Saturday, December 7, 2019

Amsterdam Day 3

It was a cool and rainy day, so I decided to visit some breweries/brewery taps. On the way to the tram stop I saw something new for me — a Tesla Model X taxi. I have no idea if they charge the same prices or they get a surcharge but I thought that was fairly cool. I’ve seen a number of Teslas here in Amsterdam — not as many as in LA but a fair number.

A tram and bus ride later I was at the front gate of the Marineterrein. This is the former home of the Royal Dutch Navy and is now a sort of industrial park, though there still are defense related offices here.

The former officer’s quarters is now a hotel, Pension Homeland and also houses Brewery Homeland. The restaurant/cafe also acts as their taproom. I assume it was formerly the Officers Club. It has a well kept 1960’s sort of vibe.

They have seven regular beers on tap here.

I started off easy with the Luwte Session IPA — about 3.5% and very tasty for such a low alcohol beer.

Next up was their Saison, called Pieremegoggel. A little darker than a typical saison, it is made with hibiscus flowers and Citra hops. A strange combo, but it works.

It was lunchtime and feeling nautical I ordered the Halibut Sandwich. It was not quite what I expected, being almost a halibut salad — I had expected breaded and fried piece of fish. It was very good and hit the spot.

To go with it I ordered the Katzwijm IPA. This was not the big brother to the Session IPA but full on California style IPA, lots of resinous hops.

I was getting far too comfortable so it was time to move on. I walked out the Marineterrein and caught a bus headed to Brouwerij ‘t IJ, known for its iconic  windmill. The brewery was the first “craft” brewery in Amsterdam. I first visited it well over 20 years ago. The beers were often hit or miss — very very good when on but occasion basically undrinkable. There was a house character that basically was an infection — very nice at low levels but it would often take over the beer. A few years ago they were acquired by Duvel/Moortgat and they have expanded the range and improved the consistency and overall quality. But that house character I so liked is gone. Progress, I guess.

While waiting to cross the street, a truck went by, signaling future battles to come...

The main production brewery was long moved to a more suitable location but they still have a brewpub sized brewery where some of the specialty beers are brewed. The pub/brewery is actually in a building next to the windmill, not in the windmill itself.

A good range of beers on tap

The beers (other than the Wit) tend to be a bit on the alcoholic side, so I started with the Herbst Lager, which was brewed with German malts and hops. It was very malty — maybe a bit too much, a little bit more bitterness would have improved it, I think — but was very enjoyable.

Next up I went big — the IJndejaars Winterbeer. As the saying goes — make no mistake, this is a big one (9%) They very the recipe slightly every year and I’m told the bottles are worth aging.

It was rich, but not cloying. It kind of reminded me of a good Christmas fruit cake. It did take a bit of time to finish, though, I was sharing a table with a Japanese couple (Mother, daughter) and when I left the daughter said “What, only two beers?”  I told her this was my second brewery and I had two more to go.  They really seemed to enjoy the beers.

I caught a tram across town and after a short walk I was at De Bar, the taproom for Gebrouwen door Vrouwen, a brewery started by two sisters.

They have eight of their own beers on tap plus three guest beers (and Heineken) 

All of the house beers are flavored to some extent. I started with the Bloesem Blond, a blond ale flavored with elderflowers. Very drinkable and rerfreshing.

Brouwerij Witte Anker rang a bell with me — I think I had one of their beers before so I ordered their saison. Unfortunately it was the end of the keg and what mostly came out was foam. The bartender managed to get enough to fill a tasting glass, so that is all I got.  Which is too bad as I liked what little I had.

Since I didn’t get my saison, I ordered the house Tricky Triple. It was quite drinkable, maybe a little more malty than is usual but it worked.

It was time to move back closer to my hotel, so I caught the tram to Stadhouderskade and walked a couple of blocks to the Lion’s Head Brew Bar. This is a brewpub that opened last year. The owner is from South Africa and the food is influenced by that.

They have five of their own bees on tap. The Dortmunder is from a German brewery but I didn’t get which one. I will have to go back sometime when I am fresh and try it — it is hard to find a true Dortmunder these days. For all I know it could be a Pils from a Dortmund brewery. More research needed. The Frau Schulz is a Kölsch style ale.

I ordered a sampler and some biltong to go with it.

The beers were for the most part well made. There was a little bit of diacetyl in the dunkel but I am pretty sensitive to it and it didn’t really detract from the beer. The Weizen was very much in the German style and was good. The Watermelon Wheat was well made, but I’m just not a fan of that style. The watermelon was not overpowering and I could see people liking it on a warm day. The IPA was excellent — more on that later.

I ordered some dinner, their Peri Peri Chicken. It was very good, not too spicy but enough of a kick to let you know it was there. The only vegetable I’ve had these past few days were hops, so I sort of inhaled the greens.

