Amsterdam Pub Guide (Part Two)
Zeedijk - Nieuwmarkt

Practical Stuff
Where do I find Pubs?
Dutch breweries (large)
Dutch breweries (small)
Belgian breweries
Amsterdam breweries
Bockbier Tasting 2004
Amsterdam Beer Tours

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

This part of Amsterdam is where it all began back in the 13th century (or thereabouts). The route of the medieval ramparts define its boundaries to the East (Geldersekade / Klovernierburgwal) and the Amstel to the West.

Most of the old defences are long gone, dismantled when the city expanded beyond their bounds in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. One of the few visible reminders today is De Waag, once one of the city's main gates. You can see a photo of it above. After a long period of indecision about what to use it for, it's now a posh-ish bar / restaurant.

Today, the Red Light District occupies much of the area. In Dutch it's usually referred to as "De Wallen", derived from the names of its principal canals (Oudezijds Voorburgwal, Oudezijds Achterburgwal). Most of the action happens along the canals and in the alleys connecting them, roughly between Damstraat and Zeedijk

The council has been trying hard, but with only partial success, to revive Zeedijk. The short section that runs East - West at the station end is now perfectly respectable. It's easy for unwary tourists to be lured further along the street, where the efforts at renewal have met with stiff resistance from heroin dealers and their customers. On the nice bit of Zeedijk stands one of very few wooden houses to survive the devastating fire of 1452.


For more about Dutch breweries & beers:
Dutch breweries Every Dutch breweries and all their beers.
Dutch beer tasting notes Detailed tasting notes of many Dutch beers.

Amsterdam Pub Guide
Zeedijk - Nieuwmarkt

De Ooievaar
Sint Olofspoort 1,
1012 AJ Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-420 8004
Opening hours: Mon - Thu 15:00-01:00
Fri - Sat 15:00-03:00
Number of draught beers: 4
Number of bottled beers: +-2
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks.
You have to hand it to Heineken the way so many of Amsterdam's most stylish and atmospheric bars sell Brand beer. I don't know if this is some sort of marketing policy, or if the café owners with the taste to have a well-decorated pub also have the nous to get Brand instead of standard Heineken.

This is one of those classy bars, which have such lived-in interiors that you can be fooled into thinking they're very much older than they are. I have a feeling that, although the building itself is a couple of centuries old, the pub hasn't been there for anything like as long. Most of it looks 17th century - battered, painted wooden furniture, that your grand parents might have thrown out for looking too old and tatty; cracked and faded tiles; creaking, uneven floorboards - yes, it's more like being in part of an open-air museum than in a public bar.

That is, except for one corner, which has the sort of crap varnished wood-panelling, that fits in well with a decade of giant collars and flared trouser, i.e. the early 1970's, that nadir of human visual culture. The ceiling is supported by genuine enough looking beams and the green-painted shelves would appear more at home in an apothecary.

The beer selection is very limited, but, if you're going to drink Dutch lager, Brand is about the best you can do. Brand Imperator is supposed to be a German-style bock, but this description doesn't quite fit and, in many ways, seems more like a bottom-fermented beer brewed to have ale characteristics. But what the hell, it tastes pretty good, so I wouldn't waste too much time analysing exactly what style it's in.

All in all, a pretty groovy place and if you sit facing the right direction you can travel down nostalgia street however far you want it to take you. Me? I want to go all the way.
Rating: ***** Public transport: Centraal Station

Het Elfde Gebod
Zeedijk 5,
1012 AN Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-622 3577
Opening hours: Sun - Thu 16:00-01:00
Fri - Sat 16:00-03:00
Number of draught beers: 5
Number of bottled beers: +-50
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
For a long while the Zeedijk was not the sort of area you would recommend anyone to go wandering about in, especially at night. Now, at least the Central Station end has been renovated, cleaned up and made not only a safe but also an attractive part of the city. Het Elfde Gebod is a good example of the type of friendly pub which have sprung up in this area.

