The Heineken Experience: Or, How I Found Beer Nirvana in Amsterdam

Love beer? If you're in Amsterdam, you've got to take the VIP Tour at the Heineken Experience. Dutch beer, cheese, and good cheer - what more could you ask for?

The moment my parents returned from their trip to Amsterdam last spring, they eagerly regaled us with tales of their Dutch adventures. Though they spoke about the usual suspects — the Anne Frank House! Museums galore! Rijsttafel! — I was shocked to learn what topped their list of Amsterdam favorites: the Heineken Experience.

As a beer aficionado with Dutch ancestors, I knew immediately that I needed to visit the Heineken Experience on my March 2017 trip to Amsterdam. Would it be touristy? Cheesy? I didn’t know, but I didn’t care; I was in.

It took zero effort to convince fellow travel blogger Ashley to visit the Heineken Experience with me (probably because we have some serious beer telepathy going on). Turns out we had the best ‘dam time of our lives there. Here’s why.

What Exactly is the Heineken Experience, Anyway?

The short version: the Heineken Experience is a veritable utopia for beer drinkers. ‘Nuff said.

The long version: in 1988, Heineken closed its first built brewery due to inability to meet the high demand for their beer. Being the clever folks that they are, however, they weren’t going to let the building go to waste. Instead, they turned the original brewery into an attraction… er, experience… where you can learn more about the history of Heineken, their brewing process, and (most importantly) taste their beer.

So where can you find this beertopia?

The Heineken Experience is located at Stadhouderskade 78, 1072 AE in Amsterdam. (Psst: You can zoom in on the interactive map below to see exactly where it is relative to the city’s other attractions. Note that it’s close to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. Cool, huh?)

Tour “Options”

Option #1: Self-Guided Tour

In short, Option #1 is fine if you want to walk around the joint by yourself. If you’re a REAL beer lover who wants insider knowledge, the best beer, a barrel of laughs, and royal treatment, however, may I present…

Option #2 (The BEST Option): VIP Tour

The VIP Tour is where it’s at, my friends. You’re here in Amsterdam to try some high quality beer, am I right? Of course right. Since you’re a Very Important (Beer Drinking) Person, on this tour you’ll receive:

  • A Heineken Experience tour that’s personally guided by a super friendly, English speaking staff member
  • A tasting session of 5 premium beers paired with Dutch cheese (Can I hear you say “CHEESE???”)
  • A personalized gift
  • Genuine smiles and laughter from your new beer guzzling tour friends

And if you’re one of those beer nerds who only drinks beer from microbreweries in San Diego or Portland, think again: this VIP tasting session will likely alter your opinion of Heineken forever. Challenge accepted.

So What’s the VIP Tour Actually Like?

OK, let’s get to the good part. You work hard for your money so you’d better treat yourself right. You’re scratching your head and asking yourself, “Is it really worth doing the VIP tour at Heineken Experience over, say, grabbing a cold one at a bar down the street?”

The answer is a resounding yes. The VIP tour at Heineken Experience was my favorite part of my visit to Amsterdam, and I’m going to tell you why.

Part 0: Check In (Or, How To Shop Without Regret)

After being greeted by the smiling Heineken Experience staff and checking in our jackets at the coat check for free, we moseyed on over to the gift shop (which, as it turns out, had relocated that morning. Bravo!).

Though most people show up 15-20 minutes before their tour starts, us bloggers know that getting there half an hour early is the perfect amount of time to shop first, eliminating potentially buzzed buyer’s remorse.

There’s lots of fun swag in here, from Heineken backpacks and koozies to bottle openers and mirrors. I was particularly partial to their rain boots — with the amount of rain we get in NYC, I’m due for a new pair soon (hint hint).

I totally want these.

When tour starts, you’ll be joined by up to nine other thirsty tour-takers (the maximum VIP tour group size is 10 people). You’ll get a headset to put on so you can listen to your guide if you’re standing far away. This also helps if you need to find your group again because you were trying to get that perfect picture and got lost in the Heineken labyrinth *cough cough.*

Part 1: Heineken History

Jurgen, our tour guide, tells it like it is.