I ordered a full size (.4L) of the IPA, which turns out is more of a session IPA at about 4.8%. It had a really complex hop profile and when I talked to the brewer/owner he said he used mostly C-hops (Centennial, Columbus, Cascade, etc) in the boil, with late additions of the modern fruity varieties and dry hopped with Simcoe. It worked very well, giving a bit of a layered taste. I think it is the best IPA I’ve had in Amsterdam, though to be fair I haven’t been seeking out that style so don’t complain to me that your favorite is better. It might well be.

With that, four breweries or brewery taps I decided to call it a night. I had lots of good beer and only got wet on the inside, not on the outside. That is because I carried my umbrella, which is known for keeping the rain away.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Amsterdam Day 2

A friend from Utrecht was coming up to drink beer with me today and we decided In De Wildeman would be a good place to meet. The beer list was unchanged from yesterday. I realized I had never had their “house” beer, Gulpener Pilsner so I ordered one. It was a perfectly pleasant glass of beer, but I don’t feel the need to have another one soon. Maybe if I’m back in the warmer months.

Theo emailed me that he was running a bit late. Oh no!, what to do?  I guess I’ll have another beer. I decided on the De Molen Wiggle and Turn IPA.

I really like the De Molen dark beers but there other beers have been hit or miss in my book. This one was closer to a miss than a hit. It was bitter enough but there was something funny going on with the malts. You couldn’t really say it was as “hop forward” they IPAs usually are. The beer was well made, no technical flaws but the receipt just didn’t work for me.

Theo arrived and I decided to have a bit to eat and ordered the Chimay Cheese plate. The monks make good cheese as well as good beer.

I switched gears a bit with the next beer, a Brett Pale Ale from 7de Hemel, a brewery in Limburg province. While it looks similar to the De Molen above it was completely different. A nice Brett character made this really refreshing and was a good palate cleanser.

Theo wanted another beer, so I broke down and ordered a Porterhouse Oyster Stout. I really like this beer.

Our next stop was the taproom for De Eeuwige Jeugd. It is multi level pub located in a former bank.

They don’t yet have their own brewery (the beers are contracted brewed) but those I’ve had have been quite nice so I was looking forward to the visit.

They had 13 of their own beers and 7 guest beers so something for everybody.

As a mathematics major I was intrigued by the  Pi IPA but decided to stick with the De Eeuwige Jeugd beers, so I ordered the Jeugd Pils.

Looks pretty, doesn’t it? Unfortunately it was a buttery mess, pretty much undrinkable. Before I knew it, Theo had grabbed the beer and headed back to the bar and had an animated conversation with the staff. In a few minutes he came back and said they had another tap with the Pils on this new beer was from that. That one was very nice, what I had been expecting.

Theo went back the bar and had another conversation with the staff and then told me he got the manager to have the staff taste both taps of the beer to further their education in to beer flaws. That is making lemonade from the lemons.

I decided next to try the Thuysfluiter, which was a hoppy lager.

It really wasn’t that much lighter than the Pils, just different lighting in the pub (as it got dark outside they turned up the lights). It was a nice beer and I’d order it again.

Theo wanted to check out the Tears Bar (Butcher’s Tears taproom). It was on the other side of town but we had a decent tram connection so we hauled ass across town.

I should have taken some pictures of the inside — it is the most minimalist pub I’ve been in, to the point of being almost painful. A big open space with tile floors, 5 or so tables and a bar at one end. Two walls were windows so there would be lots of light during the day (but they are not open during the day). Old school folks would like that they had two turntables and were playing vinyl but the acoustics didn’t help.

There were 10 beers on tap. I went with the Last Possession “Amber Mild” and Theo had the Little Trespasser Best Bitter. Theo’s keg was empty so there was a slight delay for his beer while it was replaced. 

The designation “Amber Mild” provoked some discussion on Facebook. As is “what the hell is an Amber Mild.”  I took the “mild’ to mean it wasn’t all that hoppy (which it wasn’t). These days, I’d expect a beer marked simply as an Amber Ale to have bit more bitterness. So I didn’t mind the “Mild” qualifier.

I enjoyed my beer, but Theo less so his. It had an unpleasant sour note to it — not something you’d expect is a “Best Bitter” and not the kind of sour you’d like in any beer.

I was feeling hunger and the only snacks they had were fries, so I ordered some with my beer. By the time they came, Theo had received is bad beer and was really ready to move on, but waited until I finished my beer and the fries. 

Theo wanted to go have some food at Asperius Brewing (or rather the restaurant Zest which is their taproom). I would have held off on the fries if I had known that as they were at that point a bowling ball in my stomachs.

It turns out the only one of their beers that had on was an Imperial Stout which was more than I wanted at that point. So I ordered an Oedipus Mannenliefde, their Lemongrass saison. As always, a nice beer.

The fries were still a lumpen mass in my stomach, so I just had a bowl of their bean soup, which hit the spot.

Jet lag was kicking in and I was starting to drift off at the table. So I left Theo (who I think was going to have another beer) and headed for the hotel.

