Drinking in Amsterdam – steeped in tradition

When you visit Amsterdam you should visit a Dutch pub, or a kroeg as the locals call it. Sample some of the locally brewed beer or give jenever a shot. Marco Polo takes a look at the Amsterdam drinking traditions.

Amsterdam by Tim Kelly

Picture credit: Tim Kelly, used with permission

Safety first

In medieval times, the Count of Holland decided to boost the fledgling city’s coffers. In 1323, he designated Amsterdam one of only two ports in his province allowed to import beer from Hamburg, the most important ale-producing town in northern Europe. At that time, beer was far safer to drink than water.

The Heineken Story

Heineken­ started­ brewing­ lager­ in­ Amsterdam ­in ­1864, ­and ­is ­now ­one ­of­ the ­largest ­brewery companies ­in­ the­ world,­ selling ­beer­ in ­170 ­countries.­ The­ firm ­attributes ­much­ of­ its ­success to the ­cultivation ­of ­the­ Heineken­ A-Yeast ­in ­1886: ­every ­month­ the ­yeast ­cell ­is ­still ­flown out ­from its ­main­ brewery ­near ­Amsterdam ­to ­its ­100 ­breweries ­abroad. ­Though ­its ­Amsterdam­ brewery stopped production in 1988 and is now a tourist attraction, Heineken’s­ presence­ in­ the city ­is still­ unavoidable.­ The ­famous ­De­ L’Europe­ hotel ­is ­home­ to ­Freddy’s ­Bar, ­named ­after Freddy Heineken.­ The­ Heineken­ empire­ also­ includes­ a­ number of other brands such as Amstel­ and Murphy’s ­Irish ­Stout.

For Good Measure

Beer­ is ­usually ­served ­in ­a ­25cl­ flower pot-shaped ­glass,­ and­ will­ be­ presented­ with ­a ­two- finger thick­ head.­ The­ bartender­ usually­ makes­ a­ point ­of ­skimming ­off ­the ­extra­ froth ­with­ a plastic spatula.­ In­ brown cafés, you usually need to order at the bar, and can either pay on the spot, or, if you’re staying­ for ­a ­few,­ ask ­for ­a ­tab.

Dutch Spirit

Gin – ­known­ locally­ as ­jenever, ­the ­Dutch ­word ­for ­juniper –­ originated in the Netherlands in the 17th century before being exported to­ England.­ It­ is­ still­ produced­ in­ distilleries around the country that date­ back ­from ­this ­time ­and ­can­ be sampled in a number of traditional tasting houses. ­At ­the­ House ­of ­Bols ­(Paulus­ Potterstraat­ 14, ­tel:­020­5­70­85­75, ­www.house­ofbols.com,­ Sun-Thu­ noon–6:30,­ Fri­ noon–10,­ Sat­ noon–8)­ visitors­ can learn about the history and traditions of both the company and the­ spirit.


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