We prepared this essential guide to Typical Dutch Drinks – Beer & Spirits to help you figure out quickly and efficiently what to order and taste during your trip to the Netherlands.
The Dutch love beer, they consume it a lot, and they have a plenty of variety. In any pub you will find a very long list of beers, divided into categories you never knew even existed. With this guide you will know what to order – enjoy!
- Types of Dutch Beer
- Best Dutch Breweries
- Best Dutch Beers
1. Types of Dutch Beers
The Biggest Beer Producer
The Dutch brand Heineken is the biggest beer producer in Europe and the second biggest in the world. At least these three huge Dutch beer brands are known worldwide: Heineken, Grolsch, and Amstel. However, these most popular beers are not the best that the country can offer. We recommend you to opt for Dutch craft beers from smaller breweries – you will find their names below.
Here is an impressive fact: several Dutch breweries produce their beers according to old recipes, exactly as they have been brewed for centuries.
The only disappointment for the foreigner may be a typical serving of Dutch beer. The classic size of a beer glass in the Netherlands is 0.3 or 0.33 l, in glasses called vaasjes (“little vases”). Sometimes, although fortunately rarely, it may be even of 0.2 l, in glasses called fluitjes (“little whistles”).
Here are the most popular types of Dutch beers:
Bokbier / Bock – a is a strong lager, approx. 6.5% alcohol, ruby red colour, a malty and sweet caramel-like taste, low fermentation.
Bock is a type of seasonal beer connected traditionally to special occasions, for which different editions are issued, in particular: Lent, Easter, Christmas editions.
- White Label Imperial Doppelbock – Brouwerij Emelisse
- Bokkige Bok – De Gulzige Gans
- Smulbock – Rock City Brewing
1.2. Saison / Farmhouse Ale
Attention: Saison is not the same as seasonal beer. As described above, seasonal beers are beers (not only bocks) produced according to the different times of the year: for spring / summer / autumn / winter seasons, as well as especially for Easter and Christmas.
Saison, on the other hand, is a specific type of refreshing summer ale: highly carbonated, fruity and sometimes spicy, of cloudy golden or reddish colour.
Its other name is farmhouse ale, as it was traditionally brewed by farmers to make more pleasant the hard work in the summer. Apparently, in order of not becoming dehydrated, in the Middle Ages Dutch farmers drank up to 5 litres a person a day of this stuff ;)
As a summer beer, it used to be lighter than other ales, up to 3.5%, but nowadays it can be anything between 5 and 9% alcohol.
- De Parel Van Delft – De Koperen Kat
- Blanc – Tommie Sjef Wild Ales
- Super-charged Saison – Brouwerij de Molen
- Weelde – Oersoep
Witbier / Witte – wheat beer (my personal favourite); it’s opaque, never bitter nor hoppy, approx. 5% alcohol.
The Dutch white beer is usually more similar to the Belgian Witbier than to German Weissbier, which is heavier and less refreshing in taste. Witbier is often made with raw unmalted wheat and spiced with coriander and orange peel which give its taste lightness.
- La Trappe Witte Trappist – Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven
- Fonteyn Wit – Brouwerij ‘t IJ
- Take It – Oedipus Brewing
Dubbel is strong brown ale with caramel hints, approx. 6%-8% alcohol, delicate bitterness, quite heavy and fruity. It is traditionally a Trappist-style beer.
- La Trappe Dubbel – Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven
- 3/8 – Deftige Aap
- Nonkel – Kaapse Brouwers
Tripel is a strong blond / pale ale beer with pleasantly rounded taste, never bitter; approx. 7-9% alcohol, golden colour. One of the best beers to try in the Netherlands.
- Triple Gold BA – Brouwerij de Molen
- Barrel Aged Triple – Bronckhorster Brewing Company
- La Trappe Tripel – Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven
Another of trappist-style beers – Quadrupel – is extremely strong dark ale with a spicy, mature fruit flavour, approx. 9% even up to 14% alcohol. Careful – one glass of quadrupel can make you drunk ;) It’s seriously strong :)
- La Trappe Quadrupel Oak Aged – Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven
- Ongelovige Thomas BA Cognac – Jopen
- Liquid Desserts – Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Quadruple – Big Belly Brewing
1.7. Imperial Stout
Imperial Stout / Russian Imperial Stout is one of the most appreciated types of beers in the Netherlands. Most of the top Dutch breweries specialize exactly in this type of beer. It is a dark brown beer (same colour as porter but a different taste – it isn’t dry as Irish porter for instance), sometimes with hints of dark chocolate or coffee, and well balanced taste, approx. 9% alcohol.
- White Label Imperial Russian Stout – Brouwerij Emelisse (exceptional!)
- Hel & Verdoemenis – Brouwerij de Molen
- Haken & Ogen – Brouwerij de Molen
1.8. Pale Lager
Lager, and more precisely Pale Lager is a classic blond beer, the most common type, approx. 4.8%.
- Gouwe Gabber – Stoombierbrouwerij de Pimpelier
- ‘t Nieuwe Bier – Pinterman
- Polaris – Brouwerij Het Licht
The biggest Dutch brands known worldwide selling mostly this type of beer include Heineken, Grolsch, and Amstel. If you have to choose between these brands, go for Grolsch.
