Beer In Amsterdam: De Bierkoning and The Cracked Kettle
I don’t know exactly why my employers decided to hold this year’s group conference in Amsterdam, but it initially seemed like an interesting experiment in dangling temptation in front of your staff. However, in the end it was unusually well-behaved and good-natured; very far from the orgy of toking and poking that those with less faith in human nature might have predicted.
The frustrating thing about being taken somewhere as fascinating and beautiful as Amsterdam on a work conference is that you inevitably get plonked in an enormohotel a number of miles away from the city centre and handed a packed schedule that makes it very hard to escape the building. Nonetheless I was determined to get into the city centre, and thanks to the tram network I managed to do so twice.
Initially armed only with a Rough Guide To Amsterdam and some personal recommendations, I got off the tram and headed towards De Bierkoning (“The Beer King”), a famous specialist beer shop centrally located near Dam that Rob from Hopzine had recommended. Unfortunately it had just closed for the evening when I arrived, but I admired the selection of De Molen bottles through the window with a faint sense of relief that I didn’t have to fret about which of over 1,000 beers I could sensibly afford and carry around with me. It looks like a great shop and I’ll definitely be back at some point.
I decided to try and find Gollem, Amsterdam’s oldest specialist beer cafe. I was looking forward to visiting this small bar with a huge selection of beers. Rather sadly, when I found it in an alleyway off Spuistraat it was also closed, but seemingly permanently. The sign in the window was in Dutch, but suggested that whilst Gollem and a second Gollem in the de Pijp area had closed, their third bar, the larger Gollem Proeflokaal (tasting room) on Overtoom, is still open. I added this to the list of places to try next time I came.
However I was very happy to see The Cracked Kettle open opposite the closed Gollem. This was another excellent specialist beer off-licence and I was pleased to see a very large selection of primarily Dutch and Belgian beers. I was spoiled for choice and began to realise quite how little I knew about Dutch beer styles. I decided not to laden myself down with an armful of bottles for the rest of the evening and opted for just one: a Brouwerij De Molen Bommen & Granaten.
It’s a 15.2% Barleywine made with champagne yeast that came in a small bottle with the top already sealed with red wax. It says that it should keep for 25 years, which is an admirably bold assertion. Subsequently reading about the beer online, I now realise that “Bommen & Granaten” means “Bombs & Grenades”, which made it probably the least airport security-friendly beer in the world. Now that I managed to get it back in Yorkshire without incident, it should be a nice souvenir of the trip until I lose patience and crack it open.
The other thing I picked up in The Cracked Kettle was Tim Skelton’s Around Amsterdam in 80 Beers. Filled with photos, it has a page each for the 80 best bars and beer shops in Amsterdam and a suggested tipple for each. It would turn out to be an invaluable guide for the rest of the trip, helping me to navigate and prioritise, taking me to a couple of brilliant (and open) beer bars. I’ll get on to those in my next post.