Friday, 22 September 2017

Malzbier, dunkel

Are you finding all these different types of Malzbier confusing? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

We’ve just seen another dark, top-fermenting Malzbier, though that was called Gerstenmalzbier rather than simply Malzbier. Though this Malzbier is also brewed from 100% barley. I’m really struggling to see the distinction.

Anyway, I’ll crack on with summarising Olberg.

To brew this beer Munich malt is always used as a base with 6-8% caramel malt and a sufficient quantity of well roasted Farbmalz. Mashing in is at 35º C then the temperature is slowly raised, after resting for half an hour, to 50º, 62º and 70º C, when it’s rested for half an hour for saccharification. A third of the mash is left in the tun while the other two-thirds, the thick mash, is boiled in the kettle for 30 minutes. When this is returned to the thin mash the temperature of the combined mash is raised to the mash out temperature of 75º C. The wort is drawn off after a rest of 30-40 minutes.

The sparge is performed so that a wort of 10-12º Balling is produced. As soon as the kettle is full, the hops are added at a rate of 0.6 pounds per 50 kg. of malt.

Depending on the outside temperature, the wort is pitched at between 15º and 19º C (15º C is normal) with I litre (1.5 litres in winter) of top-fermenting yeast and is fermented in a tun. When a barrel fermentation is preferred, the wort is moved from the collecting tun to one or two hectolitre casks. Naturally the pitching temperature needs to be 3 to 4º C higher.

When primary fermentation is over, to get the beer completely clear it’s filled into 4 to 10 hectolitre casks and from there into bottles. The casks can be bunged and the beer then filtered and put straight into bottles. Alternatively, the casks can be left unbunged and 2 to 3% Kräusen added. If the beer needs to stay bright for a long time, it’s pasteurised at 75º C for half an hour.

Breweries which produce strong beers and which have a small side kettle can make a Malzbier from their sparge wort. Of course, these won’t good, strong Malzbiers, but only cheap ones with sugar added. It’s also possible to make a smaller quantity properly. Naturally, you can also run off a few hectolitres of wort before it’s hopped. Boil for 1.5 hours, hopping rate 0.5 pounds per 50 kg of malt.
Source: Olberg, Johannes (1927) Malzbier, dunkel in Moderne Braumethoden, pp 81-82, A. Hartleben, Wien & Leipzig.

Let’s see if I can work out how this differs from the last Malzbier. The gravity looks higher – 10-12º Balling rather than 8-12º Balling. The grist is also different containing Farbmalz in addition to Munich and caramel malt. The hopping rate is a little higher at 0.6 rather than 0.5 pounds per 50 kg of malt. But that’s not really significant.

One big difference is that no sugar solution is added before bottling. Which leads me to assume that perhaps this wasn’t as sweet as the other type of Malzbier. Though, unfortunately, there’s no mention of the degree of attenuation, making that just guesswork.

Another guess is that these beers weren’t that alcoholic. Probably not over 2% ABV, despite having the gravity of a standard-strength beer.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Barclay Perkins Pale Ale grists 1935 – 1936

Time to take a look at Barclay Perkins Pale Ale grists in 1956 and 1836.

If you can remember as far back as last week, you’ll recall that there was a large degree of variation in Barclay’s Mild Ale grists. Are we going to find the same with their Pale Ales? In a word, no.

Whereas there was quite a bit of variation with the sugar and the base malt for X Ale, there’s none of that for the Pale Ales. Not only are the malts and sugars used the same for all brews, the percentages are pretty much identical, too. The only tiny difference is in the hopping, where not all examples contained Golding varieties. Other than that, everything is the same.

Interesting that there should be such a contract between Bitter and Mild. I’m not sure why that might be, Other than that they were more reluctant to play around with the recipe of the pricier beers but were prepared to use whatever was to hand for Mild.

