Overview : Like most large European cities Amsterdam has a strong beer culture, with wonderful brew pubs and "brown cafes" to match. This guide... more »
Like most large European cities Amsterdam has a strong beer culture, with wonderful brew pubs and "brown cafes" to match. This guide... more » is generally bent toward small, quiet pubs that have either large selections of Dutch and Belgian beers or beer that is brewed on premises.
NOTE: Notable exceptions to this tour are the excellent beer pubs Cafe Gollem (in the center) and Biercafe Gollem (in the Pijp). Unfortunately, at the time of this writing both had been closed for about six months due to licensing issues and there was no indication as to when they might open again. Otherwise one or both of those pubs would certainly be included here. less «
Bicycling: I have chosen to start this tour at the MacBike bicycle rental shop at Central Station, but there are several reputable... more » bicycle rental companies in town including Mike's Bicycle Rental, Bike City, Orange Bike and Yellow Bike. Check with your hotel or B&B for the location closest to you. Rental shops can instruct you on how to secure your bicycle, where to park your bicycle and how best to cycle in Amsterdam. Pricing and services offered are fairly consistent for all these companies.
Four essential bicycle tips are stay to the right, always use hand signals when turning, cross tram tracks at as close to a right angle as possible and when indecisive pull over to the side to figure things out.
Drinking: Dutch and Belgian beers are famously strong (especially by American standards), so take it slow and easy! Instead of "cheers," the Dutch say "proost," and you should look your drinking partner(s) in the eyes as you say it.
You will see the Dutch word "proeflokaal" used in this guide. Proeflokaal translates to "tasting room" and is a pub at a brewery or distillery. The term "brown cafe" refers to a pub that is not linked to a brewery or distillery. "Brown" refers to the dark wood and stained walls (from decades of cigarette smoke). From here on out I will refer to both generally as pubs.
Assume that all pubs only take cash. Unlike Irish pubs, you are unlikely to find live music in Dutch pubs. Most pubs will have outdoor seating in decent weather. less «
Amsterdam's Central Station is a good, central place to start our tour. The GPS coordinates provided are at the entrance to the MacBike bicycle rental shop at the eastern end of Central Station. MacBike is open daily from 9am-5:45pm. Depending upon the time you're starting and how long you will take, you may want to arrange an overnight rental.
... MoreWe'll do most of our cycling at the beginning of the tour, as I think it will be a bit more dangerous (and a bit more fun) after we've enjoyed a couple beers.
The ride from Central Station to our first stop will take you through the less touristy Amsterdam Oost (East), including past a couple of operational shipyards.Less
Although Amsterdam has a long and strong beer history, there are only a few working breweries left in the city. In my opinion the best (both in terms of beer and ambiance) is Brouwerij 't Ij (pronounced "eye").
The name means Brewery on the Ij River, which is the river that runs north of Amsterdam out to the North Sea. Brouwerij 't Ij was... More founded in 1983 and its original location was on the banks of the Ij River, hence the name. In 1985 the brewery moved to its current location at the base of the Goyer Windmill, which was previously a municipal bath.
The ostrich is the brewery mascot, so look for the real ostrich shell lightshades and ostrich logos on the labels. Inside is an impressive collection of old beer bottles from around the world. If the weather permits you can enjoy the large outdoor terrace.
The pub typically has seven beers on tap. The beers are unfiltered, organic, delicious, strong and inexpensive. Perfect combination.
Along with beer, 't IJ serves light snacks including peanuts, boiled eggs, and meat and cheese plates.
We have a 15-minute ride to our next destination: De Prael Proeflokaal & Brouwerij (tasting room and brewery). On the journey we will ride past Artis Zoo (established 1838), through part of the old Jewish Quarter and into the heart of the Red Light District—passing the beautiful Old Church (consecrated in 1368).Less
De Prael (The Pearl) is right in the heart of the oldest part of Amsterdam and near the Red Light District. Opened in 2002, it is also a brew pub with good, unfiltered organic beers. The brewery produces eight beers, with five to six available at any one time.
There is a full kitchen, so you can order entrees, sides or snacks from a changing menu... More. One typical Dutch snack is bitterballen, a piping-hot, minced-meat, fried finger food.