1.9. IPA – India Pale Ale
Originally, IPA are British beers, but I mention them here as they are extremely popular in the Netherlands and are produced by a high number of Dutch breweries.
IPA ia a hoppy pale ale, with pronounced bitterness, noticeable hop aroma, crisp flavour, approx. 4.5 – 7% of alcohol.
- Midlife Light™ – Oedipus Brewing
- Le Guess Who? – De Kromme Haring
- Mosaic Session IPA – Brouwerij ‘t IJ
2. The Best Dutch Breweries
Here is our personal selection of the brands of best Dutch beers to try:
- Brouwerij Emelisse – the winner!
- Brouwerij De Molen
- La Trappe – the only Dutch trappist beer
- De Koperen Kat
- Brouwerij Kees
- Uiltje Brewing Co.
- Van Moll
- Huisbrouwerij Klein Duimpje
The Dutch adore Belgian beers, therefore an extremely rich variety of beers produced by their neighbours is available in a lot of pubs in the Netherlands. Belgian beers are absolutely spectacular, so be sure to try some, especially the world-famous trappist beers. There is no other country with such a great choice of Belgian beers apart from Belgium itself!
3. The Best Dutch Beers
The list above contains both beers that we love and the most popular ones in the professional beer rankings:
- White Label Imperial Russian Stout – Brouwerij Emelisse (Imperial Russian Stout)
- Liquid Desserts – Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Quadruple – Big Belly Brewing (Quadruple)
- Hel & Verdoemenis – Brouwerij de Molen (Imperial Russian Stout)
- La Trappe Tripel – Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven (Tripel)
- De Parel Van Delft – De Koperen Kat (Saison)
- White Label Imperial Doppelbock – Brouwerij Emelisse (Doppel Bock)
- La Trappe Witte Trappist – Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven (Wheat)
- Ongelovige Thomas / Doubting Thomas – Jopen (Quadrupel)
- Wit Bier – De Leeuw Valkenburgs (Wheat)
- La Trappe Quadrupel – Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven (Trappist Quadrupel)
4. Jenever / Genever
Jenever or Genever or Hollands is a Dutch original gin – this spirit was invented in the Netherlands. It is a blend of neutral spirit infused with juniper berry, and malt-wine, which is a kind of not-aged whisky, with approx. 47% of alcohol. It is very typical for the Netherlands.
There are two varieties of Jenever: Young – Jonge Jenever and Old – Oude Jenever. They differ not than much in aging, as in the distillation process, the use of infusion and the proportion of malt-wine.
4.1. Old Jenever
Old Jenever is very aromatic, it has a recognizable malty and pungent taste, and it is a strong spirit.
4.2. Young Jenever
Young Jenever is transparent, with a neutral taste like in case of vodka, with a hint of juniper berry. Young Jenever is easier to taste than Old Jenever due to its less pronounced taste.
One of the typical Dutch ways of drinking Jenever is to take a shot of it – from a small tulip-shaped glass, followed immediately by a sip of beer.
Read more here.
5. Korenwijn / Corenwyn
Although it is often confused with Jenever, Korenwijn is a separate category. Its name means “Grain wine”. It is a strong grain spirit, it may be aged or not, and it contains at least 38% of alcohol. Also served in a small tulip-shaped glass, just like Jenever.
“Drop dead”! Drop is the name of the country’s favourite Dutch sweet: the black liquorice candy. Dropshot is the salty’n’sweet liquorice liquer – the alcoholic version of it. Rather hardcore. I warned you…
It is a famous sweet, dense and creamy egg, sugar and brandy liqueur. Often used as a cream for desserts.
A fun fact: The name of the liqueur means a lawyer – that’s because supposedly this liqueur was helpful for lubricating the throat for lawyers before the trial, and for other people speaking in public, like politicians ;)
One of the most typical Dutch drinks is Oranjebitter – bitter orange liqueur. It is drank for special occassions as the favourite Dutch colour represents the Orange Dynasty. Therefore, it’s also a favourite drink for the King’s Day. The tradition of Oranjebitter comes back to the 1620s – it was created to honour the battles won by Prince Frederik Hendrik. It occurs in more popular sweeter version with sugar, or – nowadays rarely – in a bitter version without it. The typical one is not really bitter, it has a characteristic and slightly dry taste.
More on Dutch Drinks
Ask for Help or Sample
The staff in Dutch pubs is usually very knowledgeable about each and every type of beers and spirits they serve, so it’s often helpful to ask for advice. Many times they will let you taste for free a sample portion of beer to decide whether you like it or not.
Drinking in Public Places
Remember that it’s illegal to drink on the streets (apart from the King’s Day), you can be fined for that.
If you want to add more typical Dutch drinks to the list, vote for your favourite Dutch beer, or ask anything – write a comment!
Read about Nightlife in Amsterdam
Read about Typical Dutch Food – 25 Traditional Dishes and Desserts
4 thoughts on “Typical Dutch Drinks – Beer & Spirits”
Nice, that’s really informative, I like especially the explanation of types of Dutch beers, I didn’t know most of these
Hi Kjell, I’m glad you found this guide useful! I hope you enjoyed tasting the Dutch beers!
Such good and detailed information. You really know the topic. Very good recommedation for specific beers. I like tripel and quadrupel.
Kornwijn surprised me. You have done nice research here.