Café Briljant, Haarlem.

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Haarlem is a small city to the west of Amsterdam. Far more than just a satellite town, Haarlem has an important history itself, and provided the name for a suburb in New York. The heyday of beer brewing in Haarlem goes back to the 15th century, when there were no fewer than 100 breweries in the city. And it’s twinned with Derby, England.

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There are a good number of cosy and warm Dutch pubs (brown bars), and a jewel in the crown is Café Briljant. They stock around 50 beers, with a heavy Dutch and Belgian prevalence;  offer 5 changing taps; and 29 whiskies. They also offer a real community vibe, nestled as it is in a quaint suburb. There is  great window seat to watch people go by (above) or an equally appealing alcove seat at the back.

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Venue: 8/10

A relaxing venue, and perfect for gathering some energy after a wander around some very pleasant suburbs.

Beer: 7/10

A good range with 5 changing taps to keep you interested.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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