Posts Tagged ‘beer shop in Leiden’

Leiden and the coming together of worlds

Leiden, home of one of the most prestigious universities in the world. The starting point of the families who took the Mayflower to New England to start their city upon a hill. But for a long time, like many of the other cities in Zuid-Holland, not a city of beer. Well, not for new beer or dare I say craft beer. Heineken’s big brewery is just outside the city.

Only the excellent, mostly Belgian, beer café Lemmy’s and the beautiful Bierwinkel made it worth a visit. The Leidsche Bierbrouwerij for a long time was the only brewery, but not widely available in the rest of the country.

But then I walked into the Stadsbrouwhuis. A brewpub with a whopping 25 taps and no bottles. The mix of these 25 taps is very interesting, and is the main focus of today’s piece. How to offer something to both the drinker of normal, easy-to-get beers but also to the beergeek.

A big portion of the public still wants to go somewhere where they can drink what they know. This blog may sometimes try and prove otherwise, but humankind is still made up of creatures of habit.

Almost every bar, café and restaurant in the country has a brewery behind it. You can see this mostly by the sign hanging outside. In fact the accompanying brewery is signed onto the lease of the building, and not the café inside. Many times when a new café starts it has to take beer from the brewery assigned to the building. This construction merits a special article one day.

The Stadsbrouwhuis’s major brewery is Heineken. Heineken is in fact a very local brewery since they moved out of Amsterdam decades ago and are now brewing in nearby Zouterwoude.

With Heineken come more beers like Brand and its range of beers. You might not like the big boys, but Brand at least has decent beers. But here is the genius of the Stadsbrouwhuis: With 25 taps there is room enough to offer whatever they want and that they do. Don’t expect the normal stuff from smaller breweries but only the really special things, beers you won’t find in a bottle easily or at all. And beers you will find here you won’t find anywhere else in the the city. This makes it a must visit for any beerhunter. One look at the menu at this very moment and I see special beers from Ramses, Oedipus, Fyne and Walhalla.

A brewery

The words gives it away, it is also a brewery. A guild of likeminded brewers brew here every Saturday and each bring in their own recipe. The beers are brewed with the brewery name De Vrije Vogel. I had a stout that was exceptional. Even their own beers make it worthwhile to visit once in a while, mostly because it is not bottled.

And oh, it’s a good restaurant too that opens early.

The Leven in de Brouwerij Festival


Pronck, one of the newer Leiden breweies was also present

From the Stadsbrouwhuis came the idea to organize a big beer festival and this happened on March 22 and 23 in the Stadsgehoorzaal, a beautiful theater from the 19th century. It adds to the experience when you can walk around in an actual building with different rooms and not an outdoor square or school.


It was an eclectic mix of brewers from big brands like Brand to small ones like NeoBosski. And not only Dutch, also Belgian brewers were there and even Lagunitas brought two beers. Though that is not that surprising since they are part Heineken these days. This is a festival for all. The average drinker of pilsners and triples could fine enough, and so could the beer hunter like me.

Breweries from for example Leiden, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Oss and Den Haag were present so you could get a fairly good idea of the state of brewing in the Netherlands in just these two days.

The main room, 30 minutes after opening, it got a lot busier

The Dutch brewers present showed how far some have come. Uiltje, Van Moll and Kompaan are slowly reaching the level that Jopen already is at. Others like Muifel, Klein Duimpje and the Leidse Brouwers have been at it for quite some time now. New ones like NeoBosski, Sisters Brewery or Alkmaar’s Zegelis have just recently started and are still small. Breweries from all phases of 21st century Dutch brewing history were in Leiden.

It is time Leiden catches up with the rest, and with the Stadsbrouwhuis and this festival it just might. The Stadsbrouwerij and the Leiden Leven in de Brouwerij festival have shown that a hybrid between hardcore beergeeks and casual middle-of-the-road beer drinkers is indeed possible.  Who knows, both sides might actually learn from each other.

The Dutch beershops: catalysts for the Dutch Craft Beer Revolution

In the Netherlands we are in the middle of a beer revolution. A revolution that can be seen in the many festivals we have today and the cafés and restaurants who now serve some Dutch beers next to the Belgians. The main source for our bottles and the easiest way for brewers to get their beer sold to the public is still the liquor store, and especially the specialty beer stores. We are fortunate enough to have a few very good ones.

The rise of Dutch beer can be witnessed in these stores. Where in the past only a few breweries would actually have bottled beer for sale, now more and more different kinds of Dutch beer can be found in these stores. The same goes for the chain stores like Mitra, even supermarkets like Jumbo and Albert Heyn might now on occasion sell local beer if they have a manager with a good heart. Let’s not even start with the specialty food stores and natural food stores.  But is my initial thought that Dutch beer is taking up more and more space on the shelves a right one? And if so, doesn’t that automatically mean that other  beers had to give way to these? I started investigating, asking four of my favorite beer stores a few questions. The interrogated quartet are De Bierkoning in Amsterdam, Bert’s Bierhuis in Utrecht, Melgers in Haarlem and De Bierwinkel in Leiden.

A selection of beers bought at De Bierkoning late July

A selection of beers bought at De Bierkoning late July

The Stores.

