Back from the trip. Overall it was totally amazing. But as this is the beer thread I will endeavor to only offer some highlights on that topic. For now I'm focusing only on the first city, Amsterdam.
Our first 5 days were in Amsterdam, and despite that not being a cultural capital for beer, we did manage to find some gems (either in the form of bars or breweries).
the first gem was a taproom in Amsterdam Centrum called Foeders, they specialized in Dutch and Belgian beers and have the personal distinction of being the first taproom where I have seen 3 Fonteinen by the glass (the below pic only shows part of their menu, the 3Fs are on the chalkboard that says "Lambic by the glass").
They also had a great bottle collection (compared to any taproom in the the west coast US), and while these prices aren't exactly bargains, they looked to be a little cheaper than in the US (IME). Also they had some beers you just can't get outside of Europe like De Cam:
Foeders was also the first place I tried a local (Haarlem) brewery called Uiltje (meaning "little owl"), which was the start of a nice discovery. More on Uiltje later.
The second bar that turned out to be a gem was De Struif, also in Amterdam Centrum. The best thing about De Struif is the atmosphere. Very small, very old school, the clientele seemed largely local, the vibe was convivial. We mostly stuck to Belgian Trappist beers here, like Westmalle.
Here is a random pic from De Struif, I do not know anyone in this pic 🙂
The 3rd gem in Amsterdam is De Wildeman, here is a pic:
This place had a nice draft list, covering beers from many western European locations. To me, the most exciting find was an IPA from the UKs Cloudwater, which I've only read about prior. I had one of their New England IPAs (and yes, the irony of an English brewery making a "NEIPA") was not lost on me :-). It was quite good. After that I treated myself to a bottle of Cantillon "Rose De Gambrinus" a beer I've never seen for sale before. Much to my surprise it came served in a traditional wicker caddy, to leave the beer as undisturbed as possible (to not kick up sediment), classy.
It was, as you might expect, exceptional, raspberry puree with a beautiful tangy burst and well controlled acidity.
The 4th gem in Amsterdam was a bar called Arendsnest (eagle's nest), which unlike the others so far, specialized in Dutch beer. Here is a terrible shot of their menu:
Needless to say I was mostly lost with this list, although I did recognize Uiltje. I ended up with the Jopen "Totally yuzu" for two reasons. One I had been seeing a lot of "Cascadian Dark" ales around, which intrigued me since I'm not familiar with the style (turns out it's kind of like a black IPA). Also I was hoping it had Yuzu in it, but it did not. While the beer was nice, it was the view from the outdoor seating at Arendsnest that really made it a nice spot. This is a whot from where we sat:
The next day we headed out of town to the MC Escher Museum in The Hague, which, as a life-long fan of his work, was amazing. But, this is beer, so I'll stay on topic. One the way back from The Hague, we stopped in Haarlem. I'd already heard good things about the city (and it is indeed a super charming place), but now I knew two breweries there which became targets for a visit, Jopen and Uiltje.
Turns out Jopen opened in a former church building, which is simply stunning:
Their menu had 30 beers on draft. I tried a few of them, including a Belgian Pale, which was very nice, light and refreshing. I also tried their version of a NEIPA called "Yankee Punch" - and while it didn't rival the best I've had from Treehouse or Fieldwork, it was quite good.
Tearing ourselves away from Jopen we headed to Uiltje (pronounced Owl-Chuh). The brewery itself was not open, but their taproom was, although Haarlem is not a late-night city, so we only had about 30 minutes here. Of all the places thusfar on the trip, this felt the most 'american' in vibe.
The bartender was also one of the brewers, so he was entertaining to talk to. It was clear he as a fan of the American craft movement and it's penchant for experimentation. He excitedly described one such experiment Uiltje tried, which was to throw an entire Christmas tree into a batch of Christmas beer. There was a bit of a pause at this point, when his voice changed from excited to more sober. The experiment was an utter failure and ended up clogging up all their equipment, he then acknowledged than the established method of adding plant matter to beer sealed in cloth bags was in fact the best way. But hey, "we tried!"
I tried their Mosaic Mammoth NEIPA which was very good, and then on his recomendation I tried the "Sombre Pharos" porter (off camera to the right in my pic) from a UK berwery Vibrant Forest. It was absolutely amazing, a rich almost umami dark cocoa beer, not very sweet, with a slight bitterness like 80% chocolate.
The final spot, back in Amsterdam, was a place I'd been hearing about since we arrived. Brouwerij 't Ij (the Ij is the river through Amsterdam). I knew it was housed in a windmill, but the actual site as even more impressive:
Ufortunately, the beer here was not as special as the setting. It's still very much worth going to see the place, it's pretty dazzling visually, and the beer is 'fine' but it's not going to keep you coming back.
That's it for the Amsterdam leg of the beer journey. After this was Brussels, which I will post about soon. Even though (or perhaps because) Brussels was more beer focused, I didn't document it quite as well.