Some information on the Uiltje Bar at Haarlem in Nederland

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We did not have enough time to fully enjoy Haarlem so it will have to go on the list of places to re-visit. On this day in May 2024 we had spent the morning undertaking a guided cycle ride around Amsterdam. We then quickly rode over to Centraal Station to jump on a train for Haarlem. We were rather surprised that the cost of tickets for our bicycles was almost the same as our seats. Haarlem is quite compact so it could be argued that we did not need our wheels but they did allow us to see more of the city, particularly as they facilitated a full circumnavigation along the river and canals.

We had contacted the Uiltje Brewing Company before leaving the UK. The brewery had used to operate tours but we were told these ceased during the Covid-19 lockdown and they have not been reintroduced. On the plus side, this was one more industrial estate we did not have to visit. Very few modern breweries are in attractive settings or historic buildings and there is only so many fermenting tanks we need to examine in detail. So, what we did was visit the brewery's bar in the centre of town. No doubt, we would find a large range of their beers at Zijlstraat 18.

Haarlem : Uiltje Bar at Zijlstraat 18 [2024]
© Photo taken by author on May 18th, 2024. DO NOT COPY

Het Uiltje, as they were originally known, are a tadge older than some of the exciting crop of new breweries to emerge in the Netherlands. Perhaps this is the reason there is a bit of a buzz around beer circles - they certainly made a name for themselves by producing a vast quantity of limited edition brews. Of course, this made them popular with the sad fuck beer-tickers or scoopers. However, it was not all gimmickry because many of the beers were actually very, very good. Indeed, some of their output has been recognised by picking up a number of awards, both nationally and internationally. The artwork for the beers no doubt caught the eye of many an undecided punter at the bar. The owl cartoon labels are the work of the illustrator Gerben Valkema, winner of the Stripschapprijs in 2021.

Uiltje

A few years ago we started a love affair with one of the Uiltje brews. In a collaboration with Bristol's Left Handed Giant, they came up top trumps with a beer called Woodland Creatures. This Pistachio and Honeycomb Milk Stout has since been toned down to 6.9% but back in 2019 it was around 11% and one of the greatest beers ever made. I remember the bar at Bristol would only sell third-pints of the stuff. This put the Dutch brewery on our radar. Since then, however, I have tasted some less exciting beers from this brewery so the jury was out. Only one way to find out .... dive into their brewery tap to go through the card a bit.

By the way, if you are in the Netherlands you do not need to visit Haarlem to sample their beers. The brewery, which was launched in 2012, has been very successful with their marketing and their beer can be found in many bars. Heck, a decent range were even on sale in our local Jumbo supermarket at Diemen. Prices at this retailer started at around €2.20. Despite travelling back to the UK by train, a few of these found their way into the suitcases!

Although it is not a case of 'blink and you'll miss it,' the Uiltje Bar is not that conspicuous from the street. I guess I was expecting some of the funky imagery of Gerben Valkema.

Haarlem : Awesome Craft Beer Chalkboard [2024]
© Photo taken by author on May 18th, 2024. DO NOT COPY

I guess the chalkboard says it all ... "Awesome Craft Beer, 30 beers from draft and a fucking lot of bottles." I would admire the bottle of painting that in large letters on the frontage! I guess the other traders in the street have not spotted the small font on the chalk board. But 30 taps - that would take an Olympian effort to wade through. However, we do have a wader in tow and Lance reckons he could piss such a feat.

Haarlem : Lance wading through the beer menu at Uiltje Bar [2024]
© Photo taken by author on May 18th, 2024. DO NOT COPY

Here is the duck who makes us take him on his beer travels ... and pay for his bar tab. He is just on his 14th beer and flying through the menu quicker than Joop Zoetemelk tackling Alpe d'Huez in his prime. He was not that impressed with this Oregon Trail Ale, a 6.0% fruity IPA. He much preferred the higher numbers of the beer menu. And for once, I concurred with Lance.

