I had no idea what I was getting myself into when the opportunity to check out The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam came into my inbox. It was the first time I’ve ever heard of it. An experience you say? Isn’t it just a typical over-crowded tour of a brewery learning how they produce beer like most brewers do? I was curious, especially after discovering it’s Netherlands’s 4th largest tourist attraction. Two weeks later, I found myself landing in the Dutch capital city, Heineken’s picturesque hometown, to discover the VIBE at The Heineken Experience.
The Perfect Pour
To truly appreciate the brand experience, I’ll need to take you through the perfect pour. We were lucky enough to experience Heineken’s Draught University training and learn their 5-Star Serve program. The five steps – rinse, pour, skim, check, serve – ensures that the quality and enjoyment of a Heineken draught beer is consistently delivered anywhere in the world. Heineken believes that a perfect pint is appealing both visually and in taste.
We turned it into a friendly competition among the group to see who could pour the perfect Heineken beer. The setting would take place in one of their chic hidden bars within the brewery used for Draught University and special events. This is where pouring a beer would never be the same for me. So the next time you’re at a bar ordering a Heineken, look out for these steps.
Step 1: Rinse
The first step is rinsing the glass. You got to make sure the glass is spotless otherwise it WILL effect the foam and texture. To prove it, Erik our Heineken Draught Master, showed us a side-by-side comparison of the texture difference in a dirty glass versus a well-rinsed one.
Step 2: Pour
A lot harder than it looks, this takes practice. You’ll need to tilt the glass at just the right angle while paying attention to the timing of when to tilt the glass back up. I’ll admit, this step took me a few tries… (interesting side note: Heineken glasses actually have a curved line on them to indicate when to tilt it back upright)
Step 3: Skim
This is a step I often see ignored by bartenders. However, it’s actually very important in order to get rid of excess bubbles and control oxygen levels for good carbonation Who knew? Erik is clearly not impressed with my pouring or my skimming.
Step 4: Check
Make sure foam has formed a nice crown or head atop of the glass and is sitting on the shoulders of the red star. This is why it’s so important to serve it in their signature Heineken glass.
Step 5: Serve
Serve with a smile (and yes, this is a requirement). You may have to wait a few minutes though to let the foam nestle into the appropriate place on the star’s shoulders. (Hack: If you need to buy time, tell a good joke before you serve to allow the foam to rise)
And there you have it – served ice-cold with a full foam head resting on the shoulders of the red Heineken star to seal the flavours in, and a healthy stream of bubbles showing good carbonation. Full disclosure – this was not my pour and needless to say… I did not win the competition 🙁
We generally know Heineken as a premium, “high-quality” beer, but knowing and experiencing the perfect pour and why it’s served the way it is will give you a whole new appreciation for enjoying it at its absolute best. They actually encourage you to look out for these signs when ordering and ask your bartender for another if it’s not done to perfection.
So what’s all the hype about bringing more than 1 million visitors and being one of the largest, most popular tourist attractions in the Netherlands? Let’s take a look.
You have 2 options – the regular self-guided tour at €18-21 (roughly $26-30 CAD) or the VIP tour at €55 (or around $80 CAD) which gives you a private behind-the-scenes look with an expert Heineken guide, 5 premium beer pairings with cheese + their specialty bread (so tasty) along with your own customized Heineken bottle. We did the VIP Tour and it made such a difference. Go big or go home, right? Fear not though, no matter which option you choose, you’ll have a great time and be served fresh beers at the end!
The brewery was no longer functioning, but instead more like a beer museum wrapped in an interactive theme park combined with Instragrammable photo opps everywhere you turned. It was super interesting because it had all the original, preserved components of this iconic brewery from when it was producing beer.
Led by innovation, the brewery was the first to house four massive boilers to meet their growing demand and here you’ll see the original copper ones they used to make Heineken.
You get a real sense of the old school history and what the energy and vibe was like in the brewery as you’re guided through the halls. Here, you’ll learn about the story behind the brand with tons of visuals and photo opps.
Originally opened its doors in 1867 on the banks of the canal off the Amstel River, it produced all Heineken beer here until 1988 where it relocated the production to a bigger brewery to meet high demand and re-opened this location 3 years later welcoming guests from all over the world as a tourist attraction.
In the brewhouse, you’ll learn about the process of making beer and about their original copper boilers. You will also get a chance to taste wort (tastes a lot better than it sounds).
These are the original horse carts they used to deliver the beer to local bars back in the day. They even kept the horse stable and have show horses for special events around the city.
If you do opt for the VIP option, you’ll end up in this secret bar with your personal tour guide. Here is Thomas who represented the brand with such knowledge, pride and enthusiasm.
Our 5 premium beer pairings were served with their proprietary bread (made from Heineken beer yeast) along with butter and Dutch cheeses. I’d go back just for that bread!
And finally, after you’ve gone through the virtual reality “brewed and bottled”, where you’re submerged into the bottling process through 360-degree videos, you’ve earned yourself a couple of beers. Here you will enjoy the freshest Heineken beer on the planet, served from their extra chilled towers and directly from the source. As in the original, original source.
Getting Acquainted with A’dam
We did the experience in style taking the Heineken Rock the City boat ride which flows you through the Amsterdam canals for roughly 45 min, finishing off at the A’DAM Lookout. While here, I recommend lunch at Moon, atop the A’dam Tower which has stunning panoramic views of Amsterdam. And for all you thrill seekers, here you can ride the infamous ‘Over the Edge’ – Europe’s highest swing.
The Heineken Brand
It’s not often you see a brand so consumed and dominant in their hometown as I did with Heineken. The locals respect and adore the brand. Bartenders around the city understand and appreciate the art of pouring a draught (or draft) beer – even at busy, busy night clubs!
Heineken is on a mission to replicate this culture all over the world by educating the ones on the front lines about the perfect pour. Now, you can look out for these cues and don’t be afraid to ask you bartender for another if it isn’t served right the first time.
The Overall VIBE
I had such a great time in Amsterdam with Heineken and would definitely recommend The Heineken Experience for all beer and non-beer lovers alike. I learned a ton about beer, the city and why the perfect pour is so important. Touristy things are not usually my vibe, but I do appreciate how Heineken created this one-of-a-kind brand experience and have become an extremely popular destination spot in their hometown.
For more information, check out the Heineken Experience website.
Photos taken on Google Pixel 3 – a great phone to have with you when traveling.
Outfits by Gotstyle – my go to place for clothing.
A huge thanks to the Heineken Team for showing us such a great time in Amsterdam and allowing me to share The Heineken Experience with you.