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For centuries, Amsterdam has been known as the spot to embrace your vices. From its packed “coffee shops” to its narrow Red Light District alleyways, Amsterdam has welcomed visitors and waved its liberal banner high in the air. While its steadfast party town reputation is still alive and well, an evolving beer industry is adding some diversity to the city’s nightlife, as well as enhancing Amsterdam’s already strong beer heritage. While tourists continue to line up for the Heineken Experience, Amsterdam has quietly become a hub for beer lovers with a plethora of innovative beers, classic cafes and craft breweries to experience.

To get you started, we’ve unpacked some highlights in the rapidly expanding Amsterdam beer scene, from its best brown cafes, beer bars and craft breweries, to some of its world class bottle shops. Proost.

Amsterdam's Brown Cafes

Brown cafes are the Dutch equivalent to the traditional British pub, and all have a few things in common: old buildings, wooden interiors, cozy settings, loyal regulars, and long histories. They often offer only one brand of beer on tap, which is clearly visible on the signage out front, such as Heineken, Amstel, Grolsch, or Brand, though they might serve a variety of styles from that brewery. Simply asking for a beer at the bar will get you a pilsner in a 33cL glass, known as a vaasje, with a hefty amount of head on top – the rule of thumb for the Dutch is two fingers of foam. It’s crisp, light, and refreshing. And don’t pass up on the food when you visit a brown café – enjoy a traditional snack like bite-sized bitterballen or kroketten as you sip your beer. Gezellig!

Café Chris: First opening its doors in 1624, Café Chris is the Jordaan’s oldest bar and one of the longest standing brown cafes in Amsterdam. In fact, rumour has it that this was Rembrandt’s watering hole back in the day. Inside you’ll find a quaint interior, chatty locals, and a humorously small bathroom.

Café Hoppe:This narrow corner bar has been a mainstay in the centre of Amsterdam since 1670, and according to the staff, not too much has changed since then. The interior of Hoppe is full of charm with a large bar, great wooden barrels of liquors, and sawdust covered floors. An excellent selection of jenevers too.

‘t Smalle: Situated next to a canal in the Jordaan, this brown café has a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere. Come early if the weather is warm and sunny to snag a prime seat on the expansive patio alongside the canal. The food on offer here is one of the best you’ll find with rustic and hearty meals, such as their infamous carpaccio and cheese plates.

In ‘t Aepjen: The theme of this brown café is apparent immediately after entering this centrally located establishment. This tiny bar is chockfull of monkey figurines, monkey posters, and monkey artefacts. Space is tight, but you can often carve out a spot for yourself. The bartender will run to the frituur next door to pick up bitterballen and other deep fried snacks as you like.

Papeneiland: Friendly service isn’t a guarantee at brown cafes, or many bars and eateries in Amsterdam in fact, but Papeneiland is one of the most welcoming spots there is. Delft style ceramic plates adorn the walls and an antique cast iron fireplace is a focal point. Alongside beer, the apple pie is legendry here and worth the trip alone.

Amsterdam Breweries

Amsterdam is a hub for commercial beer, particularly local behemoth Heineken, whose brewery experience has drawn visitors in droves for decades. Though much like the rest of the world, the Netherlands too is undergoing a beer revolution with independent micro-breweries popping up on the scene at an extreme rate. For those looking to branch away from the standard pilsners and the few Belgian brands typically on offer in Amsterdam, there are several craft breweries scattered around the city to visit.

De Prael: This Red Light District brewery not only serves up delicious beers, it’s also a social enterprise, employing individuals with psychological issues and those otherwise deemed un-employable throughout all parts of the business. De Prael has a long roster of beers, and does them well, which is not always the case with a newer brewery. They also dabble in the unique, like their Himmels-Vater (heaven water) brew – a light crisp lager that’s made with rainwater – and their anti-hangover pils with B12. Tours are offered daily.

Amsterdam Beer Brouwerij 't IJ

Brouwerij t’Ij: As one of the longer standing craft breweries in Amsterdam, Brouwerij t’Ij is a staple on the scene drawing locals and tourists to sample its brews. Large wooden tables encourage sharing and contribute to the jovial atmosphere. For a snack, head up to the food window, which serves up shareable plates of meats and cheeses. Brouwerij t’Ij is a 30 minute walk or short cab ride east of Central Station, next to a large classic Dutch windmill. English tours Friday to Sunday at 3:30pm.

Oedipus Brewing: Across the river from Centraal Station is Amsterdam Noord, an area of the city that’s growing as a hip destination for locals. Although the founders have been brewing for a number of years, a taproom was finally opened in 2015 much to the support of locals. Besides brewing great beer in a wide variety of styles, Oedipus’ quirky branding and cheeky names make the beers difficult to pass up. The warehouse-esque taproom reflects the unique style of Oedipus, and the outside patio is a treat when the weather cooperates.

Butcher’s Tears: Located in the city’s southwest region, Butcher’s Tears is a brewery that truly goes back to basics. Leveraging traditional recipes, the brewery’s aim of making classic brews with modern twists has garnered it a spot in the hearts of locals. The taproom is bare bones allowing the beers to be the focal point. Only open Wednesday to Sundays from 4pm to 9pm so don’t miss your window.