A short introduction to the questioned stores might be in order before we go on. If you do not know De Bierkoning I am guessing you either don’t like craft beer or just started to become interested. For those of you visiting Amsterdam it is a must visit place. Not the biggest of stores but in a great location behind the Royal Palace on Dam Square in the middle of Amsterdam, and therefore also the middle of the public life in this country now for over 25 years.

De Bierwinkel in Leiden is nicely located on a church square where Peter Jongejans runs it. It also is not the biggest of stores and is not exclusively selling beer. Lovers of wine and whiskey can also find what they are looking for in Leiden.

Melgers too is a more-than-beer liquor store on a very old backstreet of downtown Haarlem. Not on a main road so you have to look for the it on a map it’s worth the wandering through Haarlem’s small streets. With the Jopen Church right around the corner it is no wonder that you can find many Jopen bottles here but they have a lot more as we will see later.

Bert’s Bierhuis is in one of the nicest parts of Utrecht. The Twijnstraat is one of those streets foodies love. Chocolate, fish, fresh produce and cooking stores you have to pass before reaching Bert’s Bierwinkel, and from there it is only a short walk to a good beercafé called Het Ledig Erf. Of all the stores I talk about here this store has by far the most room.

The Rise of Dutch Beer…

I started off with asking how much more Dutch beer they sell compared to 5 and 10 years ago. The averages over the shops seems to be a more than a 20% rise in the last ten years. Peter Jongejans (Leiden) thinks he offers about 15% more Dutch beer than a decade ago. Dennis of Melgers believes the number of Dutch beer right now in the store is around 35%. There is a shelf there that is quite impressive, about 5 meters of De Molen beer only. Their offering of specialty beer in general has risen from about 300 6 years ago to over 900 today. For De Bierkoning, manager Jan guesses that since the (Dutch) beer revolution really started about 5 years ago about a quarter of what the store offers is now from the Netherlands and that is an increase over the last decade. Besides being a bigger part of what is on offer, it is now also the best selling ‘country’.

…and the decline of the Belgian multiplications

Here’s a little math test for you all: If in a limited space something gains mass, something else has get smaller right? What do you think that something is? Did you guess Belgian dubbels and tripels? Then you are right. For a long time these were the only specialty beers available, including the ones that were ok yet not earth shattering or easily available somewhere else, as with the InBev Belgian beers. It is these bottles that have departed from the shelves to make way for the influx of Dutch bottles. It goes to show yet again that beerlovers these days seem to go more for the local, and newer beers instead of a mediocre Belgian one. The days of thinking: ‘it’s Belgian so it must be great’ are over. Beware neighbors to the South! That the Belgians are leaving is something you see in all the stores. Besides those the bigger Dutch ones (Heineken) and crates of beer have left De Bierkoning too and are being replaced by local ones and beers that are harder to find.

Going Local

It would stand to reason that a store in Utrecht sells local beer, and Bert does just that. De Leckere, Maxmimus, Rooie Dop, Duits & Lauret can all be found there. Peter of the shop in Leiden strongly advocates selling local beer. I personally have bought most of the EleganT and Leidse Brouwerij there and he has a good selection of De Molens, Bodegraven being only a few trainstops away.

Haarlem is also perfectly located. First of all there is the giant that is Jopen, but they are no longer the only brewery from Haarlem with the start of het Uiltje. Being located so very close to Amsterdam brewers from the capitol can be found as well. Beers from the same province like SNAB and Texel sell well, and also Ramses’ colorful labeled beers seem to fly off the shelf.

Most Jopen beers are also available in De Bierkoning, as are all the brewers from Amsterdam like De Prael, 7 Deugden, ‘t IJ etcetera. Whenever a new brewery in Amsterdam pops up (with an astonishing rate this year it seems) their bottles can be found here. But don’t worry, you can find an impressive amount of De Molens and Emelisse bottles here too. This raises the question: do brewers benefit from a good beerstore nearby? Maybe a question for another day.


People seem to be genuinely interested in local , or at least regional beer. Peter sees that the small, mostly onetime batches sell the best, especially the Leiden beer that he sells to non-Dutchies. He has a very strict rule for himself and that is no InBev beers and Jopen is about the biggest Dutch brewery coming in through the door. Jopen’s neighbor Melgers hardly sells beer from the bigger breweries. De Bierkoning also doesn’t sell a lot of beer made by what Jan calls the Big 8 (Lindeboom through Heineken). Their big sellers are ‘t IJ, De Prael, De Molen, Jopen, Texel and Emelisse.

Due to its prime location De Bierkoning attracts two major groups. One is of course the local beer lover but being in the middle of the country also means that tourists are coming. Holland is rapidly making a name for itself across the borders as an up-and-coming ­craftbeer nation. The fact that most of these beers are for sale here attracts many. If people are only in the country for a few days Amsterdam usually is the only destination. Besides the beer hunters from across the border regular tourists also drop by to find something local.


So the answer to my question is a resounding yes. The specialty stores do show that we are in the middle of a revolution of local beer. With the still climbing number of Dutch breweries we can do this survey again in 5 years and see what new Dutch brews are available.