A single room, the front section is mostly taken up by the bar and has few tables. To the rear are rather more tables, but this area seems to operate more as a restaurant. Without doubt the most decorative feature is the giant china cabinet behind the bar, where the bottled beers are displayed. Nice to look at and also a much more visually impressive way of showing what's on sale than a dull list. Though, given the level of lighting it's probably better if you don't have to read anything, unless you've brought your own torch with you. A bit gloomy, though I suppose the yellow lightbulbs do give it a little of the cosy feeling of candlelight. Maybe it will work better in the Winter, when it's freezing outside.

The staff seem pretty good and they were very professional about changing a bad beer, which is always a very good sign. Nothing is worse than being served something only fit for sprinkling on your chips and having to convince the cretin behind the bar that something isn't quite right.
Rating: *** Public transport:

Zeedijk 10,
1012 AX Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-622 5728
Opening hours: Sun - Thu 16:00-01:00
Fri - Sat 16:00-03:00
Number of draught beers: 4
Number of bottled beers: +-5
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
Someone here must be a big Marilyn Monroe fan because there are photos of her all over the place. Given the location in the Red Light District, perhaps this could be taken ironically. Physically, the layout is a bit odd; there is a series of beams just over head height forming a sort of false ceiling. They look original, so perhaps they form an integral part of the structure and cannot be removed. Otherwise it's a fairly standard old Amsterdam pub and has the brown look we all know and love.

I must check this pub again, now Maximiliaan (the supplier of the only interesting beer) has gone.
Rating: ** Public transport:

Zeedijk 12,
1012 AX Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-622 2297
Opening hours: Wed - Mon 13:00-24:00
Tue closed
Number of draught beers: 3
Number of bottled beers: +-15
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
A slightly bizarre choice of beer in this place. Obviously the La Trappe rep did a good around this end of the Zeedijk, as half the pubs seem to have it on. Another minute one-room place, it hasn't been around all that long. It has a simple, cosy wooden interior, that gives it a 'light-brown café' feel. It has a huge collection of old advertising posters, which are liberally splattered around its walls and a piano which seems to serve more as a magazine rack than as a musical instrument.

Not particularly outstanding in any way, but a nice enough place to make it worth including on a pub crawl along the Zeedijk.
Rating: ** Public transport:

In de Olofspoort
Nieuwebrugsteeg 13,
1012 AG Amsterdam.

Tel: 020 - 624 3918
Opening hours: Wed - Thur 16.00-24.00,
Fri - Sat 16.00-01.00,
Sunday, Monday and Tuesday closed.
Number of draught beers: 2
Number of bottled beers: 1
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €, meals €. Beer € for 0.5l.
An ancient jenever house, dating from 1619, Olofspoort is just a few steps away from Zeedijk and Centraal Station. The site was origianlly occupied by the Sint Olofspoort, built in 1341, one of the gates in the city wall. Despite being made redundant in 1425 by one of Amsterdam's many expansions, almost another two centuries passed before its eventual demolition in 1618.

One of the few Amsterdam pubs to retain a "slijterij vergunning" or off-sales licence, you can buy whole bottles of jenever to either take home or enjoy on the premises. It stocks more than 200 drinks, including 60 Dutch and Belgian jenevers.

"De flessenclub" ("bottle club") allows individuals or organisations to leave their own personal bottle safely locked away behind the bar. They don't seem short of members, judging by the stuffed, glass-fronted cabinets. Jenever tastings can be arranged for groups of at least 12 participants. And for €250-300 you can even get married here. (I wonder if they throw in free drinks for the happy couple?)

The beer choice is limited, but meets my minimum "1 drinkable" criterion with the more than reasonable Affligem. I wouldn't have been so strict, in any case. Not with all those lovely jenevers.

If youīve never tried a proper jenever, you have a real treat awaiting you. But here are a few tips for the fullest enjoyment. Don't think of it as gin. A real old jenever is aged, like whisky, in small oak barrels. Just like whisky, this is where it picks up its colour, from pale gold to deep amber. (The industrial paintstripper variety is distilled, coloured and on the off-licence shelf within a hour or two.) The good stuff is sold by age: starting at one or two years for the lightest and most easy-drinking, progressing through the deeper, more complex 5 and 8 year olds and climaxing with ones of 12 or even 17 years (almost old enough to drink themselves) packed with rich, sherry notes. As you may have noticed, I do have quite a liking for it. But getting back to my essential advice, start with a two year old and work your way up in the ages. But make sure that it is jenever that has been genuinely aged. "Oud" (Dutch for "old") doesnīt necessarily mean old in the weird world of industrial jenever distilling.

