We all know the Netherlands is the place in Europe to get great pot and decent-looking legal prostitutes, but bottles from Orange County's own craft beer creators (and subject of last year's cover story) The Bruery? Yup.
As this beer geek discovered on a recent vacation to the land of windmills, canals, clogs and the Cannabis Cup, the Dutch love American craft beer. They love Stone Brewing's bitter, hoppy IPAs; they love rich, chocolate-y stouts from Ohio's Hoppin' Frog Brewery and they love aromatic pale ales from Anderson Valley and Port Brewing Companies.
What the Dutch aren't so into, however, is Belgian-style beers from American breweries, which makes sense since, you know, the real Belgian beers are made right next door and all. So while many American breweries–like Russian River and Lost Abbey–make sweet and sour Belgian-style beers, the international bottle shops I went to in the Netherlands carried few, if any, of their brews.
Placentia's The Bruery (who recently celebrated its fourth anniversary) was the one exception to this rule. At more than one store, there were large selections of The Bruery's year-round bottles–everything from Tradewinds Triple to Saison de Lente–and my surprise at seeing stuff from an OC brewery on shelves in Northern Europe was met by “duh” looks from the workers.
Their favorites? Sour flemish-style red ale Oude Tart was mentioned by one cashier, who seemed to not care that the actual Flanders region where the style originated (and where Dutch is spoken) was a mere two-hour train ride away. And the bartender at Amsterdam's Beer Temple (the only American craft beer bar on the continent) got very excited when talking about a bottle of The Bruery's barrel-aged imperial stout, Black Tuesday, that was given to him by an American customer.
Despite geographical and linguistic access to the best beers Belgium has to offer, Dutch lovers of American craft beer have chosen to support at least one brewery that they think is doing justice to the styles created in their own backyard. And even though I will miss tasting the latest batches from Dutch brouwerijs 't Ij and De Prael now that I'm home, I am looking forward to drinking locally from one of the best “Belgian” breweries in the world.
Sarah Bennett is a freelance journalist who has spent nearly a decade covering food, music, craft beer, arts, culture and all sorts of bizarro things that interest her for local, regional and national publications.