Friesland, a province in the north of the Netherlands next to Groningen. A province with a proud history, culture and even their own official language. A province known mostly for dairy products and speedskaters.
Their most famous alcoholic beverage is a drink called Beerenburg, a type of spiced jenever/gin that has been around since the mid 1800’s.
Beer? Not so much. There are a handful of breweries in the province and a couple of above average beer café’s but it won’t attract any outside tourists who come for just the beer culture. Simply because there really isn’t one yet. Nearby city Groningen has done a lot better with it’s high number of breweries and bars. But this is also a bigger city with a large student population.
The most known Frisian brewery these days is Grutte Pier, named after a folk hero. Even though they do not have their own brewing installation they were one of the first local breweries and ran into some luck when they immediately won an award for their tripel beer. You can find this, and often another one too, on many a menu in Leeuwarden. The very old brewery Us Heit, once featured in Michael Jackson’s Beer Hunter show on television, is still around though but not very visible. We did visit Het Brouwdok in Harlingen, but more about that in a later post.
But that doesn’t mean it is a barren wasteland not worth a visit at all. The capital Leeuwarden has a few places though that merit taking the train over for a day. It is not the biggest city in the country and all the places I am describing here are all within the limits of the old city.
Let’s start with buying beer in a shop while it is still early. Jelle’s has a brilliant collection of beer from both Friesland to all over the world. So bring a suitcase for all the wonderful stuff that you will have trouble finding anywhere else in the country. It is not a beer shop alone but has a beer selection bigger than most smaller beer stores.
If you want to have a choice out of all the wonderful but standard Belgian beers walk over to the Dikke Van Dale. This café is worth a visit for the atmosphere alone. Huge high ceilings and ‘fake’ books on the walls. The Van Dale is the Dutch dictionary, hence the books. If you like to rummage through an entire book of (mostly) Belgian beers than this is definitely the place for you. The list is simply amazing, though it doesn’t feel like an actual beer café. It is more of a restaurant where you can have a very nice lunch or piece of cake.
We happened to wander into Café Spoek on our way back to the hotel and were surprised by the nice atmosphere. Lot of music memorabilia around and what appeared to be local clientele. Their beer list is more than interesting too. It seems they have opted for a just a few breweries but they then do have everything that brewery has produced. So a lot beers from for example De Scheldebrouwerij. Great to find their Oysterstout just after I wanted one after dinner. A day later Gerard from Het Brouwdok in Harlingen told us that he also liked coming here and I can see why. Maybe not the best beerhunting place but a nice bar to hang out for a few hours.
If you do like beer hunting then De Markies is the bar for you. Awesome selection, beautiful bar and very knowledgeable staff. This is always an extra in a bar. Lot of taps too with mostly interesting stuff from local breweries, Dutch breweries and international beers. The bottle selection is impressive as well. Some great sours, stouts and other fancy beer stuff. They do tastings for a group, including a interesting talk if you are interested in that. Best thing is that you can get a tasting board of 4 glasses from the taps. I have wanted to visit this place for a while now and I was not disappointed.
If you are visiting Holland and want to make a beer trip out of it then maybe Leeuwarden isn’t the right place to go compared to other cities. If you are here for a bit longer than you should definitely come over.