Note that the sugar percentage is higher than for X Ale. It was often the case that Pale Ales would contain more sugar than Mild. Especially stronger Pale Ales. It was a hangover from the 19th century when brewers wanted to keep the body and colour as light as possible.


Barclay Perkins Pale Ale grists 1935 - 1936
Year Beer OG pale malt PA malt flaked maize no. 2 sugar caramel hops
1935 PA 1052.7 29.15% 43.09% 8.87% 18.59% 0.30% MK Fuggles, MK Golding varieties, Saaz dry hops
1935 PA 1052.7 29.15% 43.09% 8.87% 18.59% 0.30% MK Fuggles, MK Golding varieties, Saaz dry hops
1936 PA 1052.7 29.17% 44.73% 7.78% 18.15% 0.16% MK Fuggles, Saaz dry hops
1935 XLK (bottling) 1039 29.15% 43.09% 8.87% 18.59% 0.30% MK Fuggles, MK Golding varieties
1935 XLK (trade) 1045.7 29.15% 43.09% 8.87% 18.59% 0.30% MK Fuggles, MK Golding varieties
1935 XLK (trade) 1045.5 29.15% 43.09% 8.87% 18.59% 0.30% MK Fuggles, MK Golding varieties
1936 XLK (trade) 1045.9 29.17% 44.73% 7.78% 18.15% 0.16% MK Fuggles
Sources:
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/620.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Let’s brew Wednesday - 1941 Barclay Perkins X

We’ve now moved on to the war years, and the effect of the conflict is easy to read. There are the sure signs of supply difficulties with some ingredients.

Barclay Perkins had been enthusiastic users of unmalted adjuncts since they were first allowed in 1880. Usually in the form of flaked maize. It made up about 14% of the grist in 1935, but in this version there’s none. There’s also far less sugar, down from over 10% to around 3.5%. Neither of these recipe changes would have been voluntary.

To compensate for the reduction in sugar and maize, the percentage of base grain has increased from around 60% to over 80%. Many would tell you that this would have improved the beer, but I’ve become much less snobby about adjuncts. I doubt the brewery or its brewers necessarily thought raising the malt content was improving the beer.

No. 3 invert is a guess. There’s no indication of the sugar type in the brewing record. Which leads me on to another, indirect impact of the war. This record is less complete than pre-war examples. The colour isn’t listed and neither are details of when the beer was racked. Was this due to less experienced personnel working in the brew house?

One thing that hadn’t changed was very heavy priming, three quarts per barrel. Which raised the OG by three gravity points to 1034.3. Though that still leaves it with a lower gravity than the 1935 version had before priming. A general reduction in the brewery’s gravities left X Ale not much stronger than Ale 4d. Eventually the gravity differential would dwindle to virtually nothing, dooming Ale 4d to being dropped.


1941 Barclay Perkins X
pale malt 0.33 lb 4.78%
mild malt 5.50 lb 79.59%
crystal malt 60 L 0.33 lb 4.78%
amber malt 0.33 lb 4.78%
No. 3 invert sugar 0.26 lb 3.76%
caramel 0.16 lb 2.32%
Fuggles 105 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.25 oz
OG 1031.3
FG 1006.5
ABV 3.28
Apparent attenuation 79.23%
IBU 18
SRM 16
Mash at 149º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

O'zapft is

The Oktoberfest in Munich kicked off on Saturday. And by chance I stumbled on a live report about it on German television.

It says a lot about the event's status in Germany that a full two hours (11:00 to 13:00) was dedicated to it on national channel ARD, sort of the equivalent of BBC 1.

Obviously they showed the parade of drays and marching bands trailing up to the festival site. And of course they showed the major of Munich tapping the first barrel. But there was lots of other interesting stuff that was new to me.



Well, even the tapping ceremony was of interest. It took place in a Spaten tent, Schottenhamel. I assumed that there would just be the one wooden cask for show, with the rest of the beer kegged. But that wasn't the case. You could see beer from the wood being served in the background. And here was me thinking only Augustiner still supplied the festival with oak barrels. I didn't think Spaten still produced cask beer.

