Shopping for beer is suprisingly easy in Holland. If you're happy to drink Trappist or Duvel. Which I am. Supermarkets, off-licences and specialist beer shops all play their part in providing the innebriate easy ale access.
Dutch supermarkets, while stocking far fewer brands that their UK equivalents, have a much higher porportion of drinkable stuff on their shelves. My local Dirk van den Broek (a budget chain) sells maybe 30 different beers, but these include La Trappe Dubbel, Tripel and Quadrupel, both Westmalle beers, Duvel and Grolsch Weizen. Around 1 in 4 drinkable isn't a bad ratio. Even in large, up-market British shops I struggle to find 7 beers worth supping out of the hundreds (mostly industrial lager) brands on sale.
I'm especially lucky when it comes to buying beer. (Or any other sort of alcoholic drink, for that matter.) I live just around the corner from an excellent off-licence, Ton Overmars. Whisky and wine are his specialities, but he still manages to stock around 100 beers. Including my essential staples: St Bernardus 6, 8 and 12 and Guinness Special Export. For everyday use, I need to stray no further.
For those with more exotic tastes, The Netherlands is reasonabley well-served with specialist beer shops. Amsterdam has two excellent ones: De Bierkoning and De Gekraakte Ketel. Both are in the centre and easy to find even for the doziest of tourists. Sadly, the Amsterdam branch of Bert's Bierhuis closed years ago. The one in Utrecht is still thriving, however. It's on the edge of the old city but is opposite a beer cafe, Ledig Erf. Just south of Amsterdam, De Schans brewery has a pretty decent beer shop (but sadly nowhere to drink).
Most essential is the correct bag. I recommend a bluey-grey, corduroy, DDR-style bag. It's what I always use. The extra thickness helps protect beer from shocks (or putting down too hard on the pavement) and the structure help keep bottles upright. The original wore out years ago, but my wife has made several more to replace it. One of the many advantages of marrying someone from the East.
If you're buying beer for immediate consumption, you need to pay attention at the supermarket checkout. The girls on the till have a nasty habit of laying bottles in their side and rolling them down the conveyor. Pretty much guaranteed to disturb the yeast.
In summary, supermarkets are fine if you're not too fussy, in most big towns you should find an off-licence with a better selection, for the really picky, a visit to Amsterdam or Utrecht may be needed.
1012 ZL Amsterdam.
Tel. 020-625 6336
De Gekraakte Ketel
Wijnwinkel-Slijterij Ton Overmars
Tel: 020-615 71 42
Fax: 020-615 01 99
Speciaalzaak De Schans
De Schans 17,
1421 BA Uithoorn.
3511 ZH Utrecht.
Tel. : 030 - 234 1339
Fax: 030 - 234 3166
3511 ZN Utrecht.
Tel. : 030 - 231 7577
Fax: 030 - 234 2229
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