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Hoping for another small beer in the Netherlands


Drinking in Holland is not always a pleasant affair.

You could go crazy waiting for service. The beer comes in tiny glasses. It's expensive. Staff rarely considers that you might want another one, when your glass is empty. That's good and bad — at least they leave you alone. But where are they?

And the beers can be so tiny. I mentioned that. This place ain't Ireland.

The price of a glass of beer in a café is far more expensive than a can or bottle from the supermarket. I'm doing the math, and though I know that's a crass way to think about drinking (outside of Ireland,*) the comparison is notable.

The average fluitje, the small glass, holds less than 200 cl. The Amsterdamertje, a larger small glass, holds 225. These are my guesses. Actually, the last number is fairly good, because I've just filled a comparable glass at home—twice—from a 450 cl* fliptop bottle of Grolsch. I left space at the top where the tall head would be, if it had come to me in a café.

That's how they do it. They pour the beer down the center of the glass. The head fills and overflows the glass, then they swipe it off level with a plastic spatula. The head is about twice the height of the proper Irish "bishop's collar." About two and a half inches (6+ cm.)

But back to the mathematics. I paid €1.70 for a fluitje of beer—house beer, Amstel, Heineken or the like. I paid the same, later, at a café in my neighborhood, for an Amsterdamertje—when I found that's how to ask for the larger glass. I don't know if the two are even priced differently, at a given café.

Let's give it €1.70 for 225 cl. Okay? Today at the shop, I bought that large bottle of Grolsch, 450 cl, for 68 cent. That's the normal price.

Hm. Interesting math. At those prices, a beer at a café is five times as expensive as a beer at home.

Well, here—the Amstel, a more apt comparison, costs just €.62, for a 500 cl bottle. What's that make it? I know, it's getting ridiculous to get out the calculator; the point being made. Let's see. That makes it slightly more than six times as expensive at a café.



Nijmegen, some time in 2004.



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*A pint, by the way, is equal to 473 cl, making the "large" Amsterdamertje glass an obvious just-less-than-a-half-pint.

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* Amongst the Irish, it seems customary to discuss a small amount of money in terms of the price of a pint of beer. A way to say that something only costs 20 euro, for example, the Irish might say "Sure that's only the price of a few pints...."

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