The definitive Amsterdam beer-bar bike crawl
To do Amsterdam right, you need to man up and rent a bike. Nobody said you had to do it sober, though* -- and if you didn’t think it was possible to crawl on a bicycle, that’s just because you haven’t taken this two-wheeled tour of Amsterdam’s best beer bars.
*Please please don't act like a total ass. Just because Lance Armstrong rides better when he's on stimulants, doesn't mean you will.
Stop #1: Bike rental
Bikes: Your basic bikes come w/ hand or pedal brakes. You can go nuts, and spring for the tandem (shotgun front seat!), cargo bike (shotgun the carry cart!), or electric bike.
Getting There: Leave CS by the SE exit (the one closest to platform 2b), turn left, and follow the building several feet until you see MacBike signs.
Prices: For basic bikes, €9.75 for 24hrs (€6 for each extra day, insurance €3/day).
First thing’s first... let’s pick up our ride. If this is your first time biking in Amsterdam, get a full walkthrough on how the beast operates (locks, lights, rules and regulations, how to recognize the bike paths, etc.). This is the most important thing you will do today. Next up, we’ll head out to the eastern edge of the city center...
Next Move: Cross the bridge in front of MacBikes and turn left at the squat medieval tower (the Schreierstoren). Bike east on the Prins Hendrikkade along the water for a bit over five minutes. Just after you pass a large, green, boat-shaped building on the water to your left (the NEMO science museum), turn right into the small canalside square Kadijksplein (look for the monumental arch). Take your first left onto the residential street Hoogte Kadijk. Follow this to the end and turn slightly to the left at the gas station. Then just look for the giant mother-effing windmill.
Stop #2: Brouwerij ‘t IJ
Beers: 20 beers (some seasonal), all homemade, with punny names.
Tour/Tasting: Tasting room open daily 2-8p; English tours given Fri, Sat, & Sun at 3p.
This is the city’s best brewery, and the center’s only old-school windmill. In the colder months, when the massive waterside terrace is no man’s land, you might not want to spend more than a beer or two in the tiny, bare-bones bar, which closes at 8p anyway. Not a problem – we’ve got places to go.
Next Move: Turn left out of the windmill terrace and cross the water. Turn right immediately onto the Mauritskade and bike along the water shortly (past the entrance to the Dapperstraat market) and take your second left (at the giant roundabout) onto the Linnaeusstraat, and stop two blocks later at the Biertuin.
Stop #3:De Biertuin
Beers: 13 on tap, plus 26 bottles.
Tasting: Tasting room & garden open Sun-Thu 11a-1a, and Fri & Sat until 3a.
Sure, its beer selection is not quite as comprehensive as many of our other stops, but “The Beer Garden” has earned its place in the hearts of hops-loving locals with a carefully curated menu, plentiful Dutch bar snacks (try the mixed fried snacks for a sampler), and a heated terrace. If you didn’t get enough IJ brews, try some more here; or kick it up a notch with an 8.5% Delirium Tremens from Belgium.
Next Move: Retrace your steps to the big roundabout on the water, and this time turn left. Turn right just after that to cross the bridge, and immediately turn left onto the Sarphatistraat. Continue straight for about 10 minutes, until you cross the top of another giant roundabout, called Weteringcircuit. (Ignore the lure of the Heineken Experience across the water -- you’re better than that.) Once you cross the Vijzelgracht (top of the roundabout), you’ll see Café Brecht on the corner on your right.
Stop #4:Café Brecht
Beers: A handful of mostly German beers on tap, and dozens more by the bottle.
Tasting: Open daily noon-1a.
This “Berlin living room” bar is a kitsch-loaded time capsule of a German grandmother’s sitting room from the ‘60s – in a good way. Naturally, the spot focuses on Teutonic barley pops – including a few so thickly smoky that you’ll swear you’re literally drinking bacon. But if you need a break from beer about now (ha!), Brecht goes full Deutschland with a decent wine list and nostalgic fizzy drinks like Club-Mate and fritz-cola.
Next Move: Turn right out of Café Brecht, take your second right onto the Spiegelgracht, cross the bridge, and immediately turn left onto the Lijnbaansgracht. There will quickly be a fork; take the right branch (Korte Leidsedwarsstraat) and look for Café De Spuyt on your left.
Stop #5:Café De Spuyt
Beers: More than 100 Dutch and Belgian beers.
