Amsterdam Microbreweries

One of the questions we get asked the most is “what are the latest trends of the Amsterdam food scene?”.  And while we would love to come up with a surprising and insightful answer every time, that’s not how it works. It’s usually some rather unexpected event that triggers us to recognize a new trend. And so it happened last weekend on a trip to our favorite wine and liquor store Ton Overmars.

There are a lot of new local microbreweries in Amsterdam!

Amsterdam microbrews

The Veterans – Brouwerij ‘t IJ and Brouwerij de Prael

It’s not that there were no microbreweries in Amsterdam before.

Actually, Brouwerij ‘t IJ has been around since 1985, and we have enjoyed many of their tasty brews throughout the years, especially on their lovely terrace by the windmill in Amsterdam Oost.

And it wasn’t just us, as Brouwerij ‘t IJ has been very successful. They extended their tasting room a few years ago and opened a second brewery in early 2013. So today you can find their distinct ostrich logo (a pun on IJ and ei, which means egg) in many bars and shops, and enjoy their regular selection of brews as well as seasonal specials.

Equally successful, although not around for quite as long, has been Brouwerij de Prael, another established household name in beers in Amsterdam, with its selection of beers named after Dutch chanson singers and tasting room smack in the middle of the red light district.

Given their success, and the microbrewery craze that swept the US, it’s probably surprising that nobody else was concocting fresh IPAs or mean Belgian Tripels around Amsterdam. But that has changed now.

The Rookies – Brouwerij Pampus, Two Chefs Brewing, and Butcher’s Tears

Over the last two years Brouwerij Pampus, Two Chefs Brewing, and Butcher’s Tears have started brewing, and we like what we taste!

The self-proclaimed old salts at Brouwerij Pampus spent much of 2012 and 2013 experimenting with different brews, gathering extensive feedback through their Facebook page and participating in countless beer festivals with a wide variety of beers. All their beers seem to follow a sailor’s naming scheme, such as the Drenkeling (drowning person), a Juniper Ale, or Seeheld (hero of the sea), an IPA that we quite liked for its bitter yet somewhat unexpected but lovely creamy flavor.

Two Chef's Brewing Amsterdam

Two Chefs Brewing also started in 2012. Coming from a background as professional chefs and looking for interesting flavors they are on a mission to put more barley, more hops and just generally more flavor back into beer. So far they have made available an IPA called Green Bullet, which indeed is heavy on the hops.

Butcher's Tears Grand Opening

The last newcomer is Butcher’s Tears, located in small-scale industrial zone by the tram depot in Amsterdam Zuid. The tasting room and website look distinctly grungy, but there seems to be a rather professional organisation behind it if the range of beers and the list of distribution points are any indication. We liked hanging out in their tasting room where both the Night Cap, a smooth pale ale, and the refreshing Green Cap went down well.

Where to Taste

Quite a nice list if we may say so! But there appear to be even more such as Brouwerij De 7 Deugden, which provides work opportunities to disabled people, Jopen, the pride of Haarlem, or Oedipus Brewing who are currently looking for investors through a crowfunding platform.

We are probably still missing a few, so best to do some exploring yourself. Here’s where:

Brouwerij ‘t IJ, Brouwerij de Prael and Butcher’s Tears have fun tasting rooms:
Funenkade 7
1018 AL Amsterdam
Tel.: +31 (0)20 528 6237
Open daily 2pm to 8pm
Public transport: Tram 10 to Hoogte Kadijk stop or tram 14 to Pontanusstraat
Cuisine: Limited selection of cold snacks
Neighborhood: East
Vibe: Love all
Oudezijds Armsteeg 26
1012 GP Amsterdam
Tel.: +31 (0)20 408 4469
Open Tuesday to Sunday 12pm to 12am, weekend until 1am
Public transport: Any tram, metro or train to Central Station
Cuisine: Snacks and small dishes
Neighborhood: Red light district
Vibe: Living room
Karperweg 45
1075 LB Amsterdam
Tel.: +31 (0)6 5390 9777
Open Wednesday to Sunday 4pm to 9pm
Public transport: Bus 15 or tram 16 to Haarlemmermeerstation
Cuisine: Snacks
Neighborhood: South
Vibe: Artsy

Two of our favorite beer bars that serve some of the above, next to an amazing selection of specialty beers on tap and bottled, are Café Gollem and Arendsnest:
Herengracht 90
1015 BS Amsterdam
Tel.: +31 (0)20 421 2057
Open Daily 2pm to 12am, weekend until 2am
Public transport: Tram 1, 2, 5, 13 or 17 to Nieuwezijds Kolk
Cuisine: Limited selection of cold snacks
Neighborhood: Canals
Vibe: Bar
Raamsteeg 4
1012 VZ Amsterdam
Open weekdays 4pm to 1am, weekends 12pm to 2am
Public transport: Tram 1, 2, or 5 to Spui
Cuisine: Cheese snacks
Neighborhood: Canals
Vibe: Dive bar

