Posts Tagged ‘amsterdam beer’

Historical Interlude: Amsterdam’s Sleutelbrug

amsterdam_canal_bridge_1482937_oWhen I studied at the University of Amsterdam I have crossed this bridge more times than I can remember on my way to History classes. It is one of the many bridges in Amsterdam. Fairly nondescript that got its fame more from the many junkies selling you a bike for next to nothing. A bike they probably stole from you a week before.

The bridge is called De Sleutelbrug (The Keybridge) and is on the main path from the Rokin to the University of Amsterdam. This area is full of local history. Not only is it now the university, but a large part of the complex was once a hospital. The university complex is still called the Onze Lieve Vrouw Gasthuis, Our Dear Lady Guesthouse.

It wasn’t until I was doing research for a walking tour of Amsterdam beer history that I found out that the bridge is named after a brewery that stood nearby named De Sleutel.

The history of brewery De Sleutel matches that of the rise of Amsterdam as a global economic power. Amsterdam got its first wealth by holding a monopoly on beer from Northern German cities like Hamburg where beer was made that was significantly better than what was produced locally. This trade led to more trade with the Baltic Sea. Grains and wood was imported into the city and distributed throughout Northern Europe. With the wealth from this it was possible to build ships that could sail to Asia to open up the spice trade. You need capital for this, and that was made by the trade with Northern Europe.

De Sleutel Brewery was started by Gerrit Bicker in the latter part of the 16th century. With the money he and his predecessors made, they could expand into other enterprises, especially trading companies. This made them incredibly wealthy. So wealthy in fact that they could build an entire island north of the Haarlemmerstraat, called the Bickerseiland. At its peak this island housed more than ten wharfs for the construction of ships. With economic power came political power and for a long time they were one of the most important families in the city, and by extension the country.

The brewery stood somewhere in what now is the Binnengasthuis area. Now it is an administrative part of the university, as well as having some classrooms and the food hall. Before that it was part of the hospital, and before that even it had a city carpentry shop and the brewery.

Not a single stone, wooden beam or even a plaque remembers us that there once was a brewery here. A brewery of a famous family no less. The only thing that remains is that small bridge with such a generic name that no one even things of a brewery. Which is more than for most historic breweries.

I will add more short articles Amsterdam beer history, and hopefully soon I will be able to give a tour through the city, showing the few remaining signs of beer history. I will keep you all posted.



A Burger and Beer at Bret

Sloterdijk, an area of Amsterdam once so drab and grey that the only thing you wanted to do is get the hell out of there and go home. Once this was area had only office buildings with an occasional hotel in between. Trees and grass were sparsely placed in the jungle of concrete but could be seen from behind your desk just too far to go there in your lunch break.

But Sloterdijk lost its position as the center of business in Amsterdam. Zuid (South) attracted a lot of company headquarters and businesses in Sloterdijk vacated their buildings too for the move south. At the same time Amsterdam was looking for more space for new hotels, something there is a big lack of in the capital. The old office buildings in Sloterdijk are now converted into hotels. A convenient location because both downtown Amsterdam, Zaandam and Haarlem or 10 to 15 minutes away by train.

It is here that a group DSC01150of architects and young ambitious restauranteurs decided to build Bret, with support from local government. You may remember an earlier story I wrote when Thomas Boonstoppel of Nordman Beers led me around what was then still a construction site. It has now been open for about a month and a half and it is going better than expected.

It is going great in that a reservation is needed for lunch and dinner, which I am glad we made. While we were sitting there people kept coming, most were able to sit but some had to be turned away because the container structure was completely full. Good for Bret, unfortunate for the guests.

DSC01155And it’s not because Bret is the only available place to go in that area. It is a good restaurant with a good menu. Because they open at 8 a.m. already you can get breakfast, lunch and dinner apart from the wide selection of beer. Getting a coffee-to-go is a good choice. We started a three day holiday to Rotterdam here but I had my best coffee on the first day here at Bret.

DSC01154They attempt to have the food as fresh and local as possible and it shows because it looks good. We had a burger (with awesome onion relish) and a lentil salad. The menu isn’t pages long but varied enough so that most people can find something they like.

The beer

Beer is of course the reason we went to Bret in the first place. Their beer menu might not rival that of other places in the city but is quite good for the area it is in. Because the guys from Nordman are part of the team running Bret you can find all or most of their beers on tap (3 in our case). It is possible to get 4 small glasses in a tasting paddle, and that is a great thing always and everywhere and something every bar should do.