Tasting: Open daily 4p-3a, and Sat & Sun until 4a.
It doesn’t look like much (there’s a vaguely studenty vibe), but this place’s got over 100 brews waiting for you. Now would be a good time to check out more Amsterdam-made numbers with something by newcomers Butcher’s Tears or Brouwerij de 7 Deugden (that’s “7 Virtues”, because they support your drinking habit). If you’re looking for a more novel way to imbibe, order the Flemish beer soup. No, that's not a typo. Beer soup.
Next Move: Turn left out of Café De Spuyt and continue until the street opens onto busy Leidseplein square (it’s a good idea to walk your bikes through this part if it’s rammed). Turn left and exit via the bottom of the square, crossing the water and turning right at the far side (onto the multi-lane Stadhouderskade/Nassaukade). Turn left onto the Overtoom when that big street rears up on the left a moment later. Continue for a few blocks and watch out for the barrel-decorated Gollem terrace on your right.
Stop #6:Gollem’s Proeflokaal
Beers: All Belgian, 10 on tap, 60 by the bottle (200 bottles in original location).
Tasting: Open Mon-Thu 1p-1a, Fri & Sat noon-3a, Sun noon-1a.
OK, this isn’t the original location of the 40yr-old forefather of Amsterdam beer bars (that’s tucked down a tiny alley near our next stop), but this is the location that has room to sit and a food menu. We’re at the halfway point of our crawl, so now would be a good time to fuel up and line the belly keg with some beer-soaked cheese fondue.
Next Move: Work your way back up the Overtoom the way you came and toward Leidseplein. This time, though, turn left onto the Marnixstraat before you get into the square (just after the American Hotel). Go one block and cross the bridge, and turn right onto the Leidsegracht on the far side. When this street dead-ends in a few blocks, turn left on the Herengracht. Turn right to cross the first bridge you come to, continue on the Wijde Heisteeg for one block, cross another bridge, and turn right on the Singel. Go one block and turn left at the tram tracks. Your next bar is the one with the big glass room of people staring at you now. (BTW, If you’re tired of biking, the rest of this route is easily walkable.)
Stop #7:De Brabantse Aap
Beers: 10 on tap, close to 50 bottles, mostly Belgian.
Tasting: Open daily 11a-1a, Fri & Sat until 2a.
Part of De Beiaard empire of beer cafes, the roomy interior and tiny terrace are popular with locals, despite the slew of competition on this square (the Spui, pronounced kinda like “spouw”). That’s because their Belgian beer menu deserves mucho respect, and their atrium is about as close to terrace sitting as you can get on a crappy Amsterdam day.
Next Move: Cross the square and take the farther street to the left, where the trams are going (the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, aka the street Deuce Bigalow couldn’t say). The BeerTemple will be on your left in a couple of blocks.
Stop #8: BeerTemple
Beers: 30 on tap, more than 60 by bottle, many American.
Tour/Tasting: Open daily 2pm-1a, Fri & Sat until 3a.
Amsterdam’s first American-oriented beer bar has arrived, so expect plenty of freedom-land favorites like Flying Dog and Dark Horse in this sleek, black drinking den -- noteworthy non-American quenchers include Scotland’s BrewDog and Denmark’s Mikkeller.
Next Move: Turn left out of the BeerTemple. Once you pass behind the palace, turn left onto the alley next to the Magna Plaza shopping mall. Cross the really wide bridge with the terraces and statue, go another block, cross another bridge, and then turn right onto the far side of the Herengracht canal. You’ll find Arendsnest at the end of the block on the left.
Stop #9:Proeflokaal Arendsnest
Beers: 30 on tap, 100s by the bottle, all Dutch.
Tasting: Open daily 2p-midnight, Fri & Sat until 2a.
The “Eagle’s Nest Tasting Room” (the BeerTemple’s older beer-bar brother) takes a firm stance on its menu: “if it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much” – and it ain’t getting served here. There are more than 50 Netherlandish breweries repped. Yes, there’s juice from all the local city beer-makers here, but also Koningshoeven’s La Trappe -- one of only eight Trappist beers in the world, and the only one in the Netherlands. If you’ve been sitting the last few rounds out, though, you might want to play quick catch-up with something from the long jenever menu.
