Hello everyone and welcome to another People & Pints post! Almost, if not all, of my previous posts can be labeled a “success” in most people’s books; I set out to share beers and conversations with interesting people and I would argue that all of my posts have achieved that goal. However, last night I experienced “failure”–if I can call it that. I have previously addressed the challenges involved in taking up my mission to meet new people and drink new beer; it can be tough to enter a bar with the goal of striking up interesting conversations. There are times when people are unwilling to talk, when the bar is relatively empty, when others would rather keep to themselves. I experienced that last night.
I had a marvelous weekend last week as I visited my lovely friend Jess in Sevilla. The days that followed however were less than perfect. I developed a bit of a cold and felt generally down in the dumps for a few days–a result of the quick switch in climates is my hypothesis. Because of this, I entered the weekend a bit drained and without any concrete plans. This was the weekend that many had decided to take the trek to Munich for Oktoberfest. Some readers may wonder why someone who claims to have such a fondness for beer would pass up a trip to the annual celebration of all things beer. Unfortunately, I failed to make plans in advance and as prices rose to visit Oktoberfest, I had to ultimately turn down the prospect of that trip. Although I was a little disappointed, I noticed that a few restaurants and bars around Amsterdam were throwing their own Oktoberfest parties. The weather was beautiful (for Amsterdam): sunny with a slight chill in the air that was both comfortable and refreshing. So with a few friends I set out early Saturday afternoon and reached Amsterdam Roest. We decided to take our huge mugs by the water, where some beach chairs had been set up, and soak in the sun on this cool autumn day.
Ultimately though, I decided that last night, Sunday, would be the evening for my blog. I invited my friend Eli to accompany me but he turned it down saying the trip was too far for a Sunday night (it was only about 15 minutes on bikes). Although I teased him, I accepted his decision and went my way. It was dark out already but the day had been beautiful again so the night air only had a slight chill. To reach the bar I needed to bike through Vondelpark, one of the larger parks in Amsterdam. As I biked through the park, dark and empty, I looked up at the sky and noticed how many stars could be seen. It was really beautiful and I paused for a moment on my trip to take it in. After another two minutes I arrived at my destination, Craft & Draft.
Craft & Draft only recently opened its doors–early this past spring to be precise. I believe that it also happens to have the most taps in Amsterdam at 40. I asked the bartender and she agreed but said she wasn’t 100% sure. I settled in at the bar next to some very boisterous Dutch men and ordered my drink. I had asked the bartender for some suggestions, which was a bit of a tough query, I admit. So she asked what type of beer I generally go for. “Anything really,” I admitted with a laugh, “but I usually go for ambers or something with some color.” It is very difficult to narrow down my preferences but I noticed that there were a few Amber/ Red ales so I decided I would ask for her suggestion. She nodded and let me sample one that she said was “very popular.” It was the Brutus Amber Ale from Brouwerij Maximus, a brewery from the Netherlands. It had a strong aroma with malt scents and was a deep red in color. It drank smoothly with hints of caramel and even some chocolate, I believe, in the finish.
I sat scribbling in my notebook and looking around the bar. There weren’t many people, only a couple of men at the bar and a few groups at tables but as I continued drinking the Brutus, people gradually left. At this time I decided to chat with the bartender and learn a little bit about this new bar. She informed me that their draft list changes whenever a beer is out. I asked if they usually return to the same brewery for replacements. “No,” she answered, “not necessarily. There are definitely some breweries we return to but sometimes we change it up.” They had a few American beers on tap including Stone, Samuel Adams and Brooklyn and so I assumed, because those are larger, more popular breweries, those would be ones that are often served at Craft & Draft. I also took a look at their schedule and they have several beer tastings coming up so I’m sure those beers will likely be featured as well.
One of the more interesting things about Craft & Draft is their shop; not only do they have a full bar (let me repeat 40 taps!), they also have a beer shop with bottles to take. I had used the beer shop before when I was around Vondelpark and really enjoyed the selection. I also found out that they have a very interesting system. The beer shop is inclosed in glass walls, separate from the bar, and at 10 pm they close the doors while the bar stays open. Apparently, according to Amsterdam’s liquor licensing, they cannot sell beer to take after 10 so they have to lock up the shop then. Craft & Draft is also one of the only bars in Amsterdam to serve growlers, mugs of beer from the tap, which one can buy and take away, but only because of their beer shop. Again, Amsterdam’s liquor licensing is quite strict so bars often don’t sell growlers to take away but, at Craft & Draft, the customer orders and the bartenders fill the growlers at the bar but then they are brought into the beer shop, the inter sanctum, and sell it to the customer there. It’s a very clever loophole and something I found incredibly interesting. It is also a great way to make Craft & Draft unique.
After some time I moved on to my second drink. I was deciding between two, an Italian scotch ale and an APA collaboration from a Danish and an American brewery. Ultimately I opted for the Arctic SunStone APA from Amager Bryghus in Denmark and 3 Floyds Brewing Co. from Indiana, US. The beer is a limited draft so I decided to go for it. The hops and the bitterness came through in the aroma while there was a slight but distinct fruitiness in the taste, specifically grapefruit and other citruses. It was a very refreshing American Pale Ale and a great choice.
I sat, still on my own, enjoying my delicious beer. I noticed that a couple had walked in with two dogs; although in America one would never come across pets in a bar, this is a pretty normal occurrence in Amsterdam. I continued to chat with the bartender who was very engaging and, as the bar was mostly empty, seemingly happy to indulge my questions. The bartender shared that because they are indeed a new bar they would be confronting their first Amsterdam winter. I didn’t realize this would be a significant milestone but apparently business can fluctuate as the weather gets colder. I assured her that Craft & Draft seemed “unique enough” to set it apart from other bars. As I paid, I revealed that I am an exchange student from America and she asked what I was studying. “English,” I happily responded, “so literature while I’m here.” I shared that I enjoy writing and she seemed pretty happy with my answers. I was also eager to explain how I had enjoyed the craft beer culture in the city and she agreed with a smile, “you picked the right place.” I think she was referring to Amsterdam but it was just vague enough that I could assume she meant Craft & Draft as well.
Although I didn’t have the evening I was necessarily hoping for, I did have a nice night drinking delicious craft and having a warm conversation. There wasn’t anything particularly revelatory shared between us but my knowledge of the beer culture in Amsterdam was expanded by one bar, two beers and 40 taps.