Amsterdam Pub Guide
Introduction - General Info - Breweries

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Amsterdam - its pubs, beers and breweries

Amsterdam pubs are vibrant, diverse and numerous. I like that last one most. This is my selection of the very best Amsterdam bars (pubs, beerhalls, cafes, kroegen, kneipen and other search engine requirements) for drinking beer.

Around 1,200 bars serve a population of 735,328: that's one pub for every 612 inhabitants. (Or 1 for every six and a half Britons. That could be why every pub I enter contains 3 Geordies, 2 Scousers and 1.5 Brummies. Officially, 8,324 Britons live in Amsterdam - the city's third largest minority group, after Moroccans and Turks. So why are there no regular outlets for cask-conditioned beer in Amsterdam?)

Compiling this guide has been an arduous task, but one which I undertook willingly. Sadly, the dynamic nature of a modern post-industrial economy (or was that post-modern industrial economy?) means that my research will never end. Pub openings (and pub closures) require me to spend long hours hanging around in bars. At least that's what I tell everyone.

The choice of beer in Amsterdam is not as large as the number of pubs. Some bars still only sell a single beer - draught pils. It's rare to find more than a dozen beers, something which even the smallest British or Belgian pub could manage.

If you know where to look, there is plenty of variety. Loads of Belgian stuff, of course (on draught as well as in bottles), surprisingly little decent Dutch beer, but a few interesting beverages from Germany and Britain.

I feature bars and cafes in Amsterdam (sorry about the style, SE) which:
  • sell a wide range of different beers
  • sell interesting or unusual beers
  • have interesting interiors
  • I just like (though they do have to sell one beer I would voluntarily drink)
I love Amsterdam. Let's see if I can help some of its magic rub off on you.
Practical Stuff
Where do I find Pubs?
Dutch breweries (large)
Dutch breweries (small)
Belgian breweries
Amsterdam breweries
Pretend Amsterdam breweries
Bockbier Tasting 2004
Amsterdam Beer Tours

Amsterdam Pubs
Nieuwezijd (Dam)
Oudezijd (Nieuwmarkt)
De Jordaan
De Pijp
Amsterdam East
Amsterdam South
Amsterdam West

Beer Prices, Pub Opening Times and Other Practical stuff
these are the approximate number of euros of different beers will cost you:
  • pils - €1.60-1.80
  • De Koninck/Palm - €2.50-3.00
  • witbier - €2.50-3.00
  • Belgian special beers - €2.75-3.50 (Duvel, Westmalle)
  • Rochefort 10 - €4.50
  • Westvleteren - €5.50 > (if you can find it)
A series of price rises over the last 18 months (both before and after the introduction of the euro) have made the cost of a beer vary much more between individual pubs than it once did.

Specialist Amsterdam beer bars used to be towards the top end of the price scale. Recent uneven price rises in the pub trade have left them somewhere around the middle. Some belong to the very small number of city centre bars which have euro prices roughly equivalent to the old guilder ones. I have given up trying to understand the pricing structure in Amsterdam pubs. A glass of crappy Heineken pils, containing 15cl of beer and 10cl of foam, can cost almost as much in one pub as a 33cl bottle of a genuine trappist does in another.

According to Het Parool, Amsterdam's evening paper, beer in (in pubs) has increased in price 21.3% in the last three years. The jump in prices is being blamed for a predicted 10-15% drop in turnover in Amsterdam's pubs. I can't help feeling that it serves them right for being too greedy. Not every landlord has been so rapacious. There are pubs whose prices remain a fair conversion of the old guilder amount. In common with most other mortals, I don't have an elastic wallet. Why should I choose to drink in a pub where beer costs 25%, 35% or 40% more? (An example from the pubs in this guide: the price of Duvel in De Reiger - €3.80; and in Tapvreugd €2.30)

In general, bars in Amsterdam's two main entertainment districts - the Leidseplein and Rembrandtsplein - have the highest prices. That's one of several reasons (late-night violence is another) that I would recommend avoiding these two areas.
Opening times
differ from bar to bar, some starting as early as 8:00 and others leaving their doors closed until 16:00 or even 20:00.

Closing times
are more standard, with Amsterdam pubs having to close at 1:00 during the week and 3:00 on Friday and Saturday. The only exceptions are clubs and a few bars with special licences, which stay open two hours longer.

