Tracking this place down isn’t easy, but it’s so very work the hunt.
A year ago, at the recommendation of another establishment (Wynand Fockink – not a beer bar, but still a must-see), I wove my way through Amsterdam’s alleys, criss-crossed canals and bounded between bikes, only to find In De Wildeman closed on Sunday.
This trip, after 12 months to mediate on my missed opportunity, I made it my first stop.
Drinking here is a different kind of fun, because there is nothing in the North American way of speaking that sounds remotely like how the Dutch say “Gueuze.”
The education goes far deeper than diction, however, even if you already have a good base of knowledge. European beer has so much more tradition brewed into it. Here, the presentation is about developing a deeper appreciation for what you’re about to commit to your body. It’s about respecting the lore.
I hadn’t slept in more than 30 hours when I sat down, so the 11% ABV Russian Imperial Stout might have been a poor decision. Might have been, but it wasn’t. I had others from Holland’s Emelisse at Mondial, in Montréal, so I knew they brew great beer. This particular one is also available in a barrel-aged series of “white label” bottles, after brief internments in Wild Turkey containers or other vessels.
What I really like about In De Wildeman is what I also appreciate about Wynand Fockink. These people know they’re serving a really great product, so there’s no pretense, but also no (visible) judgment. When a customer came in for “een Amstel,” he was politely asked if he was looking for Amstel Pilsener, or Amstel Gold (a Dortmunder style). He wanted the former; In De Wildeman only serves the latter. He wasn’t pressured into trying to find something else, just allowed to move on without a condescending remark.
In the case of my Russian Imperial, I had the option of a cold bottle, or one that stood waiting in the dark, room-temperature recess below the bar. I chose the warmer of the two, but I appreciate that others might not.
In De Wildeman doesn’t play music, so it’s quieter than an Argos game. The only conversation going on while I was in, was a Dutch girl extinguishing her French flame; his every sniffle and whimper painfully echoing through the chamber.
The decor itself, is charming. The walls — framed by dark wood and adorned with authentic European breweriana — look like they were stained with pumpkins many decades ago. Plenty of Windows on one wall make up most of the daytime lighting.
If you find yourself in Amsterdam, do yourself a favour and get a good map. The city’s centuries-old canal system makes most sites a bit of a challenge to locate, but In De Wildeman well rewards those that make the effort.