They even had an interview with one of Schottenhamel's beer tappers. Luckily Dolores was on hand to translate his impenetrable Bavarian accent. Evidently he'd inherited a magic tap, one that served quicker than any other. Turns out it wasn't so much magic, as a specially-modified tap he'd inherited from a colleague. He turned down an offer of 1,500 euros for it.


What was particularly nice was that the presenters were all tucking into beer while presenting. Not going crazy, but visibly drinking beer on camera. And they were all wearing traditional dress. (Did I mention Dolores picked up a second-hand dirndl while we were in Berlin?)

But most interesting was the stuff about Oide Wiesn, a festival within the festival. Originally introduced as a one-off event for the 200th anniversary in 2010, it's become a regular feature. Featuring old-fashioned farground rides and smaller beer tents. And here's the bit that really got my attention: all the draught beer is from the wood.

It left me longing to be there with a litre of beer in my hand. Maybe next year.

Monday, 18 September 2017

How sour is Gose?

My elder son, Andrew, recently moved out. Great news for me and Dolores.

No, it’s not that we don’t have to buy him beer any more or wash his clothes. He brings his washing around and raids Alexei’s beer stash. Much more practical than that. It’s freed up his room.

I’m in the process of turning it into my office. I bought some massive bookshelves from a local bookshop that was closing down and moved some of the ones from the living room up there. Finally my books will all be easily accessible and in one place.

I’m only part way through the process, but I’ve already recovered a couple of book I hadn’t been able to find. It’s a miracle I could ever find any book, given there was no logic to how they were stored. I desperately need to find a couple of books for an article I’m writing.

One of those books is “Gose-Häppchen”, undoubtedly the best book written about Gose. It was so long since I’d seen it that I’d forgotten much of its contents. Including a reproduction of a very important document. And one that should settle an argument about how sour Gose was.

The document in question is an evaluation of the first test batch brewed for Lothar Goldhahn at Schultheiss in Berlin in 1986. This is the beer that was based on descriptions of Gose drinkers and which got their nod as matching the original. That seems pretty conclusive proof that this beer was authentic.

And do you know what’s great? The document lists the acidity: 3.1 pH. To put that into context, vinegar is 2.9 pH. Only the very sourest Lambics have a pH value that low.

It’s just like I’ve been telling everyone: Gose shouldn’t be “slightly tart”, it should be mouth-puckeringly sour.

Here’s the document, in case you don’t believe me:


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Gerstenmalzbier hell und dunkel

No, I hadn’t forgotten. Just been busy with other stuff. And having a few arsing issues, due to the need to translate from German. Finally, another style from Olberg’s “Moderne Braumethoden”.

This is another type of low-gravity, sweet top-fermenting beer. They were a funny lot, traditional North German beer styles. Most were pretty weak, either through a low gravity or a poor degree of attenuation. Few seem to have been intoxicating. I guess drinkers were used to knocking back a spirit or two with their beers.

Right, let’s get on with the paraphrasing.

These sweet-tasting beers are produced in various different ways based of the preferences of the intended customers.

In general they are brewed dark. It’s recommended to use Munich malt with in addition an appropriate amount of Farbmalz and 5% to 8% caramel malt, which will lend a natural sweetness and stop the beer attenuating too much.

In the first method short kettle mash is employed, with mashing in at 35º C. The mash is left to stand for half an hour to allow it to dissolve, then the temperature is raised to 50º and finally 70º C, at which temperature saccharification takes place.

In the second method the mash is heated in the aforementioned way to 65º to 68º C, a third is left in the tun to saccharify and the rest is boiled for half an hour before being added back to the tun, raising it to the mash out temperature of 75º C. After a rest of half an hour the wort is run off. It is then boiled for 1.5 to 2 hours with half a pound of good hops per 50 kg of malt, added 45 minutes before the end of the boil. The gravity varies between 8º and 12º Balling, depending on the price it is to be sold for.

