Respect the Craft!

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Lagunitas goes Dutch while Saint Archer sells to MillerCoors.

Times are certainly changing in the world of Craft Beer.

It has been a week full of major news as two breweries have made headlines, one with a dramatic merger and another with an out-right sale.

Unless you have been living inside of green glass bottle, you probably heard the news that broke first thing this past Tuesday morning, Lagunitas, 3rd largest craft beer brewer in the U.S., has sold a 50% share to global Dutch brewing mega-conglomerate Heineken. The second news story, officially confirmed yesterday, but whispered around San Diego for several months, was the majority sale of Saint Archer Brewing to corporate beer poster boys MillerCoors.

In both cases it is fair to say that these craft beer breweries sold out. It is also fair to say that these two breweries can no longer be considered ‘craft beer breweries’.

Whether or not this news dissuades a person from drinking the beers of Lagunitas or Saint Archer is an entirely subjective matter. Hard-core craft beer geeks will move on while the masses, who for the most part do not care who owns a brewery, will simply drink on in a state of blissful ignorance.

Personally, I’m happy for Lagunitas and Saint Archer. Or more to the point, I’m happy for the employees. Undoubtably this can only be good news for the employees of each business because hopefully they will see some of the millions now being pumped into their breweries. Make no mistake, these are two businesses that employ a lot of wonderful and talented people, the contributions they have made to craft beer cannot and should not be forgotten or overlooked. If they choose to stay onboard when the new ownership takes over, or in the case of Lagunitas; joins the board, then I wish them nothing but the best. If any of them decide to leave and seek opportunity at another craft brewer or perhaps even start their own brewery, that will be even better news and I sincerely hope to try those beers very soon, craft beer will welcome you back with open arms. 

In the case of Lagunitas, they made the decision to partner with Heineken in order to become a global brand and put their beers in the hands of more people around the world. As a business, you cannot fault them for that. Tony Magee, founder of Lagunitas, was looking for a way to grow his business on a global scale. This was the way he thought was best to do it. 

With Saint Archer, sources have told me multiple times that this was the plan from day one. It was part of the business model that helped lure the financial backing of big time X-Game athletes and others, the promise of owning a brewery for a big pay day down the road. Mission Accomplished. Like many others in San Diego, I have often questioned the intentions of Saint Archer, but now they are all rich and I’m not.

In both cases, it was stressed that nothing would change about the beers and that the people in charge of things were staying in charge. It was a lot of information to try and reassure craft beer drinkers that the product would not change, even if the people collecting all the money did.

Where things get interesting is with the potential ramifications of each move. For Saint Archer it will be a challenge for them to try and still call themselves craft beer in a market like San Diego. The knowledgeable craft beer geeks will stop drinking it and they certainly will not go to the tasting room. How the average beer drinker reacts will be far more interesting, will they even care that MillerCoors owns them? It will also be interesting to see how MillerCoors handles what can only be an impending nationwide rollout of Saint Archer beers. Will you one day walk into a bar in Philadelphia and find Saint Archer White nestled between handles of Blue Moon and ShockTop? 

This move is also alarming to other San Diego craft brewers because now they have MillerCoors in their backyard, something that almost everyone had hoped to avoid. Will MillerCoors attempt to interfere with the micro and nano breweries in San Diego with proposing wild new legislation like they have in Florida? Only time will tell.

For Lagunitas, they have a far more precarious situation in front of them. Tony Magee has been very outspoken when it comes to craft brewers selling out to ABInBev and MillerCoors in the past. After announcing the sale, or partnership, with Heineken, Tony found himself in the position of having to defend his actions with very long blog post where he attempts to show how this deal is actually a good thing for the American Craft Beer industry. What this says to me is that Tony still wants to sit at the table with the cool kids despite the fact that the he now belongs in the lounge with all the lame grown-ups.

Don’t get me wrong, if the day comes when I can find a bottle of Lagunitas IPA in bar down the back ally of a random third world country and it tastes just as good as the one made in Petaluma, that is a good thing. But do not act like you didn’t sell out to make that happen, just own it and everything will be cool. 

Ultimately, I hope this works out for the people involved at Lagunitas and Heineken. I also hope that MillerCoors doesn’t have a negative effect here in San Diego, because that has to be a top priority now for the brewers of this region, to protect the quality and integrity of what San Diego beer has become known for around the world. Make sure that Saint Archer is an isolated case, and we can mitigate them to a small part of the brewing culture here in this county. 

