Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
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Grab a beer and learn how to order one in Amsterdam in: 7 minutes
Order Beer Like An Amsterdammer
Ordering a beer is simple enough, of course. But knowing the Amsterdam lingo for doing so can certainly help prevent unwelcome surprises.
After all, you wouldn’t be the first tourist who, after ordering a beer in English, gets its served in a much larger quantity than imagined — and at a much higher price.
Speaking of which: If you’re used to drinking a pint of beer at a time in England, Ireland, or America, you’re in for a bit of a shock. The Dutch usually serve their beers in much smaller glasses.
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How to Order a Beer in Dutch
There’s a funny book titled, The Undutchables. It is a highly popular caricature of the Dutch.
Aside from over-the-top observations, the book (considered essential reading by Holland’s large expat community) includes useful information generally not found in tourist guides.
Consider the following insight into ordering beer in the Netherlands:
More about that in a moment. But first, this brief look at a Dutch language oddity will help you better understand the beer lingo:
“Biertje?” The Dutch obsession with the Diminutive
In the above quote, The UnDutchables refers to the Dutch obsession with diminutives. That is because the Dutch refer to nearly everything in the diminutive.
For example: “Ik doe mijn schoentjes aan om met mijn hondje een blokje om te gaan” That means, “I’m putting on my shoes to take my dog for a walk around the block”. But literally the Dutch say, “I’m putting on my small shoes to take my small dog around the small block.”
‘Terrasje pakken?” (Dutch shorthand for ‘shall we sit on a terrace for a while?”Tweet
Likewise, you’ll hear Amsterdammers suggest to each other, terrasje pakken? — Dutch shorthand for ‘shall we sit on a terrace for a while?’ (Literally, ‘Grab a small terrace?’)
Why? Some say this emphasis on the diminutive is rooted in the Dutch psyche. Ostensibly it stems from an obsession with soberness as inspired by Calvinism. Fortunately, that goes way beyond the scope of this article.
Fluitje, Vaasje, or Just Biertje?
Just to make things more interesting, different bars may have different customs for ordering.
For instance, if you ask a waiter or bartender for a biertje, he or she may respond with, ‘vaasje?’ or ‘fluitje?’
Both a vaasje and a fluitje come in slightly different sizes — and those sizes often differ from bar to bar, since they increased over time.
Suffice it to say that a fluitje (‘thin whistle’) is a smaller beer glass than a vaasje (‘small vase’). You’ll end up with anywhere from 20 cl (centiliter) to 33 cl. By comparison, a UK pint contains 56.83 cl. A US pint converts to 47,32 cl.
Just order a Biertje
But frankly, most of the time all you need to know is “biertje,” which will get you a small glass of beer. Don’t worry too much about it.
A biertje is usually the house beer on tap, from whichever brewery the pub has a contract with.
Draft or bottled
Most bars and pubs in Amsterdam tend to have a relatively small number of beers on tap, in addition to a reasonable selection of bottled beers.
Some pubs pride themselves on offering a much larger choice.
Amsterdam Beer Tours
But hey, this is Amsterdam — hometown to one of the world’s top beers: Heineken. If beer’s is your thing, don’t miss the Heineken Experience.
Tip: Combine your visit to the Heineken Brewery with a fantastic canal cruise.
Take the canal cruise first, then enjoy the Heineken Experience. From there it’s only a 15 minute walk to Museumplein, where you’ll find the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and the Stedelijk Museum.
Want to get off the beaten beer path instead? Take a guided beer brewery bus tour with tastings.
The Dutch use cafes and their outdoor terraces like an extension of their living room. They’re comfortable places where you can relax, people watch… [more]
Dutch Beer Comes With a Head of Foam
Dutch draft beer comes with a head of foam. At times a beer lover who isn’t used to that wrongly assumes the barkeeper is cheating him out of gulp or two.
The two-fingers deep layer of foam serves a purpose: to trap the taste, and thereby to keep your beer fresh.
Is that really Heineken?
Several years ago the Heineken brewery discovered that much of the beer sold in pubs as ‘Heineken’ was, in fact, not Heineken at all.
By secretly letting unbranded beer flow through their Heineken taps restaurant- and pub owners savde 25 to 50 Euro per barrel — on top of the extra income derived from selling inferior beer at premium prices.
We have encountered switched-out beer ourselves. We’ve also been served watered-down Irish beer, admittedly at a tourist trap bar on Leidseplein.
Anyway, at the time insiders in the drinks trade estimated that some 60 percent of the hospitality businesses were involved in the Heineken switch deception.
The Heineken brewery hit back by hiring many additional investigators and ‘secret shoppers’. Word is that they catch a few dozen swindlers a year. The company actively pursues legal actions against them.
That said, while Heineken is still the top-selling beer in Amsterdam (and the rest of the Netherlands), nowadays the popularity of craft beers is rising as well.
By the way, here’s how to visit an Amsterdam café
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