I arrived in Europe tired and alone after a delayed redeye flight. It was early morning and, despite pilfering the family pharmaceutical closet for an appropriate sleep aid, I did not get much rest on the flight. Jet lag can be a mother fucker but I’m an expert at this shit. Ain’t no rest for the wicked and here I am in Amsterdam, the city of European sin.
It probably hadn’t been my best idea to spend the day before drinking strong beers at the Map Room in Chicago. Fuck it. After all, I’m on a beer pilgrimage. So I downed a 3 Floyds “Zombie Dust” (we sadly don’t get 3 Floyds in my home state). Then a couple sour beers. Then an English Bitter. I had the good fortune of right place and right time–Hitachino Nest Commemorative Ale was on tap. This beer is a 9% eisbock spiced with coriander, nutmeat, orange peel, cinnamon and vanilla beans.
So fast forward, there I was in Amsterdam. Tired, hungover, alone and (gasp) sober!? I found my way to my (very cheap) hostel where I immediately dropped off my bags and found a suitable coffee shop for some beer and some hash. It turns out, aside from a couple exceptions, Amsterdam is not much of a beer city. The first place I’d found only had Heineken and Amstel. Fuck, I thought. At least they have hash.
Amsterdam is close to Belgium (2.5-3 hours to Brussels by bus or train), so understandably, much of its beer culture comes from Belgium. Typical bars will offer belgian beers such as La Chouffe, Duvel, etc. Beer bars such as Cafe Gollem and De Zotte have impressive lists of mostly Belgian beer in bottles, each with its own glass (Cafe Gollem also prides itself on having the fabled St. Sixtus “Westvleteren XII” in stock as well). These are fantastic drinking spots if you’re not on your way to Belgium for a beer festival (as I happened to be).
The best beer bar I found that suited my needs and quenched my thirsts was In De Wildeman hidden on an alley in the central neighborhood. The bar seemed to me like an old man hangout perfect for a guy like me (an old man in a younger man’s body). In De Wildeman changes its draft selections frequently, but I was fortunate to try a beer called “Vuur & Vlam” from De Molen, a Dutch craft brewery with a fantastic reputation throughout Europe. “Vluur & Vlam” is an American style IPA. I found it to be delicious–less hoppy bitter than what I consider a typical American IPA, but still very smooth and floral.
I wasn’t able to visit De Molen on this trip, but I did visit a microbrewery located in Amsterdam called Brouwerij ‘T IJ. The brewery sits along a canal next to a big old windmill. The pub was set up nicely for large or small groups (or those like me, drinking alone during the middle of the day). Their beers were pleasant, drinkable and very affordable.
If you’re heading to Amsterdam and you’re less of a beer snob than me, you could also check out the Heineken Experience, but I’d suggest to save your precious euros and head to In De Wildeman or Brouwerij ‘T IJ.
I should admit that I drank my fair share of beer in Amsterdam (5-10 per day), but I took one day off to check out the Van Gogh Museum and prepare my liver for the serious damage it was about to endure in Belgium. As much as I love beer, it’s important to take a day off here and there.
– H. Vulgare