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For today’s Bar of the Week, we’re stopping by one of the oldest bars in the historic city of Amsterdam, In’t Aepjen, to discover a rather peculiar way of paying your bar bill hundreds of years ago!

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After Amsterdam was destroyed by fire in 1452, the old city was rebuilt using mostly brick. But amidst the smoldering ruins of the city, there were two old wooden buildings that survived. One of these premises was an inn, located on the corner of the old Zeedijk (sea dike) near the infamous red light district, and is incredibly still there. 

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Called “In’t Aepjen”, it has provided ales, jenever, food and lodgings since 1519, and is one of Amsterdam’s oldest bars. “In’t Aepjen” literally means “In the Monkeys”, and refers to a peculiar way to buy a beer during the golden age of the Dutch Empire. When sailors returned from such distant colonies as Indonesia, finding themselves short of guilders, they would offer up newly acquired exotic pets as payment, literally paying their bills in monkeys.

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Soon the In’t Aepjen was over run with so many monkeys that customers began to complain of the fleas. The monkeys were given to a regular customer at the tavern, Gerard Westerman, who kept them in his large garden in the East of the city. Westerman’s animal garden eventually became Amsterdam’s Artis Zoo, one of Europe’s oldest.

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Today the venerable old tavern is decorated with monkeys everywhere you look; carved statues, vintage advertising posters, and oil portraits hanging from the bar. You might no longer be able to pay your bar tab with one, but one of the oldest buildings in Amsterdam is still very much ‘In the Monkeys.’

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What You’re Having : the Gerardus Wittems Kloosterbier – a Belgian style Dubbel. 

In’t Aepjen doesn’t appear to have a website, but can be found at Zeedijk, 15-1, 1012AN, Amsterdam.

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