerk. Sterk bills itself as a store that is open late and yes, 1:00 at night is late. It also open year round.

Sterk now is a shop that sells stuff for expats, mostly from English speaking countries. What they especially are is a high class liquor store, with a focus on craft beer. The selection is huge, I mean really huge. I don’t think any store in Amsterdam can match what they have, apart from the Bierkoning naturally. More than half I think is beer from the Netherlands, and almost all of the local Amsterdam brewers have a spot on the shelf.

‘t Fust (Bilderdijkstraat 203)

When I first visited this little corner store it had some shelves in the corner with beer, mostly Belgian, some local things like De Prael. Well, things have changed, now the majority of the store is beer, and great beer too. Good selection of De Molens and an Emelisse White Label is always a good sign. Store might be a little crowded and messy, but you won’t be disappointed by the things you can get here.

Drinking beer while eating

Foodhallen (Bellamyplein 51)

In between drinking tasty beer and schlepping around your increasingly heavy bag of bottles you need to eat. Let me suggest the Foodhallen, a must visit for anyone digging the small scale, food truck scene. It is close to the outside Ten Catemarkt, off the Kinkerstraat.

Built in what once was the garage for the trams on this side of the city, it now is a combination of shops, businesses, manufacturing, a movie theater and a food hall. Like any good food hall there is something for everyone. For the less adventurous there are burgers and pizza. But there is more interesting food like Spanish meats, Korean kimchi, oysters, ‘bitterballen’ filled with several ragouts or cheese fondue. It is a food lovers paradise and the prices aren’t even that absurd.

We had a perfect pulled pork sandwich, quinoa sushi, a nice slice of pizza with figs and goat cheese and Vietnamese rolls. What completes a trip to the Foodhallen for you the beer lover is that there is a beer bar. It is perfectly fine to buy a bottle of beer to eat with your burger here. And what is even better, it’s not your typical big brand beer but local brews from the likes of Oedipus or Two Chefs, and probably more in the future. I was able to have an Oedipus I hadn’t had before, so things were well.

There are plenty of other great places to eat, but if you are with a large group, this is perfect.

Bar Brouw (Ten Katestraat 16)

This place might be #1 on my ‘to eat at’ list. From what I have seen and heard this restaurant is a meat lover’s paradise with great smoked meat dishes. What sets it apart is the .Unfortunately it wasn’t open during the day on weekdays, but I will plan a visit soon. Based on recommendations from others this sounds great.

Drinking Beer!

I didn’t get around to visit Gollem on the Overtoom,  but from previous experience I know that this is nice too. It seems to be still focused on mostly Belgian and some German beers, but Dutch beer is available there too. Nice and roomy.

IMG_8040The Finish: Craft & Draft (Overtoom 417)

I promised two bars here, but this place is so good it counts as two. Any visit to this part of town should end with a visit to Craft & Draft. In fact, every visit to Amsterdam should contain at least a few hours here. Craft & Draft is part of the trifecta of amazing beer bars that also includes ‘t Arendsnest and the Beer Temple in downtown. This bar opened last year and is amazing. A little bit outside of downtown but easily accessible with tram, bike or a nice walk through the Vondelpark. 40 taps with things from all over the world, but mostly Scandinavian and American. There will be something for everyone. There is also a little store where you can buy some of the things. The interior is sleek, calming and at times funny and it is roomy. Downtown café’s might be small and cozy, but it is good to have some space now and again. This is one of the places where every time you come back the beer menu will be radically different. And, there are always some great Dutch beers on tap as well.


If you are a traveler just looking for some places to eat and drink West will suffice, but doesn’t stand above other neighborhoods. It doesn’t have a brewery (yet) but a high density of stores. If you can only visit two things though go to the Food Hallen and Craft & Draft, it will make your Amsterdam trip tastier.

2016, a promising year

Happy New Year

Hello you lover of craft beer, you fan of Dutch beer. 2015 is already two weeks behind us, and 2016 promises to be another good, if not better, year for beer. I will again write about this beautiful product, as much as time and finances will let me.

Because dear reader, I am glad to see that you keep visiting my blog. Last week it reached 50,000 views, 49,999 more views than I ever expected. And because of it I have seen, and became part of, a growing culture in this country. Because of it I know more people. Because of the festivals and breweries we have seen cities and parts of the country that I had never been to before. I have been to bars and shops I otherwise would have passed by. This revolution doesn’t just lead to having more different beers, but has given me so much.

So what will I write about on these pages this year? There is much to look forward to. New breweries, new bars, old breweries in a new form and a city that will be a premier beer destination in 2016.