Olofspoort has some wonderful jenevers at prices that look laughable compared to those for whisky of a similar (or even far inferior) quality: Rutte 12 year old is a paltry €4.60. A bargain for such a mature and deeply layered drink. It made the Villiers 8 year old (one of Belgiumīs finest) which had preceded it over my tongue, appear shallow and one-dimensional. And I love Villiers 8.

Having shared all of this with you, I now have a favour to ask. If you visit Olofspoort, please donīt make me regret having recommended it. Itīs a special place and I want it to stay that way. So treat it, the staff and the regulars with a bit of respect. Thatīs not too much to ask, is it?

I've also written a much more subjective review of Olofspoort.
Rating: ***** Public transport:

Old Nickel
Nieuwebrugsteeg 11,
1012 AG Amsterdam.

Tel: 020 - 624 1912
Fax: 020 - 620 7683
Opening hours:
Number of draught beers: 6
Number of bottled beers: +-60
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks.
I've come across many weird and wonderful pubs in my travels. But the combination of budget hostel and beer bar is a new one on me. It seems so unlikely, that I was inclined to distrust the sign outside Old Nickel claiming 60 different beers. But as it's literally next door to In de Olofspoort, it seemed worth taking a closer look.

At first glance, my fears about a cheap hotel lobby were realised. A carpet much too thick and much too red, a cheap bar counter; it wasnīt looking too good. Did they really have 60 beers? The barman wasnīt too inviting, but did pass us the beer menu. A quick count proved the claim to be true. But there was an even greater shock beneath its laminated exterior: the choice was actually quite interesting. More beers I wanted to drink than many bars with a list four times as long. Mahrs Bräu Ungespundet, Schlenkerla Rauchbier. No-one ever sells decent German beers in Amsterdam, Wildeman excepted. What were they doing here? Just as I had been getting ready to launch into my favourite speech complaining that Dutch beer bars rarely sell anything not Belgian. Here the Belgians barely made up half the list. How curious. Local beers are also well-represented: the whole range from both 't Ij and La Trappe, plus a selection of Prael beers.

When I took the trouble to examine my surroundings a little more closely, they were far more intrguing than I had initially assumed. Distracted by the tacky modern additions, I hadnīt noticed the beautiful room they partially covered. Now in the UK, standard practice with a lovely old interior, was to rip it out, throw it in a skip and ship in as much formica and plywood as physically possible. In Old Nickel they hadnīt bothered with steps one and two. Why anyone would want to hide such decorative carved panelling is a mystery. Maybe they though it looked too classy for a hostel reception. But at least itīs still there. Along with a monumental tiled fireplace.

I won't pretend that Old Nickel isn't an odd place. And not always in a particularly appealing way. But it somehow charmed me. I've no real idea why. Call me perverse, but I like it almost as much as Olofspoort. The juxtaposition of so many seemingly incompatible elements make it truly original and full of genuine surprises. You may well hate it and I can understand why. Just don't blame me if you do.

Read more about Old Nickel's strange charms.
Rating: **** Public transport:

Café Centercourt
Ouderzijds Voorburgwal 2
1012 GD Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-625 3630
Opening hours: Sun - Thu 10:00-01:00
Fri - Sat 10:00-03:00
Number of draught beers: 2
Number of bottled beers: +-6
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
There have been some fairly radical changes at Mono since I wrote my original review of it a few years back. Pretty obviously the name, as you may have noticed a bit higher up, just above the address. I guess that the 60's music theme was the second item in the skip.

The "smallest pub" competition is fiercely contested in Amsterdam. So much so, that even this tiny bar is playing in the Third Division South. I'm a bit of a loss what to tell you, now I can't ramble on about Paul Revere and the Raiders or the Standells (both excellent examples of mid 1960's American Garage Punk). From what I saw today, the new theme is bland. Not that I could bear to investigate that closely, now that we've swapped our summer weather for Antigua's.