The council has recently aired a proposal to scrap fixed closing times, as they did some years ago in Utrecht. Those who understand a little of Dutch politics will realise that between proposing and enacting any change, there's a
discussion period lasting between 6 months and 15 years (it usually veers towards the upper limit). Don't expect all-night opening for a few years yet.
Amsterdam has a good public transport system and it's possible to get to most parts of the city within 30 minutes by tram. The last trams leave Central Station at around a quarter past midnight.

My son Andrew's tram page has a map of the Amsterdam tram network. You could also try the official GVB page. But if my memory serves me right, the clever web design makes it almost impossible to find anything as useful as a map (if there is inded one there). And if you plan taking a tramride in 1906, 1928 or 1938, Andrew's site wins handsdown, having tram maps of Amsterdam for those years, too.

Tickets are cheaper when bought as a 15-strip Strippenkaart (good for 7.5 trips) costs €6.40 at a newsagents.There is a limited night bus service between 01:00 and 06:00.
Unless you are independently wealthy or your boss is footing the bill, assume that taxis will be way beyond your means.

London has the Great British Beer Festival, Munich has its Oktoberfest. In Amsterdam we get the annual PINT Bokbierfestival.

In 2005, the festival celebrated its 28th anniversary. Yes, if we discount things like the event in Munich (not really a beer festival, but a funfair whose beer tents have an exaggerated sense of their own importance), the Bokbierfestival is second only to the GBBF in terms of age. (I'm old enough to remember queueing up outside Covent Garden in 1975.)

I've lived in Amsterdam man and boy, man and boy. I've been to the Bokbierfestival in three different locations and without any doubt its current home - De Beurs van Berlage - is the best of the bunch. I would even dare to say that it's as close to perfection as we mortals are likely to see, outside of Kylie Minogue's bum, obviously.

However, for the serious taster, there are a couple of big problems with the Bokbierfestival:
  • too little seating
  • the evening sessions are ruined by overloud music
  • the beers are all variations on a single style
  • infected beers are sold
  • lack of a no-smoking section
Last year I made a selfless attempt to sample every bock. The results are tabulated in Dutch Bokbier Tasting 2004. I tasted them blind (for fairness) and managed more than two dozen.
In 2006, the Bokbierfestival will take place on:

Friday 27th October 17:00 - 23:00
Saturday 28th October 12:00 - 23:00
Sunday 29th October 12:00 - 19:00

Where do I find Amsterdam's best pubs?
City centre
The best pubs in Amsterdam are concentrated in the old city (roughly the area within Singelgracht). There are some wonderfully unspoilt old bars. Many are worth half an hour of your time, even if the choice of beer is restricted.

I'm pleased to be able to report that such great pubs are so numerous that won't try to list them all. I'll leave you to make your own personal discoveries. A good place to go hunting is the Jordaan, a 17th century district west of Dam square. The small side-streets hide some beautiful bars. Have fun finding your favourite.

This is an overview of different parts of the old city and the type of bars found in them:

Oudezijd (Zeedijk - Niuewmarkt)
The oldest part of the city, between the Amstel to the West and Kloveniersburgwal / Geldersekade to the East.

The Centraal Staion end of the Zeedijk is filled with fashionable restaurants and traditional pubs. In the litltle alleys around it, are some of the city's ancient genever bars.

Soon after Zeedijk makes a 90º right turn to head South, it turns Chinese. (Head here for good value Chinese food). Be warned that there are still quite a lot of dodgy characters ) hanging around this part (despite the best efforts of the council).

Nieuwmarkt, at the southern end of Zeedijk, was until recently Amsterdam's most ill-used large public space. It has been transformed by the arrival good-value Thai restaurants and trendy pubs.

Warmoestraat cuts through the middle of the Red Light District, running between Zeedijk and Dam Square. Along it are are more pubs than any other street in Amsterdam. This is backpacker country, packed with budget hostels, happy-hour bars and coffee shops.

Around here, on the east bank of the Amstel, was the 13th century fishing village that later grew into Amsterdam.

The area bounded by the Amstel (called Rokin or Damrak closer to Centraal Station) on the East and Singel on the West.

Meaning "New Side", this was, however, part of Amsterdam's 14th century core. The section between the NZ Voorburgwal and Singel was added during the city's 15th century expansions.

Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal / Spui
It's easy to assume that this part of town is just for the tourists. But between Spui and the Dam are some of Amsterdam's hippest bars. Once famous for its squats (Vrankrijk, easy to spot because of its psychedelic paint scheme, is about the last), it's been transformed into yuppie heaven.

A bunch of painfully hip (and crowded) bars have appeared just South of the Dam - De Diep, Seymore Likely. Not that I would go anywhere near this sort of place, unless Mikey drags me inside. Me - I'm still in search of flat caps and whippets.
De Grachten
This area is one of Europe's earliest large-scale planned developments. The concentric bands of canals are an elegant and distinctive design - making the city instantly recognisable from the air.

Along the canals themsleves are few pubs: best look in the small streets connecting them.

Leidseplein - drunken provincials.

Rembrandtsplein - drunken provincials and tourists.

Jordaan - OK . . . as long as there isn't any Dutch pub music going on.

Utrechtsestraat - real, old, local Amsterdam. Hidden away towards the East, this part of the centre has been spoilt very little. Few tourists come here. Utrechtsestraat itself has specialist shops and old-fashioned brown cafés.
Beyond Singelgracht
The older suburbs, built around between 1880 and 1930, are the best bet outside the centre.

De Pijp, once home to the Heineken brewery, is an area of densely packed 19th century flats. It has attracted students, immigrants and tarts from the day it was built. All are still well-represented, but the yuppies are beginning to creep in. There are several good local bars, a few trendy ones and one specialist beer pub. And one pub on my "secret list".

Amsterdam Oost (East) has been much "improved" by an over-zealous council which has swept away much of its old housing, with the exception of around the Oosterpark. All the crappy new flats really depress me, which is why I so rarely visit. Yet it does have its share of good pubs - from cool and laidback to gritty and down to earth.

Amsterdam Zuid (South) is Amsterdam's smartest residential neighbourhood. While not as heavily-pubbed as less affluent areas, it has a couple of crackers: Wildschut and Welling. And you've got Amsterdam's most beautiful square, Roelof Hartplein.

Amsterdam West isn't the most fashionable part of the city. Many of its bars are pretty dull pils-only, carpets-on-the-table jobs. But don't let that put you off. There are a few places worth dropping by, amongst them the good-value Ter Brugge, a regular haunt of mine.
Amsterdam Beer Tours
Of course there's an easier way to experience the best of Amsterdam's pubs: let someone guide you to them. It's a tough job, but one I'm prepared to undertake.

Just email me and tell me what type of pubs and breweries you would like to visit and I'll do all the rest. Just relax and let me drag you around Amsterdam's odd, obscure or just plain weird boozers. Believe me, it will be an unforgettable day.

Amsterdam Pub Guide

Large Dutch Breweries
Unless you've spent the last four decades on Saturn, this is one Dutch brewery you must have have heard of. Breweries don't get much bigger than Heineken. Their presence in the Dutch beer market is akin to having a shark share your garden pond with the goldfish. Of the 25 million hl of beer brewed in Holland, 15 million comes from the mashtuns in Den Bosch and Zoeterwoude.

So you shouldn't be surprised that they dominate theAmsterdam pub trade. It's two main brands, Heineken Pils and , are between them account for 75% of the city's draught beer market.

Amstel's products aren't easy to distinguish from Heineken's (well, they do all come from the same breweries) but there are a couple worth looking for. Amstel 1870 is a slightly superior pils, sometimes found in specialist beer pubs, presumably when a tie forces them to take one Heineken draught. Should you visit in Autumn, you'll have the chance to try the outstanding Amstel Herfstbock. (not to be confused with Heineken's disgustingly sweet Tarwebock).

In third place locally is Brand, a Heineken subsidiary. You get the idea; even if it doesn't say Heineken on the label, there's still a good chance they're responsible for it. Not surprising when they have around 80% of the Dutch market.

Through an exclusive distribution agreement, the Belgian brewery De Koninck has got it's beer into 50% of the city's pubs and bars. It's the city's second commonest draught beer, more widely available than even Amstel Pils. Strange Belgian company laws make it impossible to determine if the rumours about a large stake held by Heineken are true.

Increasingly, Heineken cafés offer three draught beers: Heineken Pils, De Koninck and Wieckse Witte. For more about the latter, see the column to the right.