Haarlem : Beer Menu at Uiltje Bar [2024]
© Photo taken by author on May 18th, 2024. DO NOT COPY

Talking of which, here is the menu for taps 1 to 12 of the thirty on offer. This side of the menu, with the lower numbered taps, is devoted to the beers made a few kilometres away on the aforementioned industrial estate. Can you spot my issue with this menu? Yes, they are mainly IPA-style brews and a couple of wheat beers. Where is all the dark stuff? Well, there were a couple of stouts at the top end of the board BUT only from other breweries. No doubt there was an Uiltje dark number in the fridges but I wanted to drink from the taps.

Kinnegar Brewing Black Bucket Black Rye IPA

I normally self-impose a rule along the lines of "when in Rome ...," and all that. However, I found myself drawn to the Black Bucket, a 6.5% Black Rye IPA from the Kinnegar Brewing of Donegal. This was superb and my favourite beer in the Uiltje Bar. What does this say about the brewery's beers? And what the fuck is Nitro Guinness doing on sale in a craft beer bar?

And now for the key observation of the Uiltje Bar. One word, blokes. Not blokjes, a Dutch word we have encountered when ordering a meal containing Quorn chicken. No, the word is blokes. I suspect not, but we may have called in during an untypical session. However, this places comes across as a bloke's pub.

One of the great things about the Dutch craft beer movement is that there is seemingly no gender divide. I may be wrong but some beers, in terms of flavour and style, have been consciously aimed at women. Oedipus Brewing at Amsterdam-Noord implied this in part of their mission statement. When launching Mannenliefde, their first major beer, they were attempting to dismantle the gender stereotyping within the beer world.

Possibly due to Uiltje pandering to the ticker brigade, the bar seems to have become a magnet for men suffering from a dysfunctional right-hand side of the brain. I recognise this trait within myself. Heck, here I am writing about beer experiences around Europe. However, in recognition that I can be a tadge obsessive when pursuing a leisure interest, I recognise, and make some attempt to moderate my behaviour. Here in the Uiltje Bar, however, there were men who were displaying all the traits of fucked-up beer drinking. The venue has clearly become a beer destination for the fuck-ups. Some American blokes annoyingly held up proceedings at the bar when insisting on tiny samplers of the beer, then sipping them like they are some beer connoisseur or judge at an International beer festival.

Haarlem : Interior of Uiltje Bar [2024]
© Photo taken by author on May 18th, 2024. DO NOT COPY

Until our arrival there was only one woman in the bar. Sitting at a table opposite the servery you could actually smell some of the blokes. The same odour that permeates those dingy real ale boozers in the UK, pubs that attract some of the great unwashed, generally wielding a carrier bag containing goodness knows what. Probably a pile of local CAMRA magazines or leaflets with which they can wank over on return to their hovels. Admittedly, having had a few of that great beer from Donegal, I am going off on one. But you get the picture. Perhaps Uiltje should ditch the owl shit and adopt the Bowerbird, though having said that those birds tend to collect weird stuff to impress a potential partner. There is nothing attractive about some men's behaviour in a real ale or craft beer bar.

On the plus side, the two people running the servery were very nice. I have no idea of staff turnover but this pair had not been here for long. Indeed, by glancing at Uiltje's FB page, one notices the intermittent posts stating "We're hiring." The guy, possibly named Jack? had only been at the Uiltje bar for six weeks, longer than the young woman coping with the mansplaining on the other side of the servery, punters who consider themselves great sommeliers or authorities on talking shite. She actually hails from Didcot which begged the question loosely based on Rick Blaine's memorable line. It turns out she is studying fine art in Haarlem. I guess that she can combine this with some anthropological observations amid the clientele.

Uiltje Eend Bier

Lance was having a great time at Haarlem. However, he has now decided, after doing the card at the Uiltje Bar, that he wants a beer brewed in his honour.

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