Hi everyone! I doubt many people were steeped in anticipation but the first official post of People & Pints is here. The trip to Amsterdam was long and tiresome but I have arrived safely and I am settled in. As promised, I decided to go to a bar and try a new beer soon after landing but I had to wait until last night, August 15,–a full 24 hours after landing–before venturing out. I also have to preface this post by saying I did cheat a little bit because though the bar and the beer were new, the people I spent my evening with were not exactly perfect strangers. Nonetheless, my first outing was absolutely rewarding and, in my opinion, still worth posting.
I spent the day exploring the area around my apartment with some other students. Quick trips to some cafes, the grocery store and along the canals rounded out the better part of my morning and afternoon. When the question of dinner was finally raised, I briefly mentioned my plans to visit a new bar for this blog. I have a shortlist of bars and breweries and I settled on one of the closer options: De Bekeerde Suster, a short 15 minute walk from our apartment complex. They decided to join me on my journey and hopefully have a great meal and some good beer.
In my first post I outlined what my plans were for this blog: to have meaningful conversations with strangers over beer. Although I had dinner and drinks with other students, whom I had the chance to get to know throughout the day, we were still, more or less, strangers to each other. It wasn’t until dinner that we started opening up and sharing our stories more candidly.
De Bekeerde Suster translates to ‘The Converted Nun’ a reference both to an intimate and a more general past. The Converted Nun refers to Mary Magdalene, the patron saint of reformed prostitutes. The name of the establishment itself, though, pertains to a specific history. The site of the brewery was part of a 16th century abbey where de bekeerde suster would adapt to a new way of life and in fact aided in the production of this beer. The interior of the bar has been updated and there are no longer religious women brewing the beer but the history is still palpable. From our table we could see the brass equipment responsible for producing the beer through the years. A print of Mary Magdalene donned the wall next to the machinery and watched on, hopefully pleased, as we enjoyed our evening.
Now seems like a fine time to clarify who accompanied me to De Bekeerde Suster. I met many students in the short amount of time since arriving at Prins Hendrikkade 189–my new home–, including Eli, Jon, Maddie and Julia, who joined me for dinner. Eli, Jon and Maddie are also from the states (Orange, California; Westchester, NY; and Staten Island, NY, respectively). I was under the impression, as I’m sure they were too, that meeting fellow Americans was sort of like cheating when trying to experience a new culture. Undoubtedly we were too similar for any of us to learn something new. However, as we opened up over dinner we realized that there were plenty of things to share with each other. Julia, though, was the one that stuck out.
Living in Sweden and with family from the Netherlands, Julia was the odd one out in our little group. She and I are actually suite mates, which was a big surprise for both of us. Moreover, I doubt she was expecting to spend her first night out with 4 Americans at a bar, but she seemed eager to join us. It wasn’t until halfway through the meal that I realized how difficult it might be for Julia to be caught with four other people from the same country. Maddie was kind enough to pause every now and then to explain references that I took for granted as an American. I waited until we had left to ask Julia what she thought of being out with us. She admitted, after some prodding, that there is a stereotype that Americans are notoriously loud but she quickly added that “the Dutch are loud too.” She said this with a smile so none of us felt like she was chastising us, just stating facts. In fact, while we were having dinner we were often interrupted by the roar of cheers behind us and in front of us as groups of locals celebrated a birthday and a night out. Julia herself was certainly convivial but she shared that Stockholm, her city in Sweden, was significantly calmer, slower and quieter than Amsterdam. Julia also reassured me that she wasn’t overwhelmed by us and seemed happy enough to listen to our tales of relationships, food preferences and major injuries (you know, just normal dinner topics).
Julia shared with me that though I had been correct in assuming that beer was a big part of Amsterdam and Dutch culture, Sweden didn’t exactly share that quality–at least as much as she’s experienced. At dinner she, and Maddie, opted for a glass of chardonnay. Eli was pleased to see that De Bekeerde Suster offered a beer flight, or a sampling, of all the house beer. I chose to have a glass of De Blonde Barbier (The Blonde Barber), a Blond Belgian Ale, and Jon decided to try the same. At Eli’s suggestion I also tried De Manke Monik (The Crippled Monk), a Tripel which was on the more bitter, but consequently more flavorful, side. The beer was quite good and the food hit the spot as well; Jon had a burger, Julia and I had brie panini with walnuts and fig spread, Eli had fries and Maddie had a brie salad.
The beer was very nice but the atmosphere and the history stuck with me more than the drinks. The blond ale was light and smooth, not out-of-this-world but easily drinkable. The Tripel was much more complex and, in both mine and Eli’s opinion, the better beer. I was worried that my new friends were just indulging me when they agreed to come along but we ended up having a great night out and learned quite a bit about each other; I certainly hope they join me on more outings for People & Pints. Look out for another post next week as I try more good beer and have even better conversations.
As always leave any tips, suggestions, comments or concerns!