DSC01151Gulpener is the big contributor so you can find their beers on tap as well, but it is the bottles that are most interesting. Again, nothing you can’t find anywhere else but they try and have beers from most of the bigger Amsterdam breweries so ‘t IJ, Prael, Two Chefs and Oedipus you can find here, as well as a good selection of beers from the country like Emelisse, Uiltje and Jopen.

Their effort to promote Amsterdam beer will have a highlight when this weekend they will host the first Amsterdam Craft Beer Festival in and around Bret. The garden and surrounding area are well suited for this.


Because Bret has barely been open it is hard to say what the future will bring, but things are looking great so far. The building already seems to small! And with the plot of land across the street under development as well we can only hope that it will be yet another highlight in the Dutch beer revolution.


Is Bret worth the trip to Sloterdijk? Yes it is, but for the overall experience of the organic building, the food and the coffee. The beers as I said are decent but nothing unique, it is however a very nice place to drink your Oedipus Mannenliefde. If you are in Amsterdam and want to visit Haarlem or the windmills north of the canal Bret is a perfect starting point. It is well worth visiting this nicely stacked sea container structure.

Amsterdam’s new beer scene episode V: The Cinema Strikes Back

And you thought we were done with the new Amsterdam beer scene! Well, you’re wrong there buddy, there’s still a lot more to talk about. New brewing initiatives are popping up in Amsterdam faster than I can keep up with writing about them. One of those new initiatives is one that has been getting some attention in the press lately are the Cinema Brewers. New brewers with a different angle on beer; because they come from the movie industry they bring ideas from that art to the brewing world.


The Cinema Brewers are screenwriter Roelof Jan Minneboo and director Finbarr Wilbrink and yes, they have IMDB pages. Go ahead, look it up while I wait.


How cool was that! Roelof Jan and Finbarr are being helped by Naos Wilbrink and Bart Breedijk now that they are taking of.


From movies they ventured into another art; brewing. Why beer? Well, beer is simple a product they enjoy more than coffee, fruit juice or the making and selling of hand carved statuettes of Elvis. Their beers are American influenced, meaning IPA’s with bold flavors.

Because they are filmmakers they combined their passion for both film and beer. The beers are named after classic films and they incorporate elements of those movies into the flavor of the beer. The way they do this is as far as I know unique. Let’s take for example their new beer Casablanca. This beer is made with American and Czech hops to represent the main characters Rick Blain and Victor Laszlo. Even more inventive is the way they incorporated the setting of Casablanca into the beer by using the typical Moroccan spices coriander (cilantro) and cardamom.

cinema2Shooting location

Right now the beer is brewed at the Noordhollands Bierbrouwerij in Uitgeest. The first beer, Breathless, in a batch of 1000 liters. The second one is called Lebowski in a batch of 2000 liters.

Art Work

So we covered film and brewing but their multifaceted approach doesn’t end there. Another winner is the artwork by Het IJzeren Gordijn and the illustrations. For every label a different artist was asked to draw it.


We saw with the other brewers in Amsterdam that often they were part of a network of friendly establishments. The Cinema Brewers started by going to all the stores and bars that they think will sell the beer. Every so often there is a picture on their Facebook page of a new store that now sells Cinema Brewers beer. That some moviehouses sell it is only logical. They have moved on from delivering it themselves and the distribution is now in the hands of Dorstlust, a delivery service from Amsterdam.

cinema1A Sequel?

Check their Facebook page to see where in Amsterdam you will be able to find their beers. I wonder what they would make if they ever make beers after some of my favorite movies. What would a Rear Window be like? How would a Once Upon A Time in the West taste? Would a Magnolia be any good and can you add magnolia to a beer in the first place? And lastly, what would you flavor an Ernest Goes to Camp with? All questions the Cinema Brewers will hopefully answer in the future.



Cinema Brewers Website

Cinema Brewers on Facebook


Amsterdam’s New Beer Scene Episode IV: Two Chefs Brewing

After some detours to Groningen and ino the realm of art criticism it is time to get back on track with our series on new Amsterdam brewers. So today we introduce you to two chefs. Indeed, Two Chefs Brewing is a two man team of Martijn Disseldorp and Sanne Slijper who were at one stage in their career making food for people for a living. This is an occupation where flavor is a good skill to have. In 2012 Martijn and Sanne took this skill from food to beer and joined to make new beers and experiment with new ingredients. The feedback was positive enough to start brewing commercially for the first time and the reactions to this were also positive. Two Chefs Brewing was born and in 2013 when it was still a side project next to their normal day jobs. In January of this year they took bigger steps towards a professional brewery with bigger batches and since August Two Chefs is their day job.