Where is Wieckse Witte brewed?

I used to continue the paragraph on Heineken like this:
The latter is wheat beer brewed by the another Heineken subsidiary, De Ridder in Maastricht. It's been so successful, that Ridder Pils will now only be available locally to the brewery to free more capacity for brewing Wieckse Witte. Another Heineken-brewed beer seen sometimes on draught is Kyllian, a reddish-amber ale produced by the former Pelforth brewery in Lille.
After being so successful that almost no Ridder beers were left, Wieckse Witte finished off the brewery by moving on to yet greater heights.

I hope that Hans van Wageningen won't mind me using my own rough translation of part his letter, printed in PINT Nr 147 (August 2003). I couldn't better his demolition of Heineken's actions:
"I was even more pissed off when I realised that Heineken was not only continuing to call its witbier Wieckse Witte, even though it's now brewed in Den Bosch not Wijck, but that they even call new brews, that have never seen De Ridder, "Wieckse"."
I can add little, except that Wieckse Brut is a beer with exceptional qualities. Rarely can anything so revolting and unnecessary have been inflicted upon the drinking public. Why is it that some brewers insist on using raw materials specifically designed for a different product? Tell me the point of using champagne yeast in a 5% beer? There is none. It's a stupid gimmick with no practical function.

Just when I thought that PINT were a bunch of spineless gits, they print something (a letter, but I'm not too worried about that) attacking a Dutch brewery. No-one could say that Heineken didn't have it coming. You just wait until they start messing around with Brand. (With Brand Dubbelbock only appearing on draught in 2003 and 2004, perhaps this process has already begun. Cynics suggest Heineken will go one further soon and not brew it at all.)

It wouldn't make any economic sense, you say? True, but that won't make the slightest bit of difference. It's not their fault. They just can't help themselves. Any bunch of chancers arrogant enough to see themselves as real players, can't help but sabotage traditional outfits. Give a big brewing company control over a regional brewery, famous for the quality of their ales, and they'll totally screw it up every time. If it's one of your particular favourites they get hold of, pray that they close it quickly, before your memories are ruined by vapid charicatures.

You don't believe me? Look at the history of Whitbread , a company determined to buy up only those companies brewing beer of the highest quality. . . .
The cafés supplied by Brand (at least, for as the long as guys in Den Bosch can suppress their inclination to meddle) tend to be a lttle more interesting than the ordinary Heineken jobs (not that difficult a task). Heineken's most drinkable Dutch products are brewed by Brand.

brew the widest range of lagers in Holland, most of them fairly reasonable. One exception is their standard Pils, inferior even to Heineken In addition to the ordinary Pils they make Urtyp, a superior all-malt lager, and a German-style amber bock called Imperator. In Winter these are joined by Sylvester, an 8% christmas beer and in Autumn by the 7.5% Dubbelbock, one country's best bottom-fermenting beers, until it was sweetened.

Other Large Breweries
Of the other companies owning pubs, Bavaria is one name to make note of ; so you don't make the mistake of trying their beers. Bavaria Pils is so bad, that next it to even Heineken tastes like a quality beer. Worryingly, they have taken control of Holland's only Trappist brewery (see below). Grolsch has a few pubs which, in addition to the Pils, usually stock a seasonal beer: Herfst Bok in Autumn, Wintervorst in Winter, Maibok in the Spring and Zomergoud in the Summer. All of these can be found both on draught and in bottles. Dommelsch, owned by the Belgian/Brazilian multinational Inbev sometimes offers a better than average choice in its cafés. This is usually mostly made up of elements of its standard Belgian range: Hoegaarden, Leffe and Stella Artois. Increasingly Dommelsch is being ousted by Jupiler as the standard Pils.

Inbev's largest Dutch brewery, Oranjeboom closed. in 2002. How long brewing will continue at the far smaller Dommelsch remains to be seen. The growing presence of Jupiler in Inbev's cafes is not a good sign. Whatever the fate of the brewery, Interbrew's presence in Amsterdam's pub trade is likely to increase.

Small Dutch Breweries
produces a good range of beers: Pils, Dort (a stronger lager, supposedly in the Dortmunder style), Korenwolf (a witbier made with a mixture of grains) and the Christmas beer, Witte Kerst.

All of these also exist in draught as well as bottled form.

