Candidate #23- Café Briljant, Haarlem, The Netherlands


Haarlem is a small city to the west of Amsterdam. Far more than just a satellite town, Haarlem has an important history itself, and provided the name for the New York suburb. The heyday of beer brewing in Haarlem goes back to the 15th century, when there were no fewer than 100 breweries in the city. And it’s twinned with Derby, England, oddly.


There are a good number of cosy and warm Dutch pubs (brown bars), and a jewel in the crown is Café Briljant. They stock around 50 beers, with a heavy Dutch and Belgian prevalence,  offer 5 changing taps and 29 whiskies. They also serve a real community vibe, nestled as it is in a quaint suburb. There is  great window seat to watch people go by (below) or an equally appealing alcove seat at the back.



Venue: 8/10

A relaxing venue, and perfect for gathering some energy after a wander around some very pleasant, meandering, historic streets.

Beer: 7/10

A great bottle range and 5 changing taps to keep you interested.

Worthy? Maybe

The definition of a hidden gem


Candidate #15- In Den Uiver Proeflokaal, Haarlem, the Netherlands.

Haarlem, thirty years older than Amsterdam, is a medium sized town less than 15 minutes to the west from Amsterdam Centraal (apparently far enough to deter most tourists). It has a long history in brewing and was a major centre in the 16th and 17th centuries: this legacy can be seen in street names, such as Brouwersvaart (Brewer’s Canal)-  a waterway used to bring fresh water from the dunes to the city’s breweries. At its peak, Haarlem had roughly 100 breweries, but the Black Death ravaged the city’s population: by 1752 there were just 7 breweries left; by 1820, none.


In the 1990s the Stichting Haarlems Biergenootschap started brewing historic recipes and Jopen beer was born. The kind folk of Haarlem didn’t exactly sit around drinking water waiting for the beery Gods to brew again: Haarlem has a robust selection of good beer bars, and per capita it must be amongst the most beer bar rich town in the world. Enter: In Den Uiver Proeflokaal.


Remarkably, there are just 5 reviews on Tripadvisor, which may explain the positive reaction from staff, who seem genuinely happy to talk you through their beers and history: the snug hidden around the back was an office of the world’s oldest newspaper still in print, since 1656 (Haarlemse Dagblad), but I could believe it belonged to the Drones Club, such is the English-private-member-club-of-yesteryear feel.


Another nod to the local history is the plethora of aeronautical memorabilia to celebrate the Haarlemmer Anthony Fokker, an aviation pioneer whose Douglas DC-2 (the eponymous ‘Uiver’) won its class in the 1934 Melbourne Race.


In the summer, get there early and enjoy a seat outside and look over one corner of the stunning market square and Grote Kerk. Some reviewers on Tripadvisor claim that the market square is ‘Nothing to write home about”- what else is in your life? Because I want some of that.

Venue: 8/10

Cosy and ‘gezellig’ in the winter, great outdoor in the summer.

Beer: 7/10

Decent enough: 10 taps, 15 bottles.

Worthy? Yes

You can’t invent history.

Candidate #11- Café De Dokter, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Café De Dokter has been in the Beem family since 1798; now into the 6th generation, currently in their 40th year. The name derives from it’s first owner, a surgeon, and the close proximity to a hospital, making this a regular haunt for physicians.


At just 18 meters squared, this is the smallest bar in Amsterdam (a hotly-contested accolade).


The walls are adorned with all sorts of medical paraphernalia, some of which has a husk of dust. The lighting is sparse, low and often candlelight, adding to the cosy, gezellig feel of this drinkers’ den. It’s easy to get very comfortable and hunker down for hours. It’s a far cry from the adjacent chaos of Kalverstraat and the bustle of het Spui. On Fridays, it is possible to pick up a new read at the book market next door, then escape from the rain in this splendid hideout.


Venue: 9/10

Dark wood panelling adds order to the centuries of hoarding that adorns most of the walls. It can be empty and still feel atmospheric. Authentically old and charming.

Beer: 6/10

Better for Jenever, there are some decent enough Abbey brews, and La Chouffe is usually a crowd-pleaser.

Worthy? Yes

Few bars can match the curiousness of the interior. Excellent, family service too.


Candidate #9- Café de Bonte Koe, Leiden, the Netherlands.

Café de Bonte Koe is tucked away down a narrow alley in Leiden, the Netherlands. I went to Leiden with intentions of finding it, yet still stumbled upon it accidentally. So I had to go in.


The wind was scything through my grossly inadequate jacket, so the literal and figurative warmth of Café de Bonte Koe was most welcome.


We took a pew (this may or may not have been an actual pew) in the far corner that offers some privacy, being a nook as it is.


I chose the beer from the menu mainly due to the interesting name, so when Laura came back from the bar presenting some kind of jam jar goblet I was very impressed.


Want to jump in? I do.

Wilderen Goud is brewed by Brouwerij Wilderen (Anno 1743) in the provinces of Belgium, somewhere in-between Brussels and Maastricht, where they also age cheese, craft chocolate and distil gin- what more do you need? Their Goud is an eminently quaffable golden blond, a real session beer.


