Keeping it real … Real Ale
Amsterdam … Sex … Smoke … and surprise!
To celebrate half pints birthday and our second year together the pair of us spent a few days in Amsterdam, somewhere I had wanted to go to for ages. Thanks to an AMAZING Southend airport and easy jet flight we made it from my front door to the hotel in just over two hours!!! What with it taking only half hour longer to get there then it does for me to get to work and the fact English is spoken and seen everywhere it hardly felt like we had left the country, till I saw a hooker in a window half naked before breakfast!
Before going I figured Holland is like Belgium’s bigger brother so it should be really easy to get hold of Belgian beers while in Amsterdam so we don’t have to spend the days drinking that well known beer of theirs… but oh how I was wrong, Dutch beer is up there with the Belgians and they have a great scene all to their own. I could list all the cool things we done while in Amsterdam but I am sure most people (like myself before going) already know what weird and wonderful sights Amsterdam has to offer from the eye opening red light district to the historical sights of Anne Franks house, so what I am going to do is fill you in on my educational beer moments through the eyes of their cafes … the drinking kind not the smoking kind!!!
Arendsenest is the main hub for Dutch beers in Amsterdam as it only stocks beers that are made in Holland! It tries its hardest to have at least one beer to represent each of the 50 different breweries the country has to offer helped by the 30 ….. THIRTY beers on draught!!!!
Situated on Herengracht, one of the beautiful canals, are a small set of stairs that walks up to the front door of this long narrow bar with a huge brass bar founts which has a big eagle sitting on top of it in the middle. Behind the bar is a wall of beer glasses to pair with the 130+ bottle menu on offer as well as the huge list of beers on the wall opposite the bar.
This beer cafe kind of reminds me of Cask Kitchen in Pimlico London because of its huge draught selection and to be all dutch is some achievement! While sat at the bar talking to a fellow beer nerd from America me and half pint tried the following beers … Ramses Bier shire Stout 9%, Batavier 5%, Vuur & Vlam 6.7% and Texels Skoumkoppe 6%. Basically if you want to dive head first into Dutch beer … then go here!
About four doors from our hotel was The ‘Wild Man’, a two room pub with a small drinking room and then a larger room with a raised seating area at the back. The floor is black and white marbled checked tiles leading up to the stairs to the seating area which features a pile of old spirit casks. Behind the bar you will find dusty bottles of beers you will have seen before apart from these beers have sat behind the bar from the days before they was famous!
The Wildeman was one of the first bars in Amsterdam to have such a wonderful selection of beers and was a real leader in turning Amsterdam into the beer scene it is today. Their beer selection consisted of a lot of Belgian beers, Dutch, American, German and even a few English ales including London Pride! One of the main things that surprised me about Holland was how many American beers that I had seen online and never in England was widely available in Amsterdam and the Wildeman was no exception hosting a few different Flying Dog beers. The beers we sipped in here were … Flying Dogs Wildman Farmhouse IPA 7.5%, Duits and Larets 2010 Stout 6.5%, De Koninck 5% and St Fuellien Black Saison 6.5%. Man I really really reaaaallyyy wish this place was my local!
Down an alleyway just off from a main busy shopping street is this tiny one room, dark, jazzy, funky popular bar, Cafe Belique. One of Amsterdam’s smallest but most popular cafes packed full of students and people from all over the world, not much Dutch is spoken in here! The walls are plastered with old Belgian beer adverts all the way up to the graffiti covered walls up stairs outside the loo’s. You walk in and you have the bar about 3 steps in front of you then enough space for a small table for 6 each side of you and a tight squeeze to the incredibly steep stairs to the toilets. We was lucky enough to sit at the bar right in front of the DJ and taps, a small but impressive selection of beers was on offer as well as some questionable smells all around… I have to admit when I first got in there I struggled with the smoke as it has been what feels like a lifetime since we have had the smoking ban here in England but after a bev I hardly noticed (till I smelt my clothes the next day!!!) The beers we had here were … Floreffe 6.3%, Scheldebrouwerij De Zeezuiper Triple 8%, La Trappe Dubbel 7%, brouwerij ‘t ij IPA 8% … maybe another La Trappe and according to my photos a La Chouffe! I aint going to lie … we was pretty merry on leaving here to go back to the hotel … (via a chip shop!) I utterly love this place (maybe minus the smoke) and it was SO cool, where else can you drink such beers like that while a live DJ plays my one of my all time favorite songs (was a sign!) Alice Russel – Carry On Now!!!
Cafe Gollem (De Pijp)…
In the trendy area of De Pijp you will find the little sister cafe to Gollem, found at the bottom of the canal ring and behind that big Dutch beer brewery/museum (which I will admit we went to and enjoyed). We were the only people to be in here on this week day afternoon which was a blessing as I have read that it can get pretty busy in an evening. The guy working behind the bar was really friendly and chatted with us the whole time with pretty good English as this is more of a locals cafe not too many tourists accidently walk into here. Again the beer list here is huge and full of Dutch and Belgian beers over 150+ which they proudly show off. The beers we had in here were … Triple Karmeliet 8.4% and Gollem Blonde 6%?. I wish we had more time in here as I could have spent a hour or two talking to the barman and tried more of their beers.
Make your way through the red windows of Amsterdam and skip by the magic mushrooms clubs and you will stumble into Prael micro brewery. Since 2002 Prael have been making beers, but these beers are made slightly differently to other beers as their brewery team is built up of people with psychiatric handicaps and long term unemployment. It works not only to provide the likes of me and half pint great beers but also for the volunteers that work there to gain great work experience in a fun and enjoyable environment and for that I raise my glass dear sirs of Prael.
Praels bar is visually stunning and also pretty huge consisting of three different levels to drink in. We walked in here about 10.50 and only had an hour in here but I could have spent all night in there and if the beers we did try was a preview of all their beers then I could have drunk their beers all holiday! It is also possibly the most excited I have ever got over a bathroom sink before as they had beer taps as the water taps to wash your hands in which I thought was wicked!
Their beers are all named after famous Amsterdam schlager (folk) singers which is quite a fun idea as all the beer menus you can read about such artists like Willeke, Willy, Johnny and more (I just thought it was a red light district link!!) In our short time here we tried three beers … Johnny 5.7%, Willeke 7.5% and Willy Quadruple 11.5%! I don’t think I have been to any pub and had three beers all so great in a row! The Willy Quadruple sticks in my mind as one of thee best beers I have ever had, Which is some title! I felt like crying that I couldn’t bring back a few bottles in my hand luggage but I will one day return here and pick up some bottles for home and also hopefully do their brewery tour.
So there we are The Half Pint Gentleman’s look into Dutch Beers in the surprising beer scene in Amsterdam. So please if you are ever going to Sin City please look past the bottle of green and find something truly Dutch homegrown goodness!