As the Navigator and I prepare for what will likely be our last summer in Europe we are frantically compiling a list of places we have yet to visit. Therefore on Easter Monday we found ourselves hurtling down the autobahn toward Amsterdam. The impetus for the trip was not beer, but tulips? Yes, you read it correctly, tulips. No this isn’t some new millennial slang term for a sour beer but rather one of the Navigators bucket list items. Like any good beer obsessed spouse, I did a little research before embarking the tulip express, identifying an actual brick and mortar homebrew shop along with a couple of breweries. All’s fair in love and beer.
My tens of followers may not be aware, but Easter Monday is a holiday across many parts of Europe. As we hurtled through parts of Belgium into the Netherlands, we encountered not less than 15000 motorhomes and tag-along camper trailers on the highway. (I may be exaggerating). Approaching the southern suburbs of Amsterdam, the temperature continued to rise, approaching 80 degrees Fahrenheit by late afternoon. I selected accommodations strategically located in the North Sea waterfront area of Zandvoort, driving distance to both the world famous Keukenhof Gardens and a couple of breweries. Approaching Zandvoort it became painfully obvious that the warm weather combined with the holiday sent the entire Dutch population to the beach. One hour and 5 kilometers later we arrived at our hotel
After schlepping our luggage to our room and spending 30 minutes trying to lock our hotel room door the Navigator and I were in dire need of sustenance. Wanting the full Dutch culinary experience, we opted for the first restaurant we encountered, an Italian café. Not surprisingly the café offered two beers on tap, Heineken and Heineken. With sparks flying from our cutlery we wolfed down our meal before taking a short five-mile stroll along the beach. Admiring the sunset on the North Sea I dreamed of homebrew shops and breweries.
The following morning we are awakened by the melodic shrieks of seagulls before we struck off for the day’s adventures, Keukenhof Gardens, a wool shop in downtown Amsterdam, followed by dinner at Jopen Brewery. Unfortunately only two of these things would happen. As soon as we arrived at Keukenhof I had an epiphany. At least 13182 of some 15000 campers we encountered during our previous day’s drive were parked in the parking area. Camper mystery solved. Despite the plethora of campers the first 90 minutes of our visit were quite pleasant as we strolled comfortably around the world’s largest flower garden. Suddenly, swarms of camper driving tourists surrounded us as they jockeyed for the perfect selfie. By noon we had our fill of both tulips and tourists, striking off for the wool shop in downtown Amsterdam. One down, two to go.
Entering the heart of Amsterdam, I’m amazed by the size of the streets. While narrow streets are perfect for the thousands of bicycles, not so much for a big American SUV. The city is busy with bicycles, mopeds and tourists scurrying back and forth. The smell of marijuana hangs in the air. I would smoke marijuana too if I had to live in this madness. Color me unimpressed. A mere 90 minutes later the navigator exits the wool shop with not less than 10 lbs. of yarn and assorted yarning books. Next stop brewery!
Jopenkerk (Jopen Church) opened in 2010. Jopen is some of the best Dutch craft beer I have had. I quickly put their address in Garmin bitch. My heart races as I rapidly push the accelerator of my big American SUV. Thirty minutes later I find myself in a suburb in the middle of a construction detour. 20 minutes later I utter a few expletives, deciding to cut my losses on the narrow streets. The brewery would wait for another time. I punch in the address for our hotel. Or so I thought. Thirty minutes later I found myself back where we started, in downtown Amsterdam. This has turned into a trip from hell. Two and half hours after leaving Amsterdam the first time we arrive at our hotel. Still no beer.
Our final morning in the Netherlands a sense of urgency falls over me. Today I’m finding beer. Brouwmaatje is a Dutch homebrew shop a stone’s throw from Schiphol Airport. We enter the shop shortly after their 0900 opening time and are immediately greeted by Whiskey and Guinness, the shop owners two cats. Despite the shops modest size, it contains everything a homebrewer could need and probably a few things they don’t. As John the owner boxed up my rather large homebrew supply purchase, he mentioned a new brewery some 4 kilometers away. John hurriedly walks back to his office returning with the brewery’s address and a bottle of homebrew from his homebrew club. John is good people.
|Brourij De 7 Deugden|
Six minutes and 4 kilometers later we arrive at Brourij De 7 Deugden. Brourij De 7 Deugden was created in 2010 and has occupied its current space for just over a year. Entering the brewery, we are greeted by one of the owners, Mrs. Haakma. She eagerly shows around the facility explaining the new Czech produced brewing system occupying their new brewhouse. In their smallish tasting room lined with shelves of Brourij De 7 Deugden bottles Mrs. Haakma suggests I sample their spring seasonal dubbed Spring Tijm. A Pale Ale with just a hint of thyme its surprisingly good.
As I sipped my beer Mr. Haakma walked in, offering additional background on his brewery and his choice of beer styles. “Why would I brew an IPA? How would I make my IPA standout from the hundreds of others?” He makes a valid point which is driven home by his beer which include ingredients like thyme, cloves and others. In addition to their beer styles their employees make Brourij De 7 Deugden truly special. As stated on the brewery’s website “We employ for whom a normal job is not self-evident”. Brourij De 7 Deugdens brew-master is deaf. The gentleman operating the bottling line has cerebral palsy. Mr. Haakma explained to us “We work until our employees need to go home, whether its 2 hours or 6 hours we stop bottling and begin anew the next morning.” What a rarity in the age of the almighty dollar/euro. A business where the employees truly come first.
Despite the somewhat bumpy start to my Amsterdam visit my time at both the homebrew shop and brewery reinforced the common belief that beer brings people together. A genuine “Dutch Treat”.
Until next time,