The beers at de Prael are named after famous Dutch musicians and include Johnny, Willy and Mary.
There is also a shop where you can buy take-away beer and souvenirs.
Oudezijds Armsteeg 26
Tasting room hours
Tours can be arranged
Monday-Friday 10am-5pm (Thurday until 9pm)
Depending on the time of day, you should walk your bike to the next stop because the narrow streets here can be very busy. We will be walking through the oldest part of Amsterdam, including along the oldest existing street in the city, Warmoesstraat. Don't let the smell emanating from the cannabis shops tempt you—we're on a beer tour!
De Wildeman (The Wild Man) is the best beer bar in Amsterdam and some think one of the best in Europe. Founded in 1986, de Wildeman boasts 17 beers and one cider on draft and 200 bottled beers. The selection is mainly Dutch and Belgian, but it also serves many British and German beers.
The building is a former distillery and the decor shows its ... Morehistory right down to the traditional green paint. The staff is welcoming and knowledgeable about their beer. Snacks include liver sausage, stuffed vine leaves and quiche. Or, if you're ready for something more substantial, the excellent Burger Bar is four doors down.
The five-minute ride to our next pub takes us into a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Amsterdam's Western Canal Ring. The houses along these canals were once home to the wealthy merchant class that ruled Amsterdam during the Dutch Gilded Age of the 17th century.Less
The quality and quantity of Dutch micro breweries are at an all-time high and 't Arendsnest (The Eagle's Nest) is THE temple to Dutch micro breweries. Its beer list is exclusively Dutch and has 30 beers on draft with a total beer list of some 130 beers.
The atmosphere is terrific with a beautiful bar topped with a brass flying eagle. The staff... More is friendly and knowledgeable about all the options.
If your current knowledge of Dutch beer is pale lagers (i.e., Heineken, Amstel and Grolsch), 't Arendsnest is the perfect place to expand your horizons. You can taste anything before ordering so don't be shy!
Cafe 't Smalle is in this guide not because of its beer list (which is small, but nice) but because of its charm and canal-side patio.
This is where Pieter Hoppe began his gin distillery in 1786. Hoppe is a famous brand of Dutch gin, which is known as jenever (pronouced YEA-ne-fer). The building has been a cafe only since 1978, but this place... More has an Old World feel.
The high-ceilinged bar has tiled floors, leaded glass windows and a candelabra. Behind the serving counter is a pyramid of jenever barrels. Upstairs is a cozy mezzanine with wood paneled walls. The bar serves tasty food and offers a nice beer selection. If the weather is decent you can enjoy an unbeatable terrace on the Egelantiersgracht.
After wetting your whistle at 't Smalle take a small detour west along the canal looking for house No. 50, which contains a gable stone detailing an egelantier (sweet briar) rose, with the caption "In liefde bloeinde" (In love blooms).
If you're still standing, let's continue to our final destination. Our journey to Cafe de Spuyt will take us along the picturesque Prinsengracht (Prince's Canal). Notice the varied gables on the canal-side houses. Just before you reach Leidsestraat pull off to your left to see wonderful examples of neck gables on seven consecutive canal houses. On them are the names of the original seven provinces of the republic: Utrecht, Over-Yssel, Holland, Gelderland, Zeeland, Vriesland,and Groeningen.Less
Cafe de Spuyt is near the tourist-heavy Leidseplein neighborhood, but far enough away that you can sit in this small, one-room pub and enjoy a conversation while perusing the 100+ list of beers on the wall.
De Spuyt's signature beer is a golden ale from northern France and comes in a 75cl cork-topped bottle (be sure to share this one with... More friends). It is named Trois Monts and is brewed at Brasserie St Sylvestre.
Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 86
Opens daily 4pm
That's it—you've survived our pub crawl. If you don't want to bike or walk back to your hotel, you can catch a taxi or tram at Leidseplein that will take you back toward Central Station. To get to Leidseplein turn left when leaving Cafe de Spuyt and walk on that street for 300 yards. Any tram heading north toward the center will take you to Central Station. If you've biked this route be sure to lock your bike to something stationary so it will be there when you return to retrieve it. As long as you don't see a sign that says you cannot park a bike—you can park your bike there.
Or, if you follow the GPS route, it will take you back to our starting point at Central Station.Less