The sweat dripping from my brow was already making a right mess of the football reports, even before the first drop of Wieckse Witte had touched my lips. When I drink beer this disgusting, a couple of questions always cross my mind: is it meant to taste like this? was it like this when it left the brewery? does it always threaten to separate you from your lunch? I wonder where the brewer lives? You're sitting fully-dressed in a sauna with the throttle set to Hiroshima and find a cold beer in your hand. You sip greedily from the glass and . . . . it tastes so revolting, that you nearly retch. A bowl of washing up water with a couple of pounds of diet margarine dissolved in it would be tastier.

Sometimes I resent my commitment to relate all the relevant facts in my possession. I'll feel strangely guilty, perhaps for the rest of my life, if I neglect tell you about the numerous tables, serviced (with drinks) from this bar, over the road on the canalside. There. Now I'll be able to sleep tonight. This next bit could well be important for your safety: Centercourt is somewhere near the ragged edge of the Red Light District. It's immediate vicinity is safe, in the central Amsterdam sense of the word, which is something quite different from the feeling of security experienced by the brothers at Westvleteren (one of my emergency retirement plans involves the abbey). The Red Light District can be a dangerous place for the unwary to wander about in, particularly at certain times of day. After pub closing time, don't stray off on your own. One part of the Zeedijk steadfastly refuses to be cleaned up. It pays to keep your wits about you here at any time of day. Certain restaurants offer excellent views of smack dealers going about their business.

Sometime between dropping a handful of sweaty coins into the barmaid's hand and the bile beginning to jump around in my gut, it crossed my mind that I wasn't sure that I could recommend the oven, where my bum was unwisely parked, to anyone, if I was taking my beer drinking theme (the only one that I have thought of so far and one that I was planning on sticking with, unless another suddenly pops into my head) seriously. Call me Mr. Run-Home-and-Hide-Behind-Mum, but I'll be staying loyal to Mono, sorry, Centercourt (which is a crap name, isn't it? ISN'T IT, anyone who thinks that this name has a single word that can be said in its defence, should walk over to a mirror and ask themselves some serious questions about their judgement) even if I haven't the vaguest idea why.

This is the plain text version: the beers have been thinned to the point where my choice of drink has pretty much been made when I walk through the door. The best bottled beers are: Speciale Palm, De Koninck and Duvel, though I didn't hear the last one offered when I asked first what bottles they had, or when I later asked for a tripel. Could my fragile Dutch language skills be to blame? (Though she could have spoken some English to me - it happens so often that it makes little impression on my memory.)

Wieckse Witte seemed my best bet, at the time. No temperature under 220º C can excuse such a stupid mistake. I'm not sure that I should be telling you this, if I want to cling onto my dreams of one day being taken seriously for this writing stuff. (I mean get paid real money - accepted by pubs, off-licences and train stations across the world - for once. Look, since a tragic double ankle injury finally killed my hopes of playing professional football, I'm down to my last handful of unrealistic ambitions. I'm not prepared to relinquish my hopes of multi-million euro royalty cheques just yet.) I should have known better. I've always thought it was shit, even when it was brewed (as the name sort of still implies, in Dutch, a language in which a surprising number of the target consumers are competent) in Wyck, on the wrong side of the river (though it would be the right one, if train travel were included in your plans) in Maastricht.

Too busy frying myself, I didn't notice if they still do a full cooked breakfast. Best ask them yourselves.
Rating: * Public transport:

't Loosje
Nieuwmarkt 32-34,
1012 CS Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-627 2635
Opening hours: Sun - Thu 11:00-01:00
Fri - Sat 11:00-03:00
Number of draught beers: 8
Number of bottled beers: +-15
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
One of the advantages of living in Amsterdam (OK, there are others, but this is a family publication) is that I can regularly update this guide. Reading back my description of Loosje, I understood where my duty lay. To the centre, tramdriver, and don't spare the electrodes.