Next Move: Turn left out of Arendsnest and go to the corner, where you’ll turn right on Blauwburgwal. Go straight for a few blocks, then turn left to get back on the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal. In a block you’ll see a small, busy square on your right (the Nieuwezijds Kolk). Park the bikes and press toward the alley straight ahead on the right side to find In de Wildeman.
Stop #10:Bierproeflokaal In de Wildeman
Beers: 20 beers on tap, and 200 by the bottle.
Tasting: Open every day except Sunday noon-1a, Fri & Sat until 2a.
On the corner of the bumping open-air food court that is the Nieuwezijds Kolk, this beer Mecca is housed in a former distillery. The lights might be bright, and a lack of music makes the experience seriously beer-focused, but homey tables and a steady stock of locals ensure gezelligheid (“xghe-ZEL-lixgh-hide”... really get up the spit on those Gs) – the sort of cozy sociability that kicks in when you’re about this tipsy.
Try the Jopen beer, if you haven’t yet – from nearby Haarlem, it’s a strong contender for best Dutch beer. (Actually, if you’re heading to Haarlem at any point to gawk at the olde city or sniff the sea, grab a meal at Jopen’s panty-dropping “beer church”.)
Next Move: You will need to walk your bikes for at least the beginning of this short trip. Turning right out of In de Wildeman, walk straight through the alleys and across several streets. You’ll pass a dead-end canal on your left where tour boats are parked. Continue straight until you hit water again, a canal directly in front of you (the Oudezijds Voorburgwal). Without crossing, turn left. Tie up your bike somewhere here (where it won’t fall in the water). You’ll see De Prael brewery and store along this block, but to reach the tasting room you’ll need to turn left down the narrow alley across from the next bridge.
Stop #11:Proeflokaal De Prael
Beers: A regularly changing range of home-brewed varieties.
Tour/Tasting: Tours given every day except Monday; ask in advance for English. Tasting room open Tue-Sat noon-midnight, Sun closes at 11p.
It’s a good thing De Prael closes on the earlier side (11p or midnight), because you’re not going to want to leave the sickeningly charming hop-soaked living room. You can even feel good about being here: the brewers employ students from the Werkleerschool job-training programs for former psychiatric patients. The lineup of home brews on tap is always rotating, but all use all-natural ingredients (the hops are grown out back), old-school brewing methods, and the names of Dutch musicians.
Next Move: Walk your bikes to start here, too, until you’re clear of the crowds. Re-emerging from the alley (where you went in), head straight across the bridge in front of you, straight down the next alleyway, across the top of the next canal (pause here for the famous postcard Red Light District shot) and onto the next street: the Zeedijk (Amsterdam’s Asian district). Turn right onto the Zeedijk and follow it until it empties out onto the square Nieuwmarkt. At the far-right corner of the square (beyond the castle-looking Waag building) is De Bekeerde Suster.
Stop #12:Proeflokaal de Bekeerde Suster
Beers: Three home brews on the tap, plus seven other taps and close to 50 bottles.
Tour/Tasting: Open Mon-Thu 3p-1a, Fri & Sat noon-2a, Sun noon-midnight.
Named after a group of medieval former prostitutes turned nuns who lived in this spot and brewed legendary beer, this micro-brewery restaurant is also part of De Beiaard empire, like De Brabantse Aap (stop #7), so the menu will look familiar. While you’re here, your best bet is to try the home brews.
Next Move: Turn right out of De Bekeerde Suster. When you reach the first bridge, turn right (away from the bridge) onto the Oude Hoogstraat. Continue straight until you reach the Dam Square, emerging just behind the WWII monument. Turn left at the closest corner onto the tiny but busy Nes street (next to the giant yellow clog). You’ll find the Bierfabriek a little ways down on the right. (It’s also possible to enter the bar on the other side from the Rokin street.)
Beers: Three homemade brews on tap.
Tasting: Open Mon-Thu 4p-1a, Fri 4p-2a, Sat 2p-2a, Sun 2p-1a.
Locals gather here mostly for the atmosphere, with the giant, shiny interior regularly playing host to DJs and parties, the polished décor sometimes clashing w/ peanut shells littered across the floor, and the acoustics amplifying everything a little too enthusiastically. If you plan in advance, you can even reserve tables with taps built in. Whenever you come, it’s worth bringing an appetite (as long as it’s before 11p). The short menu of roast chicken, beer-battered bread, and appetizers is worth consuming in its entirety.