Tuesday, 28 July 2009

DAFTS Go Dutch

As we have done for several years now, Liz and I went for our summer break to Amsterdam recently and on this trip we were joined by DAFTSmiester, Steve Duffy, and his other half Cath.

A nice early start from London City - a great little no-nonsense airport and just ten minutes from home - meant we were on our houseboat in the east of Amsterdam shortly after midday. Steve and Cath weren't too far behind us and without losing too much time unpacking, we headed out to our first port of call.

The Ij brewery (or Brouwerij 't Ij to give it it's proper name) is basically a brewery with a tasting room (or Proeflokaal) attached - both housed within one of Amsterdam's few remaining windmills.

(left) Ij brewery

Liz and I have been coming here since the mid-1990s after first reading about it in Hugh Shipman's Serious Drinkers Guide to Amsterdam and it remains my favourite bar in Amsterdam.

It's such a simple set-up - just their range of beers plus wine (red or white house only), soft drinks and a few basic snacks - which all means there is minimal fuss and bother.

The brewery tap is extremely basic in decor although the bar has been extended in recent years and there is now an extensive outside terrace - for those that like such things - but we're content to sit indoors and enjoy a few beers, some pindas (peanuts) and the occasional hard-boiled egg.

The beers are fairly varied from the lighter, refreshing taste of the Pilzen and Ijwit at 5% each through to the heavier, sipping flavours of the Columbus and Struis, both hitting the scales at 9%.
(above) Steve and Cath enjoy the Pilzen

Although this bar is outside the immediate city centre, it has the advantage of keeping prices an euro or so cheaper than more central bars, especially for off-sales (12 bottles for 14 euros - a bargain!).

The opening hours are quite limited too - from 3pm to 8pm - but that serves to focus the mind so that you concentrate on the beers. If you can manage a five hour session here, you're doing very well.

Although we visit the Ij three times during our stay, we do find time to sneak in a couple of visits to another of Amsterdam's finest bars - the Arendsnest.

This is another bar we've been visiting for many years and we've seen it change from a good bar serving mainly Belgian brews to a great bar serving Dutch-only beers.

This latter manifestation took place under the guidance of Peter van der Arend who will be shortly opening Amsterdam's first American beer bar - should be interesting.
(right) Arendsnest

The Arendsnest can be found on the gentile banks of the Herengracht on the edge of the trendy and slightly bohemian Jordaan area - well away from the red-light area and those bars with pictures of Bob Marley (whatever that means!).

The bar has an impressive 30 beers on tap which along with a multitude of bottled beers means there is something for everyone here.

The third bar we frequented during our stay was the Engelbawarder - the Guardian Angel - an unassuming looking pub on the edge of the Red Light area but mercifully free of the usual stag-night numpties and dope tourists which dominate some nearby bars.

This place used to be a literary cafe about 30 years ago but now concentrates on beer and food.

What raises it above most other bars in the area for me is the draught Rodenbach - a beautiful sour red beer from Belgium. Very tart and surprisingly refreshing.
(left) Engelbawarder sign points to earlier orientation

There is an odd old bloke we keep seeing here - he always seems to sit in the same seat in the window each day, reading his papers and mumbling away incoherently to himself (or that could be just Dutch). Woe betide anyone sat in his seat.

He was here last year when we dropped in and he's here again on both of our visits this year.

I don't know whether that's a sad or wonderful life - depends on your point of view I suppose. I don't think I'd complain about visiting this place every day.

Steve loves the bars here and is now wanting to extend the DAFTS away guide to include Amsterdam and the rest of Europe. I'm not certain when Darlo will make it worth our while...

If you're considering a trip to Amsterdam, you can't do better than check out the Amsterdam Pub Guide produced by Ron Patterson. He'll keep you right.

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