Saturday, March 17, 2012

Amsterdam: beery nights

[Warning: this one's all about the beer.]

Just back from a few days in Amsterdam, this time armed with Around Amsterdam in 80 Beers. (As on our Berlin trip, this sucker was always in my back pocket; an essential for cutting through the chaff in a land of excess like the 'dam.) I'll get on to the staples from my previous visits shortly, but first I'd like to a highlight two gems I discovered this time 'round:
  • De Prael: I find no good reason for my failing to frequent 'The Pearl' before now. I usually favour breweries above all else, this one proves that wisdom. As suggested by the guide, their Willy was lovely. (As was the Nick & Simon, their IPA, I had at In de Wildeman.) Time constrains meant I didn't eat in the cafe, but I must say that it looked and smelled most inviting.
  • CafĂ© de Koe: a fantastic little hideaway from the central madness. For its food, staff and atmosphere, this cafe has my wholehearted recommendation. Oddly, I was so excited to have found it that there was a Palm in front of me before I realized that one of their many bottles (I would put it at 14, given the guide's numbers and the three taps I saw) would've been a better choice. Still the Moroccan lamb the waitress recommended was out of this world -- honestly the best couscous I've ever had, exciting the palette with pine nuts and pomegranate seeds -- and, as if that weren't enough, as we were idly chatting at the end of the meal, the chef came over with a bowl of the lamb curry they had on special that day to share, simply because he was really proud of it and thought we might like it. As I say, an absolutely fantastic find!

And now, the staples. First up, 't Arendsnest ('The Eagle's Nest'). In some ways, it was like my first time: I mispronounced beers, somehow missed that they serve Dutch beers exclusively (O_o -- I know, right?) and was generally a source of much amusement. Over two great evenings, I had:
  • Texels Tripel
  • Holland Oats: an amazing collaboration between Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Emelisse; unfortunately, all my companions were too young to get the pun.
  • Emelisse White Label: in case you can't read that (to the right), it's Jack Daniels barrel aged, which gave it some lovely woody notes. I'd put this down as the beer of the trip, or maybe second to a Jopen; either the one a friend kept going back to -- Jopen Ongelovige Thomas -- or the next one.
  • Jopen Meester Stuk
  • Snab Pale Ale
  • De Molen Jaar & Dag: an excellent Saison

♫ Private eyes, they're watchin' you... ♪

Up next, its sister bar, Beer Temple. This time 'round I was really impressed with how they were able to recommend beers for a few guys I brought along who were really just dipping their toes. We spent a lot of time here:
  • Tempel Bier: the house beer; a Dutch IPA
  • Pretty Things Jack D'Or: a stunning Saison; love, love, LOVED it
  • De Molen Two and a Half IPA: brewed to celebrate Beer Temple's years in business; nice, powerful stuff
  • Mikkeler Hop Burn High: at 10%, heavy stuff to end the first night on, but so, so lovely
  • Rogue Imperial Youngers Special Bitter: a gem, with a nice sweetness in the finish
  • Emelisse Hoppie Mikkie IPA: the second beer brewed to celebrate Beer Temple's milestone
  • Southern Tier Back Burner: just a great barley wine
  • Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter: really nice currants in the finish
  • Great Divide Titan IPA: a love-punch of hops; beauty

Last, but not least in anyone's book, In de Wildeman. I quickly popped in after De Prael one afternoon, and in addition to the Nick & Simon IPA I mentioned, I had Bavik Petrus (oak) Aged Pale. I'd had it in the bottle before, and this was even nicer; really refreshing and more complex than the moniker of sour ale suggests. Unfortunately, they were setting up for a beer festival when I brought some guys by early on Friday: the lady behind the bar was really friendly, but obviously rushed off her feet. In the end, I couldn't blame the guys for giving it a thumbs down. Me, I was just disappointed I couldn't stick around for the beer festival!

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