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.
A favorite in the pretty Jordaan neighborhood, Proeflokaal Arendsnest easily becomes the bar you gravitate to every day at a certain hour. It's warm and inviting, it's picturesquely situated on the Herengracht canal (with a few outdoor tables), and it's devoted exclusively to Dutch craft beers, with 30 taps and hundreds of beers on offer, from at least 50 different Dutch breweries. You'll find offerings from most of Amsterdam's breweries here (including the newest, Brouwerij de 7 Deugden), making it a convenient one-stop tasting shop – you can sample three beers on tap for €7,50, for example – but it's also ideal for exploring beyond the city's boundaries. Look for beers from cult favorite Brouwerij De Molen, in Bodegraven; De Schans, from Uithoornthe; and the esteemed Jopen brewery, out of nearby Haarlem, which notably aims to restore historic Dutch styles of beer. Want to settle in with a serious brew? Ask for the rich, malty-sweet Quadrupel from Koningshoeven's La Trappe, the only Trappist brewery in the Netherlands (the other six in existence are in Belgium). At 10% ABV, you'd better pair it with a cheese plate.
Credit: Herman Wouters