If you thought drinking beer in Amsterdam was all about Heineken, you will be pleased to hear that those days are long gone. Dozens of Amsterdam bars feature beer menus long enough to strain the strongest of livers and feature everything from standard-issue pilsners to fruit beers and stouts.
Traditionally at least, the Dutch have enjoyed their pilsner almost to the exclusion of everything else, but in the last couple of decades, the beer scene in the city has been transformed. At first, this was down to the many little bars that specialised in imported beers – with Belgium top of the pops – but more recently Dutch brewers have become more inventive, and Culture Trip lists here the six best craft beer bar-breweries in the city.
Brouwerij 't IJ
This well-established and much admired craft brewery has an idiosyncratic setting, in the old public baths adjacent to the conspicuous De Gooyer windmill on the eastern edge of the city. They serve a top-ranking range of self-brewed beers and ales in their tap room, which is a pleasantly appointed bar with an outside terrace, and the day’s offerings are chalked up on a blackboard. Mind you, you might not be aware of your surroundings for very long if you plumb for their thunderously strong Columbus amber ale (at 9 percent). The Natte is more manageable – at 6.5 percent.
Close to, but a safe distance from, the Red Light District, De Bekeerde Suster is a convivial bar and restaurant, where the copper brewing kettles of the Amsterdamsche Stoombierbrouwerij take pride of place. They brew here at least a couple of times a week – and a lively selection of beers they produce, too, from White Antonia, a wheat beer with coriander at 5.4 percent, to the Kloosterpils, a tangy pilsner with zip at 4.8 percent. The food is good here, too.
Brouwerij de Prael is an up-and-coming brewer with an eye to good marketing and tasty brews – their ‘weizen’ is a soft but spicy wheat beer (at 5.4 percent), which is a fine way to get you started. Unlike many of their competitors, they have centrally located premises, in an attractively recycled old building on Oudezijds Voorburgwal that is now a busy, bustling spot with a boho vibe. They serve a wide range of brews – you are allowed to sip and decide – plus good, reasonably priced bar food and snacks.
While this brewery now has three locations, the first remains the most distinctive: a large and inviting space in a former convent in the De Pijp neighbourhood and serving as a combined tasting room, café and brewery. Troost produces both draft and bottled beers, from standard pilsners and IPAs to wheat beers and more exotic brews like their ‘Fruit Freak’, flavoured with mango, passion fruit and apricot – at an easily absorbed 3.7 percent. They serve food here, too – good-quality burgers, steaks, salads, and flammkuchen (thinly rolled bread dough covered with fromage blanc).
Just fifteen minutes by train from Amsterdam, the lovely town of Haarlem has a long history of supplying beer to its larger neighbour. That brewing tradition has been revived in style here at the Jopenkerk, where a former church has been converted into a combined brewery, café and restaurant. There are always twenty Jopen beers on tap, including two notable brews, the Jopen Hoppenbier and the Jopen Koyt, both of which are produced according to recipes that date back to the 15th century. Interestingly, the second uses “gruit”, a medieval blend of herbs that pre-dates hops.
Butcher's Tears is an innovative brewery whose beers are unfiltered and unpasteurized | Courtesy of Butcher's Tears
Out on the edge of the city centre, in a scrawny industrial area at the end of Karperweg in Amsterdam Zuid, this is perhaps the edgiest craft brewery in Amsterdam, an informal little place located inside what appears to be a former warehouse, maybe even a garage. If you have made the effort to get here, you will be rewarded with a choice of about ten draft brews. Their seasonal beers – such as Ex Voto (winter, 9 percent) and En Enfer (summer, 5 percent) – are perhaps their most distinctive offerings. The beers are unfiltered and unpasteurized.