They have an agreement with Grolsch for the productiomn of special beers (that"s everyting but pils)
should be particularly sought out. A microbrewery founded by a member of the Brand family who trained at Weihenstephan in Bavaria. The influence of his education is evident in the two beers:

Christofflel Blond
is a pale, unfiltered lager in the style of a Bavarian Kellerbier. Uncompromisingly bitter, the aroma of quality hops is enough to intoxicate without taking a sip.

Robertus is a rare example of a genuine Munich style dark lager. Outside Germany, they don't usually bother to use münchner malt. Lager malt and caramel are the usual ingredients.

Leo Brand has now moved on, but the beer continues to be of an outsatandinmg quality.
La Trappe
the only Trappist monastary outside Belgium to brew commercially, makes some of Holland's best beers .

They brew a Blond, Dubbel, Tripel and Quadrupel, at repspectively, 6.5%, 6.5%, 8% and 10%. The last three are reasonable examples of their type and the Quadrupel (in its good years - it isn't terribly consistent) stands up to the very best beers in the world. The latest addition, Witte Trappist, is the world's first trappist witbier (unless you count Oirschots Wit, a beer taken over from Kroon).

The dwindling number of monks prompted the sale of the brewery to Bavaria in 1999. The brothers still own the trademarks and the beers are allowed to bear the Trappist name. The right to bear the hexagonal "authentic trappist" was lost after the sale but restored in 2005.

The monastery has also taken over production of the Kroon beers, a small lager brewery gobbled up by Bavaria in 2000 and promptly closed.

Belgian Breweries
A large proportion of the "special beer" (that's anything whose name doesn't start with a "pil" and end with a "sner") sold in Dutch bars comes from Belgium. So much so, that beer from small Dutch breweries often has little chance.

Look more closely, and you will notice that most of the Belgian beers that make regular appearances in Amsterdam come from brewers with some link to one of the big players. As Heineken closes what traditional breweries it has left in Holland, it's buying up ones abroad. Their purchases so far indicate that the plan is to producte of all the beer their cafés sell within the group. Paulaner seems to expect to become a Weissbier brewer and little else. In Belgium they own the De Smedt brewery, maker of Affligem abbey beers. I sense an attack by Heineken on Interbrew's Leffe range. For the moment, at least, the Affligem ales are bottle-conditioned and a good deal superior to crappy old Leffe.
The principal draught styles imported from Belgium are ales (De Koninck, Palm), witbier (Hoegaarden, Dentergems) and Abbey Blonde (Leffe, Grimbergen) or Dubbel (ditto). Few other Belgian beers are regularly available on draught, except in specialist bars.

Leffe Blond is one of the most unpleasant beers I've accidentallly drunk, because I didn't realise beforehand what total crap it was. It's a beer that appears to be deliberately trying to annoy you.

Most of the Grimbergen abbey-style beers, produced by Alken-Maes are not much better. I've met people who swear by one of them ...which was it? Optimo Bruno, that's it, at 10%. Tim Webb doesn't like it that much. It's not bottle-conditioned. That always makes me doubt.

One beer from a small independent Belgian brewery which has been able to make notable inroads into the non-specialist market, is the excellent La Chouffe. It's a pleasant surprise how common it has become in bars in Amsterdam.

Bottled the quality is much better, with Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel, Duvel and all three colours of Chimay pretty common. All good enough for me, though I usually stay away from Chimay in the Summer.

But drink Grimbergen and Leffe products at your own risk. I won't vouch for any of them, apart from Leffe Tripel (brewed at Hoegaarden), the only one that's bottle-conditioned.

Belgium's largest independent brewery, Haecht, is owner of the Dutch brewery Leeuw. Cafés suppled by Leeuw now sell the Tongerlo abbey ales produced in Belgium by Haecht. They fair enogh examples of their respective styles.

Local Breweries
Who's brewing?
Amsterdam is lucky enough to have three active breweries (one, Maximiliaan, is not quite active enough to be actually brewing as I write this), though all operate on a very small scale.

