TRAVEL PRELUDES: Haarlem’s awesome Cafe Briljant is winding down (for now), but not before I have another drink there.

Are you going to have another beer?

Boris, my friend and original Haarlem connection, long ago introduced me to his preferred local pub, the Cafe Briljant (Brilliant). Founded by Rob Alphenaar in 2002, Briljant is an intimate monument to fundamental good taste.

On September 30, Rob will preside over the Cafe Briljant’s final evening in business at the current location. Happily, I’ll be able to drink a few beers there before this closing event occurs.

At this point in time, I’ve been away from Haarlem for so long that there’s a risk of my transmitting unintended fake news, but it appears Rob’s looking for a new building for Briljant; he intends to continue showcasing local music, whiskey and beer fests; his identity as a periodic “gypsy” brewer remains intact; and his sister bar (Lokaal – Dutch Beer Bar, the former Cafe Pitcher) remains viable a short distance away.

I’ve had a lot of great times and fine beers at the Cafe Briljant, and wish Rob the very best as he reformats. It just means we’ll have to go back sooner than later, and have a look.


September 24, 2005 at The Potable Curmudgeon
Haarlem’s Cafe Briljant

Rob is the patient, hard-working and beer-loving proprietor of the Café Briljant, which happens to be my friend Boris’s “local” café in Haarlem, Netherlands.

Kim, Rob, the Curmudgeon and Dewi at the Jopen beer festival.

The café is located on a quiet side street and is frequented by a diverse cross-section of the city’s lovers of well-tended ale (the local Jopen and Belgium’s La Chouffe, among others) and a civilized atmosphere in which to enjoy them.

My first visit to the Café Briljant came in 2004, when Kevin Lowber and I closed the highly successful Tour de Trappist bicycle adventure with three days on Boris’s floor and an evening or two of café crawling with him and our new friends Bill and Inge.

Unfortunately, Rob was unavailable for duty in July, 2004, having been packed off for a long overdue break by the café’s regular customers, who were concerned that he hadn’t had a vacation in more than two years, pooled their resources to organize a holiday for him, and volunteered for bar duty in his absence.

Now that’s appreciation.

For an evening’s session or a nightcap after dining in one of Haarlem’s seemingly endless supply of fine restaurants, Café Briljant is the ideal stop, neither loud nor boisterous, and suited for conversation and one of Rob’s thoughtfully chosen drafts and bottles. It seems that single malt lovers also have been known to savor a tipple at the small, comfortable café.

Rob’s web site, although in Dutch, is regularly updated and amply illustrates the range of activities that emanate from behind the bar.

I’ve never gotten around to compiling an official list of “sister bars” to Rich O’s Public House, but if such a list ever is assembled, you can bet that the Café Briljant will be on it.


In February of 2007 I took a week’s beer hunting break in Belgium and Netherlands in the company of my pal Kevin Richards. Among the other attractions was Boris’ (no numbers, please) birthday party in Haarlem.

In this photo from February, 2007, Rob is tending bar at Cafe Briljant, with Bill England (mentioned in the preceding) and Kevin chatting at the other end.

Sadly, Bill and Kevin died in 2016, roughly nine months apart. I just want to say that I think about them all the time, and there’ll be more than one glass lifted to their memory in 2017 during the “return to Haarlem” segment of the trip. They’d both appreciate the irreverence of this closing toast to cycling togetherness masterfully articulated by Bob Reed:

Here’s to us.

May we never quarrel or fuss.

But if by chance we should disagree,
#%@* you, and here’s to me.