Or bring a few bottles home at one of these two great specialty stores, De Bierkoning and Ton Overmaars:
Paleisstraat 125
1012 ZL Amsterdam
Open Monday to Saturday 11am to 7pm and Sunday 1pm to 6pm
Public transport: Tram 1, 2, 5, 13 or 17 to Dam
Neighborhood: Dam
Hoofddorpplein 11
1059 CV Amsterdam
Open Tuesday and Wednesday 9am to 6pm, Thursday and Friday 9am to 7pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm
Public transport: 2 to Hoofddorpplein
Neighborhood: South

Ron Gastrobar – Michelin Quality Without The Formality

Respect, Ron. Great move!

Ron Blaauw is one of the most prolific Dutch chefs and one of the few to be decorated with two Michelin stars in Amsterdam. He maintained those stars for many years, first in picturesque Ouderkerk aan de Amstel just outside the city, then in Amsterdam proper after his move there.

And then he did the unthinkable: He closed [Dutch] down the two Michelin star restaurant, only to re-open the next day at the same location, but with a different, less formal, menu and setting. And it worked beautifully!

We’ve been on the record for preferring smaller, more personal, less formal and possibly more daring restaurants to the Michelin stars, especially those in hotels. So we were very pleased about the news and eager to try out the all new Ron Gastrobar. And we were not disappointed!

ron gastrobar - restaurant and garden

The setting is chic and classy but not formal. The gastrobar takes no reservation, so we just walked in and were welcomed by the young and hip waiting staff. We were quickly shown our table and once seated happy to be greeted by the bartender. He came up with some great suggestions based on our preferences, not settling for safe choices but daring to pitch the unusual and set us up with a “Four More Years”, supposedly invented for Obama’s re-election and nicely combining gin, bubbly egg white and green sencha tea leaves. The cocktail plus the bread in a paper bag with nutty butter and pickles made us feel quite relaxed and inspired.

ron gastrobar - bread in paper bag ron gastrobar - cocktail

Like the setting, the menu is very different from the formal Michelin style. It’s basically two pages of dishes at € 15,= each that you can mix and match any way you want. The dishes are a mix of French classics like oysters or a steak tartare, Asian dishes including sushi and also some fusion plates such as a Wagyu burger or grilled Chinese cabbage with marrow and sage.

We went with two dishes per person, which was sufficient but left room for dessert.

Another thing that we liked much better than at most Michelin star restaurants is the wine list. It’s much more modern with many interesting new world wines rather than pages of Bordeaux wines.

The desserts are a similar mix of French classics and Asian influences, as well as cheese from our favorite cheese store L’Amuse just down the road.

Overall, the food was great, in no way less quality than the Michelin star predecessor. And we loved the casual atmosphere, service with a fun attitude and modern menu. Let’s hope this is a new trend!
Sophialaan 55hs
1075 PB Amsterdam
Tel.: +31 (0)20 49 61 943
Open Monday to Sunday from 5:30pm.
Public transport: Tram 2 to Amstelveenseweg
Cuisine: French International
Neighborhood: South
Vibe: Stylish
Price: €50 to €75 per person

More Sake in Amsterdam

Two weeks ago I wrote about two great sake resources I discovered in Amsterdam. Places with a selection of different quality sakes, where you can get advice and pick up a good bottle of sake according to your own preferences. Turns out there is more good sake available in Amsterdam!

The first source came up in the comments of the previous post: Restaurant Yamazato in the Okura hotel has an extensive sake list (pdf), including an organic junmai ginjo and several daiginjo. The Okura is also planning to offer sake tasting workshops as part of its Taste of Okura cooking classes, although no dates have been announced yet.

And I got even more excited when I discovered that my favorite wine shop, Ton Overmars, had started carrying a selection of sakes! I went there last weekend to pick up some bottles of Tempus Two and immediately spotted the new sake section above the port and cognac. Ton now has 15 kinds of sake available, complete with classification and some descriptions.

choko sake at ton overmars amsterdamWhat was even better was that Ton spotted me checking out the sake and was nice enough to not only help me make a selection but let me taste five kinds right on the spot! Apparently I had just missed one of his memorable tasting evenings in the neighborhood church. And luckily there were some bottles of sake left open and ready to be tried.

I settled for a bottle of Sake Nabeshima Chõko,which is an unpasteurized junmai with a complex aroma and a very smooth structure from aging. Ton also has the Kizan I got some time ago at the Pure Markt, as well as some specialties like a reddish colored sake, a bottle with active yeasts and a 31 year vintage sake!

If you are into sake, you should definitely check out Ton Overmars on Hoofddorpplein in Amsterdam!

