Café Belgique, Gravenstraat.


Café Belgique hides in plain sight- amidst chain retail outlets, it’s easy to not notice this gem of a beer warren.


One of the smallest bars in Amsterdam, you’ll find yourself wondering, “How can this be one of the smallest?!”. Unbelievably, they host live music. I’m not sure how, or why- as appealing as music is to some, it won’t make this one-room cubby-hole any bigger, so it’s not like they can pay the DJ off the back of increased customer revenue- it’s always full. And heed that advice- turn up very shortly after opening (3pm) and you might get a seat.


In truth, it thinks it’s way cooler than it is. And by ‘it’, I partly mean the clientele. If this were London, we’d call them scenesters. The website states “It’s frequently visited by a varied public of locals, expats, musicians, artists and dj’s”. See what I mean? Who cares if artists go there? Do I feel better about my Orval because the guy with an unkempt beard sat too-closely next to me sticks wires through books encased in styrofoam and calls it “A Critque on the Abandonment of Western Values”, and his dreadlocked girlfriend photographs litter blowing in the wind for her forthcoming exhibition in a disused plastic bag making factory? No, I do not.


For the size, the beer choice is broad- 50 bottles and 8 taps, but even this is too many as evidenced by the foul taste of the Floreffe Blonde.

Venue: 9/10

The only real criticism is the size, but that’s also part of the atmosphere. And when you do finally get that corner seat by the window, boy does it feel cool.

Beer: 6/10

Decent range, but unfortunately not all the taps are very well maintained (I’m looking at you Floreffe Blonde).


Hotel Old Nickel

The most interesting thing about the Old Nickel is probably that the wood paneling is salvaged from the captain’s cabin of a 17th century Dutch warship.


The Old Nickel is either full or empty, which are both good states, depending on one’s mood. If you’re not fussy, you can lodge here cheaply and sleep well knowing you are upstairs from a 60+ strong beer selection.


On the strength of Tim Skelton’s recommendation in ‘Around Amsterdam in 80 Beers’, we plumped for a round of the unpronounceable Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier (5.1%). This author felt it tasted like drinking smoked sausage, but it was thoroughly enjoyed by the rest of the group. Given the strong flavour, it came as something of a surprise to discover Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier is served in pints, which led to the unanimous and wise conclusion that “it’s definitely not a session beer”.