Also, if anyone wants to start a petition for Saint Archer to relocate to Milwaukee, I would be ok with that. Or at the very least they can relocate to Carson with the Chargers.



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The Realities of Expansion; A Look at the Firestone Walker & Duvel Partnership

The big news coming out of the craft beer industry this past week was the reported acquisition of California craft beer heroes Firestone Walker by Belgian beer giant, Duval.

Turns out these first reports were a bit erroneous. David Walker spent a fair amount of time attempting to clear the air about the deal between the two companies and to break it down to its simplest form, the two have entered into a partnership agreement that will allow Firestone Walker to increase their brewing capabilities and begin to cast a wider net in national distribution.

It sounds simple enough. But it poses an interesting dilemma for the surging craft beer industry, how do you handle expansion?

Time for a disclaimer; I am not an economist, financial planner or marketing wizard. That means I certainly do not know the best answer, however, what is most interesting is there doesn’t appear to be one answer. Many breweries seem to be finding new and unique ways the expand the appeal of their brands and entice new customers to try their luscious libations.

Here in San Diego we are all bearing witness to the exponential growth of the industry. Not only are more new breweries continuing to open, we are also seeing a surge in established local craft beer breweries opening satellite tasting rooms around the county. Mike Hess Brewing recently announced plans for a third tasting room to soon open in Ocean Beach. Culture Brewing, out of Solana Beach, also has a second location in Ocean Beach. North County brewers Belching Beaver and Rip Current have opened satellite tasting rooms in North Park while local legends Ballast Point is on number four, Stone Brewing is at five and Karl Strauss has eight brewpubs in Southern California.

Every successful business wants to make money and get bigger. Make no mistake, the people who start breweries may have gotten into the industry for the love of beer, but once you put your livelihood and the livelihood of your entire family on the line, you need that business to be success, nobody is making craft beer with the intention of simply breaking even. So what are the ways we have seen craft brewers grow their business and their brands over the past few years?

Sierra Nevada opened a second brewing facility in Mills River, North Carolina. Lagunitas also opened a second location in Chicago, Illinois and have announced a third brewing location for Azusa, California. Green Flash has broken ground in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Stone has done the same in Richmond, Virginia and I continue to hear rumors swirling about that Ballast Point will soon announce plans to open a brewery in Austin, Texas.

This method of expansion is obviously not applicable to smaller craft brewers. This is what the giants of the craft beer are able to do by being so well established and having developed a loyal following across the country. For these companies, it is all about long term planning. Not only will these location cut down on the expenses associated with transporting beer across the country, it also addresses what could be a serious issue in the future here in California; water. These other states have access to large reservoirs of water that will help make expansion even more feasible in the future.

Then there is the method that caused a huge stir in the craft beer community in San Diego with some effects still being felt, the time when Alpine Beer Company sold to Green Flash Brewing. It was something we had not seen yet, a craft brewer buying another craft brewer. In this instance, Alpine was not necessarily looking to expand, but the demand for their beer was so high and the deal allowed them to not only expand their tasting room and still brew their own beers at their East County San Diego location, but it got all their employees health insurance and other benefits they could not provided before the acquisition. Now, Green Flash can brew up larger batches of Alpine Beer for the masses here in California and pretty soon nationwide.

Another method of expansion is one I am loathe to even address so we will make it short and sweet and never bring it up again. You can sell your brewery to Inbev or SABMiller or one of the other giant conglomerates from around the world. But we all know that is a terrible idea…I’m looking at you 10 Barrel and Elysian.

Initially, the above method is what most feared for Firestone Walker.

This is not Duvel’s first foray into a partnership with a craft beer brewer. Over the past several years they have acquired Cooperstown, New York brewery Ommegang and most recently Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing. Duvel, a family owned and operated company, has stayed relatively hands-off with both, allowing them to continue doing what they do best. Now both breweries have access to more resources and help distribute their beers on a far larger scale, as we are seeing first hand with Boulevard who has recently made their way into the San Diego market.