The Next Step

Most of the brewers I interviewed share a similar history. They start brewing at home, and when it is not just them that seems to like it, they approach a brewery where they can make bigger batches. Contract brewing is still how many brewers operate, especially the smaller ones who just started and who are still doing this as a side hobby/business. Some of these brewers who started out like this at the beginning of the Dutch Craft Beer Revolution about 5 years ago are moving into new territory this year.

20151109_123318I have already blogged about Duits & Lauret and their move into an actual fortress this year. This is the most prestigious project in beer so far and I will be writing more about it when it opens. Another veteran that deserves a mention is Ruud van Moorst of Eem, who finally will get his own brewery. A well-deserved spot for someone who has given the Dutch brewing world so much already


The first major event on the calendar is the opening of Oproer! The name is new, the people behind it certainly not. Oproer! is the combining of forces of Utrecht breweries Ruig en Rooie Dop. Mark Strooker of Rooie Dop has already been doing great things for Dutch brewing in the last 5 years. Not only was Rooie Dop one of the better known breweries abroad, he also organized the Dutch delegation to the Oregon Brewers festival two years ago, which led to a slew of collaboration beers and the confidence that what was happening here in Holland meant something.

Oproer! Will be a brewpub. The brewing will take place here and besides the beer you can have a vegan/vegetarian meal. It will be another boost for Utrecht, already one of the best places to go for craft beer. The opening is today and since it is close to where I live it will be one of the first things I will be writing about on the blog.

Also in Utrecht, VandeStreek is working on their own brewery and pub. We will of course report about that to when the time comes.


The number of brewers in Amsterdam is still growing, with most of them still contract brewers. Writing about Oedipus has been in the pipeline for two years now and hopefully this year I will finally get around to visiting their place and write about this unique brewery. And then there’s Gebrouwen Door Vrouwen (Brewed by Women), two enthusiastic brewing sisters that deserve a post. Another post will be about Aart van bergen, formerly of Vriendschap, who has decided to start brewing on his own brewery.

The city itself will feature in several posts. The western part of the city has seen new bars and shops pop up and is worth a day trip on its own. Another tour is along the almost finished North-South subway line. On this street there are great old and new bars and breweries like Troost.

Other cities

While the Amsterdam-Utrecht area is still the axis of Dutch brewing the other cities are following in their footsteps. Rotterdam with Kaapse and The Hague with Kompaan have already shown to be good beer cities. Three other cities are also gaining ground. In Nijmegen several breweries make excellent beers like the superb Oersoep. The number of great bars here is high as well. Hopefully soon we will get a chance to visit the city for a weekend and write about it. Another city on the list is Eindhoven with Van Moll and a new city brewery. Good things are happening in Haarlem too. ‘t Uiltje is hard at work financing their own brewery. Once this is done the ties with Jopen can be cut and they can do everything themselves.


The Blackboard with only beers from Groningen at De Koffer


But if there is one city that will be our focus this year it will be Groningen. It has for decades been a perfect place for specialty beer cafés, but has been bereft of quality breweries. The city got a big boost with the annual two day festival in the main church and when Bax Bier started selling its beer. After having their first two beers it was immediately clear that Jeroen and Sepp from Bax made beer that was miles ahead of the other breweries in the north. And I wasn’t the only one who spotted this. Their success has led to their own brewery/tasting room/restaurant which will open in Groningen this year. It will be one of the biggest buildings in the country. But Bax isn’t the only brewery that is active in the city. Late last year Martinus started in a beautiful old building in downtown Groningen. They started off with a new brewing installation and restaurant. I haven’t been there yet but will soon. City Brewery het Kromme Jat has been brewing for a years now but is not alone anymore. The Groninger Craft Brewery has been around for a year now with some success and last year also saw the start of brewers like Corviri, Rockin’ Ludina, Pivo and Jotner. In the provincial city of Wildervank, Jan Abbingh has been producing some decent beers already. The number of establishments where you can find this beer is growing as well, with its crown jewel Mout (we wrote about the crowdfunding campaign last year) scheduled to open in 2016 on the edge of the old city. So stay tuned follow this blog for more about the Groningen beer scene.

Leftovers, labels and geeks

I will be posting more articles about other things. I got a question from a read last year who wanted to know what all the symbols on the labels of his bottles of Dutch beer meant. This will be a two part article. One a translation guide to the labels, the other about the at times mystifying laws about what and what not print on a label.

In the coming weeks I will post something about the amazing facebook group BeerGeeks, a group of beerlovers who have shown that a love of beer unites people. And it is a union that encompasses more than just beer.

