Beer In Amsterdam: In De Wildeman
I had enjoyed one evening in Amsterdam and gone to four bars, one of which (The Beer Temple) was really excellent. However it wasn’t quite enough: the one bar that had a really exceptional selection was of mostly imported beer and the bar itself was a Dutch take on an American style. Before I left I really wanted to go a recognisably Dutch bar that had a great selection of Dutch beers.
One good contender was ‘t Arendsnest (by the same people as The Beer Temple), however the one that really caught my eye from Tim Skelton’s book Around Amsterdam In 80 Beers was In De Wildeman. Mr Skelton says, “The ‘Wild Man’ is one of the world’s great beer bars and you should not leave Amsterdam without visiting it“. On my last evening I had a two hour window around dinnertime, so I decided to take the tram into town and follow instructions.
I found the bar relatively easily after wandering down a few busy sidestreets on a sunny Saturday evening, passing lots of people eating cones of chips and mayonnaise. When I get there it looked busy, with lots of people sitting outside and a large window opening into a small room that also looked packed. Fortunately when I went into the main bar it was only pleasantly busy and I was able to stand at the bar.
The interior, previously a distillery, met all my expectations: the walls cluttered with beer ephemera and a black and white tiled floor, in fact it’s probably quite appealing to tourists in that kind of aged “brown cafe” style. However where it differs from other brown cafes is in the remarkable selection of beer. There were 17 beers and 1 cider (Strongbow!) on tap. They had the solitary handpump I saw in my three days in Amsterdam, hosting Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted. I noted that the pumpclips on the back bar evidenced previous beers not only from Dark Star, Hopback and Gadds, but even Saltaire Brewery.
There are apparently 200 bottled beers available. A copy of the beer menu wasn’t immediately to hand, but the tap selection was so good I didn’t bother asking. I decided to start with the only Brouwerij de Molen beer on tap, Lentehop. This was a great, fresh and bitter IPA that was perfect for a first drink on a summer evening.
I finished it relatively quickly and moved on to Flying Dog In De Wildeman 25th Anniversary Farmhouse IPA which, as the name suggests, was brewed by the US craft brewer especially for this bar’s silver jubilee this year. I didn’t have a clue what to expect of a “Farmhouse IPA”, but found it slightly herby and more subtle in its hoppiness and aroma than the very punchy De Molen beer, but a very nice beer nonetheless, with a pleasant building fruity bitterness.
It tasted to me a bit like a very hoppy IPA that had mellowed in its old age, like a slightly aged bottle of Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA I’d had recently. Reading about it now, I can see why it seemed so different: it’s an unfiltered IPA made with Citra hops and a Saison yeast. I’d love to try it again knowing that, but I’ll probably never get the chance.
At this point, having had two strong beers and knowing my time was limited, I decided to have something other than an IPA. I’d already had four IPAs on this trip (two Dutch, one Danish, one American) and it occurred to me that it wasn’t exactly the most native style to the Benelux countries.
I decided to try Wildeman’s beer of the month, a De Proefbrouwerij Vicardin Tripel Gueuze (sp?), apparently a blend of two beers (um, a tripel and a gueuze). It had a really nice tart sourness and was a good final beer to enjoy as I looked around the bar which had quietened down a bit as people went home or out for dinner.
I reflected, whilst standing there, that I really, really liked this place. Great beer, friendly and helpful staff, a beautiful building and a fantastic atmosphere. I can see why it’s such an institution and I would entirely agree with Tim Skelton’s analysis: In De Wildeman is one of the world’s great beer bars. I would add, from my still-limited experience, that Amsterdam is almost certainly one of the world’s great beer cities.
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