I’ll be honest: I studied history in college, so I soaked in the historical information in this part of the tour like a sponge. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea (beer?), since half of you probably just want to get to the beer tasting part. Nonetheless, Jurgen, our excellent tour guide, enlightened us with some interesting facts:

  • In 1864, Gerard Adriaan Heineken bought an old, decrepit brewery called the Haystack. At the time, Gerard was 22 years old (!) and had no knowledge of brewing beer.
  • Nobody was really drinking beer around this time  — they preferred drinking genever (gin)! Interestingly, Gerard believed that selling beer would aid in combating alcoholism because it was far weaker than the high-alcohol gin that was popular at the time.
  • Heineken was on it when it came to the end of Prohibition in the United States. Three days after Prohibition ended, a ship arrived in NYC with Heineken bottles as its cargo, providing Americans with their very first taste of imported post-Prohibition beer. Heineken remains the #1 imported beer in the United States.

There’s more, but you’ll have to take the tour to learn the rest!

Part 2: Understanding the Brewing Process

In the next part, a staff member provided a helpful overview of the brewing process. Some of you may know about this already, but it was a great review for me about how water, barley, hops, and yeast come together to create the magical Heineken beer we drink today.

After that, you’ll get a chance to visit the historic brew room. It contains 8 copper kettles; these have differing functions ranging from filtering the mash to adding hops. These huge copper kettles are not in use any more, but it’s still cool to see how large they are.

At this point, you can try the wort, a non-alcoholic mixture of water and barley that’s been heated and filtered. Don’t worry — it really doesn’t taste as nasty as it sounds.

Part 3: There’s A Ride!

Now you will forever more know what it feels like to be the beer.

Here’s where things get really Disneyland-esque. We all queued up in a line for the highly anticipated “Brew You” ride — yes, there’s a ride at the Heineken Experience! The Brew You Ride takes you through the entire beer brewing process in the style of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. For once in your life, you get to “be the beer” and feel all the heat, wind, and water-related glory that goes along with making beer.

For those of you who have been to Disneyland, it’s basically like Star Tours. The floor moves, but there’s less sitting and an amusing British man in place of the robots and intergalactic fighting.

Part 4: Finally, Some Beer!

The “Brew You” ride spits you out into the beer tasting room, where you’ll get your first taste of Heineken beer. This is also your first opportunity to impress your Dutch tour guide by saying Proost! as you clink glasses and toast to your good fortune.

Contentedly sip your beer as you watch an extended advertisement a short clip about Heineken and its achievements.

It’s Heineken… in surround sound!

End of tour? Nope. Because you’re a Very Important (Beer Drinking) Person, your VIP Tour continues on to…

Part 5: The Premium Beer Tasting (With CHEESE!)

Beer and cheese pairings. (Abby, I told you your hand would be Internet famous!)

This part is one of the main reasons why taking the VIP Tour is better than a self-guided tour, hands down. While the rest of the plebeians exit down to the fathoms below, you and your fellow tour-takers enter into a cozy room with tables, chairs, and water set up and ready to go. It’s time for the beer and cheese pairing to begin!

5 bottles of beer on the table, 5 bottles of beer. Take one down, pass it around…

Jurgen was all smiles as he poured beer for us and told us a little bit about each beer. I scribbled down notes about each of the five beers and cheeses as vigorously as I could, though my speed was inversely proportional to the amount of beer I consumed.

Happy Jurgen!

Nailed it: Ashley’s shot of Jurgen pouring beer. (Photo credit Ashley | My Wanderlusty Life)

As proof that it’s possible to write and taste beer at the same time, I present my tasting notes:

  1. Heineken (5% ABV) paired with a 1 year old Dutch goat cheese. This beer was easygoing and refreshing, with a light fruity smell. It was during this tasting that Ashley declared her undying love for pressed milk curds, proclaiming to our table, “I love cheese more than I love life.” Well said, Ashley, well said.
  2. Amstel Bier (5% ABV) paired with a 2 year old cow cheese. Amstel was established in Amsterdam in 1870. Tasted like light flowery hops.
  3. Brand UP (5.5% ABV) paired with a goat cheese with garlic and garden herbs. Brand is the oldest brewery in the Netherlands; this is closest to original pilsner recipe.
  4. H41 paired with a cow cheese with Fenugreek (which I still don’t know exactly what that is). H41 is named for the latitude where the yeast comes from. It’s a full tasting special lager brewed with wild yeast from Patagonia. Heineken’s been working on this beer for 12 years! Supposedly this special Patagonia yeast is the “mother” of regular Heineken yeast.
  5. Affligem (6.8% ABV). At this point, that’s all I was able to write down with all the merrymaking going down. Lucky for me, I just found a picture I took on my cell phone of the Affligem cheese pairing sign, so let it be known henceforth that it was paired with truffle cheese.