In several interviews David Walker has elaborated that this is more of a case of Duvel investing in Firestone Walker to aid with their expansion plans. If that is one hundred percent accurate I cannot say with any certainty at this point. Since both companies are independently owned, the financial terms or the deal were not made public. You can read what Mr. Walker told TheFullPint.com and BrewPublic.com right here.

It also should be noted that Duvel is not without faults of their own, especially in their home country of Belgium where it is a contentious fact that Duvel is known for forcing bars into contracts that must be honored even in the event that new owners take over. This became a very public issue for the owners of Moeder Lambic which fought and won a battle with Duvel in order to help ensure that tap handles would be available to smaller breweries that they wanted to support.

While I cannot claim that what Firestone Walker did is what I would have done, it is most certainly the option they considered to be the best for them and the people who work for them. The fact is that Firestone Walker is the 16th largest craft brewer in the country, but a whopping 80% of the beer they sell stays in California. While math was never my strong suit, I know that only leaves 20% for 49 other states. If they want their beer in the hands of more consumers, and since we already established that making money is the whole point of a business, this is clearly what they felt was the best option for their brewery. The most important issue for me is the status of genius Head Brewer Matt Brynildson, as long as he is happy, and all indications are that he is, and he stays at the helm of the ship, odds are very high that I will continue to enjoy the beers of Firestone Walker for years to come, and with any luck I will be able to do it in any state in the country and possibly any country in the world.



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The Stunning Conclusion: Part 2 of Pizza Port, The Burning of Rome and Eukaryst on The ThreeBZine Podcast!

When last we left our heroes, their lives were in mortal danger at the hands of The Joker as his plan to release his deadly joker toxin into Gotham’s water supply nears success…

Oh wait…wrong podcast.

The only danger Cody, Dustin and myself were in was having too much and fun and drinking too much incredible craft beer. Head over to ThreeBZine or Itunes to check out the final installment of epic time hanging out at Pizza Port Bressi Ranch with Pizza Port OB Head Brewer Nacho Cervantes, and the guys from The Burning of Rome and Eukaryst. Also, check out this sweet video that Pizza Port made for our show!



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Pizza Port, The Burning of Rome & Eukaryst; A Trilogy of Awesome!

Pizza Port has long been one of my favorite destinations in San Diego County. Whether it is the original location in Solana Beach or Carlsbad, or my personal favorite, Ocean Beach, you can always rely on a fantastic array of lovingly crafted beers and ridiculously tasty pizza and other assorted delights. It is a place where I’m happy to go solo, because I’ll always find someone to chat with, but I’m always eager to take a group of friends with me, especially if they have never been to one before. The employees of Pizza Port are a delight. They are nice, friendly and laid back. It help give the restaurants the right feel for a pizza place that is steps away from the beach. Simply put; It’s impossible to not have a great time at any one of their locations.

Pizza Port is also home to a lot of creative people, and I’m not only talking about Ocean Beach’s head brewer Ignacio “Nacho” Cervantes, who is continually whipping up some of the best craft beer in San Diego but it is home to his assistant brewer Gino Fontana, bass player in the local metal band Eukaryst and Joe Aguilar, long-time beertender and guitar player for local legends and kings of “death-pop”, The Burning of Rome.

If the names of those bands sounds familiar but you are not plugged into the local music scene, much like me, it’s possible you know those names from the two fantastic beers which are named for each band. The Burning of Rome IPA is a sensational beer that will measure high on any IPA geek’s stat sheet, and is a personal favorite of mine. Then there is Eukaryst Sinister Imperial Stout, it is simply a monster of a beer infused with darkness, it’s like drinking straight from the abyss where Cthulu resides, and loving every second of it. 

This past Monday, the ThreeBZine podcast crew, consisting of Cody, Dustin and myself were invited to join Joe, Gino and Nacho for a lively discussion about the beers and the bands and how it all come to be at the large production facility and restaurant in Bressi Ranch. We were excited, and we had very moderate expectations of how the session would go. We thought we would sit in a small room private room adjacent to the restaurant to record. Instead we were treated to a huge round table loaded with pitchers of The Burning of Rome IPA and growlers of Eukaryst Sinister Imperial Stout, including the barrel aged version and six-packs of Ponto, Swami’s and Chronic Ale directly in the center of the main production brew house. Not only that but they even filmed the podcast and are putting together a video that I will be sharing with the world very soon. It was a humbling and exhilarating experience all at the same time, and easily one of the best and most exciting things I’ve had a chance to be a part of. The hospitality and generosity of Pizza Port and its crew is second to none. These people work hard and they take amazing care of their guests. Cody, Dustin and myself all agreed it is an experience that will be hard to beat.2015-06-08 18.55.49

The conversation was long and epic! We go deep into the worlds of music and craft beer and how the two intersect. Head over to ThreeBZine to listen to part one of this amazing podcast or download from itunes and please let me know what you think.

