Perceptions of Value in the Port of Amsterdam

Macro shot of 1p pieces with The Queen's profile.

How much? Seriously — how much?

We don’t often find ourselves saying this kind of thing because, without making a big whoop-de-doo about it, we tend to go to the kind of pubs that suit our budget, with the occasional managed blow-out when we get the urge to drink something exotic.

But Amsterdam really challenged us.

On paper, it might not seem that big a deal: beer from smaller breweries in fairly imprecise measures of 250-300ml seemed to cost between €4-€6, which puts it in the £5-£6 a pint territory that’s increasingly common in higher end UK bars. But it often felt like poor value for money because even the Special Beers didn’t always seem that special. A session of not-bad beers that barely left us abuzz could easily cost €40.

And even if the point, as we’ve sometimes said, is that you’re renting space in a nice pub or bar, then the fact that we didn’t quite warm to most of the establishments we found ourselves in, following guidebooks and advice, rather nullifies it.

Then, just to reinforce that feeling, we spent two nights in Brussels drinking the world’s best (don’t @ us, as the kids say) and, let’s be honest, pokiest beers at €3-€4 per 330ml bottle, in characterful bars and cafes, where beer is treated with reverence but not pretension.

Just to be clear, we’re not pretending to have got the measure of Amsterdam based on a week’s stay; we loved the city as a whole; and will certainly go back.

We just found it interesting to have that reality check: £4.50 for a full pint of truly great cask suddenly doesn’t seem so scary after all.

12 thoughts on “Perceptions of Value in the Port of Amsterdam”

  1. That’s interesting, because I’ve not been to Amsterdam for many years and thought my views on the place were likely to be way out of date – sounds like they’re still relevant. Or exactly the same as yours… But then Belgium has long offered far more enticing beers and bars.

    1. Incidentally, I should add that that’s precisely why I’ve not been to Amsterdam for many years…

  2. Your observations ring true for me. I lived in the Netherlands in 1986, working at Aalsmeer in the cut flower auctions and boarding with a family for a few months. I found the values of the culture so positive and confident that I came away thinking how wild and unstructured Canadian life was. There as little time for wasteful idle pleasures beyond a reasonable measure. So while there were nights out and good times there was also knowledge that tomorrow was a work day. The government ran TV ads on Friday night reminding people that they had neighbours so best not to party loudly. All so structured and civilized. Other values mattered more. I learned how cut flowers were groceries you don’t eat. I learned that everyone had to work together to hold back the seas and that other people’s business is their business. My father, an Scots immigrant, later would say “got a problem? bring in more Dutch immigrants” and, coincidentally, I am meeting with a Durch family run construction firm this morning to solve a problem. Bet it gets solved.

  3. I’m normally a right tightwad but that seems to go out of the window on holidays. I’ve been over to Amsterdam a few times for beer events and have no idea how much the beer costs.

      1. Yep. I roll my eyes a bit when people just assert that “X is a stupid amount to pay for a beer”, but I’m a lot more interested in “charging X for this beer in these circumstances is a bit silly when I can get that beer in those circumstances for Y”. Eg I don’t really care that a 75cl bottle of fancy American Wild Ale in a bar Reykjavik is more expensive than a corner shop can of Tyskie back home, but it might be relevant if it’s significantly more expensive than a bottle of Drie Fonteinen in the bar over the road. (I might not be able to afford either, but I can at least appreciate that the pricing is relatively rational…)

  4. Well, last week was more a celebration of the hops sister plant after all, 420 and all that.
    Living in NL I find supermarket and off-licence prices to be decent, and bars varying wildly, even in Leiden. The Jopenkerk in Haarlem offers that brewers output at a good price, and the Stadsbrouwhuis in Leiden brew their own and offer lots of the other local output at not too ridiculous a price. Yet to go to De Molen in Bodegraven, saving it for a treat. Are you writing a full on trip report?

    1. No big round up planned, I’m afraid. We put something in our Patreon feed about the best beers we had but that, and this, are likely to be it.

  5. Some points here, yes Dutch bars are expensive, but they actually pay their staff decent wages, so it’s not all straight rip off by the owners. Amsterdam is expensive, but as a capital city and tourist hotspot it is noticably more so than the rest of the country, places like Haarlem and Utrecht are very close and cheaper. It’s still not that expensive to go for a night out on the local pils though. The Wildeman is always going to fit in my top 10 bars.
    And if you think Amsterdam is expensive, don’t head for Scandinavia any time soon.

  6. I always feel Amsterdam is too touristy. I think the real Netherlands is Rotterdam. There is a lot of good stuff going on there (beer wise) and Dordrecht is a train (or boat) journey away. Flights are generally cheaper there too.

  7. The high prices are why I rarely venture into the city centre. There are places with reasonable prices: Butcher’s Tears usually has one draught beer under 3 euros. De Prael is fairly reasonable, too.

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