THE HEINEKEN EXPERIENCE
I'm finally doing The Session. Hopefully I don't offend anyone, but this month's topic is about the brewery that is the furthest away from where you live. Of all the travels we have done since diving into the beer world, brewery tours have been the lowest on my list of places to visit. Brewpubs top the list, followed by Breweries with tasting rooms, then beer bars, then beer stores, then breweries without tasting rooms. With the limited time I normally have on these trips, I'm thinking "do I want to spend a couple hours on a tour where I imagine the brewer heats it up, cools it down at some point, and throws some yeast on it?" But I know there is some value in meeting the brewer, seeing how people accomplish what they accomplish, overcoming the technical challenges, etc. I'm sure it's like being the kitchen with Emeril for some folks.
So I without having an active brewery that is all that far away, I blog about the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. I visited this place about 3 years ago as we were backpacking in Europe and we decided to hit Amsterdam for the Ultimate Bachelor party. I was already married, but a friend of mine had a week before messing up his life. Poor bastard.
Amsterdam is a cacophony of statuesque blond women, grandiose castles, marijuana, hostels, legal whoring, and some pretty decent beer. If it wasn't so cold, it'd be a Black Man's Heaven. The whole time I was there, I managed to slug down a lot of Amstel Light and Heineken. We enjoyed the brewery thoroughly, even though I didn't know what the hell I was looking at. Turns out they don't brew there anymore; they ain't brewing much in that building but a bunch of free love and mass marketing. The brewery has been converted to a few killer bars and tasting rooms and they still have much of the equipment still there for you to mess around with.
The brewery had lots of beer education signage and videos to occupy your mind. They do a great job of introducing folks to the brewing process. If I wasn't half drunk I probably would have remembered what I was looking at equipment-wise. Some mash tuns, lauter tuns, I'm sure there was a fermenter or two. I don't recall a formal tour guide, but they had all kinds of mini games, kegs, bottling, etc. Something like a grown man's version of Disney World mixed with MTV and Maxim Magazine.
After we made it through the brewery, we found our way to the World Bar with all kinds of random tokens. Each token counts for one beer, and they seemed to pile it on for you. I just recall that the beer was fantastic. Even back then, the Heine's in the United States always seemed harsh and a little skunky to me, just completely over-rated. I now know that it is the green bottle and the transportation. But drinking this stuff in Amsterdam is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better. Great crispness and refreshing. Since this tour, I've rarely ever had a regular bottled Heineken unless it was on tap or in one of their famous mini-kegs.
I have recently made the controversial move of Heineken Dark to a four star beer, and as my new favorite all-the-time beer along with Sam Adams Boston Ale, supplanting Negra Modelo. DAMN Heineken nailed it with that dark lager. I had it one time in San Antonio but forgot about it until now. And I don't give a good damn what the guys on Beer Advocate have to say, this beer is killer for this time of year. You take this beer, pour it in an Avery Bottle, and it would go up to a B+. Some people are just hating because Heineken is so popular. This beer managed to tied me over as I was dying for some Bock. Since I can only find about 4 spring bocks in Houston, I had to move to Dark Lagers as a substitute. Nice caramel malt with a good crispness of a lager. Has plenty of taste when it's cold, but not overpowering. Do NOT pass this beer up at the local grocery store. Just give it a shot. The brown bottle alone helps out the Heine quite a bit, but they put this one together very nicely. Great session beer.
So in review, Drink Heineken Dark, and go to the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. And whatever you do, don't meet your old Caribbean girlfriend who now lives in Amsterdam for lunch and let her order a lot of wine and making you more drunk and with thoughts of the night before in the Red Light district still in your head you end up about 3 seconds from sleeping with her which your wife would certainly find out because your friends can't keep their stupid mouths shut telling all the women at your job that you met with ol' girl alone and thus ruining your marriage all of 18 months after you said I DO. Good thing she at least knew where the brewery was, I wouldn't have been able to find it on the solo. Holla.