If you’d like to get familiar with the bands, here is a link to a great video and song by The Burning of Rome and here is a link to an video by Eukaryst filmed in Pizza Port OB that also shows their beer being brewed.

If you’d like to check out Pizza Port here is the link to their site with all the locations listed, and please call me so we can go together. I’m always up for more great pizza and craft beers.



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Press Release: Societe Brewing Company Announces Societe Three, a Third Anniversary Celebration

Summer is here and that means one big thing for craft beer lovers of Southern California in particular and any fortunate enough to be in town for a nice beer-cation; This June Societe Brewing turns three, and this promises, as past years have proved, to be a fun-filled three week event that everyone is invited to. All the details can be found right here:

San Diego, California – June 12, 2015 – July 3, 2015 | Societe Brewing Company announces a three-week long celebration of its Third Anniversary of successful operation in San Diego, California. From June 12 through July 3, 2015, Societe Brewing will celebrate Three. Co-founded by two professional brewers, Travis Smith and Doug Constantiner, Societe Brewing will commemorate three years of brewing by hosting beer-focused events in its Tasting Room in Kearny Mesa, San Diego, all throughout the three-week celebration span.

“We are really excited to once again be celebrating our anniversary. It’s a time to further appreciate what we do every day—brew awesome quality beer,” says Lorah Smith, Events Manager at Societe Brewing Company. “Three is going to be amazing! We think you will enjoy some familiar events with new twists, and the new additions as well. Without your continued support, we wouldn’t be here. Our celebrations are all about the beer, of course, but they are also all about you, our supporters.”

Continuing the commemorative glassware tradition, Societe Brewing will offer a special Third Anniversary glass for sale for $10, while supplies last, beginning on Friday, June 12. When guests bring their Third Anniversary glass back into the Tasting Room any day during the celebration, they can receive $3 pours of any beer that is available. When guests bring back their clean Second Anniversary glass, they can receive $2 pours of any beer that is available. Bring in a clean First Anniversary glass, and pours of any beer are just $1 each. The full, regular line up of Societe beers will make appearances, with the return of The Gleaner, Societe’s Saison brewed with California Sagebrush. Look for a few surprises on tap, too, including a new hoppy beer.

In addition to the glassware promotion, a Costume Party and Photo Booth session is scheduled for June 13, and guests will be able to receive a take home photograph of themselves in their finest, old-timey attire. Societe will also offer three distinct opportunities to taste a newly blended Feral beer.

For the main event, Societe Brewing presents Dulye’s Mess Hall, a ticketed, private beer dinner hosted in Societe’s Tasting Room on June 18. Working in collaboration with Chef Adam Dulye, formerly of The Monk’s Kettle in San Francisco, Societe will host a tasting reception and three-course family style meal. The menu features a fresh summer vegetable panzanella, a trio of wood-grilled and roast pork, and a decadent trio of desserts.

“We want a beer and food dinner that will spoil you going forward,” says Douglas Constantiner, Co-Founder of Societe Brewing Company. Dulye’s Mess Hall will be another chance to drink the new Feral Beer, The Thief.”

Tickets for Dulye’s Mess Hall will be sold physically in the Tasting Room and also online via Brown Paper Tickets at societethree.bpt.me. The Tasting Room will otherwise be open to the general public for business as usual throughout the three-week celebration, and Societe Brewing is both kid and dog-friendly. The last day for Societe Three is July 3, and the brewery closes on July 4 for the Independence Day holiday. Additional information about Societe Brewing Company and about Third Anniversary can be found at www.societebrewing.com/three.


