After a long day exploring the weird and wonderful exhibits of the Stedilijk Museum – why is the pensive, meandering museum walk so much more tiring than walking at full speed? – I’m in serious need of hydration. Fortunately the Amsterdam Brewing Company Taproom is on hand.
I’m immediately welcomed by a friendly and charming barman as I enter, who seems perplexed that I would choose four entirely different styles of beer to sample: a saison, a pale ale, a bok, and a porter.
Oedipus, Mannenliefde 6.0%, €4.80
Starting from the left, the saison has the colour of pale gold or straw. Unlike many of the Dutch beers I’ve sampled so far it’s very clear, but whatever fining it’s been through doesn’t seem to have diminished the aroma: there’s hay on the nose, citrus, floral notes that I can’t quite place. The palate is similar: lemony and floral, dry, with a hint of sourness.
At first, I’m puzzled by the flavour profile, but once I’ve checked the ingredients online it seems so obvious – of course it contains lemongrass and szechuan pepper. Easily identified if you’re looking out for them, but certainly not what I was expecting.
Mannenliefde is a properly refreshing summer beer, but with enough of a spicy, malty finish to keep me coming back. I’ll be here for more in the summer. 4/5
Gebrouwen door Vourwen, Pumpkin Party 6.9%, €4.60
Allegedly when you say “brewed by women” in Dutch it rhymes, which makes it a pretty good name for a brewery staffed entirely by women. Of course, as far as I can make out every word in Dutch rhymes with every other word, as it seems to consist mostly hacking throat noises.
No hacking throat noises after drinking the Pumpkin Party, you’ll be relieved to hear. It’s a cloudy amber, with a slightly off-white head. The aroma is rich and fruity: raspberries and blackcurrants. The palate is somehow sweeter, with hints of spice: cinnamon, allspice, star anise. It all slips down easily, with no real bubbles, rather just a hint of carbonation to tease the tongue. Those spice notes linger on the finish, along with a refreshing bitterness.
It’s all sounding great so far, but it’s spoiled somewhat by a sticky starchiness – presumably the result of brewing with pumpkin. A shame, because aside from that it’s a good beer. 2/5
Het Ij, Ij Bok 6.5% €4.90
Those of you who don’t speak Dutch, look at the name of this brewery and this beer and try to pronounce them.
I can guarantee you’re all completely wrong. And no, I still can’t tell you how it’s supposed to sound.
The Bok is a crystal clear chestnut-brown, with the slightest hint of woodiness on the nose. It’s when it hits the tongue that things start to get interesting: dark, roasted, chocolatey malt. The initial malty sweetness soon gives way to a dark chocolate bitterness, which hangs around on the tongue a while after.
It’s not mind-blowingly good, but it’s warming and comforting in exactly the way I’d want a winter ale to be. Not a beer for special occasions, but perfectly serviceable as a regular. 3/5
Lowlander, Poorter 6.0% €4.90
Already I’m intrigued to discover what the Dutch have done with this quintessentially London style. They’ve certainly nailed the appearance, so we’re off to a good start. Then again they have slapped another “o” in the name.
I’m immediately surprised by the sweet aroma – vanilla, and some rich, satisfyingly earthy tones. It’s not dissimilar to many of the barrel-aged stouts I’ve been sampling recently.
Then I take a sip, and I have to sit back and take it in for a few seconds. There’s a lot going on here. A little chocolate, more of that vanilla, and something else – liquorice. But not like the dry, chewy liquorice sweets I used to tentatively snack on and immediately regret when visiting my elderly relatives. This is fresh and earthy and deeply satisfying. Follow all that up with a smokey, maple sweet aftertaste, and you have me buying another glass for afters. 5/5
The ABC Taproom gave me the warmest welcome of any brewery or pub during my time in Amsterdam. In part, that was due to a cheerful, friendly bar manager talking me through what they had on tap and discussing where else was worth trying for craft beer in Amsterdam. In part it was also that he’d left the door to the pizza oven open to heat the room up a bit.
The intriguingly named “House Bitch” was sadly off when I visited, but apart from that I’m struggling to find anything about this place I didn’t like. If you’re ever in Amsterdam, this taproom is well worth your time.