As you can probably tell, this is also the part of the tour where you’ll likely get to know your fellow tour group members. We had a jolly good time talking with Abby and Whit, as well as Jim and Katrine.

My co-adventurer, Ashley of My Wanderlusty Life, and I enjoy some cold Heineken.

Make new friends, but keep the old.

Part 5.5: Game Floor

By this point, we had to be kicked out of the premium beer tasting room and made our way downstairs into what I’m going to call the “Game Floor.”

From the looks of it, this floor contained interactive games (one of which was a football game you could play on PS3). This was the floor with the “Bike Video,” where you and a partner can ride faux bikes in front of a green screen and sing a Dutch song (you get to keep the video at the end!).

Though I giggled while watching my parents’ Heineken Experience Bike Video back in the States, alas, it was not in the cards for me to create my own on this March evening. Due to time constraints, we were whisked down to…

Part 6: The “Heineken Nightclub”

It’s a bar that feels like a swanky nightclub

I call it the “Heineken nightclub” in jest, but I’m only actually half joking. Technically, this is the downstairs bar where you can redeem your two tokens provided to you at the start of the tour for additional beer.

What sayest thou? MORE BEER? Have I died and gone to beer heaven?

(No, Julianne. It’s just a typical Thursday evening at the Heineken Experience.)

But anyway, with the loud, catchy music playing, neon lighting, TVs blaring, and a few folks moving in ways that basically qualify as “dancing,” I couldn’t help but notice striking similarities to the NYC nightclubs of yore.

We got to socializing with some of our groupmates again, but — you guessed it — the Heineken powers that be had to ask us politely to “please leave because we’re now closed.” Holy smokes, Batman: we’ve done it. We’re the last people standing at the Heineken Experience!

The Only Thing I Would Have Done Differently…

Would’ve been to allow more time than you think you need, regardless of what tour you take. We started our VIP tour at 4:00 PM and allotted about 2.5 hours for the whole shebang.

Big mistake.

You know what happens when you drink beer, right? Your day feels merry and bright, and you decide that everyone in the room is your brand new BFF, which is exactly what happened to us.

We got so caught up in socializing with the awesome people in our tour group that we had to skip one floor entirely and had less time in the downstairs bar than was ideal.

So, lesson learned: if it says it’s a 2.5 hour tour, add at least 30-60 minutes on top of that to have a leisurely beer or two. Your future self will thank you.

Reflecting on our tour and wishing we had allotted more time to hang out at Heineken Experience!

Heineken Experience 101: Need to Know Before You Go

Open Hours

The Heineken Experience is open 365 days a year. (They know how to do it right!)

General Hours: Mondays to Thursdays from 10:30 AM till 7:30 PM (last entry at 5:30 PM) & Fridays to Sundays from 10:30 till 9:00 PM (last entry at 7:00 PM).

Summer Hours: In July and August, Heineken Experience is open daily from 10:30 AM until 9:00 PM, with last entry at 7:00 PM.

VIP tours are offered Mondays to Thursdays at 12:00 PM, 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM; and Fridays & Sundays at 12:00 PM, 2:00 PM, 4:00 PM and 5:30 PM.

Be sure to verify hours on the Heineken Experience website in the event of any changes.

Admission

Tickets can be purchased on the Heineken Experience website or at the admission counter. Note that if you buy tickets online, prices are cheaper. You can also indicate what time you wish to visit.

Cost (if purchased online): Heineken Experience Tour is €16 for adults 18 and over; it includes 2 beers or soft drinks. VIP Tour is €49 and includes tasting session of 5 premium beers paired with cheese.

Pro Tip ⇒ Allow at least 2 hours for the self-guided Heineken Experience tour and 3 hours for the VIP tour.

Connect with the Heineken Experience on Social Media

You can connect with the Heineken Experience on the following social media platforms:

Feelin’ like a VIP in here.

Thanks for the personalized bottle, Heineken Experience!

Essential Info:
Where should you stay in Amsterdam? Check out all options here.
I personally recommend Hotel Mosaic City Centre.
Want a guidebook for Amsterdam? Check out Rick Steves and Fodor’s.

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Love beer? If you're in Amsterdam, you've got to take the VIP Tour at the Heineken Experience. Dutch beer, cheese, and good cheer - what more could you ask for?