The page

The page will see some minor changes this year, I will keep updating the calendar and the map. I will also add a page with all the prizewinning Dutch craft beers.

2016 is going to be a great year for beer and I hope to meet some of you somewhere in this great country in a beautiful bar or at the festival.


See you then. Proost.



My 5 Favorite Bars

Someone asked me about my favorite beer spots. This made me go all Thrillisty in these warm days of summer. So many places to mention… So I decided to split it up into my five favorite bars, breweries/tasting rooms and shops. First part is about my five favorite bars. Be aware, this is a list of beer cafe’s I really like visiting, it isn’t a list of the best ones, or the bars with the best beer selection. So don’t go naming other bars you think deserve to be on the list.

Here they are in alphabetical order.

Bierhuys in Woerden

The most unknown of the 5. Why did it make my list? Well, for one it is the closest to where I live so I come here more often than in other bars. But apart from that it is a great place to go. Located just outside of the city center in Woerden, it has the feel of a living room with a bar. The public seems to be mostly locals with the accidental tourist wandering in after a day in beautiful Woerden.

There may not be a lot of taps but the bottle selection is excellent and they try and have many local beers so there is a chance of trying something new almost every time. They have two house beers that are made by De Molen in neighboring Bodegraven, so you know that is going to be good. And talking about locals, they come here often too and they seem to visit it like another room of their house.

De Drie Dorstige Herten in Utrecht

A bar I really should be going to more than I do now. Within a mile there are at least 4 other great beer places you can go to but this is my favorite. I will write about the Golden Square in Utrecht later but in a city already swamped with excellent places to drink craft beer De Drie Dorstige Herten (yes, you are right, it means The Three Thirsty Deer) ranks #1 in my book. It is small, almost living room size but the owners’ knowledge is limitless and the selection as good as I have seen anywhere in the country. They support local brewing a lot and Maximus is even their house brewer. GO HERE!! I will more often. You will not be disappointed.

De Koffer in Groningen

As I have written before beer culture in Groningen is rapidly increasing with new bars and breweries opening all the time. But way before this all started De Koffer was already the standard bearer for what a good beer café is supposed to be. And they didn’t stand idly by sticking to an old formula while the world around them was changing, they in fact are on the frontline of the revolution. A huge board with just Dutch beers occupies one of the walls but they have so much more than that with a great selection of foreign beers as well. The public is diverse with students, tourists and locals all frequenting the bar.

The managers of De Koffer (The Suitcase) are the best too and know a lot about beer. They keep their staff up-to-date and it is one of the few places I can go to where they will always have something unfamiliar for me on tap. I also love it that they know their customers and will always great you when you walk in.

In De Wildeman in Amsterdam

Need I really say more? Only the Arendsnest surpasses it in selection, but because In De Wildeman has beer from all over the world it is maybe a little more exciting. As with Woerden and De Koffer I admit it helps that you are recognized when you walk in. It makes it more personal and keeps you coming back. I usually come here during the day when it is not too busy and you can sit on the wooden bench overlooking it all: the people walking in, the knowledgeable guests asking about the latest beer, the newbies who just want to try something new. All the while with the board above the door looking down on us. There are people here I see every time, but also tourists find their way, helped by Tripadvisor and Ratebeer no doubt.

Het Hijgend Hert in Vijlen

I admit that I have only beer here once. Also, the beermenu isn’t as great as in the other 4 places. In fact, I can name 20 other café’s that have a better beer menu. Why is this in the Top 5 anyway? Because it is a location without equal. Located on top of a hill looking out over parts of Limburg. Farm animals are nearby and a beautiful forest behind it. It is about as far away from most people as possible. For someone in Groningen a city like Bremen is closer. It is also the highest located café in the country. I know that doesn’t mean much, the coffeemachine on top of the Empire State Building is higher for example but in a country as flat as ours it is at least something. For the greatest setting imaginable go to the Panting Deer, I am going to plan vacations nearby just to go here again.

A Burger and Beer at Bret

Sloterdijk, an area of Amsterdam once so drab and grey that the only thing you wanted to do is get the hell out of there and go home. Once this was area had only office buildings with an occasional hotel in between. Trees and grass were sparsely placed in the jungle of concrete but could be seen from behind your desk just too far to go there in your lunch break.

But Sloterdijk lost its position as the center of business in Amsterdam. Zuid (South) attracted a lot of company headquarters and businesses in Sloterdijk vacated their buildings too for the move south. At the same time Amsterdam was looking for more space for new hotels, something there is a big lack of in the capital. The old office buildings in Sloterdijk are now converted into hotels. A convenient location because both downtown Amsterdam, Zaandam and Haarlem or 10 to 15 minutes away by train.

