Amsterdam may be more associated with Amstel, Heineken and, well, other types of highs, but the city's lesser-known, regionally produced craft beer should not be missed. While one of its microbreweries has been around for two decades now, others have opened in just the past two years – and there's no shortage of impressive beer bars that showcase small-scale Dutch brewers. "There are approximately 150 breweries in the Netherlands, of which there are 140 craft brewers," says Nico Lammers, public-relations coordinator for PINT (Promotie Informatie Traditioneel Bier), a nonprofit Dutch beer association. "The number of breweries has grown rapidly in the last few years and is still growing."
Despite their rising numbers, artisanal Dutch brewers, who tend to gravitate toward flavor-forward Belgian-style beers, hold only about 5% of the total market share – meaning you can still find plenty of Heineken in Amsterdam (the behemoth brewing company no longer makes beer there, however; the space has been given over to the popular theme-park-like Heineken Experience). But to sample beers from Dutch breweries so small and off-the-radar that you'll have trouble finding them back home – and to move well beyond the standard pilsners that have dominated Dutch brewing for much of the 20th century – look no further than these Amsterdam breweries, bars, and beer stores. As they say in Holland before you drink (its pronunciation even rhymes with "toast"), proost!
Laura Siciliano-Rosen is the co-founder of food-travel website Eat Your World, a guide to regional foods and drinks in destinations (including Amsterdam) around the globe.
Brouwerij 't IJ Brewery
A stalwart of the Amsterdam microbrewing scene, founded in 1983, Brouwerij 't IJ has a setting that's about as Dutch as you can get: under an old windmill, on the eastern outskirts of town. Go inside the proeflokaal, or tasting room, and find a seat at the communal wooden tables. Start with a sampler of the house brews, of which there are usually about six on tap (bottled beers, produced at IJ's new, second brewery down the road, are also sometimes included in tastings). The signature sweet, golden Zatte tripel (8% ABV) – the brewery's first-ever beer – is always a winner, as is the boozy, complex Columbus (9% ABV), a hoppy amber Belgian pale ale – although out on the sunny terrace, it's the refreshing IJwit (6.5% ABV), a lemon-and-coriander-infused wheat beer, that proves irresistible. All of IJ's beers are unfiltered, unpasteurized, and top-fermented, and most are brewed in the Belgian style, with a few exceptions (a U.S.-inspired I.P.A.; an English-style barley wine).
These brews tend to run strong, so beer-friendly snacks are on offer: Try the ossenworst, a locally beloved, lightly smoked beef sausage, and the excellent Skeapsrond kaas, a creamy, Camembert-like cheese produced by local sheep fed malt dregs from the brewing process.
Credit: Herman Wouters