Are you a craft beer aficionado? And are you traveling to Holland? Then you may need some help to find out which of the 700 Dutch craft breweries are worth your time. Read on to learn what are the 10 best breweries in Holland and where to find their beers.
Visiting local breweries in Holland
There’s quite quite an overwhelming number of craft beer breweries in Holland these days: over 700! Most towns have a local brewery. If you are staying in Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Utrecht you will find that they have several local breweries.
Perhaps you fancy visiting local breweries in the towns where you are staying. If you do, keep in mind that the quality of their beers may not be as high as you expect. Many local breweries in Holland brew standard and unimaginative beers, such as a Belgian style witbier, a blonde, a dubbel and tripel, a basic IPA (that often lacks hoppiness), a German style weizen and perhaps a strong dark ale. There are exceptions though, and some local breweries may have one or two outstanding brews.
I would definitely not advice against visiting local breweries. They are a big step forward compared to drinking Heineken in a standard pub, as many tourists seem to do. Brewpubs can be pleasant places to hang out for a couple of hours. And it is always fun to discuss beer with an enthusiastic brewer.
Next level breweries in Holland
Some breweries stand out above the pack. They have developed their own signature beers and style, experiment, do collabs with foreign breweries and you may find them at international beer festivals. If you are in Holland and if you are a craft beer aficionado I think you should try their beers especially.
Top 10 breweries in Holland*
- Brouwerij de Molen
- Brouwerij Kees
- Bronckhorster Brewing Company
- Het Uiltje
- De Moersleutel
- Kaapse Brouwers
- De Kromme Haring
Runner ups: Van Moll, Oedipus brewing, Tommy Chef, Nevel, Frontaal, Duits & Lauret
* There is always a level of subjectivity in top 10 lists. There is in mine too. I am a huge fan of strong flavored dark beers, such as (imperial) stouts, (Baltic) porters and smoked beers. To compensate for this bias a little bit, I worked out this top 10 with my friend Patrick who loves IPA’s and NEIPA’s, the more extreme the better. (He likes dark beers too.) We both aren’t experienced sour beer drinkers. For those of you interested in Brett beers I have added two Dutch breweries well known and respected for their wild beers to the runner up list.
1) Brouwerij de Molen
Do you enjoy dark, strong beers? If you do, you should definitely try the beers of Brouwerij de Molen (Brewery The Mill) as they excel in dark beers such as imperial stouts and Baltic porters. Their beer menu is gigantic, with both regular and temporary beers. They barrel age some of it, on all kinds of old whisky, rum and wine barrels. You could drink on for a week and you wouldn’t have tried everything! Be careful though: most of these beers are high in alcohol.
Brouwerij de Molen is located in the otherwise not so interesting town of Bodegraven. They have a taproom/restaurant and a beer shop there along a canal. The taproom is a bit of a Walhalla for lovers of dark beers. Bodegraven is situated in between Leiden and Utrecht, south of Amsterdam. It has a train station, so you can easily reach it from Utrecht Central Station in about 20 minutes. From Amsterdam the trip will take about 1 hour.
Feel like combining a visit to the De Molen brewpub with a healthy long hike through the polders surrounding Bodegraven? Read my blog about hiking around Bodegraven.
If you don’t feel like traveling all the way to Bodegraven to taste some beers, you’ll be happy to hear that most good beer bars in the Netherlands serve one or more Brouwerij De Molen beers. In my opinion you can recognize a good beer bar just by checking if they have Brouwerij de Molen beers on their menu. Good craft beer shops will sell these beers too.
One more thing about Brouwerij de Molen: they organize the best beer festival in Holland. This is a 2 day festival called Borefts which is very popular among Dutch craft beer lovers. It usually sells out months before it’s on, which is some time in September. It’s a cool festival to attend, though you should be aware that this is an international festival and you won’t find too many Dutch breweries there.
2) Brouwerij Kees
Kees is the name of the head brewer of this excellent brewery. In my opinion he is the most creative brewer in Holland, a masterchef of beers. Kees is especially well known for 2 things:
- porters, stouts and barley wines, that often have dessert like qualities, such as a Caramel fudge stout or a Blueberry Cheese Cake with Chocolate & Maple Topping-stout.