"But what about Heineken", I hear you say, "don't they brew in Amsterdam? No, they don't. The two breweries Heineken operate (I'm excluding Brand, which still run pretty much independently) in the Netherlands are in Den Bosch and Zouterwoude. Heineken were happy to abandon their home brewery, but they aren't so eager to let the world know about it. Maybe they feel a little ashamed. Or they think that Amsterdam sounds classy.
Misleading? Who, me?
Where is Heineken brewed? Reading the back label, you could be mistaken for thinking that Heineken operated three breweries in Holland. This what it says:
"Heineken Brouwerijen - 's Hertogenbosch - Amsterdam - Zouterwoude"
If I tell you that "brouerijen means "breweries", I'm sure that you'll agree that the label sort of implies that they are still brewing in Amsterdam. Without actually really saying it. Because obviously they couldn't, as it's untrue.
Though Amsterdam was never really one of the major brewing cities in the Golden Age (17th century), there had been a decent sized industry in the town. Sadly, none of these enterprises, some of which were around for centuries, has survived. Amsterdam's oldest brewery ('t Ij - see below) dates all the way back to 1985. That same year Amsttel closed. Just three years later, Heineken stopped brewing at their own plant on Stadhouderskade.

A restricted site and poor road access, prompted Heineken's to decision. Large sections of the brewery have been demolished and replaced by a square (Marie Heinekenplein) and an ugly high-rise block of flats (sorry Kevin). Some older parts, from the late 19th and early 20th century, remain, housing a museum and visitors centre.

The Amstel brewery has completely disappeared. Both Heineken and Amstel are now brewed at the plants in Den Bosch (built 1958) and Zoeterwoude (1975).

Below are some more details on Amsterdam's real and pretend breweries.

Number of breweries in Amsterdam
1505 1543 1545 1557 1585 1620 1621 1622 1625 1640 1664 1685 1734 1749 1765 1786 1802 1811 1830 1852 1970 1989 2000 2003
9 14 10 11 16 15 18 17 20 22 22 23 19 17 13 12 13 7 7 4 2 1 2 3

Local Breweries (pretend ones)
founded in 1870 as "Beiersche Bierbrouwerij de Amstel", was one of the first custom-built bottom-fermenting breweries in Holland. Renowned Amsterdam architect G.B.Salm designed many of the buildings in the complex.

It was constructed just outside the 17th century ramparts (which formed the outer boundary of Amsterdam until late in the 19th century.) on Mauritskade.

Amstel fought a long battle with Heineken, but surrendered in the late 1960's and sold out to their rivals. The Amstel brand was successful enough to survive the takeover and continues to be used today.

It plays a role important role in Heineken's global strategy. Heineken Pilsner is the company's "premium" beer, imported from Holland. The deal in the UK, where their lager is brewed under licence, is an exception. Elsewhere in the world that honour is reserved for Amstel Pils.

In the Dutch draught trade, the situation is different. Heineken and Amstel are presented as beers of roughly equal quality (though the far superior Amstel Bok is priced much cheaper than the Heneken effort).

Surprisingly, as their site had an even more inconvenient location than Heineken's, the brewery didn't close until 1985. Soon after closure, it was redeveloped and not a single trace of it remains.

Architect G.B. Salm
I have a soft spot for Salm. He designed the former horse tram garage, just past the back end of the Vondelpark, on Amstelveenseweg. It's a wacky affair, whose facade is covered to the top of its gable with technicolour tiles. The best descrition I've been able to think of is: oriental Swiss chalet. It remains almost identical to Salm's drawings, only the horses' heads either side of the roof's peak (see the photo below).

I admire Salm's line in industrial buildings - his speciality was tram garages - which included numerous large brewery project's, like Amstel. Had he known all their fates, he might have regretted that decision.

Gerardus Adriaan Heineken entered brewing with the purchase of "De Hooybergh" (Haystack) in 1864. It had been founded in 1592 and had for a while in the 18th century been the largest brewery in Amsterdam. When Heinken came in with an offer, its trade had collapsed and it was losing money.

The city centre location on the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal (176-180 where the "Die Port van Cleve" hotel now stands - see the photo above; the brewery was a pair of matching houses as wide as the four large windows became problematic when in 1865 the coucil decided to fill in the canal in font of the brewery. Forced to move, G.A. Heineken opted for a green-field on Stadhouderskade, on the far side of Singelgracht. Construction of the new brewery started in 1867. They weren't messing about as the first barrels were ready for delivery in January 1868.