The wort is top-fermented in tuns at a temperature of between 12º and 17º C (15º C is normal), depending on the outside temperature. Per 50 kg of malt 1 litre of yeast is pitched. At the end of primary fermentation the beer is filled into 2 to 5 hectolitre barrels, and is allowed to overflow through the bung. The clear beer is filled into bottles from these casks.

Or the beer is transferred to 10-hectolitre casks, bunged after three days and then the highly-carbonated beer is filtered directly into trade casks after having a cooled, boiled sugar solution in the required amount added to it.

To brew pale, golden-coloured Malzbier, high-dried pale malt is used along with 5% caramel malt. The mashing scheme is as above, with a 15 minute boil of the thick mash. Care is taken that during primary fermentation the expulsion of yeast is not interrupted. For this reason a pure yeast is used.

Higher gravity beers don’t need to be sparged because of their strength and beers over 11º Balling are hopped at a rate of 0.75 pounds per 50 kg of malt. High-dried malt is used, which naturally tend to a lower degree of attenuation, also the higher saccharification temperature of 70º C has the purpose of producing less easily fermentable sugar such as maltodextrine.
Source: Olberg, Johannes (1927) Erntebier in Moderne Braumethoden, pp 72-73, A. Hartleben, Wien & Leipzig.

Half a pound of hops per 50 kg of malt is a very low level of hopping. Not so surprising as the beer was intended to be sweet. It’s the equivalent of 1.65 lbs per quarter of malt. An English Mild Ale of the same period had 5 to 6 lbs per quarter, a Bitter 7 to 8 lbs and Strong Ale as much as 14 lbs.

I really wish there was some mention of the degree of fermentation. I suspect it was very low. Certainly the Malzbier brewed at Groter Jan in Berlin in the 1930’s was under 2% ABV despite having an OG of 11.5º Plato. That was hopped at about 0.25 lb per barrel, which is about the same as Olberg recommends for Malzbier.

I’m tempted to knock up a recipe, though keeping the degree of fermentation low might be a problem. Would any of you brew it if a did publish a recipe? I don’t want to just waste my time.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Let’s Brew 1936 Barclay Perkins DB

I’m always working on stuff in the background. Things that may or may not surface at some point.

One of my current projects is converting the old recipes in Mild! plus to my new standard format. It’s a bit weird having them in two different formats. Latest up for revision is Doctor Brown Ale, Barclay Perkins Brown Ale.

You probably remember me saying that Brown Ales don’t turn up that often in brewing records. That’s because at many breweries it was just a bottled version of Mild, though it may well have been primed differently. Meaning there are no records for specifically Brown Ale.

One exception was in London, where both Barclay Perkins and Whitbread had a beer called DB that was a separate brew. Neither beer was a version of their Brown Ale, but an individual brew with its own particular grist. A grist unlike that of either their Pale Ales or Mild Ales.

The lack of mild malt and amber malt mark it out from the Milds, while the presence of crystal malt and No. 3 invert set it apart from the Pale Ales. Having a grist unlike any other beer meant that it had to be brewed single-gyle, something Barclay Perkins didn’t do very often. Most brews were dome sort of parti-gyle.

Another feature which singles DB out is the very heavy priming. A maximum of 1 gallon per barrel was used in other beers. DB has two gallons. Which is enough to raise the effective OG to 1046.5º.

In the case of Milds, which were cask-conditioned, some of the primings would have been fermented. Not so sure if this would have been the case with DB. Doubtless in would have spent some time in a tank before bottling, but I’m not sure how much fermentation would have been going on. Assuming little, the degree of attenuation falls to about 66%.