It is a question that I keep asking, how do you sell and distribute the beer? The number of takers of Two Chefs Brewing’ beer has grown amongst café’s in Amsterdam. For now Amsterdam is what they are aiming for and you won’t find their beer much outside of the Capital. Next year they hope to expand and bring their beers to more parts of the country.

The two chefs stepped in at the right moment, Martijn says. He notices that the demand for specialty, especially local, beer is still growing in café’s and liquor stores. Visitors these days expect a local beer to be on the menu. The taste of the beer drinker is evolving too and Two Chefs has no trouble selling more complex beers like their Imperial Russian Stout.

Brewers as friends

In the article I published two weeks ago about post-modern brewing I wrote a few paragraphs about how craft brewers see themselves as artists with a common goal. When I asked Martijn if he sees the other brewers as competition or as comrades his answer could have been quoted in that article.

“We see the other Amsterdam breweries as colleague’s with whom we have to change the beer market. For the guest of a café in the long run it is better when there is a choice out of many beers from different breweries. Every brewery brings something else and this appeals many guests. You also strengthen each other by opening up the market with the smaller breweries.”

Stumbling blocks

The main stumbling block is one we see all the time for small brewers; the lack of their own installation. This automatically means your product is in the hands of a second party and the quality they can offer. Right now they do most of their brewing at Anders! In Belgium, the last batch was 400hl.Other Dutch brewers who brew or have brewed here are De Natte Gijt, Liefde and Oedipus.

The beers

The beers they have made so far are divers, with the Imperial Porter and the Imperial Stout (Dirty Katarina) getting the best reviews. They are now for sale in most good liquor stores in Amsterdam. As a hobby they were already doing a great job, but now that Two Chefs Brewing is their main day job, we can only look forward to more.

Two Chefs Brewing Website

One of the funniest labels ever.

One of the funniest labels ever.

Amsterdam’s new craft beer scene Part II: Nordman Beers

It’s the middle of the summer. A group of our best brewers are at this moment in Portland spreading the word about how great Dutch beer actually is. This group consist mostly out of Brewers from Utrecht and the surrounding area. Amsterdam is represented with Het IJ and the city’s brightest prospect Oedipus. Those who remain are trying to reach that level too. Last time around I wrote about De Vriendschap in the first part of the new Amsterdam beer scene. Part II is about Nordman, who a couple of months ago released their first beer: an I.P.A.


Nordman is a two man team of Shaun and Thomas, friends for over a decade and beer tasting experience to match. The first country the mention beer-related is Germany, a country they have often visited and where Shaun has even lived for 5 years. They both enjoy the German beer culture of community.

After 20 years of research they thought it was time to start making beer themselves, initially to let the people around them enjoy good beer as well. Nordman is not the story of brewers who have been brewing for ages and are new to the whole process. But enthusiasm in homebrewing led to bigger batches in just a few months.

Nordman initially started with four people. But four people means four different points of view, and that didn’t really work, and they went back to just the two of them.

Name recognition

Getting the name Nordman out was done by their network of friends and their friends’ networks. They have both worked in the café- and restaurant business so they knew their way around the business. The name Nordman (Norseman, Viking) helps in getting the word out too.

They use Social media like Facebook, other beersites and their own website. After the first batch they held a release party and they are planning to do this every time a beer is released.

The rising number of brewers in Amsterdam means they have to work hard on making a good product. More and more bars are interested in having their beer on the menu.


Though they specifically mention Germany, their first beer is an IPA. Their IPA is forceful and great for both men and women. Their IPA is what an IPA should be: fruity, but bitter as well. The first batch of 500 liters was brewed at Praght in Dronten and sold out immediately. The second 1000 liter batch was also brewed at Praght. The latest one was made at Maximus and was 1500 liters.


Though geared towards American style beers their next release will be a German style white beer, a lighter version of the IPA (4,5%) with 5 different hops. Autumn will see the release of a saison.

Their Facebook page mentions a Beergarden! How cool is that, apart from new brewers the capital will also see a new place to drink beer.



Nordman Beers website

On Facebook


Amsterdam’s New Craft Beer Scene. Episode I: De Vriendschap

For a while the beer scene in Amsterdam was remarkably uneventful. Het IJ en De Prael were quite visible but for interesting craft beer you had to go somewhere else. But things are looking up and the number of new brewers from the capital is rising steadily. In this new series we will discuss a few of these brewers, and will look at what challenges they face.


Of the Amsterdam brewers in this series De Vriendschap has been around for a little while longer. De Vriendschap means ‘The Friendship’ and is the result of the long comradery between Aart van Bergen and Peter Harms who have known each other for more than half of their lives. In yet another convergence between beer and good music they first played in their own rock band and music still plays a big part in their lives.

