“There’s always something happening around a beer.”
Isn’t that the truth! I moseyed my way over to the Netherlands (Holland?) into Amsterdam and I just couldn’t pass up the chance to see the original Heineken brewery.
From my experience of touring breweries, they either tend to be self-guided tours or group-guided. I found what was called the Heineken Experience but having gone on other “experiences” before I wasn’t really expecting much. But I was more in it for the history than the “experience.” I opted for the V.I.P. tour which I normally I don’t go for, but the tour included a beer tasting with artisan cheeses. SOLD! Beer AND cheese? So excited. The VIP tour set me back 50 Euros, so not too bad.
I’m going to tell you now; it was COMPLETELY worth every cent!
The Welcome Wagon
Literally, there was a wagon outside the entrance with beer barrels marking the entrance. Can’t think of a warmer welcome than that! Upon entering the building, the tone completely shifts. It was the start of November which meant the halls had just been decked with bows of holly, ornaments, and heaps of Christmas and beer mixed paraphernalia.
It was a bit confusing on where to go because there were about three or four different lines to choose from. One line to hang up coats, one line to buy tickets, another area that seemed like a line but was just a group of loiterers, and the general admission line. I checked my coat and went to the general admission line where my ticket was scanned.
WRONG! Learn from my mistake.
Since I had the VIP deal, I needed to notify a worker and then wait in an area to wait for the other V.I.P.s and the guide before starting the tour. I was given a green rubber wristband with an embossed “Heineken” bordering the outside. Puncturing the band was also two small plastic chips resembling golf ball markers with the Heineken “H” decorating the top. These were the currency for the beer to come later. After the three others assembled and the guide was ready, my Heineken Experience began
Our hostess was amazing! Walking through the museum, she explained all the Heineken artifacts and narrated stories not provided on the plaques hung on the walls. Anyone on the self-guided tour, who understood English, ended up shadowing our group to get in on the action. I didn’t mind since it wasn’t a big group and nobody got in the way. When there was a chance, our hostess ditched the moochers and escorted us to some more exclusive areas.
Everyone was lead into a room for a mini demonstration about the four main ingredients of beer: barley, hops, yeast, and water. The demo was a little more involved than just pointing to and listing out the ingredients. I leave it to your imagination or your own experience.
Next stop, the vat room. It’s what I tend to think of when I imagine brewing beer. Large copper vats lined the room large enough to fit a football field. Notably warmer than the previous rooms, the scent of mash (malted barley and water) cooking, filled the air. The smell of comfort. Which I can only explain as like a warm freshly baked loaf of bread steaming one’s face just out of the oven.
When they say “Heineken Experience”, emphasize “experience.” Everything in the Heineken brewery was made to be as interactive for the guests as possible.
Cordoned off in the vat room was a small kitchenette which was used by the original Heineken brewers. Next to which showcased the process of cooking the mash and fermenting the wort (liquid extracted from the cooked mash). Across the kitchenette was a lengthy line of spouts which could drain from any of the vats in the room. This allowed for quality control throughout the brewing process.
After exploring and a bit of mash sampling, it was off to the stables. YES! Heineken also has horses. Which when I think about it, shouldn’t be such a surprise...
Over here in the states, we have our own famous brand, which shall not be named. But it does claim to be a king of some sort. And this beer, which shall not be named, use their horses as a part of their brand. Thinking of other brewing companies also having horses just wasn’t a consideration. Though, how else would beer companies have been able to transport their product to pubs around town without horse-drawn transportation?
Back to the Heineken stables. And don’t worry, the stables are located a considerable distance from the brewing space. Very sanitary. The location of the stables was partially outside and the stark difference in temperature was immediately noticed. The inside of the stable was so green that it seemed as if we were inside a Heineken bottle. Bordering the opposite wall from the entrance were name tags placed above each stall. My favorite instantly became Mike for no other reason than it seemed like such a “bro” name for a horse. Mike, the Heineken horse!
Exiting the stables, our group walked down a corridor, around a few corners, and up some stairs to the owner’s private pub. A quaint wooden room fitted with a small bar, table, and chairs. This was originally used by the owners and managers after a hard day’s work to relax and have a few brewskies.
Beer & Cheese
There are few greater combinations than beer and cheese. And this was the time I was going to get just that.
Not only were we going to get to sample a slew of different beers produced by Heineken, we were going to drink them with their own artisanal cheeses. The freshest Heineken beer I was going to ever taste paired with a delicious array of cheese. What could be better?
I always like for people to experience the details for themselves, but one thing I will divulge is my favorite beer. I love going to breweries because they’re the only places you can try the experimental flavors. I don’t know if it’s still in production in Amsterdam, but my favorite beer that I tried was called H41. It was a rich and nutty lager with a smooth aftertaste. Something I could’ve drunk all night long with ease.
After everyone was feeling nice and toasty, the tour continued.
Experience all the things! After awkwardly walking through a staff meeting taking place in their conference room, our group headed to the interactive area.
Green everywhere and games galore!
“Pour” the perfect beer, get some fun selfies in, or head on over to the subzero room and cash in those golf ball chips on your wristband for some more beer.
It was a memorable time and I would love to go back to try out some different seasonal brews. It has yet to be beaten as far as brewery tours go. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in the Amsterdam area.