I was afraid that the Heineken Experience would be a tourist-y let-down in Amsterdam — I was proved wrong. The experience was well thought out, informational, fun, and…well, we drank. Entrance is 18€ (but with the info brochure, the discounted price is 17€) and you are guaranteed 2 drinks.
I went with a large group of DePauw students, which added to the positive vibes. I didn’t know each person that well, but that didn’t matter much. Whether you’re going with friends, acquaintances, or strangers, it shouldn’t get in the way of having a good time — you’ll either horse around drinking with buddies or you’ll break the ice and make some new friends. Oh, and be sure to check your jacket into the cloakroom or else it’ll get in the way.
The beginning of the Experience was both educational and eye-opening, for most beer-drinkers don’t give much attention to the history of their beer. Heineken pitched their story as a fairytale family business, having grown into a international name over their past four generations. Did you know that the first Heineken beer was brewed in 1873 by Gerard Adriaan Heineken? They still use Gerard’s original recipes, too.
There is always something happening around a beer.
The concrete space was used wisely with imagination and innovation. A young bartender spoke to us in the introductory video where he moved across the wall, drying glasses and pouring beer as though he was casually carrying on a conversation with us during his shift. The projection was life-size and was very entertaining to tune into. In a following room there was an informational video to be viewed only by letting your head fall back and staring to the ceiling — the man speaking shared some of Heineken’s history then quickly told us he had to go back to work.
They displayed vintage taps and mugs, their progression of logos, and some of their awards — yes, awards. In the late 19th century, Heineken had received four awards: The Gold Medal of Paris, the Honorary Diploma of the International Colonial Exposition in Amsterdam, the Grand Prize at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, and then some other competition in Paris as well. I don’t know what the medals were for or how they were awarded, but they looked impressive. Who would’ve known?
After the museum-y displays, we came to a room with four large cylinders holding the ingredients used in Heineken beer: water, barley, hops and yeast. A young man presented the simple ingredients and their contribution to the brew. Once he had finished he then proceeded to drink a tall glass of water to cope with a hangover. I’m not sure if he was kidding or not.
Be Warned: You will begin to pick up the slight smell of horses when entering the historic brew room, for there is a fully-stocked stable in the following room. The large metal kettles in the brew room are empty, but you’re able to peek your head inside of them, which is kind of cool. In one of them, a movie is projected on the other side (yet another unique space to project a video). You can taste the wort while you here. It’s the water and barley, heated and filtered. It tastes like post-cereal milk. You can also offer some free labor by grinding some barley or stirring a heated mixture over to the sides of the room — it’s fun for about five seconds.
About midway through the Experience, you will line up for the “ride.” I had no idea what ride they were talking about. When I asked one of the employees he told me I was going on a roller coaster. ”You can see it from outside. It’s one that shoots you really high up. Did you miss it on your way in?” I grew enthused, but then he told me there was no roller coaster. Downer. Is there no Santa Claus either? He got a kick out of pulling my leg though. The ride is called the “Brew You” ride, where you “become a beer.” It takes you through the entire process of brewing and serving Heineken beer — it’s pretty cool. Interactive. Waters spits at you. The floor moves. You laugh a little. But, do know that you’re not in line for a killer Heineken roller coaster.
Enter the Tasting Room. You will receive your first taste of beer. The bartender will ask you a few simple questions. Tip: Listen during the “Brew You” ride, the answers are there. If you answer questions correctly, you may receive another small glass. The more beer, the better.
“What ingredient makes beer alcoholic?”
“What purpose does the foam serve?”
“How do we say ‘cheers’ in Dutch?”
Those were the questions the bartender asked our group. A round of applause goes out to Kelly Killpack for answering 2/3 of the questions and receiving three beers instead of one!
I was impressed by image and marketing strategies worked into the Experience. The whole idea is to make Heineken your beer. You’ll know the history, the ingredients, the process; you’ll know how to “correctly” drink a beer, watch their over-the-top extended commercials, slap your name on the bottle, and of course have a great time doing it. There’s a room where you can DJ the room, a room for you to take a stage a photo in front of a green screen, a room to play FIFA, a room to play foosball — you name it! This is your go-to beer. It’s quite brilliant.
Become a Certified Pourer
The Experience wouldn’t be complete without a certificate! Aly and Brian are both now a “Certified Pourer” according to the Heineken Experience. Here’s what I observed:
- Clean the glass — very important.
Hold your clean (and cooled) glass at a 45° angle.
- Pull the handle all the way down and continue to fill the glass.
- When 3/4 full, rotate the glass upright and continue to pour for only a few more seconds until the foam begins to overflow slightly.
- Stop the tap.
- Scrap off excess foam or “behead” the beer. There should be no large bubbles in the foam, only small ones.
- Smile, present the beer, and offer it to someone.