Heineken is my macrobrew of choice and one of the things I looked forward to during the Netherlands leg of my sabbatical was to visit the Heineken brewing company in Amsterdam. Here is my summary of the visit and other Heineken related thoughts.
Heineken should really be the national beverage and symbol of the Netherlands. Heineken signs are everywhere. It is more ubiquitous across the city and country than any brand I have seen anywhere in the world. Every bar serves Heineken. Every restaurant serves Heineken. There’s Heineken signs on the trams, trains and stores. Happy hour is referred to as Heineken hour in many bars and a 2 hour tour thru the indoctrination at the Heineken brewing headquarters is not called the Heineken tour but the much more all-encompassing ‘Heineken experience’.
I bought tickets online, scanned the bar code at the entrance and picked up 2 beer tokens and a green wrist band at about 5 PM on a weekend day. The experience starts off with a fairly detailed rendering of the history of the beer and the company. The staff at Heineken who spoke during this phase of the experience were witty and knowledgable. They really make it an interesting session by constantly talking trash about other beers. It was fun to listen to their reasons for why Budweiser sucks and why Guinness makes you puke more. Just for this, the visit is worth its entrance fee:).
There’s a detailed sequential tour of the brewery that follows this and took me thru every little detail about the water they use, the hops they use and the equipment and the process. Secrets of their success and their ingredient – X were obviously left out of the lessons provided. I was then taken as part of a group to a ‘Become your own beer’ amusement ride. The less said about this, the better. Don’t get your hopes up:). The Heineken experience then takes you to a really fun arcade where you can play Heineken themed games and also kick back and watch Heineken ads thru the years from different countries. I am a sucker for revisiting things from the past and absolutely loved the cheesy ads from the 80s and 90s.
Next phase of the experience is a karaoke bar equipped with all the fixings. You can try singing along with the famous Heineken ads here. I didn’t try it out but the girl who dabbled in this fine song did a very decent job.
Finally, we get to the stage of the experience where we get two free beers. I indulged in emotion-free small talk with the guy next to me who was giggly, high and was on Cloud Nine. He told me it was day 3 of his business trip representing a technology company in Yemen. Sometimes that’s all you need to know about why or how someone could look that happy!
I had my token two beers, purchased some fun merchandize and said goodbye to the experience about 150 minutes after starting it. It’s a fun time out and Heineken does a really good job keeping the crowds moving from phase to phase while also teaching us a lot about beer and brewing. Lastly but not leastly, they have free fast wi-fi!
If you happen to be in Amsterdam, I highly recommend stopping by there and yelling Proust!