Posts Tagged ‘in de wildeman’

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.

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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjBY4bYuKck]Go to the 6:00 mark for In De Wildeman, it’s old but legendary

Extra:

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.

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.

Growth

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.

Future

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!

Numbers

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

Bottles

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.

The beers we couldn’t try, but at least we shared the stout

My personal obsession with craft beer started about 6 years ago when I was deep into my 20’s. I didn’t live in my hometown anymore so I didn’t see my family very often. But I knew my father liked beer. He was a drinker like most are; a bottle of Grolsch during the week, maybe a Duvel or Westmalle in the weekends and occasionally something else. Open to new flavors, but not the very experimental kind. As with most children when you start liking something some of the first people you want to share your new found obsession with is your family. Distance prohibited us from doing that full-fledged but I have some great beer memories.

When my father turned 50 I gave him a case of different beers and the book “Beer for Dummies”. This was in 2006 so my knowledge of beer wasn’t as it is now. I tried to fill the case with different styles: a stout, a barleywine, some trappist ales etc. If I had known more beers I might have added that too, but remember  that in 2006 the number of Dutch beers for example was still so much lower than it is now.

Two years ago I took him to the beerfestival in Groningen in the Martinikerk. We shared some beers and we talked. We had some local beers  and a De Molen. I once gave him a Hel & Verdoemenis and he later told me he enjoyed it very much so this was a natural choice. I was very happy that he liked my favorite beer too.

And then last year in February we got the news that he was sick. A tumor was found in his brain and removed, but was never the same. He still drank some alcohol though throughout the times he had both chemo- and radiation therapy. This all ended when he had to take more medication. He did try and find a substitute and he tried different low- or non-alcohol beers. Wieckse Witte turned out to be his favorite. A few times I brought some too. He tried some and found the Erdinger to be the best.

Occasionally he broke the doctor’s orders and tried some beer or wine. The most special beer I shared with him was the Duits & Lauret Stout that my wife and I poured on our wedding day instead of champagne. He didn’t have much because he wasn’t allowed to drink alcohol anymore because of the medication he was taking. He did tell me he enjoyed it a lot and I wish he could have had more.

Earlier this year he and his wife took a little holiday to Limburg. We couldn’t come  but I suggested that they visit a place that was dear to both me and my wife. When we were traveling there we took a very long walk through the hills of Southern Limburg to end up at ‘t Hijgend Hert, the most beautifully located specialty beer café in the country overlooking a part of the hilly countryside. And yes, all of sudden around dinner time I received pictures of him enjoying trout on the terrace. Even though he didn’t have any beer the simple fact that was there was special to us. It was a place I would have loved to take him myself, but this was close.

There are so many other beers I would have loved to try with him and festivals and bars to visit. Would he enjoy the Emelisse White Labels I enjoyed so much, did he ever try a good IPA? Was a Rooie Dop Double Oatmeal Stout more to this liking? Maybe he would have wanted to come to Borefts one year or at least visit In De Wildeman while was visiting us in Amsterdam.

But it wasn’t to be. On October 24 this year the cancer won and he died at the age of only 57. Some non-alcoholic beers still left in the fridge. I will think of the things we didn’t do, but I will also remember him liking the Duits & Lauret Stout on my wedding. It’s a good beer memory don’t you think?

Post script.

At my father’s funeral I spoke for a little while with a former neighbor. He was also at my father’s 50th birthday and on that night we spoke for quite some time about beer. He told me that he would ask my father to come over and have some special beers. His birthday was in October and he drank bockbeers a lot on and around this day. One he remembers is the Kruisheren Constantinus, a beer from our home province of Groningen. They also drank more beers from Kruisheren, mostly because they were local. He wanted to let me father try some beers from the province, though he quickly found out he knew them already. That however did not stop him from trying. This and other beers from Grunn interested them, like most people love trying local things.

Thanks HJ for sharing this with me, it is something I was unaware of but makes me proud to read!

A Small Revolution: The Dutch Cask Ale Days

Social media are changing the world in ways unimaginable at the end of the last century. At this very moment revolutions are spreading throughout Northern Africa with the aid of Facebook, Google and Twitter, toppling dictators who have been in power since the 1970’s.

A revolution on a slightly smaller scale happened in Amsterdam on February the 11th and 12th. The excellent beerpub “In De Wildeman” organized the first Real Dutch Cask Ale days. Judging by the wall of people blocking the entrance on the first night it was a huge success. The idea for the festival started on Facebook when manager Simon Fokkinga challenged Dutch breweries to make some cask ale. The reason for this was that he still had some casks left over from their annual British Cask Ale days. Six brewers jumped at the chance to use them for their own cask ale: Klein Duimpje, De Connectie (Vat No 13, Eem, De Lepelaer), De Snaterende Arend, Ramses, Emelisse and De Molen.

John Brus of De Molen told us that they were one of the very few in the Netherlands with some actual experience brewing cask ale. Because of that they were asked for the festival, and also served as a source of information for the other brewers.

For the brewers it was a great opportunity to learn how to make a style of beer that is almost unknown in the Netherlands; websites were browsed, books were studied and other brewers contacted. Carl Stapelbroek of Vat No. 13 for example told us that the ‘problem’ is in the carbonation which only happens naturally through the fermentation. Not to get too technical, but finding the right yeast for him was the biggest challenge. The brewing itself turned out to be a piece of cake and Carl is very happy with the result. He and Ruud van Moorst from Eem were instantly enthusiastic about the plan and immediately started thinking about a recipe that ended up being an IPA with an American twist which they were able to brew at De Lepelaer in Noord-Holland.

Simon from In De Wildeman was very excited about the festival and there will likely be another one next year. More breweries have shown interest and De Molen and De Connectie can be expected to bring a cask to the next one. As John Brus puts it: “It’s a great development that cask ale is being introduced in the country as a far richer taste experience than the standard, and mostly boring, Dutch draft beer.” The Dutch Beer pages agree, bring on more cask ale!

Participating brewers

To read more about Cask Ale, Check Wikipedia