- his barrel project series, bottled in white cans and simply named after the batch, for example Barrel Project 18.08. These are often stouts and barley wines aged on whisky, rum or wine casks.
Kees does nice IPA’s as well, but those aren’t as good as his dark beers. Good beer bars should have beers by Kees, though in practice I have found that often they don’t! Perhaps this is caused by the price: these beers are more expensive than average. They’re worth the price though, these are beers that are meant to be drunk slow.
3) Bronckhorster Brewing Company
The Bronckhorster Brewing Company is situated in the tiny village of Rha, across the river IJssel from Dieren, close to Arnhem. It’s hard to reach by public transport, and only opened to visitors on Saturdays. It’s a nice place to visit, in a rural area. And the brewer is English, which might make conversation easier for you as an English speaking tourist.
Bronckhorster beer has won several prizes in beer competitions. They even won the Best Dutch Beer-award for their Nightporter, which in my opinion is one of their best regular beers. If you have a chance you should try their barrel-aged series as well.
As the Bronckhorster Brewing Company is a small company, their beers are not widely available in the Netherlands. The closer you get to where they are, the easier it will get to find their beers, in bars and in craft beer shops.
4) Het Uiltje
Are you a lover of IPA’s, DIPA’s and NEIPA’s and do you believe in “the more hops the better”? Then try Uiltje beers! Uiltje is a brewing company from Haarlem and though they brew different styles of beer, they are especially known for their IPA’s. Try Doctor Raptor for example, or their Monster IIIPA. They also do a Fresh&Fast series, extremely hoppy beers that are distributed immediately after being canned and are supposed to be drunk within a couple of days.
You can read more about Het Uiltje brewery and their taproom in my blog about the Haarlem beer scene. Haarlem is close to Amsterdam and makes for an easy day trip if that’s where you are staying. Uiltje beers are widely available in Holland, in bars, beer shops and even in supermarkets.
5) De Moersleutel
De Moersleutel is a relatively new brewing company in Alkmaar, about 40 minutes north of Amsterdam. It’s a family business run by 4 brothers that look a lot more innocent than the beers that they brew. If you like strong flavors, this is where you should be heading. The interesting thing is that they are good at both brewing extremely dark beers and extremely fruity & hoppy beers. Usually it’s one or the other (see my numbers 1 to 4), Moersleutel is clearly an exception to that rule.
Try anything from the Motorolie series (a strong Stout available in many variations) or if you dare their Antifreeze, an 18% freeze distilled Motorolie Mexicake beer (sold in small bottles and best shared!). If you are more into the fruitiness and hoppiness of NEIPA’s, go for the Of je hop lust (NEIPA), the Emergency Escape (double NEIPA) or the Glitch (triple NEIPA).
If Moersleutel continues like this they may well rise to a higher position in my future top 10 of best breweries in Holland.
Despite the fact that they are good brewers and despite the fact that they export their beers worldwide, it is not always easy to find their beers in bars in Holland. Even in their hometown, Alkmaar! Good news is that they have a taproom just outside of the city center of Alkmaar now. This place is called the Scrapyard (and that’s what it looks like too). It’s a laid back kind of place, with a beer garden in summer and a cosy wood stove for the cold days. Check it out!
Based in Haarlem, Jopen is one of the Golden Oldies of Dutch craft brewing. I think they set an example for many of the newer brewing companies in Holland, being one of the first to brew outside the box kind of beers. For example their first beers, which were recreations of medieval beer styles brewed with herbs instead of hops and with oats instead of (only) barley.
Jopen beer has been on the market for 25 years now: it is distributed nationally and internationally. Of this top 10 of best Dutch craft breweries, Jopen beer is probably the easiest to find in Holland.
Jopen beers are of high quality. This also means that they aren’t in to that funky craziness of younger breweries that may just throw a Christmas tree in a brewing kettle to see what will happen. Some of the younger brewers of Jopen started the Uiltje brewing company for that reason. Whereas Uiltje beers may differ in quality, Jopen beers are always a good choice even if it is a less adventurous one.