1936 Barclay Perkins DB
pale malt 6.00 lb 64.31%
crystal malt 60 L 1.00 lb 10.72%
maize 1.25 lb 13.40%
No. 3 invert sugar 0.50 lb 5.36%
brown sugar 0.50 lb 5.36%
caramel 0.08 lb 0.86%
Fuggles 150 mins 0.75 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.75 oz
OG 1041
FG 1010
ABV 4.10
Apparent attenuation 75.61%
IBU 29
SRM 15
Mash at 153º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 150 minutes
pitching temp 60.5º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Friday, 15 September 2017

Barclay Perkins X Ale grists 1935 - 1936

As promised, here are the Barclay Perkins grists. Well, some of them.

I’ve decided to split them up to make the tables a bit more manageable, I’m kicking off with X Ale. Basically standing in for all of their Milds. Because X Ale was in all of the Mild parti-gyles and sometimes single-gyled.

When I started harvesting these records I was struck by how much the grists changed over a short period of time. Without there being external factor, like a war, forcing changes. I’m not really sure what to make of it. For example, why does one version randomly contain some lager malt?

Let’s take a look at the grains first. There are several ever-presents: pale, amber, crystal and mild malt, plus flaked maize. But only the pale and crystal malt percentages are reasonably constant at around 20% and 5%, respectively. While amber malt and flaked maize are all over the place, with a variation of over 100%.

Barclay Perkins X Ale grists 1935 - 1936 (malts)
Year Beer Style OG pale malt amber malt crystal malt MA malt SA malt lager malt flaked maize
1935 X Mild 1034.8 23.55% 9.42% 6.28% 37.68% 17.27%
1935 X Mild 1034.8 18.37% 7.65% 5.36% 43.62% 15.31%
1936 X Mild 1034.7 18.66% 7.11% 5.33% 29.32% 14.22% 14.22%
1936 X Mild 1034.7 19.03% 3.81% 5.71% 41.86% 5.71% 13.32%
1936 X Mild 1034.8 19.23% 4.05% 5.06% 32.40% 16.20% 7.09%
1936 X Mild 1034.8 19.42% 3.88% 5.18% 33.02% 16.19% 7.12%
Sources:
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/620.

There’s a similar story with the sugar:

Barclay Perkins X Ale grists 1935 - 1936 (sugar and hops)
Year Beer Style OG no. 2 sugar no. 3 sugar caramel Martineau BS hops
1935 X Mild 1034.8 5.23% 0.58% MK Fuggles, Kent Fuggles
1935 X Mild 1034.8 9.18% 0.51% MK Fuggles, Kent Fuggles
1936 X Mild 1034.7 0.48% 10.66% MK Fuggles, Kent Fuggles
1936 X Mild 1034.7 10.15% 0.41% Kent, MK Goldings
1936 X Mild 1034.8 15.52% 0.45% MK Fuggles, MK Goldings
1936 X Mild 1034.8 14.68% 0.50% MK Fuggles
Sources:
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/620.


The only sugar used in every grist was caramel, which was used for colour. I would have expected No. 3 invert to be in all the grists. That’s the usual Mild sugar. It seems odd to find No. 2 invert, which was usually used in cheaper Pale Ales.

All of the hops were English and from Kent. Mostly Fuggles, but with some Goldings, too. Nothing unusual there, though a lot of brewers would have been using North American hops in the 1930’s.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Barclay Perkins Ales in 1935

Now that I’ve tracked down ACC/2305/01/620 I really should use it for something. So how about taking a look at what it contains.

I’ll warn you that it doesn’t contain every beer they brewed in 1935-36. Because it’s just for their large plant. The Park Street complex contained two further brew houses: a Lager brewery and a small batch one where their more exotic beers were brewed.

Most of the seven beers brewed in the large plant were “trade” beers, i.e. draught. Only XLK and later IPA were bottled beers. IPA seems to have replaced the bottled version of XLK in 1935. Why, I’ve no idea. Maybe they wanted to compete with Whitbread’s bottled IPA. Though that would be a bit odd, as Whitbread’s IPA was much weaker, just 1036º.

