If you talk craft beer or ‘speciaalbier’ in The Hague you have to mention Bierspeciaal Café De Paas. This is the granddaddy of craft beer bars in the city. I can’t write for this website without ever mentioning this place. I was lucky and grateful for one of its owners, Paul, to sit down with me for an interview.
So let’s talk about the owners, Paul and Frank Pasman. These two brothers were born in Amsterdam (1961 and 1958 respectively with Frank being the oldest) but moved to The Hague because of their father’s work in shipping.
When they got older Paul studied to become an artist and even became an apprentice to Hans van der Lek. Meanwhile Frank fell in love with France (and a French girl) and ended up as a wine sommelier. He returned to The Hague when that relationship ended and started working at De Paas in 1988. Paul proceeded to join him in 1991.
In 1993 the brothers started running De Paas, then with Brand on tap. They have a long relationship with this brewery (which was still independant back then) and Paul even told me a story that when he was in Limburg and his sick mother needed to use the facilities he walked into the brewery and they used it there. They didn’t mind, they knew him. It’s still the pilsner of choice for De Paas even though they are owned by Heineken now.
Paul’s favourite places to visit himself are De Gekke Geit and Huppel the Pub in The Hague and In de Wildeman in Amsterdam. Of course he has a beer in his own place regularly as well.
The location and some history
The location itself is interesting for someone that wanted to be an artist like Paul. In the very building De Paas is located the artist Jan van Goyen used to live. He was actually one of a few artists that lived on this street and other notable names are for example Paulus Potter and Jan Steen.
The street is another coincidence for a craft beer bar. The Bierkade and Dunne Bierkade used to be where beer was offloaded. Higher alcohol beer at Bierkade and lower alcohol beer at the Dunne Bierkade. That’s what the term ‘dunne’ refers to, ‘thinner’ beer. Why did beer have to be imported to The Hague? Well, it wasn’t a city back then so most of the beer came from nearby Delft.
Back to the actual bar though! When the Pasman brothers started working there it was already a bar specializing in Belgian beer. There were 130 bottled beers available and De Paas was a member of the Alliantie van Biertappertijen (ABT). Together with other beer bars they imported beer from Belgium. At the moment I’m not quite sure what the worth is of ABT anymore but I’ve been told that the current board is trying to change the organization and image to make it more of a mark of excellence for bars. I’m curious if that will work and keep an eye on it.
Inside it looks like you would expect from an old bar in The Netherlands or Belgium. A lot of dark wood, a long narrow room and a bar where you can relax at and drink your beer. Going to the toilet is actual a real test to see if you’re not too drunk because you have to head down some pretty steep and narrow stairs.
Some other notable things to mention are all the old advertising and beer signs everywhere (although I think there are less than before the slight remodelling) and the tropy case full of old glassware. Some of these glasses have special significance since they are a tribute to customers and friends that have passed away.
It isn’t exactly the interior but during the warmer months you can sit outside. Either right in front or on a barge just across the street. That gives De Paas a lot more seating during those times of the year and on a warm summer evening it’s lovely to relax there with a beer.
The beer selection at De Paas is mostly classic Belgian. Other than that you can find some Dutch, German, Spanish and even some American beer on the menu. Don’t pin me down on what exactly at what moment in time, just come and see the big book of beers together with the chalkboards to see the current selection.
The menu does include all the Trappist beers including the latest, Englishone, Tynt Meadow. I tried it myself during my interview and I must say it’s an interesting new Trappist which falls between a roasted English style porter and a sweet Belgian Dubbel. Quite good!
The whole tap system was recently overhauled and now De Paas has 13 beers on tap. To finance this they sold the taps to several breweries. These include Brewdog, Jopen, Kompaan and Bronckhorster among others. Pretty inventive if you ask me! They also freshened up the bar and made some repairs. Somehow De Paas seems bigger now. Guess a white bar top creates that illusion.
As someone that loves sours and thinks there’s a lack of bars in The Hague that have a decent collection I asked Paul about this. There just isn’t enough storage space. He would have them otherwise. I hope a bar in the city does get a nice collection of geuzes at some point though.
You can’t get that much to eat with your beer. Still you can get nuts, cheese, sausage and I saw a little Pizza Margaritha oven. Other than the pizza that’s just typical bar snacks I guess.
I would recommend De Paas to anyone not that familiar with Belgian beers. Together with the Dutch stuff flowing from tap and the (for me) more interesting rotating bottled beers I’m sure you’ll have a lovely evening. It could even be a great spot to start or end a little pub crawl while you visit several of the craft beer bars in The Hague.