A Snowy Dutch Beer Tour

We awoke on our last day in Amsterdam to see the city covered in a nice blanket of snow. Living on the snow-free central California coast, we would normally be very excited for the opportunity to play in the fluffy white stuff, but on this morning, we were a bit worried. We were headed outside of Amsterdam to visit a couple of breweries and the weather was wreaking a bit of havoc with the trains.

Snowy Bodegraven

We met Ferdinand at Amsterdam’s Central Station for the journey to Bodegraven, the home of Brouwerij De Molen (the Mill). The trains were a bit crazy and we had to use an alternate route. Luckily, we had Ferdinand with us and we made it to Bodegraven without too many delays. Pulling into the station, our excitement level rose as we could see the windmill a short distance away on the other side of the village.

Bodegraven was a winter wonderland as we walked through the town to get to the brewery. Kids played in the streets, throwing snowballs at each other. Meanwhile mothers out shopping towed their wee-ones and groceries on tiny sleds. We walked in the front door of the restaurant within a few minutes of leaving the train station.

All breweries should have windmills to make them easier to find...

In our time at De Molen, besides the occasional customer stocking up in the bottle shop, we were literally the only three people in the restaurant. A few staff were setting up for a 70 person beer dinner that evening in the main room, so they sat us in the the front room with a view of the main street leading to the brewery. In the cozy, warm room, we settled in for a leisurely lunch and beers.

Merideth enjoying Piek & Ballen

I was excited beyond belief to be at De Molen. One of my high-anticipation breweries of the trip, I didn’t leave disappointed. There were six beers to try. Beginning with Vuur & Vlam, a brew that I had already fallen in love with. We moved on to two different Double IPAs and then a smoked beer, Zak & As (Sackcloth & Ashes).

Despite most of the beers being out of her comfort zone, Merideth did enjoy the first double IPAs and the fifth brew, the winter seasonal Piek & Ballen (‘piek’ is a Christmas tree topper and ‘ballen’ refers to ball ornaments). The final beer was the Bourbon barrel aged Bommen & Granaten (Bombs & Grenades). Already a massive Barleywine at 15% ABV, the barrel-aging gave it quite the kick.

Cycling in the snow, a Dutch past time

The afternoon’s entertainment was provided by our by perfect view of the main road as it curved in front of the brewery. We watched with much amusement as bikes, scooters, motorcycles, cars and trucks tried to negotiate the snowy bend in the road. Some entered the curve with utmost confidence, while others looked like they would be better off if they closed their eyes. We stopped laughing after a car locked up it’s wheels and slowly slid into a street sign and sandwich board outside the window. No one was hurt, the car and signs weren’t even damaged. But we quickly imagined what would happen if that was a large truck.

Despite completely enjoying ourselves at De Molen, we had to head back to Amsterdam at some point. We settled our bill, departed our toasty sanctuary and headed back out into the snow for the walk back to train station.

Haarlem was quite beautiful on a winter night

Ferdinand had lined up one more brewery visit on the way back to Amsterdam. Getting off the train in the Haarlem, a city 20km from the Dutch capital, it was a 15 minute walk from the train station, which seemed long as we negotiated the icy streets to Jopen. We walked into a bustling brewpub with a number of large groups enjoying a few beers on a Friday night. Clearly, Jopen was the new, hip place to hang out in Haarlem.

The view from the balcony...

Housed in a converted church, Jopen was one of the most impressive brewpubs we have ever seen. Shiny metal, stainless and copper, was everywhere. The main level housed the brewery, bar and main dining area. The copper clad brew kit sat in front of high church windows that dominated the room. A balcony level overlooks all the action below. Merideth’s favorite feature were the tapestries on the underside of the balcony, most likely there as a sound dampener.

All bright and shiny...

On a recommendation of a friend, I began with Koyt, which turned out to be a Gruit. Not a huge Gruit-head, I could at least appreciate it as a well-crafted brew. Merideth began with the Gerstebier, a 4% ABV Blonde. Once I finished the Gruit, I returned to a beer I had the previous evening at Arendsnest, Jopen Hoppen. Their flagship brew, I just liked saying the name… Yo-pin Ho-pin. With a  light body and a nice hop bite, the Hoppen packs a punch at 6.8% ABV.

I hope there is beer in those...

Counting Jopen on the List was critical in achieving our goal of reaching 600 breweries by the end of the year. At this point of the trip with only a few breweries left on our target list, we had very little wiggle room. But there was one problem. The Jopen brewpub was brand new, being only open for a month. Until the in-house brewery was operational, the Jopen brews were still being brewed under contract. To count on the List, we need to try beer brewed on premise; even if it was just a sample out of the fermenter.

Late in our stay, we were joined by one of the brewers, Roel Wagemans. We unfortunately learned that they were still working out the kinks in the brewery and that the first batch was still still a week or two away. We’ll just have to make another trip to Haarlem on our next visit to Amsterdam.

[As a complete aside, Roel spent four years in Australia so he spoke English with an Aussie accent. An Aussie accent on a Aussie is strange enough… I kept having to shake my head to make sure I wasn’t having flashbacks from last December…]

Ferdinand had one more stop for us in Haarlem. We stopped at his friend’s, Atze and Willemijn, flat for dinner and  a few beers. The home-cooked meal and the hospitality were greatly appreciated. But I think we were a little preoccupied by thoughts of getting to Brussels the following day.

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