I say seven beers, but there were actually more than that. They brewed seven, but by priming and colouring their three Milds they actually had ten beers. So X and XX both came in semi-dark (11 SRM, 20 EBC) and dark versions (20 SRM, 40 EBC). While A was given more primings to create RA (Royal Ale).

Here’s the set in table form:

Barclay Perkins Ales in 1935
Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl boil time (hours) Pitch temp
A Mild 1030.7 1006.5 3.20 78.82% 5.38 0.68 2.5 2.25 2 62º
X Mild 1034.8 1007 3.68 79.91% 5.38 0.78 2.5 2.25 2 61.5º
XX Mild 1042.7 1013 3.93 69.55% 5.38 0.95 2.5 2.5 2 61º
PA Pale Ale 1052.7 1017 4.73 67.75% 6.98 1.47 2.5 2.25 61º
XLK (bottling) Pale Ale 1039.0 1008.5 4.03 78.19% 6.47 1.02 2.5 2 61.5º
IPA (bottling) IPA 1044.7 1011 4.46 75.39% 6.47 1.17 2.5 2 61º
XLK (trade) Pale Ale 1045.9 1012 4.48 73.85% 6.98 1.27 2.5 2.25 61º
KK T Strong Ale 1056.0 1019 4.89 66.05% 7.19 1.22 2.5 2.25 2 61º
Sources:
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/620.


There was a much bigger price differential between the weakest and strongest beers than you’d find in a pub today. The strongest Bitter was double the price of the cheapest Mild.

One of the strange outcomes of WW I price controls was a very rigid pricing system in the interwar years. Draught beers retailed at 4d, 5d, 6d, 7d or 8d, depending on their gravity. In general, these stuck very closely to the gravity and price bands of the final set of price controls.

And, certainly in London, brewers kept a very close eye on whet their rivals were doing in terms of the gravity and price of their beers. Both the Whitbread and Truman Gravity Books list not only the gravity, but also the price.

This is what Barclay Perkins beers cost in the public bar:

Beer Price per pint
A 4d
X 5d
XX 6d
XLK (trade) 7d
PA 8d
KK T 8d

Next we’ll be looking at the grists, which changed more often than you might expect.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Another desperate effort

to sell my new book:





Recipes? It's got them all. Mild. Strong Mild. Imperial Mild. Watery mild. And loads of non-Mild recipes, too. All sorts of historic stuff never published before. Not even by me. Lagers, North American Ales and other crazy stuff.

Please buy it. It's dead good. And Andrew has just learned how much calculus is in his course.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/ronald-pattinson/lets-brew/paperback/product-23289812.html

And there's also my sadly neglected Scottish masterpiece:
 
http://www.lulu.com/shop/ronald-pattinson/scotland-vol-2/paperback/product-23090497.html




One of my favourite Alexei covers. Worth every one of those twenty euros. Hopefully he'll never learn of the concept of royalties.

Let’s brew Wednesday - 1935 Barclay Perkins X

The middle Mild of the three parti-gyled together.

Though the story is a little more complicated than that. As brewed, X Ale was around 11 SRM. But some of the brew was coloured darker and called X Sp., with a colour of 20 SRM. Though,  strangely enough, I’ve not been able to find any material on the semi-dark and dark versions being marketed differently.

My guess would be that no pub would sell two differently-coloured versions of X. Which has me thinking, did the colour of Barclay Perkins Mild depend on where it was sold? That was certainly the case of different-coloured versions of Scottish beers. It would make sense, as truly Dark Mild seems to have appeared earlier in London than in some other parts of the country. And Barclay Perkins had pubs both in and outside the capital. Was the paler version for the sticks?

That’s just about everything interesting I have to say about this beer. Obviously, the recipe is exactly the same as for XX, just there’s a little less of everything. Oh, almost forgot. There’s the priming. That raises the effective OG to 1038º.

