Dutch Beer and Breweries
Mention Dutch beer today and usually only the biggest brewers come to mind, namely Heineken and Amstel. Grolsch, often confused for a German or Austrian brewer, has been in the Netherlands since 1615.
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.
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 guite amiable, so feel free to strike up a conversation and 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.