Brouwersgracht, Amsterdam


The Brouwersgracht (Brewers Canal) marks the border of the canal belt in the northwest and is considered one of the more beautiful canals in Amsterdam, with its many restored 16th and 17th century ware­houses, house­boats, trees and bridges, offering great views where it crosses the four main canals.

Brouwersgracht 214-220, Amsterdam, in the center warehouse Het Grote Groene Hert

Brouwersgracht 214-220, in the center warehouse Het Grote Groene Hert (The Large Green Deer) (June 2020).

The Brouwers­gracht itself was dug out in 1585 and got its current name in 1594. In 1612 the city started digging Heren­gracht, Keizers­gracht and Prinsen­gracht from the part of Brouwersgracht between Singel and Noorder­markt. The part of Brouwers­gracht between Prinsen­gracht and Singel­gracht separates the Jordaan and Haarlemmerbuurt neighborhoods.

Warehouses and houseboats along Brouwersgracht, Amsterdam

Warehouses and houseboats along Brouwersgracht, from number 212 towards Korte Prinsengracht (November 2020).

Imported Water for the Breweries

After 1514 Amsterdam’s brackish canal water was heavily polluted and unfit for drinking, so much so that the city prohibited its use in beer production. Local breweries thus needed to import water from the Vecht river (between Utrecht and Muiden) with water vessels, making it a costly ingredient. They imported as much as they could and sold the surplus in barrels to the many merchant ships on the IJ.

Drawing from 1652 by Reinier Nooms, vessel for water transport in Amsterdam

Drawing from 1652 showing a vessel for transport of clean water for the breweries (Stadsarchief Amsterdam).

Every brewery was therefore located on a canal, for easier transport of the needed grain, peat, malt, hops and water. They mostly had a bierpaal (beer pole, a levered construction with a shoot) on the quay in front, used for bringing the water from the vessels into the factory.

Beer pole in front of a brewery in Haarlem, drawing from 1660 by Anthonie Beerstraten

A beer pole in front of a brewery in Haarlem, drawing from 1660 by Anthonie Beerstraten (Noord-Hollands Archief).

Amsterdam only had around 13 breweries in 1543, 23 in 1620. Many of these specialized in producing ship’s beer, not for the local market. After the city extension of 1585 a loading dock was created outside the Haarlemmerdijk on the IJ, called Brouwerskaai (Brewers Quay, later renamed to Droogbak), where there were also two breweries. Even though the name Brouwers­gracht seems to suggest a large concentration of brewers, in 1664 only 3 of the then 22 Amsterdam breweries were actually located on this canal.

Brouwersgracht 206-212, Amsterdam, deer statues on top of the warehouses

Brouwersgracht 206-212, warehouses with deer statues on top (June 2020).

Brewery De Star (The Star) was located at the corner of Brouwers­gracht and Prinsen­gracht. De Eenhoorn (The Unicorn) was on Brouwers­gracht 246-250 from 1620 tot 1683. From 1720 to 1777 they were located at Haar­lemmer­hout­tuinen. Brewery De Rode Haan (The Red Rooster) was on Brouwers­gracht 288 from 1650 to 1674. Brewery Het Klaverblad (The Clover Leaf) stood at Singel 16, corner with Brouwers­gracht, from 1590 to 1698.

Looking east at Brouwersgracht 192-194, Amsterdam, red shutters of warehouses from 1636

Brouwersgracht 192-194, warehouses Groene Valk and Grauwe Valk from 1636, looking east (September 2020).

Warehouses on Brouwersgracht

Amsterdam became an important entrepôt hub (Dutch: stapelmarkt) in the 17th century, a place where commodities were temporarily stocked for future reexport. A large number of warehouses were built here to accommodate the storage of many goods for world trade. These warehouses were mostly narrow and tall and around 30 m (98 ft) deep.

View along Brouwersgracht, Amsterdam, from Dommersbrug east towards Singel

View along Brouwersgracht from Dommersbrug (bridge 148) east towards Singel (July 2022).

The goods stored in these warehouses were transported to and from the merchant vessels on the IJ using barges. Some 600 to 700 warehouses still exist in Amsterdam, most of them converted during the 1960s and 1970s to apartment buildings (shutters became windows and a open light court was created in the middle of the very deep buildings).

