First and last stop of my trip was Amsterdam, it being the place I'm most familiar with. The first number of days there are mainly accompanied by bottles from the supermarkets - your local Albert Heijn has the Westmalle range, Duvel-Moortgat range and some Van Steenberg beers for less than €2 each, with bigger stores having a drastically wider selection. As such, as an Irish man used to Irish prices, supermarkets have been my first beer stops on my last three Amsterdam trips. The other point of this post is to get rid of some notes before I sift through the other stuff. More notes from Amsterdam, Brussels and Munich will posted up in between other material.
A must of any Amsterdam trip is my customary flower market pancake, accompanied by Wieckse Witte. This Heineken brand is one that first got me interested in beer, back on my first visit, so I thought it deserved a proper evaluation. It's been a few years since my last one, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's actually a pretty good wit. While it's overtly Belgian in style, I can't help but pull some suggestions of Bavaria from the taste. Citrus fruits, coriander, banana and clove, it's endlessly drinkable thanks to its very light body, but it still has plenty of flavour.
Finally, in between bottles of La Chouffe I found a nice surprise - Murphy's Irish Red. "A Taste of Ireland" it says, or something like that. This despite the fact that it appears to have lived every stage of it's life cycle in the Netherlands. Nonetheless, I had to try it. It pours red alright, with a very short lived head. To be fair, the aroma isn't half bad, if you like sugary caramalt. The taste is the same, with just a tiny bitter bite to fight back the wall of sweet and slightly roasty flavours that are the backbone of this beer. Still though, absolutely no off flavours.
I'll take that as a success.
I first heard about the Brouwerij 't IJ four years ago, but it's not until now that I've finally gone. My Amsterdam resident uncle tells me it's not licensed as a bar, but as a tasting room, and as such adheres to strange Wednesday to Sunday 2pm-8pm opening times. Bear that in mind before you plan a trip, lest you find yourself looking longingly at a non beer dispensing windmill on the outskirts of the city centre.
In the bottle shop, I went for one of their more descriptively named beers, 't IJ IPA. The aroma is punchy enough and has suggestions of the presence of Citra, with pine and grass laying a base for more earthy and dank notes. The taste doesn't spend too much time on the hops though, with a rather potent spicy warmth overwhelming any refreshing characteristics this beer should have had. I was looking for a strong (7%) IPA, what I got was a strange hybrid of Tripel and Pale Ale, with none of the best parts of either styles.
We were (read: I was) only in it for a swift few, so first on the agenda at the actual brewery tasting room was their seasonal Zomerblond. Right away, we're onto a winner. Light but with loads of flavour, it tastes like a punchier, hoppier Irish pale ale á la Howling Gale. Plenty of refreshing bitterness, but balanced to perfection for endless drinkability.
Moving up a notch to Zatte, I found the nose to be a weird precursor to an even weirder taste. Syrupy pineapple, pear and banana on the nose, replicated on the palate but with the addition of an almost cloying sweetness. For me, this one's a miss.
Returning to something a little more drinkable seemd like the sensible option, and so I opted for their Plzeň. I was rewarded with a gorgeous lager with a decent bit of bitterness to offset it's biscuity backbone. Again, this could be had by the bucketload.
Get the number 10 tram from Leidseplein out and back, it's well worth the trip.