Societe Brewing Company (8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., San Diego, CA 92111) is a production microbrewery, opened by two professional brewers in 2012 in San Diego, California. Societe Brewing Company focuses on hoppy Out West ales, Belgian-inspired Old World ales and lagers, and dark and flavorful Stygian ales. The brewery also features a 1,500 square foot barrel room housing its Feral, barrel-aged beer program. Societe’s beers are currently available in the Tasting Room at the brewery and at the finer beer bars and restaurants throughout San Diego County and in the Northern California San Francisco Bay Area.

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Press Release : Benchmark Brewing Company, Fall Brewing Company, and Societe Brewing Company Announce the Return of the Summer Solstice Ale Trail

I am very pleased and excited to share the news of the return of San Diego Ale Trial. This event was a lot of fun to complete last year and this summer event promises new features that will only enhance the level of fun for all the craft beer lovers who are willing to take the journey on the trail. Not to mention the fact that three of San Diego best and brightest young breweries are hosting this event only makes it even more exciting. Read on for all the details:

San Diego, California – May 21, 2015 | Benchmark Brewing Company, Fall Brewing Company, and Societe Brewing Company announce the Summer Solstice Ale Trail 2015, a collaborative celebration of summer and San Diego beer. Beginning in and throughout the month of June, these three local San Diego brewer owned and operated breweries are coming together to celebrate the diverse range that the San Diego beer community has to offer.

“The Summer Solstice Ale Trail is back this year, and I couldn’t be more excited,” says Mike V. Sardina, the Assistant Executive Officer at Societe Brewing Company. “We’ve lined up three of my favorite breweries in San Diego, and we’re making it easy and fun for folks to visit all three Tasting Rooms and experience a comprehensive range of world-class beer, all brewed in San Diego and all awesome and delicious.”

When thirsty beer travelers navigate the Ale Trail and present the official 2015 Summer Solstice Ale Trail Passport at each brewery’s Tasting Room, that brewery will stamp the passport in recognition of the visit. By obtaining a stamp at each brewery and completing the passport, beer lovers will be able to redeem their passports at any location in order to receive a commemorative pair of drinking socks that celebrate the classy side of San Diego beer.

“We are thrilled to be co-hosting the Summer Solstice Ale Trail again this year with Societe Brewing and are excited to welcome Fall Brewing into the group! We are proud to have three young breweries that are owned and operated by professionally trained brewers on the trail this year,” says Rachael Akin, the Co-Founder and Brand Czar of Benchmark Brewing Company. “The celebration happily falls during the American Homebrewers Association’s convention here in San Diego, as AHA members ourselves we are particularly looking forward to welcoming homebrewers from all over the country into our tasting room.”

This year, as part of the National Homebrewers Conference experience, the three breweries will offer a free-shuttle bus that runs between each brewery, as well as to the Conference location at the Town and County Resort. The Conference runs from June 11 – 13, 2015, but look for the shuttle bus to hit the Ale Trail on June 9 from 3:00pm – 8:00pm. Hop on the shuttle and complete the Ale Trail loop in one amazing afternoon of San Diego beer.

“Being asked to join two of our favorite breweries for this year’s Summer Solstice Ale Trail was a huge honor. Since they opened, both Societe and Benchmark have demonstrated what breweries run by brewers can accomplish,” says Ray Astamendi, Brewmaster and Co-Founder. “Their unwavering dedication to quality and the craft has been a huge source of inspiration for us. As a life-long homebrewer, I am excited to offer our wares to visiting homebrewers and craft beer aficionados alike.”

The Summer Solstice Ale Trail 2015 Passports will be available at each brewery beginning in early June, and the passports and sock prizes will be available while supplies last. Watch for an upcoming social media announcement from the breweries for the exact date of the Passport release. Benchmark Brewing Company, Fall Brewing Company, and Societe Brewing Company look forward to celebrating the summer, and enjoying some great San Diego beer.


Benchmark Brewing Company (6190 Fairmount Ave. Ste. G, San Diego, CA 92120) is a production craft brewery owned and operated by Matt Akin, a local professional brewer, and his family. Opened in 2013, Benchmark focuses on full flavored session (low ABV) beers, their Oatmeal Stout currently holds the top award in that category from the Great American Beer Festival. Benchmark beer is self-distributed and is currently available in the Benchmark tasting room and in local San Diego bars and restaurants. At present, Benchmark beer is available on draft only with plans to release 16 oz. cans beginning this summer.

