There are a few things that automatically spring to people’s minds when you tell them you’re going to Amsterdam; Prostitutes and Weed. We’ve had to remind a number of people that Amsterdam has way more to offer than these stereotypes. It’s a beautiful part of the world that we’ve found ourselves visiting time and time again.The Dutch people are wonderful and their beer is delightful. Here we take you through a few of our favourite places to visit in and around the city.
There are now over 15 breweries in the region of Amsterdam. Here are two that we have been fortunate enough to visit.
The ij (pronounced ‘eye’) is a body of water in north Amsterdam and this is where the guys at Brouwerij ‘t ij have taken their name from. The brewery itself is situated in the north east of the city and is based in an old windmill. It is about a 30 minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station. The tap room is open from 2pm each day, we arrived just before 2.30pm on a Saturday and were lucky to get a seat! We had been here a few years ago before our most recent visit and noticed the tap room has since been refurbished. However, we must say that we did prefer the old ‘rough and ready’ look of the place – it looks a bit generic on the inside now. Still – it’s a wonderful place to visit.
The brewery’s logo features an ostrich with an egg, and a distant windmill.You may have seen their distinctive labels or enjoyed one of the collaboration beers they do for the Wetherspoons Real Ale festival. They have a really strong core range of beers including a pilsner, red dubbel, wit, IPA, tripel and amber. A tasting tray of 5 beers will set you back 9 Euros.
My stand out beer from our most recent visit was the Dry Hopped IJ Wit. This is their core IJ Wit which has been dry hopped with simcoe, cascade and citra. The flavours were just wonderful and it went rather well with the home cured salami and some soft cheese.
Brouwerij ‘t ij is the kind of place you can spend all afternoon enjoying a beer, snacking on cheese and watching the world go by. It’s a really welcoming place that has a good mix of tourists and locals. We happened to sit next to a lady who had lived in Holland for over 20 years but was originally from Keighley! As we sat on a large sharing table chatting about the beauty of Holland while she switched between speaking Dutch to her friends and comfortably falling back into her Yorkshire accent with us, Brouwerij ‘t ij felt the nicest place to be.
De Prael is situated in the centre of Amsterdam bang in the middle of the Red Light District, probably last place you would expect to find a brewery. We had booked ourselves on a tour and tasting (only 17.50 Euros per person) to finish our long weekend in Holland. The tour itself was fascinating, we were surprised at how small the operation was here. We had walked past the shop many times before but never knew there was a brewery at the back. Making the most of every nook and cranny, we climbed high up the staircases of those typically tall, thin Dutch buildings. We were the only people on the tour and were shown around by a really eccentric Dutch guy that worked at the brewery. It was a great session where he not only talked about the beer they brew but the history of the building and why they set up De Prael in the centre of the Red Light District.
De Prael are only just beginning to experiment with barrel ageing their beers. Our guide had told us how he came up with the name for one of them; Quasimodo. When he first tried it he took a step back and arched his back like the famous Victor Hugo character. He personally wasn’t behind barrel ageing and was happy enough brewing a nice pale beer. Interesting however to hear him say that at the end of the day the brewery is a business and that they need to keep making money.
Once the tour was over we were taken outside, down a side street and followed our guide down the canal. He was taking us to their bar which turns out to be a few doors down from the brewery. What a wonderful place it was!
We had no idea this bar was tucked away, hidden down a cobbled side street. It was like walking in to Aladdin’s cave. We were handed over to a waitress for the afternoon, who had reserved us a table. As part of our tour and tasting ticket we were seated and brought a taster tray of four De Prael beers. Our table was right in front of a brilliant jazz trio who mesmerised us the entire afternoon. If we hadn’t had to fly home that day, we wouldn’t have ever wanted to leave. Sipping a quad and listening to funky jazz is something that I highly recommend!
Something nice we found when over in Holland is that with each paddle/taster tray there is always an extra slot leaving space for a glass for water. Simple touch, but something that the UK don’t really do.
There are of course other breweries and micro pubs that we haven’t had chance to visit yet but would love to. There is Oedipus just over on the other side of the River IJ. Butchers Tears, Troost, Amsterdam BrewBoys, Two Chef’s Brewing to name but a few. The latter two are probably the ones to watch.
Bars & Pubs
Amsterdam is, like any other city, awash with bars and pubs. You can fully embrace the tourist areas if that’s what you like but there are a lot of hidden gems to explore if you’re prepared to walk around a bit and do your research in advance.
Less traditional Dutch, this bar has an American feel with beer stickers and mats stuck on the wall and an impressive beer list chalked over the bar. Here you get a fairly even mix of tourists and locals. We went in twice on our latest trip and each time you just end up staring at the beer board wondering what to have next. Some of the delights that were on draft were Cantillon Kriek, Bourbon County Stout 2014 and Big Fat 5. The latter is a Beer Temple collaboration with Het Uiltje, a big-ass DIPA. We would highly recommend this beer if you can get your hands on it – it was absolutely delightful.
Wanting to leave our mark we made sure that Leeds was fully represented on the beer sticker wall.
Beer Temple is a great place to go and not too far from the central pubs in Amsterdam. It can get a bit busy and loud at peak times but it’s so worth it for the beer selection.