Troost: On the Amsterdam beer scene for a few years, Troost is both restaurant and beer bar. It’s two locations – the original in De Pijp and the larger outpost in the beautiful Westerpark – attract beer drinkers in droves. Troost’s beers run the gamut from Belgians, American style IPAs, and a smoked porter reminiscent of Rauchbier. Beer flights are available, either pre-selected or chose your own, for 10E. Troost is also now distilling their own gin, which is available in their restaurant and bottle shop.

De Bekeerde Suster: In the heart of Amsterdam’s centre is De Bekeerde Suster, which has been brewing beer on site since 1992 in this former 16th century nunnery. The offerings are more Belgian in nature, with impressive interpretations of blonde and wit beers, as well as a large bottle list of beers originating from Belgium and the Netherlands. The food menu at this Red Light District favourite is good in its own right, with a hefty selection of snacks, a sizeable meat and cheese board, and larger meals.

Jopen: While not technically in Amsterdam – Jopen is based in nearby Haarlem – this brewery is worth the excursion. Housed in a former church, the brewery and taproom are a sight to behold with huge cathedral ceilings, stained glass windows, and many other elements of the preserved church. As one of the longest running microbreweries in the region, Jopen brews some tasty beers, including Hoppenbier – a mildly bitter blonde meant to honour the regions brewing tradition and brewed according to the Brewer’s Statute of 1501.

Amsterdam Beer Bars

’t Arendsnest: If you’re in Amsterdam and into beer, ‘t Arendsnest is your mecca. Only serving beers produced within the Netherlands, the popular beer bar boasts an impressive 50 beers on tap and over 100 more in bottles. Not only can you try beers from the longstanding breweries but you also have access to various craft beers from across the country. There is truly a beer for everyone here and the knowledgeable staff can help you get situated.

Café Gollem: This tiny bar packs a big punch, and features what may be the largest and most diverse beer selection anywhere in the city. Try their house IPA or explore their robust selection of Dutch and international beers. While Café Gollem is more than worth the visit, be prepared to sip your beer body-to-body with other patrons as its typically packed on evenings and weekends. And if you’re hungry, order their cheese board with generous enough portions that you could feed the entire bar. Extra points to Café Gollem for its friendly staff – certainly not a guarantee in Amsterdam.

Café Belgique: Another tiny but excellent Amsterdam beer bar is Café Belgique. This beer bar focuses almost exclusively on Belgian beers and with over fifty brews available you’ll be tempted to try a bunch of the tripels and quads on offer. The interior is covered in Belgian beer paraphernalia making a trip here as much a treat for the eyes as the taste buds.

TripelAnother popular Belgian beer bar in Amsterdam, Tripel offers full meals as well as a myriad of beers. With a few trappist styles on tap and around 200 other beers available in bottles, there is a good chance you’ll never end up leaving. To ease up a little on your wallet, visit Tripel on Mondays or Tuesdays when dinners are two-for-one, an amazing deal to be had in the Jordaan.

Bar Joost: Located in Amsterdam Oost, far from the tourist hustle and bustle, Bar Joost is a neighbourhood local that serves up a variety of craft beers from Amsterdam and around the country. The vibe is unmistakably chill, with huge pillows out front for lounging locals. The staff certainly knows how to have a good time and attract a similar minded clientele, and the music is always on point.

Amsterdam Beer Store and Bottle Shops

Sterk: Located on the busy De Clercqstraat, Sterk is a one-stop shop for groceries, wine, and a kick ass beer selection, though you might not guess it from the outside. There are aisles and aisles with beer bottles perfectly arranged, including an enormous selection of Dutch craft beers, American and UK cult favourites, and even obscure Belgian brews you won’t find elsewhere in the city. The staff can help pick out that perfect bottle (or dozen of bottles) to enjoy while in Amsterdam or to bring back home as souvenirs. You can also fill a growler with one of four rotating beers a their Growler Station.

De Bierkoning: Right in the mix of Amsterdam’s busy centre is De Bierkoning, the reigning favourite for “beers to go” in the city. The store is packed from floor to ceiling with bottles from around the world that it can be a slightly overwhelming experience to make your selection, though I’m sure you’ll prevail. De Bierkoning also sells the corresponding glasses to accompany the beers so that you can ensure you’re drinking your beer properly.

The Beer Tree: For the best bottle selection in De Pijp, don’t miss local favourite The Beer Tree. A hefty selection of beers from around the world awaits visitors and helpful staff can help you wade through the many options. If the weather is nice, grab a growler if you’re with friends and head to the nearest park (or boat!) to enjoy the right way.

Amsterdam Beer Guide Photo Credits
Slider Image courtesy of Flickr // Bastiaan_65 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Lauren Barth

Lauren Barth co-founded Departful in 2012 is the Managing Director of Departful Media. Since then she has worked between North America and Europe and has published content in partnership with a variety of tourism boards and businesses based around the world. Lauren is currently based in Toronto, Canada.

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