It is here that a group DSC01150of architects and young ambitious restauranteurs decided to build Bret, with support from local government. You may remember an earlier story I wrote when Thomas Boonstoppel of Nordman Beers led me around what was then still a construction site. It has now been open for about a month and a half and it is going better than expected.

It is going great in that a reservation is needed for lunch and dinner, which I am glad we made. While we were sitting there people kept coming, most were able to sit but some had to be turned away because the container structure was completely full. Good for Bret, unfortunate for the guests.

DSC01155And it’s not because Bret is the only available place to go in that area. It is a good restaurant with a good menu. Because they open at 8 a.m. already you can get breakfast, lunch and dinner apart from the wide selection of beer. Getting a coffee-to-go is a good choice. We started a three day holiday to Rotterdam here but I had my best coffee on the first day here at Bret.

DSC01154They attempt to have the food as fresh and local as possible and it shows because it looks good. We had a burger (with awesome onion relish) and a lentil salad. The menu isn’t pages long but varied enough so that most people can find something they like.

The beer

Beer is of course the reason we went to Bret in the first place. Their beer menu might not rival that of other places in the city but is quite good for the area it is in. Because the guys from Nordman are part of the team running Bret you can find all or most of their beers on tap (3 in our case). It is possible to get 4 small glasses in a tasting paddle, and that is a great thing always and everywhere and something every bar should do.

DSC01151Gulpener is the big contributor so you can find their beers on tap as well, but it is the bottles that are most interesting. Again, nothing you can’t find anywhere else but they try and have beers from most of the bigger Amsterdam breweries so ‘t IJ, Prael, Two Chefs and Oedipus you can find here, as well as a good selection of beers from the country like Emelisse, Uiltje and Jopen.

Their effort to promote Amsterdam beer will have a highlight when this weekend they will host the first Amsterdam Craft Beer Festival in and around Bret. The garden and surrounding area are well suited for this.


Because Bret has barely been open it is hard to say what the future will bring, but things are looking great so far. The building already seems to small! And with the plot of land across the street under development as well we can only hope that it will be yet another highlight in the Dutch beer revolution.


Is Bret worth the trip to Sloterdijk? Yes it is, but for the overall experience of the organic building, the food and the coffee. The beers as I said are decent but nothing unique, it is however a very nice place to drink your Oedipus Mannenliefde. If you are in Amsterdam and want to visit Haarlem or the windmills north of the canal Bret is a perfect starting point. It is well worth visiting this nicely stacked sea container structure.

New Starts I: Bret @ Sloterdijk

Here it is, the first article of 2015. Our year started with the birth of our son and because of this new start for us I have decided that this year will be the year of starts. New breweries, festivals, bars, anything to do with Dutch craft beer of course. Today’s article is about a new restaurant / beer bar that will open in April in the western part of Amsterdam: Bret.

Playing Legos with containers.

It was a day when the temperatures were hovering around the point of freezing when Thomas Boonstoppel, one of the two guys running Nordman, showed me around the construction site of a new project in the west of Amsterdam they will be a part of. Next to the Sloterdijk railway station a jenga tower of red containers is being constructed. In the end of April this will become ‘Bret’ , a organic food bar that will serve great craft beer.

The Sloterdijk railway station connects the city with the rest of the country above the IJ canal, with most of the Western cities and also to the harbor of Amsterdam next to it. Large multinational companies have left the area to relocate to the new boom part of Amsterdam around the World Trade Center railway station to the south. This led the city to a decision that parts of this area needed a new purpose, to remodel this area into something else than a place where people work and then leave. The companies leaving the office space means empty buildings but the location meant hotels got interested and this is now the new market. With people staying there overnight new restaurants and bars are slowly trying to get a foothold in this area.


The idea for Bret is not entirely Nordmans idea. They already had plans to open a German-style beergarten somewhere in Amsterdam and were walking around looking for help. They came across someone who was already working on a new idea, which is now Bret and Nordman fit perfectly in the idea. This will give Bret a multipurpose designation. A beer bar, but also a diner type place for coffee, sandwiches and other to-go stuff, all for reasonable prizes. It will also be a little slice of green heaven in concrete. In the building there is also room for theater shows and beer workshops.


The name Bret fits the purpose beautifully, but is not named for the kind of yeast that makes your Orval so tasty. The area nearby is called the Brettenzone, and trees from this area have been incorporated into the building.