Loosje is the perfect antidote to depression. Who could feel miserable here? They do everything the wrong way around: improve the beer selection and leave the stunning interior alone. Not a specialist beer café by any strectch of the imagination, yet when I visited they had three draught beers I could happily have drunk all day. I'm a notoriously fussy git, so perhaps such occasions are more frequent in your life.

The winning formula (and judging by: 1. large number of customers: 2. opinions of my friends; 2. listing in everyone's Amsterdam guides, that's beyond doubt) gives me a warmer feeling in my loins than a toileting accident. Beautiful pub, reasonable prices, good atmosphere, steadily improving the beer range. No, I'm sleeping, aren't I? This is all just some horribly tantalising dream. (Like the one where I was pubcrawling around Newark in1941.)

One of the advantages of being occupationtally challenged (OK, there are others, but potential employers have been known to use search engines) is that I can do my research during working hours. If you've been looking carefully, perhaps you've spotted all the newspaper reading going on in my photos. Yup, my days are free.

Here we have a style seldom seen in Holland. Magnificent tilework covers the walls, bar, floor and just about every other surface, except for the ceiling. One wall has a 3-metre wide depiction of the old ZHB (Zuid Hollandsche Bierbrouwerij) brewery in Den Haag. Other bits portray the pub in the 17th century and peasants hanging around some polder. There are even old hard-coded adverts, for products which surely no longer exist. That's what I call a successful advertising campaign: one that goes on forty or fifty years after manufacture has ceased.

Behind the main room, through a pretty etched glass door, is a billiard room which also has many tiles, albeit in a somewhat less flamboyant style.

The snacks are very good value. The tortilla looks very tempting.

The draught beer selection is pretty varied, though the choice of bottled beers is predictable. Worth coming to for the La Chouffe alone.
Rating: ****
Public transport:

De Bekeerde Suster
Kloveniersburgwal 6-8,
1012 CT Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-423 0112

Opening hours: Sun - Thu 11:00-01:00
Fri - Sat 11:00-02:00
Number of draught beers: 9
Number of bottled beers: +-25
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
Formerly the brewpub Maximiliaan, which went bankrupt after about 10 years in business. De Bekeerde Suster is now owned and run by De Beiaard Groep, who have another cafe in Amsterdam on the Spui. The beer range has been expanded from the Maximiliaan, when the pub only sold half a dozen or so varieties, all except the pils being brewed on the premises. After a worrying delay, when it operated solely as a specialist beer cafe, the brewery is back in regular operation. (If you want to catch them in the act, their website reveals they usually brew on Wednesday or Thursday.)

De Beiaard had already been getting a couple of house beers contract brewed for their pubs, most notably the witbier Witte Ros and the seasonal Bock Ros.  One can assume that the intention is to take the production of these beers in-house. Whether this has occurred yet with the Witte Ros is not clear. Blonde Ros definitely is brewed on the premises, as they say will be the Bock Ros in autumn.

Amsterdam's first (and so far only) brewpub, it opened in 1992. It's situated in a group of historic buildings close to the Waag, a gothic pile in the middle of Nieuwe Markt that was once a gatehouse in the city wall. I had read that the bar area had been altered but, unless senility is closer than I had thought, that's not true. All I could spot in the way of change was an increase in the Grolsch adverts, sorry, memorabilia, which stay just the right side of irritating.

One of the reasons I sometimes tire of visiting new homebrew pubs, is the thought of the hours it might cost finding some new way of combining the words vessel, copper and gleaming without repeating myself. I'm short of time today, so you'll have to use your imagination. It's probably my mind playing tricks on me, but I thought the brewing kit was looking a bit sheepish, there in the corner. Had I been lead in blindfold (which, I admit, was unlikely), I might have feared that my eyesight was slipping away. Hopefully, someone had just knocked against the dimmer. They must have a dimmer . . . You must be able to get it brighter than this.

The custom of using the bits that brew the beer as decorative features, doesn't seem to mean that we ever get to see it used. In Maximiliaan I had seen real live brewing not once, but several times. Seeing all that gear lying around unused was saddening. I'm pleased it's been resuscitated.