I can remember being very confused a few years ago by analyses in the Whitbread Gravity Book of Barclay Perkins X Ale. They showed OG’s of 1037º to 1039º. Which didn’t match the gravity of either X or XX. I wondered if it was either due to XX being watered down or slops of stronger beers being thrown into X. Now I realise that it was the primings added at racking.


1935 Barclay Perkins X
pale malt 1.25 lb 16.78%
mild malt 3.25 lb 43.62%
crystal malt 60 L 0.50 lb 6.71%
amber malt 0.66 lb 8.86%
flaked maize 1.00 lb 13.42%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.75 lb 10.07%
caramel 0.04 lb 0.54%
Fuggles 150 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 0.50 oz
OG 1035
FG 1007
ABV 3.70
Apparent attenuation 80.00%
IBU 20
SRM 11
Mash at 155º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 150 minutes
pitching temp 62º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Open Monumenten Dag

Or Open Monuments Day as it translates into English, is this weekend. It’s a chance to visit listed monuments that aren’t usually open to the public.

Dolores went to several places last year but I missed it due to being on my travels. It sounded pretty interesting, so I was keen to join in. Luckily Dolores did all the complicated stuff of looking where was open and where she fancied going.

I was very keen on getting a look inside the Aalsmeerder Veerhuis, a random early 17th-century building not far from where we live.


“We can go on our way to Dirk’s.” Dolores says. “It’s best to get there earlier before all the annoying old women turn up, talking loudly and getting in the way.”

We troll up to the Veerhuis 5 minutes after it opens. But there are already people inside and a pair of old ladies on bikes appear as I’m photographing the outside of the building.

It’s quite grand inside despite just being used as offices. And the building extends backwards much further than I expected. Only a couple of the rooms are open so it doesn’t take that long to look around. And then continue on our way to the supermarket.


We haven’t much time after unloading our shopping before we need to set off for our next destination. Not a building, but a bus tour through the rural parts of Amsterdam Noord. Unfortunately, that requires first getting a tram to Central Station then changing to a bus to take us to Noord. Meaning we’ll need to brave the tourist hordes.

Predictably, the tram is full of them. Mostly standing around by the entrance clogging everything up. The twats.

They’ve been rebuilding the station for the last decade. And still haven’t finished. Though the new bus station at the back, where we’re headed, has been completed. As have a few new tunnels under the tracks. The new tunnels are filled with posh shops and even a bar. It looks more like a night club than a station. A night club with almost no customers.

At the back of the station, I notice something before we mount the escalator to the bus station: the pub Little Delirium. I remember now about them opening a smaller version of Delirium Café in the station.

“We can go there for a drink on the way back, Ronald. We’ll probably need a toilet stop by then.”

I thought that was my job suggesting pubs. What is the world coming to?

It’s a bit of a walk from where we get off the number 32 bus to where the tour starts. In a deserted light industrial estate. Luckily there’s a poster to reassure us we’re in the right place. Soon another couple of people turn up.


The tour is on an old bus, built in 1966. It’s a funny short and narrow bus. That’s for a reason. It was meant to serve routes in rural North Amsterdam where the roads and bridges are narrow. It’s mostly following the route of the number 30 bus.


I’ve only ever been to North Amsterdam a couple of times in almost 30 years of living in the city. Mostly because I’ve had little need to. It’s mostly just residential, though new brewery Oedipus is located there. The brewery isn’t that far from our pick-up point.

Our tour takes in Schellingwoude, Durgerdam, Holysloot and Ransdorp. Schellingwoude is sort of attached to the rest of Noord, but once past there it’s wide open countryside, all cows and canals. It’s like being way out in the sticks. Except we’re still technically in Amsterdam. It’s really weird. The roads are very narrow, sometimes just single track.


The first two villages are built on dykes. With the front of the houses at dyke level and the rear at polder level, meaning they’re one storey taller at the rear than at the front. It looks pretty impractical for a settlement. They’re just a single street, with water on one side and polder on the other.

“I haven’t noticed any shops yet, Dolores.”