The idea of turning containers into a structure isn’t new. The first thing it reminded me of was the Frau Geroltsgarten in Zurich. In a jungle of mostly concrete Zurich-West is in the middle of an urban renewal renaissance. Old factory buildings are turned into office space, restaurants and shops, sometimes with some of the factory gear still in place. Spaces under bridges are now small companies or daycare centers. In this area someone played Legos with sea containers to build a garden that is part art center, part food center. A restaurant offers homemade food, with some of the ingredients being produced on the actual site. You can eat your bowl of chili sitting next to the herbs that were cut a few hours before to be a part of your meal.

No brewery

They contemplated brewing at this location for a while, but the building is too small to build a brewing installation. A small one would work, but there is no chance of any expansion if they ever feel the need to do this in the building. But across the road they can use the land for several things. Plans galore: a beergarten, actual gardens for food, and who knows, a brewery for Nordman. You can follow the plans on the Facebook page for the garden. The ideas so far look great.

Opening and festival

Opening of Bret is slated for April 27th. It will also be the sight of the first Amsterdam Craft Beer festival on June 13th and 14th. A new festival with beer, food and music. Names so far are De Prael and Two Chefs, but more will follow. Finally a reason to take the train or subway to Sloterdijk for something else than work. Follow the website for further information.


Nordman Beers



005 006 007 008

Amsterdam’s New Beer Scene Episode VI: Pampus

pampuslogoBack in the days when Amsterdam was still the most important harbor in the world, ships that wanted to enter the city had to pass a sandbank. If they ship was too full and therefore too heavy it had a chance of running aground here. The sandbank is now an island with a fort and its name, Pampus, made its way into the Dutch language in the saying ‘to lie before Pampus’. This now means to be so drunk or full of food you can’t move. It is now also the name of the sixth brewery in our Amsterdam series. Pampus has made some great beers so far, including the wonderful Dark Hops with De Eem. An introduction:

The BeerTemple, a new school for beer.

Pampus was started by the two-man team of Timothy Wareman and Nando Servais. If you have been to Amsterdam and went to the great beer places we told you about earlier chances are you have met them already. They got to know each other while working at the Beertemple, yes, that cathedral of beer in downtown Amsterdam that is turning into a school for beer with some of the Oedipus people also ‘graduating’ from here.

Tim then went to that other temple of beer het Arendsnest to become the manager there. After doing this for a long time he returned to the Beertemple where he currently is the manager there. For those who don’t know, both places are owned by the same guy (Peter van den Arend).

Until recently Nando was tending the bar there. Next to working in the wonderful world of beer he is hard at work getting a Masters in Religious Studies after first getting Bachelor degrees in History and Religious Studies. In February he will likely start full time for Pampus.

Their first taste of craft beer started in the Beertemple where they had the privilege of tasting new beers from all over the world and learn about it. This gained knowledge and enthusiasm led to try some home brewing. The results must have been great because only a few months in 2012 Pampus was created.


Tim and Nando don’t have their own brewery yet so they are forced to brew at different locations. Working at the Arendsnest has its advantages and they got into contact with the Naeckte Brouwers in Amstelveen (city to the south of Amsterdam) who do have their own installation. They chose to brew here because they the capacity and the Naeckte Brouwers gave them the freedom to experiment with styles, flavors and ingredients. Often breweries renting out their equipment have a list of do’s and don’ts, limiting the personal input of the contract brewer. Not so here. Nando mentions that a brewing installation is like a musical instrument with its own quirks, possibilities and shortcomings, things you will only get to know through experience.


One of Pampus’ strong points are their collaborations from Holland like Naeckte, Italy (Birrificio Aurelio) and the United States. Their Dark Hops made with Ruud from De Eem won the prize for best beer from Utrecht at the Utrechts Beerbrewers festival in May (De Eem is located in the province of Utrecht). A big deal in a province abound with great beer. And it is a great beer, one of the best from the country I have had this year.

Collaborating is something they intend to continue for a number of reasons:

  1. It is yet another confirmation that the brewing world is one where the brewers are colleagues and not competitors. They all need each other to give craft beer the credit it deserves and these collaborations help.
  2. They are educational. Brewers teach each other some tricks of the trade the other one doesn’t know yet and that can be used to improve the beer next time. The quality and creativity will only get better this way.

Nando and Timothy keep introducing new beers and with increasing quality. Amsterdam, it’s pretty cool place. Pampus is making it even better.

Amsterdam’s new beer scene part III: Amsterdam Brewboys

We already discussed Nordman and De Vriendschap, this installment in this series will be about the Amsterdam Brewboys. Also a new brewery that started in the last few months and with a story that in many ways mirrors that of the others.

