I wasn’t very discerning when it came to beer before I moved to Europe. I didn’t tend to venture very far from the familiarity of typical mass-produced lagers, occasionally going as far as a Pale Ale or IPA, and very rarely a wheat beer or a beer coloured anything but gold.
Europe has opened up a whole new world for me. Germans know their beer, and they have laws to enforce a minimum level of quality (by regulating the ingredients: water, barley and hops, and later also wheat. That’s it). I began to really enjoy drinking Hefeweizen (wheat beer), it was light and refreshing, a good balance against the heavy German meals of meat, meat and meat.
Now in the Netherlands and I feel like I’m perfectly located. I’m smack dab in the middle of rich history of Dutch breweries, with the Heineken brewery a stone’s throw from my house, and the Amstel river not much further than that. I’m just across the border from Belgium and all the Trappist-brewed goodness it possesses. Just about anywhere I look there are beers of every shade of brown and red, and it’s wonderful.
One of my favourite things about Amsterdam is the beer from Brouwerij ‘t-IJ. The ostrich-logo’d brewery is tucked beneath an old Dutch windmill, and serves up some of the most delicious amber liquid I’ve had the chance to taste. I’ve visited a few times now, and my indecision about what to order is always solved by the beer flight. Five of the most popular beers arranged on a wooden platter. Perfect with the cheese and salami that the brewery offers as culinary fare. If I had to pick a favourite, it would be the dubbel-style Natte, but you can’t go wrong with anything in this place.