Our friends over at Dutch Beer Pages sent some quality information for our #EBBC16 attendees. It’s not too late to join us for this event in Amsterdam!
I’ve been blogging on dutchbeerpages.com now for over 6 years. When I started there were a few brewers that I thought were interesting to interview and write about. I didn’t really know then the beer scene here in the country would explode. We have now have over 300 breweries all over the country. When I lived in Amsterdam there were only a few, but other great ones like De Molen or Jopen were nearby. I now live between major cities Amsterdam and Utrecht, fortunately still close.
So you’re going to Amsterdam? Welcome, we are happy to have you here. Amsterdam is one of those cities that even when you have never visited you know things about. Here I won’t be talking about the obvious places you should go that are in any travel guide. No stories about how great the Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh museum are, or how impressive it is to stand in Anne Frank’s house. All things you should visit if you have the chance.
Here I want to present to you some of my favorite beer and food spots. Just a little bit to whet your appetite so you can walk, or bike, or take the tram to discover some new spots in the area.
Here it is, the Dutch Beer Pages 3 X 4 (beer) Guide to Amsterdam.
What better then to actually go to the source of this wonderful fluid. The number of brewers is rising rapidly in Amsterdam. Only a few years ago the city actually lagged behind somewhat compared to other cities in the country, but now it has become a premier beer destination. You might have noticed I said brewers and not breweries. Because of the high costs of having your own brewery many brewers are still contract brewers who brew somewhere else. But there are at least four breweries that are worth visiting, for more than beer alone.
Brouwerij ‘t IJ
The mother of all Dutch independent breweries. A brewery that started well anyone in the country even had an IPA. ‘t IJ is named after the river IJ that now separates Amsterdam from the Northern part of the city, the river the ships started their journey to Asia on. The pronunciation of IJ is the same as the Dutch word for egg (ei), the reason why you might find drawings of eggs on their labels.
This brewery started in the 1980s when the number of craft breweries was low. In an old bathing house under windmill they started brewing Belgian inspired beers with great success. Lately they have moved into even more interesting roads with a more American inspired range of beers. Go here on a nice summer night to have a beer in their garden. It was the most iconic craft brewery in the city last century, and it still is. If you are only visiting one brewery, this should be the one.
A new brewery that has quickly opened a second brewery in the Westerpark, a great area of the city. Is it the best beer that you can get? No, but it does make up for that in location and in food. The first location is in De Pijp, an 100 year old former working class neighborhood that is now a trendy part of town.
Troost De Pijp occupies a former school, a beautiful building, on the Cornelis Troostplein, hence the name. With a good view of brewing in practice be sure to have one of their burgers or great flammkuchen, and wash it down with one of their brews. The quality of beer is improving, but come for the food.
The location of De Prael is typical for Amsterdam. Where else in the world will you find religion, prostitutes, a historical museum and craft beer within 100 meters? Amsterdam’s old city is where! It was here that centuries ago ships from Northern Germany delivered their beer. Amsterdam had the sole right to import this quality beer, one reason the city grew and got richer. And now De Prael brews here. It is possible to visit, go on a tour and drink their beer in the nearby tasting toom. What makes it a special place is that it is also a place of work for those far removed from the job market. Here they can work and learn skills. They are not the only ones who do this now, but they were one of the first. A visit here therefore has more benefits than just pampering your tastebuds.
The guys running Oedipus have started a unique brewery on the shore of Amsterdam-Noord. It might look far but ferries go up and down all day for free. After a great look on the city from ‘t IJ it is a short walk to Oedipis. The building might be like any other, but their beers are exceptional and unique. Beers with an array of Asian spices are nothing for them, but they can also make a great IPA or Berliner Weisse. Of all the breweries in the capital that started brewing in the last 5 years Oedipus is the most unique, hip and exciting. Last July saw their first international beer festival, an instant success. If there is one brewery in Amsterdam that can be called meteoric, it is Oedipus. And if you’re there, have a look at the bathroom doors.
Tony Bourdain visited the city once on one his layover episodes. It wasn’t his culinary highlight to say the least. But there is still some great food ranging from Michelin star restaurants to cheap meals under 10 euro’s. I have had guests from all over the country visit me, here are some of the places I have taken them too, and all of them not too expensive.
For a long time Amsterdam West was a part of the city that wasn’t really worth visiting. But like almost every other neighborhood next to the downtown, West also has been going through a resurgence lately. New diners, restaurants and cafés are popping up all over and beer isn’t far behind. If you like smoked meat and craft beer then Bar Brouw is the place for you. Don’t expect to get a meal here for under 10 euros but as a treat it is great. Not far from here are the Food Hallen. In a former garage for trams multiple small business set up shop, but the reason you should go is the food. It is basically a food truck festival under a roof. Anything from oysters, pulled pork sandwiches to quinoa sushi. Just check the website to see what you can get there. And oh, you can get good local beer too at the beer bar.