Fall Brewing Company (4542 30th Street, San Diego, CA 92116) is a production brewery and tasting room that is owned and operated by a small group of craft beer enthusiasts. Located in a 5,000 square foot warehouse on the northern end of 30th street, Fall Brewing Company opened in November of 2014, and offers a wide variety of ales and lagers. Fall Brewing Company currently offers draft beer throughout San Diego County, but will be bottling by mid-summer.

Societe Brewing Company (8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., San Diego, CA 92111) is a production microbrewery, opened by two professional brewers in 2012 in San Diego, California.  Societe Brewing Company focuses on hoppy Out West ales, Belgian-inspired Old World ales, and dark and flavorful Stygian ales.  The brewery also features a 3,000 square foot barrel room housing its Feral, barrel-aged beer program.  Societe’s beers are currently available in the Tasting Room at the brewery and at the finer beer bars and restaurants throughout San Diego County and in the Northern California San Francisco Bay Area.


Going Dutch; Drinking my way through Amsterdam.

When you think of The Netherlands, odds are the first thing to pop in your mind is Amsterdam. Followed quickly by decriminalized marijuana use and legalized prostitution. Maybe, like my wife, you think of gouda cheese, but for the most part weed and sex are on the forefront of your brain. With such internationally well-known practices, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the Dutch are both hard working and incredibly industrious. These are a people who have grown the landmass of their country, not through war, but through the process of reclaiming it from the sea. In ye olden times it was the job of countless windmills to turn powerful archimedes screws that would lift water up and over dikes and levies. Now it’s the job of incredibly powerful machines, but the idea is still the same. It is not until you spend time around the Dutch you begin to realize that what many people view as cultural eccentricities are really nothing more than simple practicalities. So why not apply some of these characteristics to beer?

The craft beer scene in The Netherlands, is like that in the rest of the world, rapidly growing and seemingly unstoppable. The breweries around the country and, in particular, those in the city of Amsterdam are doing their very best to make sure that the first beer you think of is not Amstel or Heineken. As in most most major cities, that can be a battle as those bigger brands offer global recognition in a city that thrives on tourism. All is not lost however, as more and more consumers are learning that quality most assuredly triumphs over quantity.

My time in Amsterdam afforded me many opportunities to take part in the diverse range of cultural experiences. From gazing at famous works of art at the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum to the delights of a small town in the country celebrating the first cheese festival of the season, The Netherlands is a country rife with opportunities to see and learn. But let’s be honest, to me the best way to experience any culture is to share a drink with them and that’s exactly what I did at every opportunity we could. What follows is a recap of the fun bars, breweries and bottle shops that delighted us on our trip through the land of windmills and canals.

Our hotel was located just adjacent to the Red Light district, which is sort of an international Las Vegas squeezed into several city blocks, it is a non-stop party every day of the week and most assuredly on the weekends. A half block up from where we stayed just so happened to be the first brewery we would check out, Brouwerij De Prael. They have a very nice store where you can purchase not only bottles of their beers but also other beers from the region as well as a nice selection of chocolates and even sausage. The real deal is around the corner in their bar/tasting room. It’s gets pretty lively and with a dozen taps flowing under the names of local folk music legends you are sure to find a beer style to your liking. Of the beers I tasted, I found them all to be enjoyable with perhaps the Johnny, a kolsh, and the Double IPA as perhaps the biggest standouts.2015-03-27 21.04.56

It would be several days before we had the opportunity to visit another brewery, but if there is one thing that Amsterdam is not lacking in, it is excellent beer bars. Our favorite of the trip was hands down, In de Wildeman. Located in a narrow ally off a larger street, this former distillery hosts a rotating selection of 18 drafts from across Europe and a bottle list of over 250 beers from Europe and America. It has an incredible atmosphere and and some of the friendliest bartenders in the land. A can’t miss for a fun night on the town.

If you find yourself in Amsterdam and want to truly experience the Dutch craft beer scene, you would be advised to visit, Proeflokaal Arendsnest, located in the nearby Jordaan district. This bar is home to 30 taps of the finest Dutch beer in the land and very healthy bottle list that features many of the best beers from its most prominent craft brewer, De Molen. The bar is cozy and classy with fun mix of locals and Americans who are looking to get away from the crush of people in the De Wallen (Red Light) District.

