14 September 2009

Taking care of business

It was a busy three days in Amsterdam. We arrived on Tuesday to glorious sunshine and, not used to such things, immediately scurried for the shade of 't Arendsnest. Among the beers we kicked off with was SNAB Pale Ale, a deliciously sherbety faux-American number. There's a light touch on the hops, but just enough to convey peaches and mild grapefruit to the drinker. Mrs Beer Nut's pale ale was Wiegeleir, a cloudy amber beer flavoured with apriccots. I didn't really latch on to the fruit in this, spotting orange blossom and bubblegum instead, with the whole overlaid with sharp and bitter yeast tones and a whiff of bleachiness. It's a complex beer but not always in the right directions.

Barry showed up on Wednesday and we planned the afternoon by the canal in Haven van Texel over the Texelse Dubbel. A light and fruity take on the Belgian dark ale standard, with almost a bit of citrus zest thrown in. No plums, figs or similarly heavy fruit, but a surprising amount of fruity banana esters. It's a lunchtime sort of dubbel.

At De Bekeerde Suster, my companions both went for the uninspiring house beers, but mine was a Deugniet tripel. Despite bottle conditioning it pours a very clear blonde with an aroma of fresh, juicy melons and succulent peaches. The flavour adds spicy orange notes to this, turning a little bit harsh at the end. Deugniet loses its charm as it warms, picking up cloying orange flavours like vitamin C tablets, but it's great beer right up until then. From there we headed to Gollem for a light pre-prandial. My wife chose Witkap Stimulo, a very pale cloudy beer with just a bit of lemon and a hint of herbs, but otherwise quite dull. Meanwhile, I was back with the safe bet of John Martin's Pale Ale.

With dinner put away, it was time for the main event. Amsterdam's newest specialty beer bar was packed. Elbowing my way to the bar I met Ron who was similarly engaged. With an armful of drinks each we made our way out to the yard.

Beer Temple specialises in American craft beer and the chief draw, I think, will be the presence of draught beer from Anchor, Left Hand, Great Divide and Flying Dog. I only got a chance to glance at the bottled menu, but it looked very impressive, with Southern Tier among the additions. Beer Temple provides a new focus for the beer tourist in Amsterdam and underlines the wonderful internationalism in the city's beer merchants, a feature which places Amsterdam above Brussels in my evaluation of European beer cities.

Among the samples we, er, sampled there was Left Hand's Blackjack Porter, a super-chocolatey treacle-thick black beer which, while very sweet, is filling and satisfying rather than cloying. Among the handful of non-Americans at the taps, there's a house beer commissioned locally for the bar. Tempel Bier is a blond ale with wonderful American hop flavours of the mild variety, imparting peaches, manadarins and bubblegum.

After a good old natter with 'Neen and a brief chat with Beer Temple proprietor Peter, and with regret that I couldn't find Rick who had suggested the whole thing in the first place, Barry, Ron, me and herself set off for In de Wildeman.

Order of the day here was a driedoppelrauchbock, weighing in at 9.4% ABV and going, naturally, under the name Affumicator. The nose is typically rauchbier-esque: smoky bacon and iodine to the fore; a shock followed by pleasing anticipation. It tastes as sweet as you might expect from a big doppelbock and is similarly sticky, but this is infused thoroughly with those big hammy rauchbier flavours and a bitter kick right at the end. I sat and sipped this for a while, enjoying every mouthful.

Among the other beers tried from Wildeman's massive selection, there was Mug, a spicy pale gold bitter with hops on the nose and a very Chouffe-ish peppery fruit character. Barry moved to Oesterstout, an imperial from Amsterdam's Scheldebrouwerij. I wasn't a fan: too much artificial candy flavour for my liking, like fake chocolate, with unpleasant fruity overtones. We called it a night soon after.

To kill the time next morning before the pubs opened, Barry and I went for The Heineken Experience. I was pleased to see that the picobrewery in the main hall (mentioned by Ron here) is still going, though he was too busy chatting up the American girls to tell us anything about his beer, and it wasn't on sale in the gift shop. The most interesting experience in the Experience happened at the tutored tasting, a slow and measured analysis of the lager. The sample we were given was not Heineken -- or if it was, it was Heineken with an extra complex dose of bitter and fruity hops. It was really quite tasty, but that was the last we saw of it: in the tasting bar at the end we were back to plain, dull, thin, tasteless Heineken. So at least they know how unpalateable their beers are.

Staying with Big Daddy H, our meanderings took us next to a crappy English theme bar where, out of sheer novelty value, I went for Murphy's Red. I assume this is brewed in the Netherlands as it hasn't been seen on these shores for many a year. The beer is a pale copper colour and watery as all hell, with just a sugary background and a nasty cardboard aftertaste.

And then it was lunchtime. Our restaurant gave particular promenance to 't IJ's beers and I took the opportunity to try Natte, the dubbel, having been denied it last time I was in the Netherlands. It's quite a beautiful beer: sharp and yeasty with that characteristic IJ brett flavour, but light enough to be easy-drinking and lip-smacking.

The weekend was drawing to a close and we finished where we came in, holed up in 't Arendsnest. Barry went for SNAB's Otter SB, a chewy, malt-driven pale beer which I found a bit stale overall. Mrs Beer Nut picked the La Trappe Bockbier. It's quite understated -- a bit of the expected caramel and toffee, with a very mild undercurrent of violet and lavender. After Barry departed for his train our last drinks were De Friese's Speltbier which is interestingly dry and grassy, while being spicy and herbal at the same time. The herb prize, however, goes to the hopless Jopen Koyt. It's a murky shade of fawn with mild spice on the nose but with lots of fascinating herb and spice flavours. I can't think of a better descriptor for it than "medieval" and reckon it would go great from a clay mug.

We were only in Amsterdam for a bit over two days, but as usual we crammed a lot into it. Too much for this post, in fact. More Dutch beer stuff coming up...

7 comments:

  1. We're lucky we didn't get into those Heineken body-snatcher chambers, or we'd still be thinking H is a tasty drop! :D Still, that sampler was remarkably hoptastic, whatever it was.

    Thanks for the guidance to the streets of Amsterdam! :)

    Would have loved to try the Koyt!

    ReplyDelete
  2. If I'd spotted the Koyt earlier I'd have pointed it out as I know it's one of your hobby-horses.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Bloody Tan6:28 p.m.

    Great post and fantastic material for Mrs and Mrs Tantster's next visit - if only I can weed her away from her usual destinations !

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ha ha! Whatever do you mean..?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was very envious reading this post; I'm sure you enjoyed your visit. I also particularly liked SNAB Pale ale; thought it was a cracker! I will definitely be visiting the Beer Temple in the future, hopefully in early 2010!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Having a bar where you can go and drink the beers you couldn't carry out of Bierkoning will be very convenient.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Beer Temple sounds cool, just different enough to stand out? I like the idea of a US-centric bar, though.

    ReplyDelete