Sweet nectar

I could have spent hours here. We had a slab of cheese- complete with cutting board and apparatus, and a fancy toastie. The staff were excellent, especially for the Netherlands, and took our orders and set our tab without even needing to ask where we were sat.

Venue: 10/10

As quaint as they come. Efficient staff and automatic tabs = effective inebriation.

Beer: 8/10

A tight selection. Not afraid to go for rarer beers produced with passion by small operations.

Worthy? Yes

There is a lot right with this place; in particular, that we were able to waltz in on a windy Saturday and get a seat, proving that there are certain advantages to being outside the capital.


Candidate #8- The Beer Temple, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Make this pilgrimage for the best selection of American beers in the Netherlands (and Europe?).


This is the little sister of Proeflokaal Arendsnest (a world-class bar that sells only Dutch beers) and offers 30 draughts, 60+ American beers in bottles and a raft of rare and classic beers from elsewhere: Westvleteren 12, Tokyo et al. Some are prohibitively expensive, but at least they exist.


The Beer  Temple is prone to being ‘taken over’ or ‘invaded’ by a guest brewery, where they showcase a host of their beers. The Mikkeller glomming had a long legacy, and several could be bought on draft for some time (again, some obscenely expensive bottles). The house beer -Tempelbier, is eminently quaffable, and the Orval cheese is a brilliant bar snack.


Being so close to Dam Square in the centre of Amsterdam, it’s easy to find and often easy to get a seat. Sneakily, it stays open very late and those tabs soon rack up.


When it looks like that outside, it’s time to go to the pub.

Venue: 6/10

A large terrace on a busy street for people-watching, and a few really comfy seats inside. Looks every inch the American beer bar of its name.

Beer: 7/10

Due to the high hopping, a lot of the beers travel brilliantly. A deep trough of rare, great American beers.

Worthy? Yes

Might not be remarkable in the States, but it’s in Amsterdam and benefits from some classy European brews, particularly when breweries ‘take over’ The Beer Temple.


143. Heineken Brewery, Amsterdam, Holland


First brewed by Gerard Adriaan Heineken in 1873, Heineken quickly rose to prominence and was awarded the Grand Prix at the 1889 Exposition Universelle, no doubt overshadowing the completion of the most famous of Parisian landmarks. The same yeast, Heineken A-yest, has been used for over a century.

Heineken’s relentless expansion left the old brewery site in de Pijp, Amsterdam, vacant as they moved to larger, more practical premises. This is now an interactive brewery (but not and actual brewery) tour, with tastings and  a bar at the end.

And it is all so very crap. As I’m sure you know, the beer is bland and best served very, very cold, lest you taste it. On a blazing hot day, sat lazily in the sun, the sight of an ice-speckled Heineken would make me very thirsty. As would any beer.

The inclusion of the Heineken Experience is beguiling on two main fronts; 1- the awful beer, of which you have one choice (so no choice) and 2- it’s not a bar, it’s a museum that costs €18 to enter.


Venue: 1/10

Not really a bar, and will cost you €18 for the pleasure.

Beer: 0/10

It’s Heineken, and Heineken only, for fuck sake people!

Worthy? Hell no.

I can only assume this makes the list due to Heineken’s dominance in the global beer market. But it peddles almost exclusively crap beers, think: Fosters, Amstel, Sol, John Smith’s…and it is this corporate might that forces down the market share of smaller, better beer brands that you can sample at any one of the other 149 venues on this list.


Candidate #3- De Prael, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


Craft brewing has snowballed in the Netherlands recently, with powerhouses such as Brouwerij de Molen emerging on the international scene.


Amsterdam is home to a few stalwarts, such as the unpronounceable Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Although, deserving the most attention, in my humble opinion, is De Prael.


For some time they existed only as a beer shop (proeflokaal), and in the last year they have enjoyed thriving business in a tucked-away venue in the Red Light District. The decor is excellent, a tasteful blend of individual adornments: framed beer bottle label art; old Dutch country house tiles; beer tap bathroom taps, blended with classy contemporary: spotlights; a shiny racing bike.


The beers are named after old Dutch music ‘icons’, of which they have some vinyl sleeves on the walls. It’s hard to go wrong in the beer choice, and choosing a favorite is like deciding which of your kid’s should be handed over to the Nazis. Willecke, a lovely La Chouffe-type triple blond and Mary, a strong copper triple, are highlights. In the winter, Willy, at 11.4%, will warm you up.


Despite being located between the red light district and the very popular, very touristy, very garish Warmoesstraat, De Prael enjoys a predominantly local crowd. Presumably partly because it is tucked away up an alley, and partly because the alley looks like this:


Venue: 9.5/10

Quite possibly the best bar in town. Younger than it looks, De Prael is cleverly designed to accommodate groups, couples, loners and a band. The decor is completely original. There is a section that recreates a lounge from a typical Dutch house, adorned with Delft tiles and comfy armchairs.

Beer: 8/10

Obviously limited by selling only their own beer, this small brewery is world class and it would take years to get bored of their regulars. There are always seasonal brews too.


Yes. Without hesitation, I can say this is better than some on the list I’ve already frequented, so logic follows that it will be better than many more.