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because I’ve not been to Ams­ter­dam for many years and thought my views on the place were like­ly to be way out of date – sounds like they’re still rel­e­vant.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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