Out of all the different beers brewed in the Netherlands, a great many are produced by Amsterdam breweries. We love many of those but how do they compare nationally? The Dutch Beer Challenge is a perfect annual occasion to assess where Amsterdam beers stand compared to all the other Dutch brews.
Every year, the organisation invites all the registered Dutch breweries, about 650 in total, to submit their beers. These are subsequently divided among a bewildering range of categories and sub-categories and rated by a host of renowned beer experts. All these categories make for a lot of medals, which should help consumers pick Dutch quality beers among the ever expanding offer.
This year no less than 21 golden, 26 silver and 29 bronze medals were awarded to breweries from all over the Netherlands. Truth be told: compared to that number, the four medals scooped by Amsterdam breweries seem somewhat meagre. The Haarlem based Jopen brewery left Rotterdam with almost the double amount (7) of that, while La Trappe took just as many (4) back to their trappist brewery in the south of the country. What’s positive, then? The good news can be read in the styles that brought Amsterdam breweries recognition during this year’s challenge.
Gold: Oedipus Pilsner – Oedipus
Oedipus was rewarded a gold medal for their pilsner. Many Amsterdam breweries have long been reluctant to tackle the style so easy to scorn but so hard to brew. At Oedipus they invested a good deal of time in pulling it off. For three years they experimented with a lager series in search of a perfect pilsner recipe. Looks like they found it with their fine-tuned mix of traditional German, Czech hop varieties and 100% pilsner malt. Great achievement by the Oedipus brewers who are generally better known for their funky takes on more obscure styles.
Gold: Club Tropicana – Troost
Similarly surprising, yet for opposite reasons, is the gold medal for the Berliner Weisse brewed by Troost. Joining the scene relatively late, Troost quickly developed in a capable brewery. But it seemed to have a knack for more accessible styles, leaving the sour experiments to colleagues like Oedipus and Butcher’s Tears. Their Club Tropicana, however, was appreciated best in the fruit section of the innovative category. As it name suggests, it is tropical in its fruitiness, yet as a proper Berliner Weisse it is praised for its tartness. We didn’t see that one coming from the guys at Troost. Impressive.
Silver: Gajes – Bruut
Equally impressive, but again for different reasons, is the fact that Gajes seems to collect prizes where ever it goes. Not only was this beer by Bruut considered to be among Amsterdams finest beers by an expert panel last year. At the Dutch Beer Challenge of 2016 it was chosen as the best beer of the Netherlands. The beautiful heavy-hitting yet balanced amber was awarded a silver medal in the strong blond category during this edition. Bruut is doing very nice things in their new brewpub and we had hoped to see this officially confirmed during the challenge but let’s hope this makes more people buy their great beers.
Bronze: Shakti – Walhalla
Just like Bruut, Walhalla has been making great strides in its new brewpub over the past year. We love its farmhouse ale Osiris, its amber Ares and the interesting one-offs of the Deamon series but the experts were charmed most by Walhalla’s Double IPA, Shakti. Its firm bitter fruitiness carried by a solid abv of 8.2% made it the third Imperial IPA of the Netherlands: bronze medal.
We could have included the beers of the gypsy breweries that are officially based in Amsterdam but brew elsewhere, with the help of others. Most notable among them is the the Bird Brewery. The contract brewers were rewarded one silver medal (for amber ale Fuut Fieuw) and two bronze ones (saison Datisandere Koekoek and Scotch Ale Datsmaaktnaar Meerkoet). They are currently setting up their own brewpub in a park adjacent to Amsterdam and look like a very promising addition to the city’s brewing scene.
Future’s bright. We count on many more medals for Amsterdam breweries in the year to come.