Brouwerij 't IJ

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Amsterdam's smallest brewpub, Brouwerij 't IJ is an unexpectedly friendly and laid-back place for such a high energy city. Situated beneath a large windmill and only steps from the number 6 and 10 tram stop at Pontanusstraat across the Singlegracht, there are surprisingly few tourists inside. In fact, except for the occasional CAMRA beer tourist who walks in carrying The Guide to Amsterdam's Beer Cafés (available from the Tourism Office at the train station), the standing room only crowd consists of appreciative locals. The name IJ rhymes with EI, which means egg in Dutch, this synonym is the basis for the brewpub's name as well as the beers that flow through it. Some tiling and memorabilia still remains from the original bath house that occupied the building in its prior life. Nowadays the small white bar features four taps and rarely an empty stool. The decor is dominated by the 1001 empty beer bottles ringing the room four times around. The ground floor has the most atmosphere but when the two dozen seats fill up and even the standing room becomes too dense there is relief provided by the overflow seating at long wooden tables in the basement. Like every other bar in the country, tobacco smoke frequently displaces the breathable air and the occasional opening of the front door and the accompanying blast of fresh is welcomed by non-smokers.

The 5% Pilzen is a golden color with a smooth but crisp hoppy flavor. Very popular with the winter crowd, I expect it really sees demand in the summer months when I'm told the sky actually appears in hues of blue. The bottled Natte is a hazy dark amber and produces a thick white head. The creamy mouthfeel combines with the smooth malty flavor and you start to think this 6.5% brew is a typical ale, until you notice the slightly tart aftertaste that hints of a specially selected yeast. The 8% Zatte creates a white head atop its hazy amber body. With a flavor balance on the slightly sweet side, its incredibly smooth mouthfeel make this one go down very easily. At 7.5%, the Paasÿ is the brewmaster's special for Easter. Hazy amber in color it exudes a fruity, estery aroma while its flavor is malty sweet with hints of coriander. The Columbus comes in at 6.5% with dark amber hues, a creamy white head, medium body, very malty flavor, slightly alcoholic way and very clean finish. The other bottled product is the brewery's flagship beer, the Struis, meaning ostrich. A bold 9%, the dark amber color forewarns of the malty flavor, accompanying pleasant esters and a nice underlying hop presence. Bartenders are careful when pouring to leave behind the evidence of its bottle-conditioning. The result is a very nice experience.

Open 12 years in this relatively quiet neighborhood adjacent to a canal, 't IJ gives its customers just what they appreciate: friendly service, a relaxed atmosphere and good beer. For non-beer drinkers, popular "shooters" of orange juice and alcohol are available, as are peanuts and snack plates of cheese and sausage. Amsterdam is not an inexpensive city so beer prices of $1.75 to $2.50 USD for a 25cl glass, about 9 ounces, will cause no complaints. The stainless steel brewing system, visible through the door windows, is capable of 2000 hectoliters annually, over 1500 barrels. Given the limited hours of 3 to 8 pm Wednesday through Sunday production seems well matched to consumption, even with the bottled "take away" sales. Souvenir glasses, T-shirts and cigarettes at $2.75 USD per pack are also available. The restrooms are cramped behind barstools as well as down stairs so must be considered inaccessible. Arrive early to secure a place at the bar to chat with the friendly and knowledgeable bartender Ton. While there you'll see all sorts of customers come and go. Since city zoning seems to require every resident to own a dog you'll see lots of four-legged visitors as well. There's even a cat on security duty inside the brewhouse. When in Amsterdam make it a point to stop by the home of the ostrich and its egg, 't IJ.


Brouwerij 't IJ
Funenkade 7
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - April, 1998

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