If by chance, you are looking for a taste of the U.S. while you are overseas, you’d be hard pressed to do better than The Beer Temple, a sister bar to Proeflokaal Arendsnest, this time the draft menu focuses much of its efforts on beers from the U.S. and England while the bottle list is a healthy mix of America and the best of Europe, be sure to note they will happily sell you an aged vintage bottle of Westvleteren XII, but you will have to pay a pretty penny, or euro, to sample them.

Two other bars that struck a positive cord with us were Cafe Belgique and Cafe Gollem. Belgique is a tiny dive with a modest but impressive selection of 8 draft beers and a very cultivated 50 bottles to choose from. Kwak seemed to be the drink of choice and since it was served in its signature glass and wooden stand that’s how we decided to roll. At Cafe Gollum, one of three locations in the city, we visited the Raamsteeg location, home to 14 drafts and 200 bottles as well as its signature beer Gollum’s Precious IPA. I admit, I’d have gone to visit for the name of that beer alone!

For something completely different and very traditional Dutch we took a brief reprieve from beer to spend some quality time getting to know the liquor of the land, jenever. It’s sort of like gin, but made with juniper berries and it tastes a boatload better. For this experience we decided to try our initial tastes at the oldest tasting room in Amsterdam, dating back to 1650, Proeflokaal De Drie Fleschjes. After being greeted warmly by the locals who seemed to be both amused and impressed that we’d come to try jenever, we got a brief lesson on the three main types of jenever; young, old and corenwyn. The bare bones basics of it are, the older it is, the smoother it goes down, depending on the recipe. I love this experience from the top to the bottom. The bar had a strong sense of localism, its own historical presence and then, the booze itself. While we only scratched the surface of the jenever iceberg, if your palate is more prone to explore liquors you could do a lot worse then swinging by here for a visit and a lesson.2015-03-30 19.23.22

A day or two later we had a chance to visit the Zeeburg district, east of Amsterdam’s Central station. Here we found ourselves at the base of a windmill and the entrance to Brouwerji t’IJ, a dutch brewer I had first encountered a year prior in the heart of Paris, France. I found all the beers I sampled to be well crafted and delicious. This is were we also encountered Will & Janelle, a couple on their honeymoon from Northern California on their way to Belgium. Clearly, this is a couple with which we would have a lot in common with.2015-03-31 16.09.36

One of the last breweries we had the opportunity to vist was located just a short 15 minute train ride away in the town of Haarlem, a smaller yet equally vibrant dutch town that held a lot of charm for me. Here you will find Brouwerji Jopen, based in a closed church, still with stained glass windows. It creates a fun and festive atmosphere especially as the sun filters through the stained glass as dusk arrives. Here I found a wide array of beer styles and found all of them to be quite exemplary especially considering some of the recipes date back as far as 1407. Not to mention the plate of new and old gouda cheese that paired fantastically with their rich, creamy stout.2015-04-01 17.18.38

And finally, if you are anything like me, you waited until you had collected as much information and tasted as many beers as possible before you knew what bottles you would wrap delicately in your used under ware and socks for a safe flight back home. Plan to stop at De Bierkonig, the most impressive bottle shop in the city and possibly the entire country. The owner Jan and his staff are incredibly friendly and knowledgable, as well as being open to making some beer trades if you happened to bring anything fun with you from the states.  I may have conducted a small, yet exciting trade as well as picked up a few fun bottles that would surely cost me an arm and a leg back home.

While this trip covered a lot of ground, as far as breweries, beer bars and even bottle shops are concerned, I barely even scratched the surface of what this country has to offer beer drinkers around the globe. I’d have loved more time to plan a visit to De Molen and walk the grounds of the La Trappe Monastery with their rich quadruple ale in my hands, as well as visit several other brewers who are spread around the country side. It is vitally important to remember that this is a country that takes beer seriously, much as their lowland neighbors in Belgium do. Just as it is here, it’s a symbol of independence, self expression and creativity. Also like America, Amsterdam has their own corporate beer juggernaut to contend with in the form of Heineken and their subsidiaries. From what I’ve seen, tasted and experienced, craft beer in The Netherlands is a legitimate a threat to corporate beer much as it is in America. I can only hope I will continue to have the opportunity to help support them as they continue to grow stronger across Europe.




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