Our next stop was Amsterdam. I’m not nearly as familiar with Dutch beer as I am with Belgian beer, so I was very excited about encountering a beer culture with a history of brewing great, traditional styles, but which also seems to be embracing much of the interesting, creative stuff at the forefront of the craft beer boom.
Our hotel happened to be 4 doors down from one of the more respected beer bars in town, Bierproeflokaal In de Wildeman. It was an obvious first stop.
“Proeflokaal” means “tasting room”. In de Wildeman, despite being right in the middle of the bustling nightlife scene in the heart of Amsterdam, seemed very much a locals place. When we walked in on a Monday night, there was a smallish, older crowd tucked into the small table areas, and a couple of people standing at the low bar. It sounds funny, but that’s how it works – the bar is low, maybe waist-high, with no bar stools or seats, so people stand there and hang out.
I didn’t know what to target here, and their wide selection (with a chalkboard listing ~25 seasonals and rarities) gave me a ton from which to choose. I finally opted for a 2009 Kasteel Cuvee de Chateau on draft, a dark Belgian ale with a thick creamy head and nice boozy kick.
For my next beer, I asked the bartender for suggestions, and he pointed out the Flying Dog 25th Anniversary Farmhouse IPA. At first I worried that it might be a different name for the Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA, which is a very good beer but which was also readily available in Houston. But the bartender assured me that it was a beer that Flying Dog brewed specifically for the bar’s anniversary. That certainly made it worthy, and I’m glad I drank it. It was the only saison-style beer that I had on the trip, and also the only hoppy IPA that I drank, making it a very nice, refreshing departure, with the added bonus that it was a well-done, interesting blend of the two styles.
With Mrs. Beernerds still working on her sweet lambic, I ordered a third beer: De Ranke XX Bitter. I had heard good things about it, and I very nearly ordered it at Chez Moeder Lambic in Brussels, before the waiter recommended a different offering from the same brewery, the Noir de Dottignies. It made sense here, as a follow-up to a hoppy saison, and it held up very nicely. It seemed like an interesting mix between a classic English ESB and a hoppy American pale ale, with just a touch of Belgian yeast to round it out.
It was the third and final De Ranke beer that I drank on the trip, and I must say that the brewery really impressed me. We don’t get their stuff in Texas, and I’m not sure we get it in the US, but it’s well worth seeking out.