In de Wildeman celebrated its 30th anniversary this week – that is to say, they kicked a year of festivities off with a massive party – and I feel like it’s my birthday. I simply adore this bar it ranks in the higher regions of my top three of best bars in the world and I wish it will never disappear.
This place is quite unique because it is completely unpretentious, yet offers an eclectic selection of beers, for you to try, taste and discover. The outcome of your trying and tasting is eagerly followed by those behind the bar: do you like it? Shall we serve a full measure? Didn’t you like it? Let’s see, how about this brew then? They will not stop until you’ve found a beer you like. Best of all: they will never judge you for whatever it is you drink. RIS, IPA, pilsner, wheat beer, saison – as long as you are happy, the staff is. Think about it for a minute how rare and valuable this is.
Most dedicated beer bars these days seem staffed by the most hardcore geeks who will look at you as if the cat dragged you in when you do not start jumping up and down because of the latest bamboo-aged hybrid Russian Imperial Saison Stout, flavored with chokeberry, cardamom and saffron. This is a collaboration brew of course, between three breweries whose founders are all old high school friends who met again in an obscure location. Coincidentally they found out they shared a passion for tastes, food and believed beer was good but the flavors they craved for just weren’t there yet – and so they decided to throw their future plans to the wind and start a brewery together.
Not hindered by any schooling, training or brewing skills they produce the one remarkable and unique beer after another, at least according to their friends. It speaks for it this collaboration brew is made with a blend of over twenty hops, each brewery member selecting his own top-three varieties. As the ‘nine brothers’ in this example all have a hipster look, each and every one of them expressing his deepest self by means of his looks and appearance (resulting in them all looking indistinguishably the same), they decided it a cool experiment to collect wild yeasts from their beards and ferment the beer with it. When they found out this had already been done and were about to comb their pubic (very hipster, pubic!) only to learn about a beer made with vaginal yeasts, they carefully selected some more wild yeasts from each other’s anuses for a second fermentation.
In de Wildeman would probably serve this beer too, side by side with a Weihenstephan and a Jever. Whatever else the remaining fifteen lines may serve is always the find of the day. And the staff would be keen to know what you thought of it. They would not condemn you for (not) liking it. And whatever your next beer will be, they’ll serve it with a smile. Other than that, they will leave you to yourself and the other guests, to enjoy yourself the way you want to. This is the legacy of Henk Eggens and Els van der Linden, who have carefully build this ‘beer tasting local’ from the ground up in the days all other bars had two beers – a year. Pils, and bock beer in autumn. Back in the Eighties there wasn’t much else, although Henk and some other pioneers already had had a bar with diverse beers (Gollem). Putting a long story short, most colleagues in their trade believed it a waste of time and money, opening that Wildeman project. They were wrong. Henk and Els created history and broke ground for generations, earthmoving for all who brew (and drink) beer today – simply by facilitating. And yes, they did it with their team, largely headed by Simon Fokkema who will take the wheel at New Year.
Most greater-Amsterdam beer drinkers have had their first Aha-Erlebnis here (I know I have), and In de Wildeman liked it. This, the most beer- and drinker-friendly bar of the world, is a rare institution of total and complete taste democracy. It is the beer equivalent of the principles of the French Revolution of 1789. It is my Clubhouse, or Kluphuis. I am grateful it exists, I am eternaly grateful to Henk and Els (and to their team) for having persisted. Albeit most regulars – no, let me rephrase that – all regulars are ugly, unworldly birds of paradise we are birds of a feather. I can only paraphrase Von Goethe: “Vedi In de Wildeman e poi muori”. (To see In de Wildeman, then die). Just improve on the food a little.