It is always good to try the local bars when abroad. It is there you get the feel for a place, though if course it can be a matter of pot luck as to what you come across. Near our hotel in Amsterdam there were a couple of bars our group of ten met up at for a couple of pre-dinner drinks, having gone our own way during the day. Both were friendly and accommodating, rushing to make tables up so we could all sit together and generally being friendly and welcoming. But the beers were a bit shall we say, pedestrian? Nonetheless they gave a great impression of the city as being a place that you'll be treated well. That's just what you need when away.
Now one of the things that you really must do in Amsterdam is going for a "Rijsttafel" in an Indonesian restaurant. These restaurants are a relic of the Dutch colonial past, much as Indian restaurants are of ours.We chose one carefully and bloody good it was too. It was outside the inner city and thus less touristy. We walked back to our hotel, the night being lovely and of course fancied a beer on the way. We knew by now to avoid these at all costs, any Heineken sign boozers. The choice is pretty poor and the prices rather high for what you get. This meant a bit more walking, Heineken being everywhere. We eventually came
across a nice little boozer that was worryingly empty at around nine
thirty in the evening, but the the Gulpener sign assured us we'd find a beer or two that we'd like. Our host, a young laid back Dutchman, was happy to see us. He explained what beers he had available, insisting on us trying a taste of each before we made our choices. Perfect. In typical British fashion, us men sat outside drinking beer and watching the cyclists whizz by, while the ladies sat inside drinking wine. Our host kept us up to date, by helpfully advising us when the women ordered another round, knowing full well that we'd follow. This arrangement suited us very well. We left after three or four beers as the bar started to fill up. Great stuff and again the welcome and care was outstanding. Well done Café Cees.
We had though noticed another bar near the hotel. Again signed for Gulpener, it was tucked away behind the Concertgebouw. On our last night, we were eating in the area, so we called in for pre-dinner drinks. Our host here was of the more taciturn type, but us ten filled a round table and got on with things. On the wall was a poster advertising Van Vollenhoven's Stout. Sounded good and a squint at the price list showed it to be on sale. At the bar, we ordered two from our less than talkative barperson. He rummaged silently. He had none after all it turned out, but recommended a bokbier from the tap. Now it wasn't what we wanted, so I asked for a taste. After all he had recommended it. He answered in authoritative style. "No." One word, that's all. Hmm. Ah well, it might have been the best beer in the world, but bugger him, his recommendation and his lousy attitude, so we ordered Orval and carried on. I reflected we'd brought ten people, along for a drink and we all had two or three, so a taste wouldn't have hurt. In case you are wondering, it is Café Welling.
So what does all this prove? Well, when you have a choice, go where the welcome is warmest of course.
This advice of course is only good if you go to a place more than once, but I offer it up nonetheless. Would I advise you not to go to Café Welling? Actually no. It is a nice place with pleasant customers and seats outside. Just don't ask for a taste of the beer, or depend on affable chit-chat.
Annoyingly it is a Dutch habit to lose a bit of beer on pouring. They sort of pour a bit down the drain before applying the glass. That bit would have done me as a taster.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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