What can we say about this place. Well, it is a must visit. In de Wildeman has the feel of your local pub with an amazing tap list. The building is an old Amsterdam distillery and it has to be one of the best places in the city to have a beer. There is no background music, just the pleasant chitter chatter of people from all over the world enjoying conversation over a beer. With about 18 taps the UK has a strong presence here, with the likes of Magic Rock, Buxton and Brew By Numbers on offer. After speaking to a local late one evening he said that they love the UK beers that get put on the bar. When we were in, Far Skyline was on and he couldn’t stop talking about it! That’s a real compliment to the great beers coming out of the UK right now. It’s not all about the UK though – the bottle list is something else – over 250 beers from all over the world to choose from. If you’re are feeling a bit flash or celebrating something then ask for their ‘Big Black Book’ which has some treats hidden away in the cellar – the beer bible.
Tucked down a side street just off from the main shopping area this is an old bar that is a classic place to visit. You will mainly find locals in here, it is not a place that you just stumble upon. It has a proper rough and ready feel about it. The walls are littered with beer bottles available to buy and there is a tap list of around 14 beers. If you are a bit claustrophobic then this place is not for you, not so much space in here so be prepared to get accustomed to your neighbour at the table. We think this really adds to the feel of it all though – especially when the weather is horrible outside. It’s cosy and warm and makes you never want to leave. Due to the size, Gollem is one of the few places in Amsterdam that is bar service rather than table service.
You can’t get more north Amsterdam without crossing the River IJ than this. Situated right by the IJ, Delirium appears really out of the way and difficult to find but it’s only a 15 minute walk from Amsterdam Central. If you have been to Delirium in Brussels this one could not be more different in comparison. The bar is relaxed, has an amazing looking food menu, and more importantly – it’s clean inside! This is a relatively new bar on the Amsterdam beer scene, opening at the back end of 2014. There are about 20 taps and the beer menu is more of a bible, you need two hands spare to lift it. We only had one drink in here but what we really liked here was how knowledgeable and friendly the waiter was. After deliberating for about 20 minutes on what beer to get, Leanne opted for a Amsterdam Brew Boys – White Label Coffee Red IPA. However, this was no longer on *sad face* but replaced with an Imperial Coffee Stout *happy face*.
De Gaeper was one of the first bars we encountered on our early trips to Amsterdam many years ago and we always make sure we head back here. Don’t be expecting anything too fancy, the usual staples, but make sure you try the Texels – Skuumkoppe; a dark moreish wheat beer. The bar staff are more than happy to talk you through the beer selection. The food is great here, a big hearty affair. Sat outside eating a Cafe de Gaeper burger with a beer is the perfect way to spend your afternoon.
Cafe De Doelen
Just across from De Gaeper is De Doelen, another of our original favourites. We can’t visit Amsterdam without going here. The pub has an adorable white and ginger cat the walks about like it owns the place. In the four times we’ve been here we’re happy to see the cat still reigns! Expect to see a small amount of local beers on draught with a solid bottle list. The surrounding area is a bit quieter too so you will usually only find locals here.
A bar situated on Nieuwmarket could appear to be quite commercial from the outside, but it has a lovely little cafe vibe on the inside.
Not too many options on draught here, only about six taps, but you get a good selection of local breweries here once again. Oedipus – Mama on tap was especially good.
Not too far from Fonteyn is Cafe Stevens. Upon entering the big heavy door and through a velvet red curtain you will enter the bustling bar. Always a great atmosphere here, good music and good beers to get through.
A trip to Haarlem…..
For the first time we decided to venture out of Amsterdam for the day so we hopped on the train for 15 minutes and arrived in Haarlem. Immediately you know that you are away from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, you feel at ease in the town and super relaxed. There are many things to do in Haarlem that don’t revolve around beer, you can read up on the top 10 here, however we were here for the beer (and the food).
Jopen have a few bars in and around Amsterdam and Haarlem – we went to visit the flagship bar Jopenkerke. The building is quite stunning, an old church with a brewery, a massive bar, a restaurant and space for bands to play too. After a really knowledgeable and super friendly waiter had sat us down it was time to order some beer. Not knowing where to start we asked if they did taster trays, his response; ‘how many do you want’? From a list of over 14 Jopen beers on tap we played it safe with just 8. We can’t recommend visiting here enough. As well as the large selection of Jopen beers they do also have a few guest beers on too. With this being quite a popular place to go we were very lucky to get a table in here, many people were coming in for drinks and food.
A short walk from Jopenkerke is Het Uiltje (don’t ask how to pronounce this, I have asked many people and get a different answer each time!) This bar was a real find.
The 30 taps on offer have a great selection of beers from far and wide including Het Uiltje own brews. Taster trays were only 12 Euros for ANY beer. We were lucky enough to be in when the Mikkeller 1000 IBU was on. If you are feeling peckish, later in the evenings they do some cracking looking pizzas.
Since we were there in March, Het Uiltje have opened up a tap room up at their brewery. This is a 10 minute walk north of the train station. After having a chat with Robert (the owner) in the bar he told us of his love for cask beers, so expect to see some cask beers here.
When we were exploring the town of Haarlem we stumbled across a wine and beer shop, that had one of the most extensive beer selections we have ever seen. There was a big selection of Dutch breweries, Belgian, Danish, USA and even a few from England. We still talk about how we should have picked up that bottle Mikkeller Simcoe Gin! The shop just seemed to go on and on and on….
I’d call in just for a browse, even if you don’t manage to take any home.
Amsterdam has always been a favourite of ours and I’m sure we will visit again. However, Holland on the whole seems to have a lot to offer and we would love to explore it more. We’d really like to visit the Oedipus Brewery and we would probably look into spending a bit more time in Haarlem as it was a wonderful place to visit. If you ever find yourself in the wonderful city of Amsterdam be sure to explore beyond the tourist areas and see the charm that lies beneath.