BEERMAT-FACES_Artboard-300The brewboys are Pieter and Sebastiaan and starting the brewery came came out of the urge to do something new next to what they were already doing.

Pieter has been running a diner for almost a decade now called Langendijk (his last name). Visitors to Brouwerij ‘t IJ will have passed and seen it because they are practically neighbors. It must have been the smell then that saturated their nostrils with this good idea.

Partner Sebastiaan has been brewing for over a decade already. A lot at home but also in Sydney at Young Henry’s and he also spent some time at De Prael to look at the process.

Getting known

Being a restaurant owner already gives him easy access to the local restaurant- and bar business network. Other relations helped as well, showing once again as with the other new breweries that if the network is already largely in place it helps getting the word out and the beer poured.

The fact that it’s a local brew means that there is more interest than there otherwise might have been. Local is hot right now. Another plus is that brewers and owners are very easy to get into contact with. The same goes for the shops, if you know how to sell it they will take it. Pieter thinks all the new breweries are good rather than competition. The brewing business is a hard one but very collegial. Every brewery has its own ideas and its own product so there is enough variation.

But Pieter stresses that these facts alone do not make a successful career. The basis of it all still is hard work.

The beer

The brewboys have so far released one beer, a Pale Ale. The first two batches were brewed at the Sallandse Brewery but they have now moved to Lindeboom to make more.

Why did Amsterdam get so much more interesting after I left…


Amsterdam Brewboys website

Releaseparty video

Dutch Beer for Tourists I: Amsterdam’s Golden Quartet

amsterdam_braun_and_hogenberg_15741People who read this blog but have only spent little or no time in this country often ask me the what which beer related places they should visit. Since Amsterdam is often the first and only destination it will feature in the first installment of a new series: Dutch beer for tourists!

Amsterdam, the city I was fortunate enough to live in for over a decade. While Utrecht might be a more interesting place to visit when it comes to beer, Amsterdam is making a comeback lately and in one years’ time there will be even more to visit, but for now I am sticking with what some, including myself, call the ‘Golden Quartet’.

Proeflokaal het Arendsnest (Herengracht 90)

If you are only in Amsterdam for an hour but still want to go to an iconic place for Dutch beer, then the Arendsnest is the place. About a 10-15 minute walk from the local railway station you pass one of the most beautiful canals in the city, aptly named the Brewerscanal (Brouwersgracht). Though you could easily linger on the small bridges for hours, tear yourself away until you reach the Herengracht where you will find the Arendsnest. For well over a decade Peter van den Arend has run a bar on the canal and it is still unique. It only serves Dutch beer, and from all over the country. Fourteen taps and countless bottles offers something for everyone. The staff knows everything about what they offer so they can give you the right advice. On a nice warm day you can sit on the terrace on the side of the canal.

BeerTemple (Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 250)

If excellent beer is your religion then this is it’s temple. Also owned by the same Peter who owns the Arendsnest, it offers beer from mostly the U.S. and Scandinavia, with some other countries thrown in, including Holland. The BeerTemple has been open for a few years now, can sometimes be empty but what is on offer there is unequaled in the Netherlands, maybe in Europe.

Think the great bigger American craft brewers, but also Mikkeler and Struise. Usually there are around 4 Dutch beers on tap too. What is on offer here is the best of the best craft beer has to offer at the moment.

Bierkoning ( Paleisstraat 125)

Just around the corner is a shop that doesn’t look like much from the outside. But walk through the door and small corridor and you enter beer heaven. This is easily the best beer store in Amsterdam. You won’t find cases of Heineken here but the best that craft brew worldwide has to offer, though most of it is from the U.S., Germany, England, Belgium, Denmark and whatever else is good. Their Dutch section is growing and growing and now probably the biggest section. As I wrote in an earlier piece, they are a big help in spreading the word about the new Dutch wave of craft beer. Here again the staff knows everything you need to know. Other stores might be more comfortable to walk around in, but no other store in Amsterdam offer a selection as this one does. Since it is almost next to the Royal Palace, there is no excuse for you to miss De Bierkoning.

In De Wildeman (Kolksteeg 3)

If you really need to go back to the station with your backpack heavy with the bottles you just bought at de Bierkoning, the ghost of Michael Jackson (the beer writer who once recorded a bit for his series here) will haunt you forever if you don’t go to In De Wildeman first. This is a specialty beer with beer from all over Europe, but you can easily sit here all day and only have Dutch brews either from one of the many taps or bottles. Like the other bars, the staff knows what they are selling. Though surrounded by noisy, busy streets it can often be a haven of calm, especially during the day. The premises once was occupied by a distillery, and the signs of that are still there. While you’re in there, grab a book, drink a beer and don’t forget to look above the door at all the beers on tap.

