A twenty minute stroll from the centre of Amsterdam takes you to another superb little brewery, Brouwerij ’t IJ. The brewery takes its name from the IJ, a lake and formerly a bay in the city. It is known for being Amsterdam’s waterfront. The name derives from the West Frisian word ie meaning stream or small river
Located in a former bath house named Funen, next to the De Gooyer windmill, the brewery was opened by Kaspar Peterson, a former musician, in October 1985. Brouwerij ’t IJ was one of several small breweries that opened in cities around the Netherlands in response to consumers’ dissatisfaction with beer brewed by the larger companies, such as Heineken and Amstel.
They currently brew five standard beers and four seasonal beers, all of which are certified organic. They are also famed for selling a very special cheese called Skeapsrond, a sheep’s cheese from the Dikhoeve farm in Ransdorp, just outside of Amsterdam. The sheep that produce the milk for this organic cheese, are fed on the malt dregs left over from the brewing process. This food pairing is the order of the day at the small brewery tap. Favoured by natives and tourists, it’s a busy bar with windows allowing you to see the brewing magic happen.
The walls of the tasting room are covered by what is one of the largest collections of beer bottles in Europe. This collection belongs to Gijs de Graaff , who has displayed most of his bottles in the tasting room for years. There’s even a guide book showing where all of the bottles have come from.
It’s a fantastic place to sample their very tasty range. We soaked up some of the excess alcohol with their famed cheese and added some salami in for good measure. Tonight’s beer is the one one for the ‘t IJ range that was unavailable on the day, the Struis, which is dubbed a barley wine by the brewery, but with a strong Belgian twist. The perfect memento from a wonderful brewery. But does it live up to their others?
Struis pours a hazy chestnut colour, with a walloping beige head. It reeks like the village drunk, but in a great way. Sticky sweet dark fruits, sour apples and wild herbs. There’s no denying this is a beer that’s kicking it’s height.
The taste ups the tempo, this is a biiiiig beer. Cloves, nutmeg and more float in the sea of molasses. Raisins and plums finish off the malt cake flavour. Belgian candies adorn the whole package. The booze is front and centre, there’s no disguising what’s going on, and it slips down all too easily. Break out the cheese board and crack open another bottle. Delicious.