My next stop after the Cheese Museum in Alkmaar was the Beer Museum but unfortunately on my Monday travel day, it did not open until 2:00 PM. So for the moment, I settled for enjoying a beer outside the museum while munching on the cheese sample I was given at the Cheese Museum—a small appetizer before my lunch.
My friend here came along too late after I had already finished off the small sample.
After lunch, I made my way to the Beer Museum, which is housed in one of the original small breweries in Alkmaar. Having been to quite a few breweries in my lifetime, I didn’t know if I would learn very much new but even from this small museum I did.
And I was immediately attracted to this scale model of the original Heineken brewery in Amsterdam that I had visited on one of my first trips to Amsterdam almost 25 years ago.
Beer, similar to cheese, is made from very few ingredients (water, barley or grain, hops, and yeast) but the process is more complicated. This museum also had many interesting artifacts from early beer making periods; one that obviously caught my eye was this early laboratory.
Rounding one corner of the museum, I was pleased to see that the very same beer poster my daughter and son-in-law gave me for Father’s Day the day after they were married graced the wall of the museum.
But undoubtedly the most prized artifact there was this 18thcentury bar from the Leiden University student union building.
And resting on the end of the bar was a uniquely shaped glass, which is called a Coach Driver’s glass.
It was explained that the coachman, while waiting on his fares to dine inside the tavern, could not come down from the coach and so the glass with the long stem was lifted up to him by the bar maid to enjoy while he waited. I had only seen one other glass that looked like this before, a yard glass from the Yard House.
On my train ride back, I returned to my Lindbergh book to find him landing in Paris and being swamped by French well-wishers. As I reflected on my day, I felt that I had had a much more successful trip than when my wife and I had traveled to Alkmaar so many years ago. It was nice to learn about the other large export product from Holland—cheese—and to compliment it with some new learning about beer.
On my second full day in Amsterdam, I again toyed with the idea of visiting one or more of the museums that I had been to in the past. But in the end, I decided to explore the microbrewery industry in Amsterdam, which I had not done before. I did some research and found one not far from my hotel, interestingly close to the Red Light district. Although it seems you can get a beer in Amsterdam at almost any time of the day or night, none of the microbreweries opened before noon.
So after breakfast, I headed over to the Amsterdam Bibliotheek—the seven-story public library with a great view of the city—to read until noon. As I explored the building looking for a quiet spot, I found an interesting architect’s model of the unique building that my son would appreciate…
…and a really cool children’s area that hopefully one day I could bring grandchildren to.
After reading a while, it was off to the microbrewery and the brewpub.
When I walked into what I thought was the brewpub, I learned that I was actually in just a store that sold their locally brewed beer. As I was directed around the corner to where the brewpub was, I overheard another American inquiring about a brewery tour. We ended up leaving the store together and he told me he was a home brewer and was coming back for a 2:00 PM tour to see their operation.
I made my way to the brewpub and when I tried one of their beers…
…the delicious taste convinced me I should come back for the tour.
I returned to the store and indicated I would like to join the tour as well. When I came back at 2:00, I discovered that it would be a personalized tour for just the two of us.
Even though my tour companion well understood the brewing process, we were given a complete tour of their small operation (two brew kettles, 17 fermenters). We learned that in spite of its small size, it was still the number two microbrewery (in size) in Amsterdam. On the tour, we got to taste some of their ingredients and see all aspects of their brewing process tightly squeezed within the three floors of this historic building in the city center.
Our next to last stop on the tour was to their packaging area, which turned out to be a manual process (I asked and was allowed to take this photo).
I was most surprised that a commercial brewery would use the same technique as a home brewer, hand filling and hand crimping caps onto the bottles one at a time. But I was told it was cost effective and employed local people needing a job.
Our last stop, as on most brewery tours, was the tasting room, which in this case was the brewpub I had visited earlier that day.
I was able to sample four of the beers they had on draft at the time and thoroughly enjoyed having an afternoon conversation with my co-tour participant, a fellow American and beer lover as well. As we parted ways and I walked back to my hotel, I reflected on what enjoyable new experiences I had had in Amsterdam, the beer tour and conversation afterwards just serendipitously happening by eavesdropping (one of my wife’s favorite activities). It told me that no matter how many times I came to this small country, there were fresh things to do and encounter. Until next time…