I trust that an established operator like Beiaard has a clear idea of how to solve the problem that sank the old owners - who do you run such an enormous place at a profit? Maximiliaan never did work out how to attract enough customers to cover their high fixed costs. Being part of a chain should assure the brewery of a certain steady trade. When Witte Ros really is moved here, then I'll believe the intention is to brew seriously. Imagining the expanses of space in the function rooms, I wonder how anyone can fill them on a regular basis.
Rating: **** Public transport:

Oude Hoogstraat 11.
1012 CD Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-626 0604
Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 10:00-01:00
Fri - Sat: 10:00-03:00
Sun: 12:00-01:00
Number of draught beers: 4
Number of bottled beers: +-30
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks.
Though I'm too much of a respectable family man to talk about it very much, I'm aware that some visitors to Amsterdam intend consuming more than just beer. After the sad closure of De Hoogte, I realised that my guide had lost it's primary "smoking café". I haven't ever mentioned it until now, but I feel I owe you at least one such bar. A replacement was easy to find. Tapvreugd, just down the street, was the obvious candidate.

In various guides, I've read claims that Café Whatsit or Bar Thingummy is the only place in Amsterdam where you can enjoy a decent beer with your space cigarette. Total crap. Truth be told, I could fill several web pages and still have enough pubs left over for a short book. I'll let you in on a secret, as long as you promise not to tell anyone; there are at least three other bars in this guide, where, under certain circumstances, it's also allowed. I would tell you which ones, but:
  • I don't want my favourite pubs filled with stoned zombies
  • I'm not daft enough to urinate on my fried potato snacks by irritating the landlords of pubs I use myself
  • you should be able to work it out for yourself, if you're that keen
Warning: the combination of drinking and smoking can affect your ability to remain conscious. I take no responsibility for anyone who wakes in the gutter with an embarrassing wet patch on their trousers.
Even before I learnt of Hoogte's demise, I had been toying with the idea of including Tapvreugd. Looking at the beer choice - just Heineken on draught and perhaps 20 bottled beers - you may well wonder why. Well, this is my guide and I can do what the hell I like. It's in because I say so.

One aspect of Tapvreugd does merit your attention: the prices. When I saw 2.30 euros chalked next to Duvel on the blackboard, my first reaction was that it must be a mistake. It isn't. This - and Ter Brugge - are the only pubs I know still charging the old guilder prices converted to euros. It's great value for this part of town, where more backpackers and teenage hippies than you can shake a stick at (and who doesn't dream of doing just that?) can be seen with their faces pressed against headshop windows.

Putting to one side the financial aspects, we have an uncomplicated brown pub (somewhere between chocolate and tar in its degree) like dozens of others in Amsterdam. Narrow, but deep, a long bar counter occupies most of one side. At the front, barstools - clumped around the bar and small, high tables bolted to the walls - form the only seating option. You'll have to penetrate the darkest regions of the interior, should you wish to sit on a proper chair at a normal-height table. The walls are hung with enough beer-related artifacts to shame some professional beer bars. God knows where the rest of the clutter comes from or why it's there. Best not disturb any of it, in case it's load-bearing.
Rating: *** (for the user-friendly prices) Public transport:

Wijnand Fockink Proeverij
Pijlsteeg 37,
1012 HH Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-622 5334

Opening hours: Mon - Sun 16:00-21:00
Number of draught beers: 3
Number of bottled beers: +-5
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks.
The name Wijnand Fockink is guaranteed to provoke raised eyebrows, at the very least, amongst English-speakers. On this occasion, I can manage to refrain myself from cracking any puerile jokes, happy to leave you that innocent pleasure for yourselves. I expect that you'll have plenty of time for thinking them up while you're searching for the pub. You aren't likely to wander past accidentally, it being hidden away down alley into which few would venture. The easiest way to find it is to look for the Krasnapolsky hotel on Dam Square. Pijlsteeg runs down its right hand side.