[youtube]Go to the 6:00 mark for In De Wildeman, it’s old but legendary


If you are staying in Amsterdam longer there are other places worth visiting.

Brouwerij ‘t IJ (Funenkade 7)

A little outside of downtown, but easy to reach by tram, is one of the oldest craft breweries in the country: Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Located in an old bathhouse underneath a windmill it’s a pretty place to visit. Recently they built a new part a little down the road but the tasting room remains. You can sit inside but the best place is outside on a warm spring or summer night. ‘t IJ has also in the last few years ventured into some newer styles and you can now get porters, IPA’s apart from the standard beers they have had for ages.

De Prael (Oudezijds Voorburgwal 30)

If you haven’t been to Amsterdam much you will likely end up in the red light district. Don’t forget to wander into the Prael, a newer brewery with a shop and tasting room.

Brewery review: Brouwerij Troost

Breweries have lately been occupying buildings that have lost their old function. Windmills, factory buildings, churches and other buildings are now kept intact on the outside while on the inside giving us new beer. This has also happened in a monastery located in De Pijp, a great neighborhood in Amsterdam where once the Heineken brewery stood.

IMG_1906New brewery Troost moved into such a building that was once a monastery and before it became Troost it was an unemployment office on the roomy Cornelis Troost square that also gives the brewery its name, although the literal translation of troost (comfort) would have been a good name as well. The building is huge with the brewery just occupying a wing. It still holds the local police and a hotel, it also is an example of the pre-war Amsterdam architecture style.

So Amsterdam has a new brewery, one of the many that started in the last two years but this one actually brews on site and sells on site too. The brewing vats make up a big part of the interior and even some of the exterior because they stand behind glass.

IMG_1907It has only been open a few weeks but it has been a success. They apparently underestimated the demand because they were already out of their weizen. The blond and IPA were still available. Is it beer to make a trip for? The short answer is no. The beers are decent but the most interesting feature is that they are unique. The blond had good palate but no discernible taste, the IPA was better. It lacked some of the bitterness I like but had character. The weizen was replaced by Maisels which is both surprising and disappointing. The people running Troost have another bar (Kostverloren) with a good beer menu that offers many other Dutch beers. Another replacement was Jopen, something we can only applaud. Considering their new position offering a good Dutch white beer would have made more sense.
So the beer isn’t great, but does this mean you should ignore Troost altogether? Absolutely not. While the beer is average the location, room and menu are great. Being in de Pijp it is easy to reach and great to combine with the many things that neighborhood has to offer. The menu is eclectic, focused on burgers but with much more than that. Soups, sandwiches, snacks and enough other beverages for the non-alcohol drinkers. The furniture in the room seems to have been lifted out of school buildings from 50 years ago but it makes it light, open and fitting. The terrace wasn’t open yet but the courtyard seems perfect for a late afternoon beer.

Troost has Wifi and you can pay with debit card only.


The Beer Café, the other engine of the revolution

Last year I wrote about the role the specialty ‘beer’ store plays in the distribution of (Dutch) craft beer  and how much that segment has grown in the five years. The Dutch craft beer revolution has one other foundation and that is the specialty beer café. Beer cafe’s 20 years ago were almost always Belgian Beer Café’s with maybe a few other breweries from nearby countries to spice things up. But the role of the beer café has changed and they mirror what the beer store: more Dutch beer and more beer from countries not named Belgium. But is this true? We asked around to find out and send out a questionnaire to Jasper from Doerak in Delft, Marjolein from De Koffer in Groningen, Simon from In De Wildeman in Amsterdam, Erik from DeRat in Utrecht and Peter from Het Bierhuys in Woerden. Here are some of the conclusions.


The famous In De Wildeman chalkboard above the entrance

The famous In De Wildeman chalkboard above the entrance

Simon (In De Wildeman) is reminded of the first Dutch beer week In De Wildeman organized back in 1990. It was hard in those days to get a beer from Dutch craft breweries on all the 18 taps, let alone with decent quality. 35 years later and now he can pick and choose the nice ones. Taps that used to pour Belgian beer are now being switched to Dutch ones, a logical conclusion from all that we have seen in the stores. The café’s don’t only sell the beer, they also actively promote Dutch beer with some even having a special ‘Dutch beers’ section on either a wall or on the menu. In De Wildeman still has quite the selection of Belgian beers but the Dutch beers are pushing the Belgian beers of the chalkboard above the entrance. De Koffer’s list on the wall is a visual piece of art.

