The Hague (Den Haag) Pub Guide
Den Haag - Scheveningen

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De Paas
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Den Haag
The Hague - a city with the charm of Franfurt, the friendliness of Paris and the culture of Scunthorpe. Hate it or despise it, The Hague is easy to ignore.

The city has an identity crisis. Officially, you should call it 's Gravenhage. The Dutch (and those of us who like to think that we have integrated, just a touch, into Dutch society) stick to the less tongue-bending (and spittle-generating) Den Haag.

And what about its status? Is it the capital of Holland? Yes. Zuid Holland. The province. The capital city of The Netherlands is Amsterdam. Den Haag is the home of the Netherlands parliament. (The geography lesson now ends.)

Den Haag lacks the glamour and sophistication that you might expect of the seat of the national government. There some classy older areas now occupied by embassies, but also one of the most notorious slums in Holland, the Schilderswijk. This area of working class and immigrant housing close to Den Haag Hollands Spoor railway station, is frustrating the best intentions of the city's planners. Despite an extensive programme of demolition and redevelopment, it is proving remarkably resistant to rehabilitation.

The complex of buildings which house the Dutch parliament are another mixed bag. The older sections are attractive reminders of the site's original function as a castle and palace. The effect is then spoiled by the rest of the structures which represent most of the architectural styles of the last 300 years, including a modern part that wouldn't look out of place in Warsaw.

The ridiculously showy new Raadhuis (Town Hall) is one of a series of pretentious and totalitarian public buildings doing their best to ruin the homely, provincial of the nicer parts of the city. I suppose homely isn't the image politicians are looking for. No doubt a less stalinist approach would have been taken, had the government resided elsewhere. It's even more galling when you realise that it's built on the site of the former ZHB (Zuid Holland Brouwerij) brewery. (If you want to see what that looked like go to Loosje in Amsterdam, where they have it immortalised in magnificent tilework).
The gemeente (council) of The Hague has been expanded to include the seaside town of Scheveningen, which joins seamlessly onto the western edge of the city proper. It tries to portray itself as a classy resort with its casino and Kurhaus, but in reality has the same mix of tacky souvenir sellers and chip shops as Skegness. There's still a small fishing harbour, which the town's new brewpub overlooks.
Beer Pubs
The Hague doesn't do too badly for beer cafés and has two brewpubs. In the city centre is a former Firkin house which brews (uniquely in Holland) cask-conditioned ales in British styles. A brewpub on the Scheveningen harbourfront brews beers in more conventional Belgian/Dutch styles.

Most of the pubs which are of interest to the serious beer drinker are clustered around the centre and can be comfortably crawled around. Even if you have a broken ankle or two. I can personally vouch for that.
Public Transport
HTM runs an extensive tram network in The Hague, Scheveningen and Delft.

Tickets can be bought on trams, but it's cheaper to buy a 15-strip strippenkaart at a newsagent's. It costs 6.40. You need 2 strips for a journey in a single zone, 3 strips for a journey in 2 zones.

You are allowed to change (i.e. re-use a ticket) as often as you like, within one hour of the time stamped on your ticket. So, if you're quick, you can travel out and back on the same ticket.

All the pubs in this guide are in zone 5400 (Den Haag central). Except Brouwcafé, which is in 5410 (Scheveningen). (Spelling it out, you need 3 strips to get there from the centre of the city.)

The Hague (Den Haag) Pub Guide

Fiddler Brewpub
Riviervismarkt 1,
2513 AM Den Haag.

Tel. 070 365 1955
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 11:00-01:00
Fri - Sat: 11:00-02:00
Number of draught beers: 8 (3 cask-conditioned)
Number of bottled beers:
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks 4-6, meals 8-14, beer 4 a pint.

In April 1996 this former music shop opened as Den Haag's first brewpub. It was one of a chain of brewpubs in Continental Europe which the British Firkin group planned to establish. The sale of the Firkin group meant the closure of all its pub breweries, including this one. The brewing operation has been split off as a separate company (Haagse Brouwerij) and brewing has restarted. The name of the pub has also been changed from Fiddler and Firkin to just simply Fiddler.

It has a good corner location smack in the centre of town and occupies two floors. The interior is open-plan and in the same vague mock-Victorian style of many modern British pubs. Which means that the walls are covered in the sort of old crap - Pears soap advertisements, hunting prints, pages from old mail order catalogues - that someone must have a warehouse full of, judging by how endless the supply seems. In addition to the standard old tat, there is an unimaginative violin theme in many of the decorations. Tables are a bit thin on the ground, presumably to leave lots of standing room for crowds of under-25's.

If the intention was to imitate a modern British city-centre pub, the designer has been remarkably successful. On the other hand, who in their right mind would want to do such a thing? The originals are so crap that you wonder what the point in copying them is.

I had worried about the beer quality since the departure of Eddie Gadd (I think that's the correctly spelling of his name - apologies Eddie if I've got it wrong), who, in my opinion, was the best brewer at any of the Dutch micros. The current incumbent is Dutch, but seems to have got the hang of British-style beers. The Fiddler Pale Ale is excellent, with a pronounced hop character that is depressingly rare in beers brewed in the UK nowadays. (Anyone else out there still remember the original Barnsley Bitter? Now there was a beer worthy of the name bitter.) All the beers are brewed with a traditional infusion mash and use ingredients imported from the UK. No blanket pressure is used and the beers are genuine real ales. This may well be the only regular outlet for cask-conditioned beer in Holland.