Fockink was founded in 1689, originally functioning as the tasting room of the distillery behind it. It's quite easy to imagine that not much has been done in the way of home improvements since. (I know the feeling: you keep promising that you'll put that shelf up next week and, before you know it, three centuries have gone by.) Behind the bar hugely bending green shelves bear old bottles whose faded painted labels can still just about be deciphered. You could be forgiven for thinking that you had wandered into an old chemists. If you look more closely, you'll see that the labels say "Oranje Bitter" or "Oude Jenever" not "Arsenic" or "Laudanum".

The beer taps are stuck in a corner in a strange glassed in booth, which resembles a little the 'Beichtstuhl' to be found in certain Rhineland pub breweries. There are some interesting old newspaper cuttings and postcards illustrating the traditional technique of avoiding spilling any genever from a glass filled right to the brim: bending over and taking the first slurp before picking it up.

Long after the closure of the original, a new distillery was established in the 1990's. It was the only pub-distillery I knew. Sadly, their house-distilled genevers are gone. Some misunderstanding with the revenue men provoked the distillery's closure. However, they do still have their own genevers and liqeurs, now distiulled elsewhere.The fruit genevers, unsweetened and made from whole fruit, are particularly tasty and at only 21% alcohol not too bad for the brain cells.

The staff are friendly and seem only too pleased to talk about the traditional method of producing genever. Like malt whisky it gains smoothness and colour from years of maturation in small oak vats. Sadly, few are still made this way. Having tasted some of the commercial varieties, it doesn't surprise me. More like an industrial cleaning product than a drink to savour. In my ignorance, I thought this was all Holland's national tipple had to offer. Something they've been patient enough to leave in oak for 5 years (like WF superior) is well worth your trouble. Not just for binge-drinking or paint-stripping. (If I've stirred your interest, Cafe Belgique sells the excellent 5 and 8 year old Villiers from Belgium, Ooievaar stocks a decent oude genever from the Amsterdam distillery of the same name.)

Not content with having their own spirits, they also sell one of Belgium's most obscure beers, De Rijk Special, which is vaguely in the same style as Palm or De Koninck. It comes from a small, family-run brewery, which only produces 6,000 hl per year. Their beer is extremely rare in Belgium and totally unknown in Holland. How they come to have it on draught here is a mystery. Unfortunately, having said all of that, it isn't such a great beer. But give it a try yourself and see what you think.

Note the extremely limited opening times. Fockinck's garden bar, quite cleverly hidden behind the pub, has more reasonable hours. It too serves the house genevers.

One of Amsterdam's "must visit" pubs.
Rating: *****
Public transport:

Rapenburgerplein 1,
1011VA Amsterdam
Tel: 020 - 624 8101
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 11:00-01:00
Fri - Sat: 11:00-03:00
Number of draught beers: 6
Number of bottled beers: 11
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks.
It may not have escaped your notice that "bier" is the Dutch word for beer. And, yes, that is what it means in the name "Scharrebier". It's the Dutch equivalent (or was in the 17th century) of English "Small Beer" or "Table Beer", that is a low-alcohol beer made from a second or third mashing.

If you think "Small Beer" is a pretty strange thing to call a pub, I would have to agree with you. The explanation lies in the bridge direcly opposite, named Scharrebiersluis. They supposedly sold Scharrebier from the canalside at some point.

I like to think that I know Amsterdam pretty well, but this area to the east of the Red Light District is new territory for me. A bit of a walk from Centraal Station (the closest point most trams get), but I think it's well worth it. On the way you'll see some fine 17th century houses and get a close-up look at the Scheepvaarthuis, a faintly Gothic structure that was the first great Amsterdamse School building.

You're probably thinking "this is all very interesting, but when is he going to tell us something about the bloody pub?". OK. But don't be disappointed if I fall back on my usual adjectives. Here's a selection - brown, traditional, worn, wooden, cosy, friendly, local. They all apply. Technology is a wonderful thing. Rather than strain my poor old brain, I'll let the pictures do the talking for me.

Want a little help? Alright then. Careful observation of the above photo will reveal: a chessboard (they have games), a magazine rack (they follow the civilised Dutch custom of providing reading matter for their customers), beer posters (they take beer semi-seriously).

