Beer drinking is a connoisseur’s pastime in Belgium and a team sport in Germany, and with The Netherlands squashed in between, Dutch beers are often overlooked. However, alongside the three giant multi-national brands, Heineken, Grolsch, and Bavaria, the country produces more than 30 boutique beers. Main varieties include pilsners; dark-brown dubbel beers and the strong, pale tripel; classic Dutch witbiers; and bok beers, which are brewed seasonally. Be warned – Dutch beers are generally higher in alcohol content than in other countries. Here are some of the best Dutch breweries to visit.
Heineken Experience, Amsterdam
As one of Amsterdam’s foremost visitor attractions, the Heineken Experience takes in a tour of the former brewery, showcasing the rise of the famous Dutch pilsner lager to world domination. Visitors get the chance to produce their own bottle label, see the Shire horses who once pulled the drays, and round off in the bar to sample the wares.
La Trappe, Tilburg
The only Trappist brewery (run by Cistercian monks) outside Belgium, La Trappe has been produced at De Koningshoeven near Tilburg since 1884. Nine beers are produced, all bottled, from blond to the fiercely strong quadrupel. A tour of the beautiful abbey culminates with sampling sessions of several beers and lunch on the pretty terrace.
Produced by a microbrewery in a stylishly appointed Haarlem church, the eight speciality Jopen beers were recreated in 1995 according to a 16th-century recipe; they are strong, hoppy, and spiced with coriander. Downstairs the hectic bar has a backdrop of great brass vats; upstairs a smart brasserie offers decent cuisine and a careful pairing of Jopen beer with the food.
Hour-long tours of this highly acclaimed brewery producing dark, heavy stouts are available only on Saturdays, but they include the chance to peek into the brewing and bottling cellars and the tasting of three beers. Visitors can also enjoy supper at the brewery (book in advance), where four courses are matched with four beers.