What you see above is the Gooyer Windmill. Underneath it sits the IJ Brewery. It’s almost picturesque, isn’t it? A wonderful little brewpub sitting underneath a nearly 200 year old windmill, in Holland? Well, beyond the excellent beer (which we’ll get to in a moment), I’d just like to take some time to explain the trouble Mrs Thursday and I went to trying to find this place.
Now, if you on the little arrow to make the big sidebar disappear, you should have a decent sized map of Amsterdam and the surrounding area. You see where it says “Amsterdam” all nice and big? Just above that you should see a little box that reads “s103”. That’s Central Station, where our journey begins. We were given some very vague, and uncertain instructions from the fascinating Scot who runs The Cracked Kettle on how to reach the brewery. We were told a tram to take, and he pointed on a map where it was. We assumed that we’d be able to see the giant wooden windmill from the tram, and we’d just get off at the next stop upon seeing we the windmill. We know the windmill was west of the city, but we weren’t sure where.
So the next day we get on tram number twenty-something, headed west, and I’m looking left, Mrs Thursday is looking right, and we’re both giddy with anticipation to try the new beers. Several stops go by, and no windmill. It’s only about half past noon (don’t judge us, we’re on vacation), so we’re not worried. We pass over a bridge or two and through a tunnel. Still nothing. We’re in a large industrial park kind of area, with lots of concrete and general greyness (unlike most of Amsterdam, which is brick and colorful). Eventually, we come to the end of the line, just the two of us on the tram, and the conductor cheerfully kicks of off the tram. Still, we’re feeling pretty good, and we figure we’ll just walk back the way we came, and ask someone where the windmill is. It can’t be far.
Look at that map again. On the far right side of your screen, you should see the words “Haveneiland-West”. Zoom in on that a bit. Adjust your map so you can see all of it. That’s an island called Ijburg. Or maybe IJburg. Regardless, our final stop dropped us at the far end of this island. From there we walked and walked and walked, back the way we came. About halfway up the island, we stopped in a bookstore and asked a kindly, middle-aged bookkeeper about where the IJ Brewery or the Gooyer Windmill were. She said, “A windmill? On Ijburg? There are no windmills on Ijburg!”. We were saddened, realizing that we had missed our stop long, long ago.
So we continued walking, reaching what the map calls Steigereiland. There we find a gas station, and we buy water and ask for directions. The teller there, thankfully, knows the brewery, and gives us instructions. Through the tunnel, and hang a left. Naturally, we go through the tunnel, somehow miss our left, overshoot the next one by a longshot, back track a whole bunch, and we find our windmill. So, to recap, we went from our hotel to Central Station, to the end of IJburg, all by tram. We then walked from the end of IJburg to Kattenburgstraat, and all the way around to the brewery. After 3.5 hours of walking, we came upon the windmill, as seen 600 words above here.
Naturally, just outside the brewery, we find another tram that goes DIRECTLY to our hotel. Damn.
Anyway, onto the beer, and the pub.
The pub has a few long tables outside, though there weren’t any chairs available for these. Inside, the bar is fairly long, and manned by a very cheerful middle-aged Dutchman, and a younger Dutch lady. There are no stools or seating of any kind between the open doorway and the bar, which is lovely, as it makes it easier to get to the bar and get a drink. On the far end of the bar there are a few stools, and a number of small tables for patrons to drink and smoke and enjoy themselves. I am genuinely a big fan of their basic, but practical setup.
As with most European bars, IJ serves the bare minimum, food-wise. They offer a plate of cheese (Gouda, obviously) and meat (dry salami), and give some delicious spice to go with it. Mrs Thursday and I bought the spice before we left Amsterdam, but neither of us can find it in our bags (tears and sadness). It’s a tasty snack, and it goes well with the beers.
While there, we had three beers each: the Y-wit, the Columbus, and the Natte. I believe there should be some dots about the “a” in Natte, but I don’t know how to do that, and I’m not looking it up. Let’s address them one at a time, in brief:
The Y-wit came highly recommended to us by the Scot at the Cracked Kettle, who knows his beer much better than he knows his public transit systems. It’s a wheat beer, but what makes it immediately, and obviously distinct is it’s high alcohol content, for the style (7%). The beer has the natural wheat haze, though it’s a good deal less cloudy than most of its wheat-brethren. The beer smells very sweet, with a lot of orange scent–almost the way oranges can smell when they’re freshly squeezed, pulp and all.
The beer tastes, well, really good. The sweetness and tang we know and love about wheat beers is right there, of course, but the high alcohol content brings out a sort of spicy, warming, peppery flavor that is usually faint, or non-existent in such beers. Very unusual beer, and all by itself, it was worth the visit.
The Columbus is a, well, I can’t remember what kind of beer the Columbus is supposed to be. It’s another hazy beer, with a lot of orange in the color, almost like a pumpkin. The beer has a wonderful, white, thick foam, that laces the glass as it settles. Just looking at it, and knowing the alcohol content (9%), I’d guess it’s a tripel, but it doesn’t quite have the same taste. Of course, Y-wit doesn’t taste like your everyday wheat beer, so this could be a tripel, or it could just be the ambiguous “Belgian Pale Ale”, which is a blanket term for basically any lighter colored beer with a high alcohol content.
Anyway, the Columbus has a distinctly sour smell. I used to be very putoff by sour scented beers, but over the course of this summer, I’ve come to appreciate a little tart in the nose. The beer tastes almost fruity when it hits your lips, but tastes very dry by the time you swallow it. Lots of flavors mixing it up in there, but well balanced, and very mellow. On one sip, you may taste honey, on the next, perhaps some malt, or some pepper. The alcohol is almost entirely undetectable.
This beer is a dubble, and unlike the last two beers, everything about it seems to indicate the style. It’s a dark brown color, with a little bit of a muddy red tint. The alcohol content is, again, fairly high, this time 6.5%. The beer smells sweet, like chocolate and maybe something else. Cherries?
The beer’s sweetness definitely remains in the taste, this time the cherry-sweetness coming to the forefront, and the chocolate fading a bit. Not nearly as exciting as the other two beers, but very tasty all the same.
To Sum Up
A wonderful little brewery in Amsterdam, and worth looking for, for certain. We were happy to bring home a few bottles of the beer, though if the internet doesn’t like, the beer loses a lot as it goes into the bottles–alas. Certainly, the draft offerings at the pub are fantastic, and, without trying their bottles, I’d definitely recommend trying out the Y-wit and the Columbus, if you ever get the chance.
Next, we cover the bars.