A huge thank you to Heineken Experience for having me as a guest on their VIP tour. While we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves during the tour, all opinions are my own. Not even a delicious cold beer can change that.

Also, some of the above are affiliate links and I will earn a tiny percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting It’s Five O’Clock Here!

21 thoughts on “The Heineken Experience: Or, How I Found Beer Nirvana in Amsterdam

  1. Cayla

    Wow, this sounds so fun!! I didn’t go when I was in Amsterdam years ago, but I don’t think I would’ve appreciated it (I was a 21 y.o. snob back then!); if I make it to Amsterdam again, this will definitely be on my list.

    1. Julianne

      Hey Cayla, we couldn’t believe how much fun we had at Heineken Experience!! Despite being a craft beer snob, it was definitely the unexpected highlight of our trip to Amsterdam. Hope you get a chance to visit in the future! 🙂

  2. Keith

    It was really fun reading about your Heineken Experience! It brought back some great memories when we toured the Heineken Brewery THIRTY years ago! Did you notice the beer served in Amsterdam tasted quite different (aka…better?) versus the beer they export to the United States?……that was certainly the case way back in the day. Looks like we’re definitely going to have to take the tour again! 🙂

    1. Julianne

      Hey Keith, that’s awesome that you toured the Heineken Brewery thirty years ago! 🙂 And yes, it definitely tastes better in Amsterdam. The H41 beer in particular is quite good and may reach the US as early as May. Highly recommend revisiting the place!

  3. Global Girl Travels

    I am not a big fan of beer! However, I love exploring sites that showcase something unique about a city or place. Therefore, I would love to take this tour to find out what Amsterdam’s beer history is about and what makes it so unique.

  4. Mel I TravelingMel

    Not one to turn down a beer, the Heineken Experience looks like so much fun. I am kind of a snobby beer drinker, but I think Heineken could change my mind on this. Learning about the history and process makes it so much more interesting. Cheers!

  5. Joanna

    I love interactive tours and when I will go to Amsterdam I will definitely try the Heineken Experience! I haven’t been to a brewery before but I did go to a distillery last year and I loved learning about the process on how gin it’s made. I assume it’s a similar experience at Heineken. The ride sounds really fun, I would like to learn how beer is made the interactive way, by “being the beer”,

  6. Ha

    I visited Amsterdam before but miss this place. The tour seems interesting since we can know more about the history and yes, taste the cheese with beer! I normally choose Heineken above other brands as well, because of its taste. Therefore, I would love to try this tour when I have a chance!

  7. Gareth

    Having been to quite a few beer museums, I have to say that the Heineken is definitely one of the best. Even travelling with my American girlfriend who is a notorious beer snob and practically allergic to mass produced beer, she had to admit that Heineken from the source is absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, a little too early to start indulging here yet!

  8. Only By Land

    I would definitely take the VIP tour after reading this article. The guide looks fun, making the experience better, I can imagine there was some good Dutch humor involved in the tour too. Great tip about allowing extra time, the beer does make you feel good and want to stay all night!

  9. Kallsy

    My husband and I have always loved taking brewery and distillery tours but none seem nearly as awesome as this! Definitely going to book this when in Europe next year and take a taxi home. 😉

  10. Lia

    I so regret not doing this when we were in Amsterdam now! I guess we have to go back because I’m also obsessed with cheese (I’m with you, Ashley!) And I’m all about some delicious beer!

  11. Anita

    This is seems like so much fun, I too am a drinker but unfortunately allergic to beer. I have been researching things to do practically everywhere and there is always a beer distillery that I am missing out on. But it seemed like you guys had a great time and who doesn’t love feeling buzz, I don’t 🙂

  12. Rashmi and Chalukya

    The Heineken experience was on the list for our trip to Amsterdam but somehow due to lack of time, we had to give it a skip. The VIP tour sounds fab it must have been one of the kind experience. Apart from the tasting experience the Nightclub and the Gaming floor sounds fun too

  13. Abhinav Singh

    I have enjoyed Heineken beer so many times but I did not know about their first brewery turned into a museum. What an innovative idea to turn a liability into an asset. I am sure it’s a huge tourist attraction now. I would love to go and see myself too.

  14. Monika M.

    Wooow this experience looks sooo cool! Love the idea of tutning the brewery into an adventure and the shops inside. Great branding, big up Heineken. I have been to Holland twice but didnt hear about it. Thanks to your blog.I will know where to go next time!

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