Now that we're on the subject of beer, let me say a few words in praise of Scharrebier. The beer count may not be that high, but you can't complain about the quality. Rochefort 10 and Schneider Weisse aren't seen much outside specialist beer cafés. It's hard to spoil my day when, after ordering my trappist, back comes the question "From the fridge or from the shelf?"

I just hope that my photos can do it justice because Scharrebier is a gem of a pub. It's the sort of place where, when it starts raining you're glad of the excuse to stay a little longer. If you want to experience a real, unspoilt, locals pub - look no further.
Rating: **** Public transport: Bus 22 Kadijks Plein

Kloverniersburgwal 59,
1011 JZ Amsterdam.

Tel: 020 - 625 3772
Opening hours: Sun-Thu 11:00 - 01:00
Fri-Sat 11:00 - 03:00
Number of draught beers: 6
Number of bottled beers: 8
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks.
Engelbewaarder used to be a beer café, so I remember reading. Well, it isn't any more. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it isn't worth visiting. Just don't expect a beer pub, OK?

I was truly gob-smacked when I realised why I had bever noticed this pub before: I had never walked down this bit of th canal before. It sounds crap doesn't it? "Not walked along this bit of city centre street, ha ha ha. How dare you report on Amsterdam, sir." It's a lot harder than you might imagine, tramping every single yard of pavement in this city. You try it.

I've got lost again. Excuse me. Short attention span. Must go to pub ... It's a pleasant long brown pub with mustard yellow panelling. Sounds vile, doesn't it? Couldn't be further from the truth. The enamel gas stove and tunnel-like nature remind me of Lucas's old pad in De Pijp. (I realise this will only make sense to 5 or 6 of my readers, but I think that I owe it to them.) Except clean. And with 6 draught beers. Lucas's place didn't feature either.

This part of town (Red Light disrict fringes) isn't over-blessed with pubs where you're safe from impromptu tattoing. Engelbewaarder is cosy, friendly and without psychos. What more could you ask for? I know, a good beer selection. There isn't anything to set your juices flowing, but there are some of the more standard drinkable items.
Rating: ** Public transport:

De Druif
Rapenburgerplein 83,
1011VJ Amsterdam
Tel: 020 - 624 4530
Opening hours: Sun-Thu 12:00 - 01:00
Fri-Sat 12:00 - 02:00
Number of draught beers: 4
Number of bottled beers: 6
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks

Sometimes I feel this guide is becoming an extended mea culpa for my lack of adventure. Even after being dragged along to Scharrebier, I still hadn't noticed Druif. Sit outside Scharrebier and you'll realise the full extent of my idiocy.

Druif is Heineken's house contender for the Oldest Pub in Amsterdam. The one huge advantage it has over its competitors is the realtively remote location. Obviously, it's in a part of town built in the 17th century, but one so difficult to reach by public transport that it could just as well be in Haarlem. No tourist hordes inside, just a hardcore of locals.

Somewhere in the distant past Druif was a distillery. Though the only reminders of this are "Likeurstokerij" sign under the gable and the spirit barrels behind the bar.

Spend some time inside and, as you try to make some sense of the layers of junk, you'll start wondering if the owners have ever thrown anything away. From the ceiling hang 5 or 6 times as many lights fittings as are - or could be - in use.

The furniture is characterful to the point of delapidation. Gernerations of drinkers have worn away the slightest trace of varnish. I guess the next stop will be the bonfire. As in some other venerable ex-distilleries, there is a weird vertical glass and brass spirit dispenser on the bar.

I did give serious thought to adding Druif to my "secret list". But, with Scharrebier already covered in this page, how could I expect Druif to go unnoticed? Only an idiot like me could fail to spot it.
Rating: ***** Public transport: Tram 14 to Hortus Botanicus

The Amsterdam Pub Guide Continues:
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part One Dam Square - Leidseplein
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Two Zeedijk/Nieuwmarkt
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
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Eight Utrechtsestraat

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Utrecht Pub Guide
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© Ron Pattinson 1995 - 2004
(And that means the photos, too, which are also mine, unless otherwise stated)