There is regular live music, but it may be the dreaded 'Irish' folk music that plagues the Continent and makes you wish that you had brought your AK 47 with you.
Rating: ***** (for the beer) * (for the pub) Public transport:

Grote Markt 8a,
2511 BG Den Haag.

Tel. 070
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 10:00-01:00
Fri - Sat: 11:00-02:00
Number of draught beers: 10
Number of bottled beers: 50
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals
Visiting here after the Fiddler and Firkin graphically illustrates the difference in philosophy between Dutch and British pub designers. It's a 17th century building which has recently been beautifully restored and converted into a pub. Boter Waag translates as 'Butter Weighing-house' which is a pretty good description of its original function and a pair of giant scales has been left as a reminder.

The rather spartan interior makes excellent use of the original brickwork and the soaring vaulted ceiling. The space is quite cavernous, but with good reason as the building was constructed this way. Perhaps the bar could be less boring and its obvious modernity clashes with rest of the structure. Large wooden tables match the scale of the room and promote a more communal atmosphere. Overall, it has a very elegant look without being sterile or cold.

The beer selection is pretty good, though the draught selections are dominated by Interbrew. The bottled choice is less restricted and has some fairly unusual ones.
Rating: **** Public transport:

De Paas
Dunne Bierkade 16a,
Den Haag.

Tel. 070 360 0019
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 15:00-01:00
Number of draught beers: 8
Number of bottled beers: 150
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
De Paas is a quiet, long, slender specialist beer pub located between the centre and Den Haag Hollands Spoor railway station. Its late opening time and its handy position on the way back to the station, make it a good last stop if you've made a day trip to the city. And isn't there an expression about always saving the best until last? This is, without question, the best bar that The Hague has to offer in terms of quality and choice of beers.

A bar counter runs most of the length of one wall and the floors are simple, bare boards. The marble-topped tables are slightly more flashy and the host of beermats stuck to the ceiling beams give you somewhere to rest your eyes in moments of boredom. Low-key music contributes to the quiet, cosy atmosphere and helps create a good environment for serious beer-tasting.

There are a few seats on the pavement and a larger outside drinking area on a barge moored in the canal opposite the pub. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that it's on one of the few remaining canals in The Hague. The views outside are about as good as you'll get in this city of pretentious and inept modern architecture. If you come here by train from Amsterdam you'll understand why I usually call it legoland.

The beer menu is excellent and a display of the available bottles on shelves behind the bar is very tempting. It passed the ultimate test of a serious beer bar on my last visit: there was Westvleteren available. What more can I say? The photo to the left should give you some idea of the "wall of beer". A very similar design would be my favourite for my own living room. I haven't mentioned it to the wife, but how could she possibly object?
Rating: ***** Public transport:

Het Brouwcafé
Dr. Lelykade 28,
Den Haag (Scheveningen).

Tel. 070-3540970
Fax: 070-3548734

Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 11:00-01:00
Fri - Sat: 11:00-02:00
Number of draught beers: 10 (4 brewed on premises: 3 regular + 1 seasonal)
Number of bottled beers:
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
This is a modern open-plan pub with a view over Scheveningen harbour. The brewing equipment, tucked away in one corner, is a mixture of modernistic, efficient stainless steel and romantic copper.

A horseshoe bar occupies the rear and part of the room is filled with a raised seating area which looks intended mostly for dining. A fairly good selection of beer memorabilia, including lots from Den Haag's defunct ZHB brewery, is the main decorative element. It's modern, clean and tasteful enough, without much risk of increasing your excitement level.

I find the beer generally disappointing. But my impressions are based on only a couple of visits, so I could be doing them an injustice.The one beer that did impress me was their Tripel, a lovely spicy, hoppy beer which is packed with flavour.

On the other hand, they do sell Westvleteren (blue for 5, yellow for 6). They obviously had plenty of stock, as several crates of it were on display, in the public area, just under a crap Three Musketeers mural. They must be a law-abiding bunch in Scheveningen.

Het Brouwcafe can be reached by taking tram number 11 from Hollands Spoor station or trams number 10 & 17 from Den Haag Centraal station. You can find a detailed map of the tram system at the HTM site.
Rating: *** Public transport:

De Zwarte Ruiter
Grote Markt 27
2511 BG Den Haag.

Tel. 070 3649 549
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 11:00-01:00
Fri - Sat: 11:00-02:00
Number of draught beers: 8
Number of bottled beers: 30
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
Opposite the Boter Waag, this is a striking art deco pub, spoilt a little by recent post-modernist additions. The aluminium bar in particular is far too shinily high-tech to fit very happily with the older dark brown elements. There is a small seating area at the front, adjacent to the bar, and a larger one at the back split into two storeys.

Crowds of young trendies pack it out at the weekends, which can also be distressing to us sensitive souls without ready access to a baseball bat.

The beer range is OK, though the draught selection suggests a tie with Interbrew.
Rating: ** Public transport:

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