This may be 2015, but bear with me as I hopelessly attempt to cram the drinks and experiences from Wayward Wine’s EU Austerity Drinking Tour. We covered thirteen countries in seven months spanning the winter of 2012-2013.
Today, you find us 168 days in. Constant travel and drinking on a dime has ravaged our sanity (and livers). We last spent New Year’s Day with Dutch family friends Tineke and Dirk (read post here). Now we enter Amsterdam:
Amsterdam is not a city. It is an endless spiderweb of canals, facades, and brothels.
A rare moment of Bike-less respite.
Between these, we trundle our luggage along, not realizing the menace that surrounds us: the bicycle.
Yes, bike-ists swarm like bees, ready to cut you off at intersections or jam a handle bar in your side. At least in Italy you can hear Vespas coming. But the bicycle is a silent ninja of hate. Here, your apartment contract includes a bike. They persist at fishing out 20,000 a year from the canals…hopefully to burn them.
So let us turn to drink.
We last enjoyed Holland’s only Trappist brewery: La Trappe. Since this is Amsterdam (and we must ferry to our stay in the burbs), let’s go grocery on this! We reset our palates to “low class” with Bolognese Chips:
Now our souls are prepared!
Probably the best unintended city name (Gulpen) for a beer ever, we begin gulping with Gulpener’s Korenwolf:The more eagle-eyed may have noticed the beast ravaging Europe: the most adorable hamster pest, the Korenwolf (or grain wolf):
ADORBS!!! It’s wearing a black vest with white gloves!
This Witbier (wheat beer), from Gulpen, Holland costs. 90€ / 30cl bottle. APPEARANCE: looks an apt, hazy, medium intense yellow gold, with white head. AROMAS: smell full of lavender, honey, pastry dough, and lemon. PALATE: feels dry, tart, a bit grainy, with mild 5% alcohol, a medium body. FLAVORS: taste richly of grapefruit juice, honey, cardamon, and lavender again. They last a medium plus length. This is a very good (4 of 5), refreshing, varmint-inspired wheat beer.
Other solid Gulpener offerings included their:
Gulpener, Dort (€0.70/30cl):
APPEARANCE: a medium amber gold color with cm of white head. AROMAS: ripe watermelon, malted barley, molasses, and dried mint. PALATE: dry but fruity, with mild acid and some bitterness, 7% alcohol, leading to a medium plus body. FLAVORS: remind of watermelon, malt, golden sugar syrup, and corn flakes. Length is medium. Quality is good (3 of 5). Great value.
WinterVrund Winterbier (€.90/30cl): a darker amber ruby color, with juniper berries, musk, coffee, and apple pie aromas, a mildly tannic palate, with warm 8.5% alcohol, extra body, with extra flavors of French roast coffee, Whisky, and a juniper berried finish that lasted a medium plus length. Very weird, kinda wild and musky but very good (4 of 5).
Gulpener’s, Herfst Bock (€.90 / 30cl) is a tart, tannic, rich, peachy, malt focused beer with lovely roasted hazelnut, caramelized pear and vanilla shell of medium plus length and very good quality (4 of 5).
They even have an organic range. Gulpener’s Ur.Amber biologisch beer for (€1.20/30cl) is a caramel, red apple, lettuce, and citris intense amber. Simple but solidly good (3 of 5).
Gulpener’s organic sibling to the Korenwolf weizen is Ur.Weizen, biologisch beer (also €1.20): a bright, buoyant, yet herbaceous, spicy, and round, with pronounced pear, grapefruit, orange puree, clove, basil, oatcakes, and amber honey flavors and very very good (4…. screw it, 5 of 5) OUTSTANDING!
But let us all rise for Gulpener’s Giganten Gladiator Robuust Bier:
I wonder what the alcohol is…
At €1/50ml and 10% alcohol, Gladiator wastes nobody’s time. APPEARANCE: looks a clear, mild gold, with thin white head, and small, slow fizz. AROMAS: smell like Pillsbury croissant dough or Twinkies. PALATE: feels dry and full bodied. FLAVORS: Twinkies dominate (scary thought), with ethanol, mint, malt, and steel supporting? Really, this is just a good (3 of 5) way to get wasted but ridiculous.
Maybe an 11.6% beer might be better. More is more-er…right?
For €1.59 / 50 cl can you get a clear, richly golden, fizzy beer. AROMAS smell of “sweet” ethanol, honey wheat, and pear. PALATE: feels dry and mildly structured. But the disastrously high alcohol, at 11.6%, means a massive body and medium FLAVORS of…alcohol, burn, ugliness, caramel, and dry oatmeal that last too long a medium length. Grolsch is Gross. Acceptable (2 of 5).
Completely hungover, we tour Amsterdam with limited zeal.
The Neoclassic-tastic Royal Palace is magnificent and aspirational.
The marble map floor is a fantastic snapshot of early America and Holland’s limited imperial ambitions:
They even had a gold clock based on a favorite David painting:
But Amsterdam is truly for wandering. We pass countless merchant apartments with false, ostentatious facades akin to Hollywood wild west sets. We shop for antiques and Delft tiles. We sample Reypenaer cheeses. Then finally we find Anne Frank’s house.
The massive line and expensive tickets sends our Austerity Tour away. But we find the real entrance, gaining closure for poorly written high school essays.
While my wife slips into a hotel desperate for a restroom, I make small talk with a couple in the foyer. Leaving, they give me two days worth of their boat tour tickets. Score!
So instead of more museums, the next day, we get on a boat.
Not desiring worse beer and worse headaches, we drift past Heineken brewery.
As our tour continues, my wife dreams of living on a river boat. I revel in not having to dodge bikes.
As night falls, hotels and riverfront restaurants blaze.
The next day we do it again, but take a different boat route. It feels nice not to have to plan more visits, deal with people, or think for once in six months.
Amsterdam is intricate, dirty, seedy, fabulous, and strange. Touring it by boat, twice, took the edge off the bicycle crammed, manic streets. We found Gulpener to be a reliable beer, as long as one avoids its malt liquor like, 10% + alcohol manifestations in can.