Wedged between Belgium and Germany, it’s easy to look straight past the Netherlands when it comes to beer. Most seem to associate it with another, more controversial relative of the hop plant and discount it as a beer region all together, but in my recent experience I was amazed by what I found. In a country which has traditionally quenched it’s thirst with the beers of their neighbors, I found a youthful craft beer culture, void from the constraints of tradition and striving to push the boundaries when it comes to the craft of brewing.
I started this beer pilgrimage just outside of Amsterdam in an extremely quiet little country town called Bodegraven. It seems like an odd place to start, however I came here for one reason. When I started researching craft beers of the Netherlands I kept coming across a brewery called ‘Brouwerij De Molen’. It seemed as though almost every beer of theirs rated above 95% on a variety of beer-rating sites and they had numerous brews rated at 99 or even 100. So I guess I thought I should take one for the team and see if these beers really are as good as all that.
While Brouwerij De Molen’s brewery itself is located in a warehouse space on the edge of Bodegraven, the best place to drink these beers as fresh as possible is in a little bar tucked away underneath a big Dutch windmill within easy eyeshot of the brewery. Basically, you couldn’t get a more Dutch experience without wearing clogs.
I decided to order a tasting paddle of all these beers I had heard so much about and after my first taste I was, let’s just say… a little bit impressed.
Here are my unedited, rambling scribbles from that exact moment:
I was so blown away by these flavour bombs that I actually power-jogged down the road to the brewery straight after in the hope that I could catch the brewer himself and personally congratulate him. I found John peering in to his old whisky barrels checking up on his recent batch of barrel aging barley wines. After somewhat enthusiastically informing John about something that he already knew (that his beers absolutely rock), I picked up a few bottles for later on and jumped on a train to Utrecht, edging my way ever closer to the city of Amsterdam.
I was off to a great start!
Overtocht 43 2411 BT Bodegraven
Utrecht. Utrecht, while much bigger than Bodegraven, still holds a relaxed Dutch country vibe and is home to a huge (and constantly growing) number of micro breweries. The area surrounding Utrecht is called the Groene Hart (The Green Heart) and has been described as the ‘Dutch Portland’, referring to the North American craft beer mecca itself due to the sheer amount of craft breweries that now call this pretty Dutch landscape home.
I dropped in to a tiny little hole-in-the-wall (and Utrecht craft beer icon) ‘De Drie Dorstige Herten’ to try a few local brews. I started with a bright hoppy IPA from the local ‘Maxiumus’ Brewery and followed it up with a ‘Dutch Pale Ale’ from another local micro ‘Van De Streek’. Unfortunately for me, another highly recommended craft beer bar down the road, ‘Café Derat’ was packed out, so I pulled up a pew at Café De Zaak and whiled away the warm summer evening over a few beers with the incredibly friendly locals.
Utrecht breweries to keep your eyes out for:
- Maxiumus (http://brouwerijmaximus.nl)
- Van De Streek (http://www.vandestreek-bier.nl)
- Rooie Dop (http://www.rooiedop.nl)
- Oudaen (http://www.oudaen.nl)
Like a moth to a flame, I found myself gravitating towards the crazy, bustling cosmopolitan city of Amsterdam and before I knew it I was right there in the midst of it all.
Amsterdam is one of those places we all love and hate. It’s a ridiculously fun and beautiful city to visit but at some point we all get a little bit sick of the hordes of cross-dressing Englishmen stumbling around on their stags weekends. It is, however home to a fast growing craft beer scene (currently between 30 and 50 breweries in and around the city itself) so I thought I’d team up with a few like-minded beer-lovin’ folk and grab a seat on a boat they had hired to take us through the maze of canals to visit a few of the cities finest breweries (http://amsterdamcraftbeertours.com).
#1: Brouwerij De Prael. Located right in the middle of Amsterdam’s infamous red-light district, this great little brewery is like an oasis in a sea of debauchery. The brewery itself is small and compact, but manages to feed a quaint little ‘brewery store’ shop front and a popular bar that does great food and fresh beer.
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 30 1012 GD Amsterdam
ph: 020 408 44 70
#2: Oedipus. The new kid on the block, Oedipus is located in the industrial waterfront area of Amsterdam Noord. I was here just after their grand opening and already they had about 10 different beers pouring out of their long line of multicoloured beer taps. A great little space decorated with some pretty bizarre art pieces and topped off with a wide range of delicious beers ranging from Pale Ales, to Stouts, Saisons, Tripels, IPAs and even a rhubarb weissbier. Definitely worth a visit!
Gedempt Hamerkanaal 85 1021 KP Amsterdam Noord.
#3: Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Also situated underneath a big Dutch windmill, Brouwerij ‘t IJ is reknown for using organic ingredients and producing a great range of tasty beers ranging from ambers and Tripels to Pils, bocks, dubbels, wheat beers, IPAs, saisons and whatever the talented brewers are vibing at the time..
Funenkade 7 1018AL Amsterdam
ph: 020 528 6237
#4 Jopenjerk. Just outside of Amsterdam in Haarlem, This brewery has been set up inside an old church complete with stain-glass windows, creating a pretty epic beer-drinking venue! Make sure you try their Jopen Hoppenbier which follows a local beer recipe dating back to 1501 or their Jopen Koyt which follows an even older ‘gruit’-based recipe dating back to 1407.
Gedempte Voldersgracht 2, Haarlem
ph: 023 – 533 4114
Amsterdamsche Stoombierbrouwerij (http://www.debekeerdesuster.nl/nieuws-aankondigingen/) :
Brouwerij de 7 Deugden (http://www.de7deugden.nl):
Two Chefs Brewing (http://twochefsbrewing.com):
Brouwerij Troost (http://www.brouwerijtroost.nl/en/)
Butchers Tears (http://butchers-tears.com)
De Vriendschap (http://www.brouwerijdevriendschap.nl)
Amsterdam Brew Boys (http://amsterdambrewboys.nl)
While I’m sure this list will keep you as busy as a mosquito at a nudist colony on your next visit to this crazy-beautiful city, it seems as though each week a new craft brewery is popping up somewhere in or around Amsterdam, so no doubt this list will grow and grow.. so let me know what you discover and I’ll add it to the list!
Until next time… Proost!
Swiss Airlines fly return from all major Australian cities to Amsterdam from $1,790.
I suggest you purchase yourself a Eurail Pass which means you are free to jump on and off trains whenever and wherever you want. So all that’s left to do is to find a good map, mark out all the breweries you plan on visiting and let the spontaneous good-times roll!