In the 1860's Amsterdam was just started to grow beyond its 16th century boundaries. Housing, and also modern factories, were sprouting up in the polders surrounding the city. So it isn't remarkable that Amstel and Heineken shared similar locations just beyond and almost - but not quite - on Singelgracht.

Heineken continued to add around the original core until 1970. As lorries got bigger, they had more and more trouble accessing the brewery. I can sort of see why Heineekn got fed up with trying to run a mega-brewery crammed right up against the tennements of De Pijp.

Over the years, a dynasty of Heineken's stuck on new bits. In a pretty haphazard way, judging by the jumble of scale and styles. Aesthetics doesn't appear to have played much of a role in their plans. All that remains today is an over-hasty extension from the 1he 1880's except with the prime spot on the corner of Ferdinand Bolstraat and Stadhouderskade (where in the 1870's they had, bizarrely, added an office considerably lower in height than its earlier neighbours) taken by an elegant 1930's brewhouse. The only bit that was ever that good.

I can't say that it upsets me much that the other 20th century additions have disappeared. In an arial photograph from 1911, the rear two thirds of the complex are covered by brutal industrial sheds

But do Heineken still brew in Amsterdam?

Local Breweries (real ones)
't Ij
is the oldest microbrewery in Amsterdam, having opened in 1984. in a group of buildings which had previously been a public bath house. Since then, it has steadily increased the range and quality of its products and has one of the best reputations of any micro-brewery in Holland. It produces 5% Plzen, a 6% dubbel, Natte, the tripel Zatte at 8% and the strong beers Struis at 10% and the delicious 9% Columbus. The most recent addition was Ijwit, first brewed in 2002, a 7% witbier,

There are also seasonal and contract brews, Paasij in Spring, Bock in Autumn and Ijndejaars for New Year. For De Bierkoning off-licence (Paleisstraat 125, behind the Royal Palace) they brew an idiosyncreatic beer called Vlo (7%). It can also be sampled on Café Belgique.

All of the beers, including the 'pils', are top-fermented.

Their products can be frustratingly difficult to find on draught. Limited production capacity is supposedly the cause.

De Bekeerde Suster ,
in its previous incarnation as Maximiliaan, was Amsterdam's first brewpub. It's located right in the heart of the city, just by the Red Light District

Started in 1992, it has large modern brewing facilities, which have never been fully exploited, despite being housed in a pub.

In its Maximiliaan days, it tried to get into the contract brewing business, but still couldn't fully utilise its kit. t does various contract brewing for third parties and seems to have plenty of capacity.

Obviously neither the pub nor the brewing equipment were busy enough as Maximiliiaan went bankrupt in December 2002.

The premises were bought by De Beiaard Groep, which operates a chain of specialist beer pubs, in 2003. Brewing restarted late 2004 with test brews of a blond beer.
De Prael
is Amsterdam's latest microbrewery. It only opened in 2002, yet has already had to change its name. The first choice - Parel - upset Budels, who brew a beer of the same name. They're so touchy, aren't they, these brewers?.

It is notable for using recovering mental patients as its workforce.

That and naming their beers after crap Amserdam singers. If you haven't heard this sort of music, think yourself very lucky. It's total crap.

The brewery - from what I could glimpse through the crowds at the Maibock Festival, - looks neat and professional. It had that smell particular to breweries, which makes me go wobbly, for some reason. Maybe it reminds me of Hole's and the 15 minutes that I worked there.

For more about Dutch breweries & beers:

Every Dutch breweries and all their beers.

Detailed tasting notes of many Dutch beers.

The Amsterdam Pub Guide Continues:
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part One
Dam Square - Leidseplein
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Two
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Three
De Jordaan
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Four
De Pijp
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Five
Amsterdam East
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Six
Amsterdam South
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Seven
Amsterdam West

Questions? Suggestions? Click to email me.

More Dutch Beer Pages
Dutch pub guides
Dutch Brewery Pages
Amsterdam Pub Guide
Dutch Breweries (part 1) A - H
Rotterdam Pub Guide
Dutch breweries (part 2) I - Z
Haarlem Pub Guide
Dutch beer tastings
The Hague (Den Haag) Pub Guide
Utrecht Pub Guide
More Beer Pages
Main index page

© Ron Pattinson 1996-2006

All articles and photos on these pages are property of Ron Pattinson. If you would like permission to reproduce either on your own site or in a book, please contact me first.