With day one under our belt, and the sky clearing for some rare Dutch sun, we headed out to recap the day before, draw up plans for the day ahead, and prepare for yet another mind-blowing experience … or so we thought. De molen gaat niet om met wind die voorbij is.
Located in the Haarlemmerbuurt neighborhood just outside of the Red Light District, this café is found inside a fairly modern building by Amsterdam’s standards, but the aesthetic was pure old town. We settled into the nearly empty bar, tucked in the back where the only natural light entering created a small but cozy greenhouse. Old and new. Light and dark. This was to be the day defined by two experience. As the first pints arrived, a Heineken and a De Koninck, this was immediate. The De Koninck tasted of sweet cardboard, while the Heineken was cold and refreshing. It’s hard not to see the green signs all over Amsterdam and realize that this town is very much a Heineken city, but the simple fact also remains that this beer is solid and consistently holds itself up to the other brands.
After a few more pints of the red star, and an excursion down De Ridder and Duvel lanes, the former not impressive this time and the latter phenomenal but predictable, we wrapped up and headed back out on the streets and back toward the bustle.
Heineken, Amstel Pils 5% (NL)
Heineken, Draught 5% (NL)
De Koninck, BPA 5% (BG)
Duvel, Belgian Strong Ale 8.5% (BG)
De Ridder, Wickse Witte 5% (BG)
We almost missed this place. In our original plans for the day, we weren’t even supposed to be in this neighborhood and it had only glancingly caught our eye while reviewing our options the day before. But we took a moment to clear our head after the morning and realized we were right on top of this incredible destination.
Serving only beers made in Holland, Café Arendsnest, is a beer lover’s dream and a proud contributor to the growing craft scene. It didn’t take long for our bartender to recommend the house bier, Tempelbier. Brewed under contract, this malty and hop-muted pale ale was a hit. The other hit from our first pour was the Chistoffel. Described later as the best craft “pils” so far, this unfiltered strong lager was an amazing beer. By now, we were feeling like we’d struck gold, the crowd had grown and the banter got better with the bier. We began hearing about other places to visit, why the southern part of Holland is best, and how to properly NOT scrape the head off a bier. Deep into these conversations, we had a De Molen Op & Top IPA and a Jopen Jacobus RPA. The great thing about the IPA here is that it’s American influenced but not addicted to the high alcohol content of their brethren. This was the highlight of the trip, no doubt. Our mission, at it’s core, was to explore what the Dutch had to offer, and this was ground zero.
House beer, Tempelbier 6% (NL)
Christoffel, Pils 6% (NL) unfiltered
De Molen, Op & Top IPA 4.5% (NL)
Jopen, Jacobus RPA 5% (NL)
De Bekeerde Suster
Our expectation may have been so high after the Arendsnest that we should have gone home. It really couldn’t get any better that that. Instead we headed to our first production brewery/brewpub and had our hopes and dreams shattered. Instead of enjoying our first in-house brewed experience, we got a bartender that didn’t know or care for what they were offering and when asked, recommended a Heineken as the best beer in the house. In a brew pub. On tap.
The beers we finally did order weren’t bad, but by now the shine on this turd was wearing thin and no amount of beer, regardless of quality, was going to keep us here. We politely finished our pints, marveled at the absolutely gorgeous copper vessels in the back room and head for the door. This might have been better than our experience tells but half of the experience is the atmosphere and for the first time in Amsterdam, it actually sucked.
Witte Ros 5% (NL)
Blonde Ros 6% (NL)
Het Elfde Gebod
Set back by our trip to the brewery, but still feeling good about our luck, we ventured on in search of the next place. While we’ve referenced our original resource and refer to certain neighborhoods when looking to hit a particular place, most of what we’ve discovered has been either on accident or purposefully unintentional. This approach has served us well but was about to be put to the test given our recent experience. We needed some redemption.
We didn’t get it.
Located just inside the red light district, this dark and medeival looking enclave had everything we were looking for except the warmth you’d expect from first glance. The beers were ok; the Kriek Boon was sweet and tart but didn’t have enough tartness; the Jupiler was safe and pedestrian and not at all offensive. The Blanche had a distinct lemon scent hinting at Pledge. Not exactly the desired notes, but drinkable. After a near beer-death experience and a plate of cheese straight out of a grocery store, we conceded our earlier good karma and accepted defeat.
Boon, Kriek Boon 5% (BG)
Brasserie Piedboeuf, Jupiler Pils 5.2% (BG)
Du Bocq, Blanche De Namur 4.5% (BG)
We decided to sign off early, but not before another jaunt into the glowing red lights. We walked the streets and canals that were now teeming with people and tourists, many of them on actual tours to see the women behind the glass. It looked Disney, but felt real. We stopped for a plate of pomme frites along the way, and ducked into a coffee shop for a quick espresso and pick-me-up. A few more passes around the glowing canals, sprinkled with full and half pints, we grabbed a Dutch variation of a doner kebab and headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow will be better. Lekker is slechts een vinger lang.