I made sure to check out the beer scene when I visited Amsterdam a couple weeks ago. If you haven’t been to Amsterdam before, I highly recommend it. Outside of the touristy center around the train station, it’s a lovely city set amongst picturesque canals and contains more bikes than you’ve ever seen before. The red light district needs to be seen to be believed and it is quite the sight. More importantly, Amsterdam has a thriving craft beer scene. I managed to check out two of its epic beer stores, but sadly none of its renowned beer cafes. The one I tried to visit, Golem, was closed for having broken a law, though they didn’t say which one.
De Bierkoning (the beer king) was the first store I visited. Conveniently they were celebrating their 25th anniversary, which meant free tastings and special beers. I asked someone working at the store to point me in the direction of some quality Dutch beer and they suggested I try their anniversary specials. A few local breweries brewed special versions of their regular beer for De Beirkoning’s 25th. I bought five or so of those special beers and those I’ve tried so far have been delightful. The anniversary beers were brewed by Brouwerij de Molen, Brouwerij de Eem, and Brouwerij ‘t IJ. My favorite to date is Hamer and Sikkel by Brouwerij de Molen, a roasty flavorful porter brewed extra strong for the occasion. Another plus, I received a free de Bierkoning keychain bottle opener for purchasing more than ten euros worth of beer. It’s now attached to my keychain for all my immediate bottle opening needs.
The second beer store I visited was the Cracked Kettle, apparently known by locals as less commercial and of higher quality than de Bierkoning. While I didn’t feel like I could fit anymore dutch beer in my suitcase, the Cracked Kettle tempted me with brews from their Belgian neighbors. Somebody from the store had recently paid a visit to the monastery of Westvleteren, brewer of what is widely considered the world’s greatest beer. They only sell their beer at the monastery, so to find it at a store was almost too good to be true. I purchased the dubbel and the pale ale, but passed up on the chance to be the quad, aka “best beer on earth“. Why would I do such a silly thing? Because I’m going to make the pilgrimage myself and only then shall I drink the sweet nectar of the Gods (that’s probably what the God serving monks call it).
I also paid a visit to the Heineken Experience, a tour through an old Heineken Brewery much like the Guinness Storehouse, though not as a good. The Heineken Experience was much less educational and much less of a museum than it’s Guinness counterpart, but was similarly amusing. It’s just as much of a tourist trap, chock full of interactive propaganda and marketing. There is one part where you stand on a movable platform and get brewed. The platform shakes you around as you are stirred, splashes you with water, and then takes you to a party where extremely good looking people drink you. At the end of the tour you do get three half pints of Heineken (extra cold!) to drink in their built in nightclub. I don’t hate Heineken, but I do wish what I drank of it wasn’t often skunky (stupid clear bottles). While it was cool to see the Heineken marketing machine in action, I can’t say I’d recommend the Heineken experience or do it again.
Amsterdam, like Stockholm, and unlike Athen and Berlin, was one of those cities I really loved visiting. Next time I’ll hit up the epic beer bars. I may or may not have eaten a space muffin.