If you want to visit the Jopen brewery or their amazing taproom (in an old church) read my blog about craft beer in Haarlem for more info. Beers to try are Jopen Koyt (after a medieval recipe, herbal beer), Mooie Nel (an IPA that is seen as an example of the style) or any beer in the Meesterstuk series (a yearly master piece, usually a strong beer). If you are into smoked beers, try the Witte Rook. They do a very good dubbel bock as well, the Johannieter, available in autumn.
7) Kaapse Brouwers
Kaapse Brouwers is a small and creative brewing company from Rotterdam. They have a nice brewpub over there, and a bar. If you want to read more about these places check out my blog about brewpubs in Rotterdam. Kaapse beers are widely available in Rotterdam bars and beer shops, but harder to find outside of the Rotterdam area.
This is definitely your kind of brewing company if you are into stouts, barley wines and strong brown ales, possibly barrel aged. Try for example the Kaapse Gozer or the Kaapse Karloff experimentals. These are strong beers that can make you very happy, especially when you enjoy them watching the sun set in the Rotterdam harbor. Be careful though, this is heavy stuff! If you are more into IPA’s, try the Kaapse Karel or the Kaapse Karel on Steroids.
8) De Kromme Haring
Kromme Haring is a microbrewery located in Utrecht. They have a little brewpub where you can taste their brews and find uncommon foreign beers. If you want to know more about the Kromme Haring brewpub, read my blog about brewpubs in Utrecht.
What makes the Kromme Haring brewery so special is that they experiment with yeasts (one of the brewers has a background as a biologist). Therefore they create uncommon beer styles such as a saison forte (in which they used two different yeasts), a saison with yuzu, a sour session IPA or a Brett IPA. Perhaps less special, yet quite enjoyable, is their Smokey Porter.
If you are looking for something absolutely different, head to the Kromme Haring brewpub in Utrecht straight away! It’s not so easy to find Kromme Haring beers outside of Utrecht. Good craft beer bars around Holland may (occasionally) serve Kromme Haring beer. If you see it, go for it.
Located in the city of Breda. The Frontaal brewery is especially good at brewing NEIPA’s, such as the Juice Punch-series, anything extremely hoppy actually. If you are into that beer style it might be worth traveling to Breda to try the lot. You may find their beers in good craft beer bars around the country as well (no guarantees given!).
Check out my blog about drinking craft beer in Breda to read a little more about the Frontaal brewpub.
Kompaan is a microbrewery in the city of The Hague. They have a laid back brewpub in the industrial harbor outside of the city center that is worth a visit if you are in the area. Kompaan beers are available in many other The Hague bars. You may also find their regular beers in beer shops around Holland and in some supermarkets.
I’m particularly fond of the Bloedbroeder imperial stouts (there are several variations) and I thought that their 2019 bock beer (BOCKS) was one of the better bock beers I had this year. If you are more into IPA’s, try the Handlanger double IPA. In 2017 they started to brew the Foreign Legion series, a series of classic beer styles with an experimental twist. Try for example the Joey Greenhorn Restless IPA or the Tommy Double Barrel (a barrel aged strong ale).
An interesting brewery from Eindhoven, Holland’s 5th city. Their beers are not that easy to find outside of Eindhoven and as I don’t visit Eindhoven that often it took me a while to discover them. If you like dark beers, try anything with Zoltan in its name. If you are an IPA lover you will surely find something to your liking here as well. Check out the website of Van Moll to learn more.
A funky “new” brewery from Amsterdam. Check my blog on brewpubs in Amsterdam to read more. Try the Thai Thai (herbal beer, goes well with Thai food), Mannenliefde (IPA) or Kinderyoga (imperial stout)
Tommie Sjef Wild Ales
A new brewery that’s already made quite a name for itself with sour beers, or Bretts. This brewery can’t be visited; check out the Tommie Sjef website to learn more
Nevel Artisan Ales
Another brewery to look out for if you are into wild or sour ales. Located in Nijmegen. Check out the website Nevel Artisan Ales (in Dutch only) for more info.
Duits & Lauret
Though basically a typically local brewery at a fantastic location in an old fortification along the river Lek Duits & Lauret stands out especially for their smoked beers. So if you are into that (like me!) try their smoked porter or their smoked bock beer. This Dutch brewery brews high quality beers that have won many prizes and are often used in beer-food pairings in good restaurants. Website Duits & Lauret