Peter was the DIY guy and had made wine with grapes from their own garden before. In late 2011 they were drinking Belgian beers and above his head an imaginary lightbulb shone bright: “One day I want to make my own beer.” Aart replied affirmatively and a few weeks they were stirring in a pot in their first attempt to make beer.


This stirring led to small batches out of which now three recipes got a wider release. The commercial start of the brewery was in early 2013. They have now released The Hop-Blond, Puike Pale Ale and latest brew De Zwoele Stad. The connection with music remained in the design of the labels: A CD-sticker on the bottle.

Friends with cafe’s wanted to start selling the beer. This led to a start as contract brewers, but there are plans for their own brewery in Amsterdam-North soon.

De Vriendschap uses social media like Facebook and Twitter to get out the word and they also used Untappd. Distribution of the beer is done by the pair themselves mostly.

Local interest

The general public’s interest in new flavors helps. The local bars also recognize this trend: fed up with the big brewers, they now want something new to drink. But, the contracts some establishments have can be a hindrance, some have contracts that only allow beer from one brewery with no room for other, smaller, brewers.

Their location in Amsterdam-North means that for now they are the only ones there. North is a part of the city that can be easily reached by ferry or tunnel and will be even more part of the city when the subway line will be finished. But for most people on the other side there is no reason to visit this part. This is changing however. The North now has a filmmuseum, music venue Paradiso has a location there called the Tolhuistuin and the NDSM wharf is attracting people too. This attracts new businesses who are eager to sell local things, and Vriendschap beer is just that.

Peter and Aart

Time is not on their side

The biggest stumbling block while setting up your own brewery for Aart and Peter is time. Aart is still a jazz musician (in the band Crescent Double Quartet) and Peter works as a brewer at De Bierfabriek. It costs a lot of time to produce, distribute and promote the beer. Administration, events all costs a lot of time, so it’s hard work to get a start.

Contract brewers now, own brewery later

Aart and Peter now brew their beer at the Sallandse brewery from recipes they design at home. The first batch was a daunting 1000 liters. There was fear that this would be too much. It took 12 days and it was all gone. Since then they brew multiple times a month.

They are hard at work to start their own brewing location in North. At the city farming project NoordOogst (North Harvest) ( Now it’s still refurbishing an old canteen of a soccer club and getting the right permits. Hopefully this summer they hope to start brewing already. It will be a very small installation so that the guys can experiment a lot with new ingredients and ideas.


De Vriendschap website

On Facebook

On Twitter

Something’s Bru’wing in Amsterdam

Opening a bottle of beer from a new brewery is always exciting. Will it be bad or a nice first start or will it be something good. In most cases it’s the former: nice enough to find in the good stores but not good enough to try other beers any time soon. Better beers are harder to find, but usually leave me interested enough to try more. And then there are the bottles that knock you back so much you think you just witnessed a miracle. Something similar to hearing the first Weezer or Arcade Fire album for the first time. In books about music you often read how people pull over to stand still and listen to a song they hear from the first time. If that was true the highways of the fifties would be littered with stopped cars alongside it, but that’s another topic for another day. If it was me that was driving and it wasn’t a song but a bottle from Bru’d, I would have stood there too.

For now they only released one beer that is unique already: a highly hopped Kölsch. Yes, you read that correctly. A German style Kölsch with American style hoppiness. A very international brew indeed. Go to their website and you will find that it, like this blog, is in English. And that for mostly the same reason we do: because of the many English (or at least foreign speaking) speakers in Amsterdam. (That a brewery in the middle of the tourist part of the city and with many people interested, it amazes me that the De Prael website is still only available in Dutch, but that rant should probably be left for another time).

The answers we received were for that reason already in English and written so well I took the lazy way and posted them verbatim.

Beerdrinkers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your Heinekens and Buds

Who is behind Bru’d?

Aike is a freelance organisation and management consultant. With a background in information management he does most of his projects in sustainable supply chains (think coffee, cacao, tea, palm oil, cotton). In his spare time he is treasurer of a community supported agriculture initiative with 1300 members near Arnhem.

Chiel is a freelance marketing specialist, having worked previously as a marketing consultant and as a digital marketer at a consultancy company in Amsterdam. Currently, he is starting his third life as an entrepreneur. Currently he is in the start-up phase for a platform that aims to help small local food makers and communities to work together to bring local food to consumers. We can’t divulge much more than that now, but it surfs on the same trends that Bru’d is surfing on too. 