Warehouses at Brouwersgracht 268-266, Amsterdam, looking east

Warehouses at Brouwersgracht 268-266 (Grote Swaen and Kleine Swaen) looking east (July 2022).

There are a large number of these converted warehouses on Brouwers­gracht, some with their old names prominent on the front or on the shutters. On the side of the Jordaan (uneven numbers, south­western quay) a long row of them between Palm­gracht and Lijn­baans­gracht. On the side of the Haar­lemmer­buurt (even numbers, north­eastern quay) many between Korte Prinsen­gracht and Baan­brugsteeg.

Brouwersgracht 226-234, Amsterdam, with Blaauwe Burgt, a former oil warehouse

Brouwersgracht 226-234, Blaauwe Burgt (Blue Castle), a former oil warehouse, looking west (November 2020).

Bridges across Brouwersgracht

In Amsterdam all fixed stone bridges were traditionally called sluis (lock), even when they did not have an actual lock (or not anymore).

  • Bridge 15, on the Singel.
  • Melkmeisjesbrug (bridge 16), Milk Maid’s Bridge, a pedestrian bridge between Herengracht and Binnen Wieringerstraat.
  • West-Indische Huisbrug (West-Indies House Bridge, bridge 17), between Herengracht and Herenmarkt.
  • Bridge 56, between Keizersgracht and Binnen Brouwersstraat.
Melkmeisjesbrug, Amsterdam, across Brouwersgracht, corner Herengracht

Melkmeisjesbrug (Milk Maid’s Bridge) across Brouwersgracht corner Herengracht (June 2020).

  • Papiermolensluis (bridge 57), Paper Mill Lock, between Prinsengracht and Korte Prinsengracht. On a map from 1647 this bridge was called Brouwers Sluys (Brewers Lock), an actual lock which separated the main canal water level from the Jordaan water level. The current name came from a sign which hung from a corner house used by a paper merchant. Before that the bridge was known as Oliekoekensluis, after a few pancake bakers who had their stalls here.
  • Pastoorsbrug (bridge 55), Pastor Bridge, across Keizersgracht. The provenance of the name is unknown.
View from West-Indische Huis bridge west on Brouwersgracht, Amsterdam

Standing on the West-Indische Huisbrug near Herenmarkt, looking west in the direction of Keizersgracht (June 2020).

  • Lekkeresluis (bridge 59), Tasty Lock, across Prinsengracht near Café Papeneiland. The name is said to have come from the bakers who once sold their wares on the bridge.
  • Oranjebrug (bridge 146), Orange Bridge, between Willemsstraat and Binnen Oranjestraat.
  • Dommersbrug (bridge 148), Dommers Bridge, between Palmgracht and Binnen Dommers­straat.
  • De Bullebak (bridge 149), Bully Bridge, corner Marnixstraat.
Lekkeresluis bridge and Café Papeneiland, Amsterdam, viewed from Brouwersgracht towards Prinsengracht

Lekkeresluis bridge and Café Papeneiland, viewed from Brouwersgracht towards Prinsengracht (August 2022).

Pubs on Brouwersgracht

  • Café Thijssen, Brouwersgracht 107 (corner Brouwersgracht and Lindengracht).
  • Café Papeneiland (from 1642, corner Brouwersgracht and Prinsengracht).
  • Café Tabac, Brouwersgracht 101, corner Prinsengracht. Was a bakery in the second half of the 18th century, after 1945 became a pub. The provenance of the gable stone with spritsail is unknown.
  • De Ooievaar (the Stork), corner Brouwersgracht and Driehoekstraat, a tasting room for a distillery from 1782, the last remaining Amsterdam distillery of jenever, liqueur and brandy.
View east from Oranjebrug on Brouwersgracht, Amsterdam, looking towards Prinsengracht

View east from Oranjebrug on Brouwersgracht, looking in the direction of Prinsengracht (November 2020).

Oranjebrug on Brouwersgracht, Amsterdam, looking northeast towards Binnen Oranjestraat

Oranjebrug on Brouwersgracht, looking northeast towards Binnen Oranjestraat (June 2020).

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