Sake in Amsterdam

Even though there is a fairly large Japanese community in Amsterdam, it is hard to come by good sake. Sure, people know about sake and the Japanese restaurants have it on the menu. But there is never any choice – you either have the house sake or no sake. And few shops carry sake and the ones that do only have a single option, the rather average Gekkeikan.

I wish we had a more vibrant sake culture like in New York where Asian restaurants have a sake list much like the customary wine list. And wine stores frequently have an entire aisle of sake, kept cool in a large fridge and with detailed descriptions for you to choose and then take to one of the many bring your own bottle restaurants.

There is hope though and I recently discovered two shops and one restaurant with at least somewhat of a sake selection!

sake in amsterdam

Meidi Ya on Beethovenstraat, Amsterdam outpost of the Japanese retailer with the same name, has the most impressive selection and is also able to provide good advice. Meidi Ya has more than 20 types of sake on offer, complete with an explanatory chart rating the available sake by their classification and dryness. We tried a medium dry Yukidoke Ginjou (Japanese), which was quite good and fairly priced at € 20,=. We liked its smoothness and subtle flavor and will try for a similar but dryer sake next time.

Then there is Roppongi on new hip neighborhood IJburg. Roppongi is a self-proclaimed Japanese lifestyle store that among other things sells sushi and sake. They even have a web shop where you can order sake online for Amsterdam delivery. We tried their Kizan (Japanese), a nama (unpasteurized) Junmai (pure) sake from the Nagano prefecture. We didn’t like it as much as the Yukidoke and thought it was expensive at € 27,50.

The restaurant that lets you pick your preferred sake is Kaiko, a very traditional Japanese restaurant in the Rivierenbuurt that is popular with the Japanese business crowd and has four or five kinds available. It seems that sake importer Yoigokochi is facilitating some of the improved availability.

The picture above shows the two sake bottles described above – the blue color is pure coincidental… I hope sake catches on a lot more in Amsterdam!

Impressions from De Parade 2009

Last weekend we went to De Parade to see Spinvis and have a good time with a group of friends. De Parade in Amsterdam will run for about another week until 16 August.

De Parade is great fun on a nice weekend day or sunny school night. It’s best to go with a group of friends and play it by ear. Find a large table somewhere on the food court, grab some drinks and make plans. Some people will want to see shows, others will want to eat, some come and others go.

food at parade - ridesfood at parade - apples for kidsfood at parade - food court

Since this is a food blog, I must warn you. The food court is big and there is a good selection of food from all over the world – pizza, sushi, tapas, you name it. But don’t expect any good food – it’s really all about the fun and gezelligheid as the Dutch like to say. But not about good food.

The teriyaki was bland, the tapas pre made and the wood oven pizza dry and with very little sauce. We had a good time anyway and never even made it to supposed Parade foodie destination restaurant De Aalmoes.

food at parade - wood oven pizzafood at parade - de aalmoes

As for shows, we were keen on seeing Spinvis’ show Kamermuziek and managed to get tickets without any problems. Spinvis is a well-known Dutch indie musician. His music is low-fi and played, sung and produced entirely by himself in his attic. His lyrics conceal deeper meaning behind simple, superficial situations and will make you think about life.

spinvis at parade - pre-show promospinvis at parade - kamermuziek show

His show Kamermuziek was great. He took us on a journey, decomposing his songs into tracks and letting us peak into the attic where he makes music. He played some sounds into a loop machine and added the major instruments on large video screens showing himself. Singing and playing the guitar he managed to make it all come together into his trademark melancholic pop songs.

koselleck ratzkeAlthough I found it slightly expensive, I would recommend a trip to De Parade. The entrance fee is € 7 and we paid € 7,50 for the 45 minute Spinvis show. Add to that plenty of food and drinks at festival prices (e.g. € 2,20 for a very small beer).

The program changes throughout the week and Spinvis unfortunately won’t return. Another interesting act on the program is Sven Ratzke with the Konrad Koselleck Big Band. In “Wir haben Sexappeal”, German-Dutch entertainer Sven Ratzke will bring his Berlin style chansons to De Parade, supported by a 16 strong big band.

Brouwerij 't IJ Columbus on Tap at Hesp

brouwerij 't ij - columbus labelCafe Hesp, one of dutchgrub’s Best Amsterdam Terraces, has added Brouwerij ‘t IJ’s Columbus beer to its tap!

Its selection of beers on tap, including Weihenstephaner Weissbier and several Belgian beers, has always been one of the strong points of Hesp. It’s nice that they have added Columbus, a strong and hopsy amber brewed by neighbor Brouwerij ‘t IJ.

Columbus is far from a summer-y beer and probably not the greatest choice for a warm August evening on the terrace by the Amstel. But I am sure a good occasion will present itself soon for having a Columbus at Heps!