How did the start of the release of the first Bru’d go?

Honestly, it went a lot smoother than we expected. We are not planning to make this into anything big, basically we wanted to experience whether we could actually develop and bring a beer to the market. And preferably one that people liked of course. And that seems to have worked quite well. Of course you need to plan ahead and know what you want to do. But we assumed we knew what would be involved, from developing and tweaking the product at home, to finding a partner who could help us boost our production and sell it. I guess the trickiest part is finding the time to actually do it in between the other jobs we both do, which can be quite demanding. But in the end, that fact also lowers the pressure a bit. Fortunately we are not dependent on beer sales to sustain ourselves because we are working other jobs. So the worst scenario was that nobody would like our beer, and we would have had to drink it ourselves. Actually, a bit of a pity that sales are going so well, because we wouldn’t mind having a few more bottles left…

First reactions

We were quite surprised about the number of positive reactions really. We were fortunate enough to be able to deliver our first beer to the best and most respected beer sellers in Amsterdam. We are currently available at de Bierkoning shop (in Paleisstraat), and we have been (and soon will be again) on draft at Gollem’s Proeflokaal (Overtoom) and at In de Wildeman (Kolksteeg, in bottles).  And we’ve passed the city limits recently, and are available at the ABC Beers shop in the Hague as well. 

Of course we’ve been luring our own friends and family to these bars to have a taste, and they are really enthusiastic. But hey, we bought them a beer, so that’s not that surprising. But quite a lot of people have rated us favorably on Untappd and Ratebeer as well. So that’s very encouraging to us as newcomers.

Communist Theme

When you are on that website you will notice the communist symbolism used. And there is a good reason for this:

The background is that we believe that there is a lot of mass-produced beer out there. Some of them are fine, but for the majority it’s just a bit boring. Luckily over the past decade we have witnessed the surge of craft and microbrews.  We feel part of that craft movement. We’re just 2 guys brewing beers in our spare time without a big production facility, we are just passionate about the brews we develop. In the end, there are many more people just like us who are creating original beers in their own garages or kitchens. So it’s sort of like bringing back the means of production in the hands of the people. From there on, a link with a communist theme is quite easy to make. 

The Hoppenheimer

The Hoppenheimer

Why a name like Hoppenheimer and Bru’d?

The communist theme allowed us to go pun-crazy on the label. While there are people that regard puns being the cheapest form of humor, we regard every pun (especially the cringe-worthy kind) as high art. As Hoppenheimer is the first and only beer on the site, it still has the communist allure. However, more themes are coming. No cow is holy enough that we won’t make an udderly ridiculous pun on it. Yes. I went there.

As the previous point on the communist theme might indicate, we are quite immature. And that seems to manifest itself in laborious and cringe-worthy pun-runs. We like to play with words, as we like to play with worts. Bru’d is just a play on words of Brewed. Initially we had a version with an Umlaut, but we decided against that. Truth be told, we had quite a shortlist of different names, which we thought were funny.  

Why a highly hopped Kölsch?

Well, to start with, we were shooting to release the beer in springtime. So we wanted something which was a nice thirst-quencher, but yet quite firm and full-bodied. Plus, Aike is originally German, so he has had good experiences with Kölsch beers. And in the end it fits quite well with the Communist theme, because it is ideal after a hard day in the mines…or the office.

And the extra batch of hops: that’s just our own personal taste really. We are both hopheads. We love big hoppy beers, we both like the recent IPAs coming out of the States for example. 

Bru’d brews there beer in Amsterdam at De 7 Deugden. Why?

At home we are experimenting with brewing our beers in small batches (up to 40 liters), that’s a great way for us to learn and test out stuff. But when we decided we actually wanted to sell our beers, we knew we had to find a partner, who could help us boost our production and produce it against local rules and regulations. We both live in Amsterdam, and we like the idea of local collaborations. So we quickly came to a shortlist of suitable craft beer makers in Amsterdam, and we decided on de 7 Deugden. Partly because we like the way Garmt produces his beers, but also because de 7 Deugden is a social enterprise which employs people with learning difficulties. That’s a very commendable approach these days, so we were happy to choose de 7 Deugden at a partner. And we are very happy with our choice, Garmt is very knowledgeable and surely credits go to him too for the quality of the product. 

A new Bru? (‘d)

There always is! We can’t tell everything yet, but we are developing a Porter-styled beer. Of course, there will be a little twist, but it will be true to the heritage and nature of Porter beers. And of course we will be playing with the political and economic themes a bit…

The Bru’d Website

Bru’d on Twitter

More about the social mission of the 7 Deugden