Some information on the House of Bird at Diemen, Amsterdam in Nederland

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The House of Bird, a brewery tap, tasting room and restaurant, is located near Diemen, around six kilometres from the centre of Amsterdam, but included here as the area falls under the city's metropolitan area. However, the delightful location is far removed from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam. If not cycling, I am not sure how easy or difficult it is to get to the brewery tap via public transport but there is a bus-stop just over 500 metres away from House of Bird. We used the bus service to get to our accommodation in Diemen and it was pretty regular during the day. We opted for a place in Diemen as there are better deals for staying a week or so. The centre of Amsterdam is notoriously expensive. Our host provided bicycles for our holiday so we were good to go anywhere via the fantastic Dutch cycling infrastructure. So, two wheels is the perfect transport mode to visit House of Bird.

Bird Brewery

Our train from London was delayed for two hours in Kent, the UK being unable to run a rail service. After the channel tunnel everything went like clockwork because the Europeans actually know how to run a piss-up in a brewery. However, after spending some eight hours travelling to Diemen we lost some of our late afternoon activity time. It would have been nice to spend an hour or so exploring Diemerbos, the recreational parkland created on the Gemeenschapspolder towards the end of the last century. Still, we enjoyed a pleasant ride from our apartment, along cycle paths amid reed beds, ditches and wildflower areas. It is easy to see why the founders of the brewery wanted a place here as they are keen ornithologists - hence the name of the Bird Brewery. It is important to stress that this is NOT, as some beer bloggers suggest, the place where the beer is made. Speaking to the friendly sommelier during our visit, I learned that the beers are produced in Haarlem. He told me that it would not have been possible to scale up to beer production at Diemerbos as this would equate to industrial land use which is not permitted in this wildlife sanctuary. They were initially cuckoo brewers and have collaborated with a number of firms, notably at Brouwerij Kees. I could have perhaps asked more questions but, hey, I was on holiday and enjoying a drink not giving the bloke a grilling. Anyway, most production is now undertaken at the Jopen Brouwerij in Haarlem.

Founders of Bird Brewery Rik van den Berg and Ralph van Bemmel

So, whilst House of Bird is not the centre of production, it has become a spiritual home for the Bird Brewery, an enterprise founded by Ralph van Bemmel and Rik van den Berg. They both had a background in the beer world and had a shared vision of what they wanted to achieve. Rik van den Berg had been a home brewer and chairman of the beer society 't Nieuweland. Ralph van Bemmel was what they call an obsessive twitcher in the bird world, a passion instilled as a young boy by his father. By the time he had reached fledging age he became passionate about beer so undertook an education at the Beer Training Foundation. They were joined in their nest by a team known as The Birdies, including Folkert Hoogenstrijd as head brewer. He has also been involved with Oedipus Brewing and his own enterprise Apenzaken Brouwerij.

Diemen : House of Bird at Diemerbospad 1a [2024]

The first brew, Rumoerige Roodborst, or Noisy Robin, was released in 2016. This American Amber Ale, with a fragrance of grapefruit, tropical fruit and light caramel notes, was an instant hit and was quickly followed by three more beers to form the initial core range. Awards were soon bestowed upon Bird Brewery, including Best IPA and Saison at the Dutch Beer Challenge.

Diemen : House of Bird at Diemerbospad 1a [2024]

On visiting the House of Bird I initially thought that it must have been a tough gig getting the place built. However, I believe that Staatsbosbeheer, the organisation that manages the green heritage of the Netherlands, invited tenders for such a facility. Seemingly, the proposals of Ralph van Bemmel and Rik van den Berg, committed environmentalists, secured their bid. A core commitment of the brewery is that for every litre of beer produced, the business plants one tree. This initiative was rolled out in 2019, resulting in more than a hundred thousand saplings being planted within a couple of years. Another key strategy is that they offset the fresh water they consume in the brewing process by making a commitment to provide drinking water in the developing world. This is through a partnership with Made Blue Foundation.

