Dutch beer and breweries
Want a beer?
Beer has been brewed in Holland since the dawn of humanity. Originally, brewing was done mainly by monasteries, but in recent centuries big beer breweries have come to distribute their famous brands internationally. Some of these breweries organise tours, but you can also enjoy a beer at the pub or on a terrace. Most pubs serve the well-known big beer brands from the keg but they also often serve plenty of specialty beers. These are specially brewed beers from small, local breweries. Be careful, though, since specialty beers can be surprisingly potent.
Mention Dutch beer today and usually only the biggest brewers come to mind, namely Heineken and Amstel. But we also have many specially brewed beer to quench your thirst!
Beer has been brewed in Holland since the dawn of humanist. Holland's hop gardens first appeared in the 14th century and breweries blossomed during the Middle Ages. Every Dutch city had a brewery, and Haarlem, Delft, Gouda, and Amersfoort produced enough beer for export to Flanders. Amsterdam became a major brewing center in the 15th century. By the 17th century there were 700 breweries in Holland and an increase in demand for beer as it was used for both drinking and cooking. These days, we drink beer for fun and relaxation. But in that period of time, it was one of the few things that could be consumed safely since water was often contaminated and milk had a very short shelf life. Because beer is made with boiled water and the hops also contribute to the sterilisation process, both adults and children drank a lot of beer in the past.
Today the well known Dutch beer brands include Heineken, Amstel, Grolsch, Brandt, Skol, Breda, and Oranjeboom. There are numerous specialty beer bars throughout Holland, these typically serve well known Dutch brands but also a large selection of Belgian beers.
Experiencing Holland by Beer
You can find Dutch locals drinking in the many "bruine kroegen" (brown cafes) located throughout Holland. All these cafes have brown walls and ceilings, so colored through time and cigarette smoke. However, each is distinct. Certain cafes are known to specialize in specific crowds. These cafes can be large taverns or tiny bars. Brown cafes radiate the Dutch notion of "gezelligheid", a term with no exact English translation, but which broadly means relaxed congeniality.
In brown bars and cafes beers are typically served in .25 L sized glasses which are approximatley half the size of an American pint. The Dutch are quite amiable, so feel free to strike up a conversation and a few small pints.
The Heineken Brewery used to be in the center of Amsterdam, and on its grounds today stands the Heinken Experience. Inside is popular interactive tour about brewing beer and Heinken.
Brouwerij 't IJ is a small independent brewery in a Windmill in Amsterdam. They brew regular and seasonal beers and have both a pub that offers tasting and outdoor seating as well.
After a long day, pick a nice-looking pub and let the barman advise you. Whether you choose a well-known Dutch beer brand from the keg or a specially brewed beer from a bottle, Dutch beers are always tasty and an excellent way to quench your thirst. Be careful, though, since specialty beers can be surprisingly potent. Cheers!