Two changes: local and style

People are more interested in local products, also because there seems to be more. With the rise of non-Belgian beer (mostly American) the tastes of the consumer change as well. Newer styles like IPA’s and stouts are getting more attention and people seem to like this more than the usual Belgian blondes and triples. Peter (Bierhuys) tries to offer a wide variety of specialty beers, mostly in styles. It is no use having 15 stouts and no blondes. Apart from the Hertog Jan beers he contractually has to pour he prefers smaller breweries because they won’t sell in the supermarkets where people can get their beer anyway. Simon (In De Wildeman) shares the same view, people ask mostly for the smaller Dutch brewers, they can get the bigger ones at home as well.

A Menu in De Koffer

A Menu in De Koffer

Marjolein sees the change in the visitors to De Koffer: “A Lot of People, including many foreigners, prefer to drink Dutch beers and even more precise local beers. This is probably due to the trend that people want to know where their products come from.” De Koffer also actively promotes the local beers, mostly because they know the brewers the best.  This connection with the brewer is important for them. A good bond makes it easier for them to come to agreements about price and delivery. De Koffer has no problem going to the brewers themselves to pick up the beer. Naturally the beer has to have a certain quality, something they themselves decide.

Distribution of the smaller breweries is still not the easiest. Often they will bring the kegs (or bottles) themselves to a local place. It also means that this distribution isn’t constant. Jasper (Doerak) mentions that is also a reason why he won’t have more of it on tap.

Woerden and Utrecht are fortunate enough to be in a region that has a staggering amount of great beer. The Bierhuys’ own beer is made by De Molen for example and they have many Utrecht beers for sale as well. Same goes for DeRat. The popularity of Utrechts beer has reached Groningen too where I have seen more beers from that province than local beers. Unfortunately the north still lags behind the rest of the country. DeRat is excellent in its offering of Dutch beer and the people who come to this place enjoy it. Erik from DeRat decides whether a beer will be sold or not and he has three rules that make perfect sense: 1. Don’t be too expensive 2. Be tasty. And 3. Get sold to the customer.


Erik had one last thing to mention when I asked him if he had anything else to say about the rise of Dutch beer. It is a sentiment that I have heard more people share and one I agree with.

“the market for small brewers will eventually level out. There will be great beers and beers that won’t be that great. It’s up to the consumer to decide what they like. I as a bar owner can help in this, also in educating my guests who are not yet at home in the world of craft beer.”

Erik hits the nail on the head, and that is why his bar and all the others that have the courage to sell Dutch beer are that other engine of the Dutch craft beer revolution!


Here are some numbers for the statistically minded:

Café Number of Taps Dutch
Doerak, Delft 12 3 or 4
Bierhuys 11 4 or 5
Koffer 10 4
DeRat 6 5 or 6


Café 5 Years ago Now Dutch
Doerak 20 180 40
Bierhuys 80 (20 Dutch) 135 50
Koffer 23 Dutch 180 63
DeRat 120 65


-Martijn Buisman

Thanks to the following café’s

In De Wildeman (Amsterdam)

Annually In De Wildeman will end up in the Dutch café top 10. Located in the center of the middle of downtown Amsterdam Simon and colleagues run a gem. First thing to do when you come in is turn around and look above the door you just came through to see the list of beers on tap. A few times a year there is real ale too. Hangout for both locals and thanks to mentions on Tripadvisor and similar sites tourists come here often as well. Extra score for having their own app.

Doerak (Delft)

Also have their own app. Located on a canal close to the main square this also is one of the many great beer places in the town of the Royal family and the painter Vermeer. Boardgames, big wooden tables, knowledgeable staff, a place to go.

DeRat (Utrecht)

The small size of this place, located within the city walls but outside of the main walking area, is compensated by its excellent menu. Focused on the many great local beers this bar is worth a visit. I have visited this place way to few times.

Bierhuys (Woerden)

A relatively unknown beer hangout that I only came across about 4 years ago because I live close to Woerden. Since then they have organized bokbeerfestivals in Woerden. Located downtown as well, but like DeRat you have to look for it. Local beers mostly, Belgians and other Dutch beers. Their housebeer is from De Molen, Bodegraven being one town further on the railwayline.

De Koffer (Groningen)

Great place on the edge of the Groningen city centre and conveniently placed on my way from the railway station to my parents’ house. Awesome selection. They have Hel & Verdoemenis and White Label beers! They try to have as many local beers as possible, even though there aren’t that many. Visited by locals (mostly students) it seems this is a great place to hang out and enjoy good beer.