Diemen : House of Bird at Diemerbospad 1a [2024]
© Photo taken by author on May 16th, 2024. DO NOT COPY

The realisation of House of Bird was achieved through crowdfunding. Work on the site commenced in October 2016 with the removal of some tree species to facilitate construction by Kampert Bouw BV, a firm boasting responsible construction credentials. As a result of the Nature Conservation Act, Staatsbosbeheer compensated for the tree-felling by re-planting elsewhere within their managed land. Consequently, with sustainability forming an important pillar in the construction process, the owners of Bird Brewery realised their dream with a credible green footprint.

With Kampert Bouw BV delivering within their time framework, the House of Bird was ready to officially open in June 2020. By this period Teun IJff had become a partner in the business. A planned beer festival had to be put on the back burner because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Survival meant takeaway sales only before a slow process of normality could be achieved with limited numbers of visitors. It was the worst of times to launch a new enterprise, particularly because the new business ran into difficulties obtaining financial assistance from the government. Thankfully, the brewery managed to get through the crisis.

In collaboration with Vogelbescherming Nederland and Staatsbosbeheer, there has been a programme of excursion tours in which visitors can learn about the birds in the Diemerbos, along with enjoying a bird-themed beer at the brewery tap. In terms of an ethical and sustainable enterprise, Bird Brewery certainly ticks plenty of our bird boxes. And there is more ... in 2022 the brewery teamed up with the ice cream-makers, IJsbaart, to create IJsvogel, or Kingfisher, a unique vegan waste-free ice cream using spent brewing grains to create vegan milk. This is then flavoured with a Russian Imperial Stout, chocolate and coconut, to create a truly unique ice cream.

Diemen : Beer Taps at the House of Bird [2024]
© Photo taken by author on May 16th, 2024. DO NOT COPY

Of course, although commendable, all of the above would be undermined if the beers were simply average. But the great news is that, during our visit, we found many of the beers to be fabulous. I say many, rather than all, because if we had tried to full range of taps we would have required stretcher-bearers to carry us back to our apartment. I counted 20 taps, dispensing an excellent range of beer styles from session ales at 4.5% up to a barley wine clocking in at 9.6%. I loved the scrabble tile-like beer list above the taps. There is also a non-alcoholic, well 0.3%, beer on sale.

Bird Brewery Joehoe

Looking back, I am not sure why we didn't order beer flights. We opted for the more hardcore skip through the menu by drinking regular glasses of beer. Billed as a sunshine ale, Joehoe was our first choice as it was a mere 5.6% Named after the characteristic call of the male Eagle Owl, this refreshing number induced a uh-hoo from us. Oh, I must mention that the artwork for each of the beer labels, along with other marketing material, is the work of Erik van Bemmel, the brewery's graphic designer.

It was only a small step up in ABV to enjoy some of the Rumoerige Roodborst, a named suggesting that they have a noisy robin hanging around the brewery tap. We have a pair nesting in both our front and rear gardens, bringing us much pleasure throughout the year. Consequently, it was a no-brainer when choosing our next beer, particularly as it is a multi-award-winning ale. The ruby-ish coloured beer is a tropical number with grapefruit dominating the whiff. Apparently, Rumoerige Roodborst is brewed four hop varieties, coupled with five different malts. A complex beer indeed. Just like the Robin, it has plenty of character.

Diemen : House of Bird Duck [2024]
© Photo taken by author on May 16th, 2024. DO NOT COPY

The founders of the brewery were not present during our evening visit. This was probably a good thing as we called in with Lance, our badly-behaved duck. He had been arsey all journey asking dumb questions like "are we there yet?" He played his beak until we got him some of the stronger beers. He claimed he could do the card. If he had met Ralph van Bemmel and Rik van den Berg he would have demanded they brew a beer in honour of him. His rude behaviour may have resulted in them giving up the whole bird thing and rebranding!