Update: Jan, the brewer at Butcher’s Tears left a comment and I thought I’d update the post so it is more visible:

Hi Fred,

Michael Jackson would disagree about the hop acidity note in a bitter, especially highlighting it in his 'style' description:

"BITTER - English term for a well-hopped ale, most often on draught. Although examples vary widely, the name implies a depth of hop bitterness. There is usually some acidity in the finish and colour vanes from bronze to deep copper. Basic bitters usually have an alcohol content of around 3.75-4 percent by volume, "Best" or "Special" bitters come in at 4.4 - 7.5, the odd "Extra Special" at about 5.5."

About the Amber Mild. It's inspired by turn-of-the-century English X ales/milds which were stronger than their modern counterparts. Unfortunately the term Amber Ale as been fully usurpy by US style brewing in The Netherlands, therefore the fallback to the mild. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Amsterdam Day 1

I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go today, so the default ruled — In De Wildeman, my home away from home in Amsterdam. Down a narrow alley between Nieuwendijk and Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal it can be hard to find. But worth the effort.

When you walk in the door, turn around and you’ll see the tap list above the door.

I started out with the beer that Jopen brewed for them, the Hendricus RPA. Nice and easy at 3.5%. Tasty, too.

That had a beer from what is becoming my favorite new brewery, De Kromme Haring — a kveik Märzen named Lutefisk. Having once tasted Lutefisk and not being Scandinavian the name did not attract me, but the brewery did so I tried it.

It was quite nice — a little bit “funky”  but just enough to make it interesting.  

It was past lunchtime and they had a platter called a “Meat Ploughmans Lunch” — so I tried it and it was pretty good. The little pot had some sort of duck liver pate-ish thing — didn’t get the name. It was a bit strong in flavor but went well with the Lutefisk beer.

I usually try to drink Dutch beers when in Amsterdam but will have the occasional Belgian beer. Usually I am coming from or heading to Belgium when I am in Amsterdam so I try to limit those. But they had one of my favorite beers of all time on tap — the Oyster Stout from the Porterhouse Brewing Co in Dublin. I could not pass that up.

It actually was almost too pretty to drink. Almost. It has been a couple of years since I’ve been to Dublin (heading there in late January) so it was good to have.

Even as a nearly dead soldier it was still pretty.  One thing I like to point out — they keep their Trappist and Abbey beers at room temperature. It was a bit chilly inside but still way warmer than a typical bottle fridge. I hate having to warm up a beer before drinking.

My next stop was a new tap room for the Butcher’s Tears brewery — called the Tears Bar. Their website said they were open at 3pm and I arrived there about 5 minutes early to find it totally deserted. No way was it going to be open at 3pm.

A look at the front door and their actual hours were 5pm. No way was I waiting around for two hours. The next nearest place didn’t open until 4pm so that was too long as well. 

I checked my transit app and there was a good connection to one of my favorite places, Bar Joost. Literally on the other side of town but an easy bus ride.

They don’t have a huge tap list but it is well selected and local breweries well represented. Also a great bottle list.

A number of the beers I’d had when I was here in October were still on, so I went for something new (to me), the Milk Stout from De Prael

As the board said, it was sweet but not overwhelmingly so. But one was enough.

The young man behind the bar suggested the Muuke from Poesiat & Kater (which is nearby) and offered me a taste. It is a blend of beer and wine but the barman didn’t know anything about the wine (white wine, of course)

As the board said, it was slightly sour and fairly enjoyable. One of those beers I was glad to have tasted but don’t feed a need to have another one soon.

By this time they had updated the beer board and added some new choices.

I hadn’t had anything hoppy so I decided to try the Hop Head Heaven from a contract brewery The Amsterdam Brew Boys

It was hoppy and could have been brewed in California — which I guess is saying they hit their mark. But I wasn’t that homesick yet :)

I really like the Van Vollenhoven Extra Stout (brewed by Poesiat & Kater) so I thought I’d try the Old Extra Stout — as I was feeling extra old these days it seemed apt.

It was good. Slightly sour — just a tad really — gave it that “old” feeling.  Plus it makes a pretty picture.

I really probably should have left after that, but the Philomela from Butcher’s Tears sounded interesting so I had one.

The description said “Farmhouse Export Stout” and from the farm reference, it too was a tad sour and very enjoyable. Drank a lot easier than 9.6%, which is dangerous.

Sometime earlier I had ordered a Ham and Cheese Toasty. There was only one person working the bar and the place got busy and he was busy pouring beers (I have no argument with that priority) and he finally made my toasty just as I was finishing my beer.  It did hit the spot, though.

Originally I was going to pop into Bar Joost for a beer or two and four hours later I headed out for my hotel. If jet lag hadn’t started to kick in, I probably would have had another beer or two. It is that kind of place, which is why I love it and why you should seek it out next time you are in Amsterdam.