It is October and that means German beer festivals. Half liter glasses of helles paired pretzels and sausage, you know what I mean. Sometimes in lederhosen and dirndls. It is more for the excitement of the event than the actual beer. Too bad, because German beer deserves more praise than just the fuel for drinking parties.
Luckily I am not the only one who believes this. Lately we have been seeing more German beer have appeared on beermenus all over Amsterdam.
German beer has some advantages. Advantages for both bar and consumer. German beer will never be very high in percentage so you can consume more of it, and the bar can sell more of it. Another advantage is that because of very low taxes on beer in Germany, it is very cheap, even when imported. For some a low price means that it is not very good. But for the well informed drinker this means more good beer that is you don’t have to pay too much for. And making a good pilsner is not easy, you can’t cover up a mistake with some extra hops.
It makes it the perfect antidote to all the Orange Maple Frappacino Blueberry Sour Russian Stouts and New England IPA’s that have been gaining ground in recent years.
The Third Wave
The rise of German beer is not new. It started 700 years ago when German hopped beer from came to these shores and completely changed the course of Dutch history. It made Amsterdam from a small town into a world leading metropole just two centuries later.
The second wave hit in the 19th century when thanks to the trains Bavarian style beers came to these shores. Better cooling equipment meant it was possible to recreate the exact same circumstances here as in Bavaria for the brewing of these refreshing beers. When mister Heineken noticed everyone liked golden bottom fermenting beers instead of his darker top fermenting ales, he switched to brewing the style Heineken is now famous for.
And even though we love our IPA’s and sours, Heineken’s pilsners and similar ones from similar breweries still rule the world of beer. Specialty beer still makes up a fraction compares to pilsners.
But let’s focus our attention to Amsterdam, site of what could be the third wave of German beer in Holland
There are three places worth going to that are all conveniently close to the Noord-Zuid subway line. Later I will add some more places.
TAVERNO WILLI BECHER
Started by one of the founders of Oedipus but quite some ways from the plentiful hopped beers from them. This place serves mostly German beers. I was there when they held an Alt v. Kölsch festival outside for example. It has a very Berlin vibe to eat with simple outdoor seating in an otherwise nondescript plot of grass. Kölsch won by the way. With the cold months coming outdoor seating might not seem that enticing, but not to worry, the indoor seating is roomy as well. You can even dock your boat behind it.
The beers rotate so it is always worth coming back here for some Alt or Grätzer. And bring your non-German beer drinking friends too. For them there are other beers as well to enjoy. In just a year TWB has become a unique little city oasis across the IJ river in the north and well worth a visit.
IN DE WILDEMAN
This iconic bar holds a German beer festival every year. Manager Simon often vacations near Bamberg too and has become quite aware of what is going on there. When they started organizing 4 yearly events at In De Wildeman there was no doubt the German Beer Days would be one of them. Lately more and more German beers have been put on the menu. I for one now sometimes order a bottled German beer instead of a tapped beer. But there are usually one or two German beers on tap as well besides the ever present Jever pilsner. And like with all things here it is sold because of a love for German beer and not a commercial move to attract more people.
A slice of Berlin on the edge of the old city. Joris and his mother 14 years ago decided to start a bar and they made it look like a Berlin living room café that Joris went to often while living in Berlin.
During corona Brecht, like many other bars, decided to start a small beershop and deliver their beers all over the city. This became a huge success. Mostly because Brecht has a truly unique number of German beers. Every week they drive to Germany to pick up beer, usually in the Franconia area around Nürnberg and Bamberg. And directly from the source too. Small breweries that sell only to their local community and hardly ever across the borders of the town, let alone the country. But Joris can often get a couple of cases of beer for the bar, but also for other bars and shops in Amsterdam. In de Wildeman included. The direct contact with the brewers makes it worthwhile. Kegs however are hard to come by because of the limited amount of them, something they also need to keep in their own brewery and taphouses. But if you want a unique Helles or Zwickels make your way over to the Weteringeschans.
There are more interesting places to go to in Amsterdam and we might return to those at a later time. Oh, and when in Utrecht check out Boot122, another place with excellent German beers.