Indonesian and Surinamese food
When Indonesia finally became independent from the Netherlands thousands of Dutch and mixed families returned. With them they brought a wonderful cuisine that is now almost our national food. It won’t take too long to run into one wherever you are. Prices generally are under €10 and they will happily tell you what is good. If you are with a group and are ok with spending a little more get a Rijsttafel, an assortment of Indonesian dishes.
Another former colony that has enriched our cuisine is Surinam. Their food is an interesting mix of South-American, Chinese and Indian dishes. But when you walk into a restaurant or small take away place get the roti. I am not going to tell you what that is, just get it.
Fries, Kroketten, Bamischijf
Belgium might be known for its fries and beer, Holland makes both as well and just as good. Please people, get Flemish fries (Vlaamse Friet). And always get them with a sauce, preferably mayonnaise. Remember the opening scene of Pulp Fiction? Yes, we fucking drown them in that shit and it’s so good.
My personal favorite is Vleminckx in the Voetboogsteeg. It is easy to find, there is always a long line in front of what is nothing more than a hole in the wall. Get your fries and choose from the many different sauces. Mayonaise, ketchup, peanutbuttersauce or my favorite: special. This is mayo, (curry) ketchup and chopped onions. Very cheap compared to other meals and quite filling.
A more Dutch snack is the kroket. Ragout with a crust. Hmm, maybe that doesn’t sound very appealing but trust me it is. Every ‘snackbar’ sells them, even the McDonalds has a version of it called the McKroket. But you are better off trying a kroket from Van Dobben, Kwekkeboom (two brands) or the Febo. The Febo is a chain ‘restaurant’ that mostly sells fries and snacks. Their kroket is more than decent, the veal is my favorite (kalfskroket). And you don’t even have to order! Just only have to put the right amount of coins in a slot and open a little window and take it out. It is that easy. There is also an Indonesian influence, you can get a nasischijf or bamibal. The first is fried rice with crust, the second thick noodles with crust. All is deep fried by the way.
There are small, round, versions of the kroket called the bitterbal. If you go beerdrinking anywhere the chances are great you can get a plate of them, they go wonderfully with beer.
Anything on the Zeedijk
I will admit right here and now that I am quite partial to Asian food. Some of the best you can get on the Zeedijk. Indonesian, Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, and Thai are just five of the cuisines you can find. Some of these offer great meals around €10.
In De Wildeman
An oasis of quiet in the hectic downtown area of Amsterdam. This place has been here for 30 years now and has always been a great place to find good beer. Wooden interior, a very knowledgeable staff and over 15 taps, let alone a huge book full of bottles. If I can only go to one place, this is it.
When Anthony Bourdain visited Amsterdam for his Layover series, he spent some hours here and seemed to like it. That says enough right?
When this bar was opened early this century it tried to have only Dutch beers. Something that was then a very bold move and at times hard because the amount and the quality wasn’t always great. But boy was the owner right. The number of taps has grown and is now a whopping 51 of just Dutch beer. The Eagles Nest is an unique place and one of the most important engines that drives the current Dutch Craft Beer Revolution. A visit to Amsterdam is not complete without having at least one beer here.
Started by the same visionary that started ‘t Arendsnest. This bar is focused mainly on American beer or American-style beers. You can also get Scandinavian, Italian or British beers. If you look at pure quality of beer alone this place might easily be the best. There is a similar bar called Craft & Draft further away on the Overtoom. Same owner, same quality.
Any brown café
A brown café is a typical Amsterdam pub. Usually small, usually only two taps with Heineken or Amstel. Don’t go here hunting for special beers, but of all the places you can drink it come closest to a Dutch experience.
What else to do?
We have covered eating and drinking in Amsterdam, but there is more to do. I already mentioned the museums in the intro. These are not cheap and you often have to wait in line. It is worth the wait and the money though. The Van Gogh museum has a huge collection of impressionist art, the Rijksmuseum has Rembrandts, Vermeers etc.
Walk or bike
Downtown Amsterdam is an open air museum. The canal area has been like this for about 400 years, with only minor changes. Just walking around the canals and looking at the buildings is a treat. Pay attention to the gable stones. If you want a slightly more different, and dangerous, experience you can rent a bike and one of the many bike rental places. Cruise through the city, but be careful, traffic can be brutal with all the tourists, bikes, trams and cars. Another great way to see the city is from the water. A boatride on the canal might be touristy, but you will see the city from a different view and learn something in the process. And talk the locals if you want to know more. Everyone here speaks English and are happy to talk.
I have lived in Amsterdam with pleasure for 10 years and if I have the change will move back as soon as possible. I hope my personal favorite tips will help you have a great time here and maybe I will meet some of you.
Ready to get on board for #EBBC16 August 19-20th? We would love to have you for this fantastic event. Register here to be a part of a fun Amsterdam adventure.