Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Market Research" - Beer & Honeymooning in Amsterdam

Being Dutch, or Dutch enough to love the Netherlands, we headed to Amsterdam in September of 2009 for our honeymoon. While we were there, we figured it would be responsible to do some research about comparative breweries oversees.

Our first beer-related stop in Amsterdam was the Bekeerde Zuster - translated as "twisted sister." One of Amsterdam's only breweries, tauting itself as a "steam brewery," brewpub sits just off Nieuwmarkt, one of the city's oldest market squares on the far side of the Red Light District. Though it has been active since 1614, it is called "New Market" because, it is indeed less old than other parts of the city.

Johnny loves seeing brewing equipment. It makes him very happy.

At the Bekeerde Zuster, now part of the Beiaard Group, which serves the beer at several cafes throughout the city, we sampled the Manke Monnik (a Trippel), and the Witte Ros. Pretty delicious. The Witte Ros (White Night) is a wit - almost too light even for me, but refreshing.

We walked by an apothecary, Jacob Hooy & Co, founded as you can see, in 1743. The barrels and drawers, still filled with mixes of herbs and teas and traditional candies, have been in use for more than a century.

Here we are at the Beiaard Cafe near the Spui, closer to the center of Amsterdam.

Next was the Rembrandt Corner Cafe, and yup, it's next door to Rembrandt House Museum, where it is a delight to see the actual north light through the same windows captured so often in his work. They don't make beer, but they have cool ceiling fans run on conveyor belts, so it was worth it.

Amsterdam has a couple of excellent beer stores with a selection of incredible beers from all over Europe. The Cracked Kettle, along with de BierKoning (Beer King) have hundreds of beers from dozens of countries and breweries, large and small. Being surrounded by hundreds of bottles is delightful. I remember being in the Cracked Kettle when I first moved to Amsterdam and being delighted that the owner was from the US - Massachusetts or Ohio, I think. He had a dream and damn if he's not living it. Opening a beer shop in Amsterdam, there are worse things.

The finale, and indeed the highlight of the trip, was Zeeland, the southwestern region of the Netherlands bordering Belgium. Zeeland, where my (Creek's) family goes back ten generations, has a rich history of ship building, bright textiles, intricate silver jewelry, and fierce defense to be ruled by no one but themselves. Clearly my people.

Even better, the rich brewing traditions of Belgium and the low country are thriving at de Mug Braai-Tapperij brewery. The Mug, which means "The Mosquito" - is pronounced "Moo" finished off with the patented throaty Dutch guttural sound. It's situated on a side street that leads like an artery to the central market square - which has been in continuous use for several hundred years - in Middelburg, a small and very relaxed city about three hours by train from Amsterdam and a bit less from from Brussels.

Being a people of sand, sea, salt, and water - the Mug played with theme: The Strandgaper (named for a clam) and Zeezuiper bother refer to sand and see as well as just being fun to say. And both are an otherworldly pleasure to drink.

The Selection of Beers at the Mug was pretty spectacular for such a small place. In addition to their own brews, they had a selection of brews from Belgium, Germany, and throughout Europe.

Things are kept simple. You can get blocks of cheese (young, or aged), and/or nuts and/or small pieces of cold sausage to go with your beers.

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