“At least you can get the supermarkets to deliver now. I’d just buy a week’s worth of food at a time.”


I’m still struggling to accept that these fields and open vistas are part of the city. Though that hasn’t always been the case. This was a separate council until 1921, when it was merged with Amsterdam.

We’re busy for about an hour, tootering along the narrow lanes and squeezing over bridges. It doesn’t look a lot of fun for the driver.

It doesn’t take us long to get back to Central Station. Where we drop by Little Delirium. It’s not actually that small at all by Amsterdam standards. Though it is compared to the main Delirium, which is massive for Amsterdam.


We’re thinking of eating there until Dolores sees the prices. “We can get a sandwich in Albert Heijn.” She suggests. That’s fine by me. A chance to top up with bacon.

The draught beers are fairly reasonable, but the bottles, especially the more crafty ones, are a bit pricey. Many are over 7 euros for 33cl. Ouch.

Next on our list is the Korenmetershuis. It’s another building I’ve walked past many times and wondered. Especially as it’s just about opposite In de Wildeman.

Dolores is just walking up the steps when someone calls her back. Turns out we need to book a tour. The next one being in about an hour. We’re given a little card to show that we’ve booked a place.


To fill in the time, we head over to De Bazel, which had been our last intended stop. They’ve been buggering around with the tram stops, removing quite a few. It’s been particularly bad around Vijzelgracht, where De Bazel is. Which catches us out. There’s no tram stop between Munt and the end of Vijzelgracht, meaning we have to walk almost the whole length of it back. Really annoying.

This a building I have been in before. Because it’s home to the Gemeentearchief Amsterdam, where some Heineken and Amstel brewing records are kept. It’s a particularly striking building, both inside and out.

Dolores is confused about where the open bit is. We go up to the third floor and discover everything locked up. It’s actually the basement we want, in the old bank vault. Where there’s an exhibition of maps and drawings. Not that we have much time to look at it, as we need to hurry back for our appointment at the Korenmetershuis.

It’s great fun crossing town through the ridiculous crowds of tourists. Millions of the buggers, are standing in the way or dawdling. Bastards. Totally out of hand, the tourist numbers in Amsterdam. And they’re still building more hotels.

We’ve 15 minutes before our tour starts. “We may as well nip into Wildeman for a quick beer.” I suggest. Dolores is having none of it. “We’d have to rush our drinks.” I don’t see that as a problem.

The Korenmetershuis is the guild house of the people who checked the measure of grain coming in from Eastern Europe. Quite important in the 17th century when every town had its own system of weights and measures.


I have to bite my tongue when our guide starts talking about the brewing water in Haarlem. He claims that city had an advantage when it came to brewing as the Spaarne, the river flowing through Haarlem, had clean water. Total bollocks. Already in the 15th century it was polluted by other industries in the city and contaminated with sea water. They really got their water from a spring in the dunes. It was transported by boat on a canal especially built for the purpose. For reasons which may or may not ever be revealed, I needed to bone up on that very topic last week.


The tour doesn’t take long. It’s a pretty small building. Soon I finally have my beer in Wildeman. We only stay for the one. It’s been quite a tiring day.






De Vereniging Vrienden van de Amsterdamse Binnenstad
Aalsmeerder Veerhuis
Sloterkade 21
1058 HE Amsterdam
Tel.: 020 6172735

Little Delirium
Centraal, IJhal,
De Ruijterkade 42A,
1012 AA Amsterdam.
Open 10AM–11PM

Korenmetershuis
Nieuwezijds Kolk 28
1012 PV Amsterdam
Tel.: 020 6225292

De Bazel
Vijzelstraat 32,
1017 HL Amsterdam
Tel.: 020 723 0560
http://www.debazelamsterdam.nl

Bierproeflokaal In De Wildeman
Kolksteeg 3,
1012 PT Amsterdam.
Tel.: 020 638 2348
http://www.indewildeman.nl/