With the ramping up of beer strength, we ordered some nosebags. House of Bird has a simple menu but features some vegan choices, particularly the Flamkucchen. However, as it was our first port-of-call in the Netherlands, I couldn't resist trying out the Bitterballen, a favourite bar snack with the Dutch. Indeed, as the holiday progressed we discovered that they have something of a love affair with these croquettes. Of course, the majority tuck into the beef and gravy version but veggies can still get to order a meat-free option. I have to report that they are also rather taste-free. Once past the deep-fried coating they are just a splodge of shite. Thanks goodness for the mustard and mayo. Next time it will be the Flamkucchen.

Like Belgium, things are much more refined and relaxed on the continent. There is no queuing at a servery as a knowledgeable and courteous member of the team comes to your table and guides patrons through the menu. It all goes on a tab, payment only being required when departing. Can you imagine running up a bill heading towards €100 at your local pub? Many British would simply take the piss out of the publicans by doing a runner. Prices, by the way [in May 2024] are around €5 for a 25cl glass of beer, €8 or €9 for a 50cl glass. A bit more than prices for draught or cask ale in London but fairly typical for Amsterdam bar tariffs.

Diemen : Interior of the House of Bird [2024]
© Photo taken by author on May 16th, 2024. DO NOT COPY

We happened to visit the House of Bird during one of their quiz nights. Back home we are rather indifferent regarding such events. Often they can ruin the atmosphere in a pub and can get in the way of good conversation. Most are rather staid affairs. However, by the look of it, a Dutch quiz night is a whole different ball game. Think about comparing a classical concert with Eurovision and you are not far off the mark. The quizmaster on the microphone was seemingly on speed - or the barley wine. Quite how he gets away with the copyright is a mystery. Each question was accompanied by video or audio on two large screens in the room. Despite being rather pathetic with our Dutch, we managed to grasp the gist of the questions and were amused no end at some of the trashy stuff. David Hasselhoff seemed to feature more than was healthy for patrons. Surprisingly there was a high level of British and American content, in film, television and music. It is little wonder that most of the country have a good grasp of English as they are exposed - or subjected - to a barrage of Anglo culture. By the way, all students today undergo English as a compulsory subject for five years during their teenage education, rather like we were made to study French back in the day. It was great to see pro cycling featuring in the sports round, a subject one would never encounter in the footy and cricket-obsessed punters in UK pubs. Despite sinking beers quicker than a blackbird can empty a bird bath, Lance claimed he achieved a maximum. He is preparing a legal case against the House of Bird for not giving him the winner's prize.

Bird Brewery

Bird Brewery Nognietnaar Huismus

With the quiz in full swing and the beer going down a treat, we entered the dark side by ordering the Nognietnaar Huismus, a tremendous chestnut-colored fruity, lightly roasted American Brown, with pleasant nut and coffee notes to balance the hoppy bitterness. Clocking in at 6.4%, this was a gold medal winner at the Dutch Beer Challenge. No silver or bronze from us either for this sparrow-themed beer - it is a total banger.

Bird Brewery Extremus

Well, for me at least, once I have gone over to the dark side there is no going back. However, La Goddess du Vélo opted for a superb glass of Wilhelmus, an orange IPA hangover from the recent Koningsdag celebrations and a one-off brew. Well, until next year at least! Meanwhile, I rounded off the evening with a couple of the rather lovely Extremus, a 9.5% dark Russian Imperial Stout. A gorgeous all-round drinking experience, this full-bodied beer is laced with maple syrup and cocoa, rather like liquorice at times. Despite this sweetness, there was still plenty of hoppy pizzazz to savour.

Striking a balance of sampling as many beers as we could without cycling into a ditch on the way back, we relunctantly headed for the exit. The Extremus rocket fuel elevated my cycling ability, and the old jalopy with a rusty chain that I rode out on was seemingly on a par with any full gas effort by Mathieu van der Poel. The duck told me to get a grip of myself and equated our journey with a ride completed on two flat tyres. Furious that he had not been given his quiz honours and first prize, coupled with the fact he still had a few beers to go before completing the card, he claimed he was compos mentis. However, the dirty git was sick in my pocket as we went over one of the wooden bridges. It's a tough life being a bird.

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