My favorite spot to drink craft beer is right at the source, in the brewery itself. In Rotterdam there are several breweries with their own brewpubs offering you the opportunity to have a look at the source. Perhaps you’ll even meet one of the brewers or see the brewers at work. Even if you don’t, it is good fun to taste different beers and compare them. Underneath a short introduction to 5 Rotterdam brewpubs and an overview of Rotterdam breweries without their own bar.
My favorite of the Rotterdam brewpubs is Kaapse brouwers. For me Kaapse Brouwers is one of the top 10 breweries in the Netherlands. They don’t do your regular series of Belgian style blonde, dubbel and tripel such as most local breweries in Holland tend to do. Instead they brew mainly English or American style beers, such as IPA’s, barley wines and stouts. I like the fact that they experiment and come up with new brews regularly. My favorite is the Kaapse Gozer Imperial Stout, which is pretty heavy with its 9.8%. And they don’t do small glasses here…
Kaapse brouwers brewpub in Fenix Food Factory
The Kaapse Brouwers brewpub has a relaxed living room like atmosphere with old couches and tables, and has a small brewing area in the far end of it. Some days you may see the brewer(s) at work. If you wish you could spend all day here, as they have 30 taps with their own beers and good guest beers. If even that isn’t enough, go shopping in their beer shop and bring some bottles home.
This is one of my top 10 Dutch craft breweries! Check out my 2019 top 10 breweries in Holland here.
The Kaapse Brouwers brewpub is located in the Fenix Food Factory in Rotterdam, a food court and one of the hotspots of Rotterdam. This is where the relaxed and hipster crowd hangs out. On sunny days the quay next to this former warehouse is jam packed with people enjoying the view of the Rotterdam skyline while having a drink and a snack from one of the food stands. This is an area that will be redeveloped in the near future. There will be luxury apartments and a museum and I guess that the area might loose some of its present charm. So go there soon!
Kaapse Maria bar
Kaapse Brouwers has a second location called Kaapse Maria, which is closer to the railway station and the city center. This is a spacious bar with 24 taps, that serves tapas style food. You can do a tasting/tour at both locations. I think Kaapse Maria is a nice bar, but not as good as the one in Fenix Food Factory. You should check it out for yourself!
Stadsbrouwerij De Pelgrim
Completely different from Kaapse brouwers in almost every way is Pelgrim brewery in Delfshaven, Rotterdam. Delfshaven is an area in the west of Rotterdam that was left unharmed during World War II. Therefore it looks quite different from the rest of the city that is famous for its modern architecture. Delfshaven used to be the harbor of Delft, 18 km away from here. In this historic environment you can find the Pilgrimfathers’ Church and right next to it a brewery and restaurant called Pelgrim.
Everything about the Pelgrim Brewery breathes history and tradition, even though they only started in 1996. Which is old for a Dutch craft brewery, but not that old. Still, they put effort in creating a historical atmosphere. For example by brewing in old fashioned kettles and staying away from the kind of experimental brewing that Kaapse Brouwers is so good at.
Instead they offer a small selection of more traditional home brews, such as their steam beer and The Mayflower, a tripel. Next to those 2 they always have a few temporary beers. This is a brewery with very little brewing capacity, so their beers are only for sale at this location. The Pelgrim Brewery is a pleasant place to visit. They have a terrace along the old harbor quay, an inner courtyard and an old style Dutch pub. They serve lunch and dinner here too.
Brouwerij Noordt started brewing in their Rotterdam brewery/brewpub in 2015. Their beers are decent, but not as experimental as for example those of Kaapse Brouwers. If you are not that much into strong flavors and experimental brews, this might be just the place for you.
They have a reasonable selection of their own beers to choose from, but don’t expect anything wild. For example, I can easily drink their IPA’s, while I am not an IPA lover. Meaning they don’t use too much hops, and my boyfriend – who is into extreme IPA’s – thinks they are bland. I must admit that I enjoyed their Madagascar Dark Chocolate porter though.
The Noordt brewpub is opened Thursdays to Sundays. They do tours on Fridays. The brewery is housed in the same building as the brewpub. This is a former fire station, that is a bit hidden away from the street. You will have to pass through an underpass, this is clearly signposted. Noordt brewpub has a very light and fresh look, and is a pleasant place to spend some time. When the sun shines you can sit on their terrace.
Thoms brewpub is the most centrally located of the Rotterdam brewpubs. This place is right behind the city hall and looks awesome. It is beautifully decorated; surely the designer has spent a lot of time on this concept. The place is quite big as well, so would be fitting if you are with a big group. If you are interested: they have a couple of beer tables where you can tap your own beer, and they serve meals as well.
The problem with this place, to me, is that is is more about the looks than about the beer. No matter how big the place is, they only serve a couple of their own beers, and these have more or less similar styles: weizen, pilsner, keilen, NEIPA and pale ale. You may think: NEIPA, that is a different style, right? And yes, in theory you are right, but in this case the NEIPA seemed to completely miss out on aromatic hops and tasted more like a regular pale ale. I also missed stronger and darker beers on the menu.
If you take a look at their website, you won’t read a thing about their brewing philosophy or background, and you’ll miss extended descriptions of their beers. So it seems that this place is going along with the craft beer hype, without being really passionate about craft beer. Perhaps I am overly critical and I hope things will improve in the future, but at the moment I would not recommend going to this place for the beer. If you just want to have some drinks and food in central Rotterdam, of course, just go. Staff was very friendly and the place looks beautiful.
De Gele Kanarie
The Gele kanarie (yellow canary) is the odd one out in my list, because they don’t pretend to be a brewery at all. They present themselves as a pub, and when we arrived there we were immediately attracted by the lively crowd, the sunny terrace, the friendly waiters and the vibrant atmosphere. Later on we noticed that the place is beautiful inside as well, with wall paintings of a yellow canary bird. Yellow canary is apparently the Rotterdam expression for a glass of beer!
Still, they do brew beer here, in the cellar, that you can see from above through a glass floor. Usually they have 2 home brews on tap. The beer styles change in the course of time. When we were there they had a hoppy blond and a weizen IPA. A weizen IPA? Yes! It actually looked like a witbier, tasted like a weizen and had that hoppy aftertaste of an IPA. It was quite interesting, especially for a place that doesn’t pretend to be a brewery.
So yes, I am a bit more lenient towards this place than towards Thoms, I admit it. Gele Kanarie is nowhere near as good as Kaapse Brouwers, but a pleasant and unpretentious place to visit for some drinks, or food by the way.
How to get around between the Rotterdam brewpubs
It is possible to visit the 5 breweries in this blog in one day. My advice would be to end in the Kaapse brouwers brewpub as they have the best and the strongest beers.
If you are into cycling you could rent a bike and cycle from brewery to brewery. They are not too far removed from one another, just a bit too far to do this as a walking tour.
By public transport
Other breweries in Rotterdam
I did a little research and found the following Rotterdam based breweries that don’t have their own brewpubs. You may find their beers in the better Rotterdam bars and in beer shops. I can’t tell you anything about their beers, as I didn’t taste them. I’m curious to hear your experiences if you did.
- Drift brouwers
- ROTT. brouwers
- Vet & Lazy, plans to open a brewpub in the near future
- Vlaardingse brouwerij
- Brouwerij Tureluur
- Hoevebrugsch that claims to be the smallest microbrewery in the world
- Trots, brews beer styles that people from Rotterdam have voted for
- De Bebaarde brouwer, a side project of one of the brewers from Kaapse Brouwers.
- 4 islands brewing