Hi everyone and welcome to this week’s People & Pints! The temperature has been steadily dropping over the past few weeks and it felt perhaps the coldest this weekend; in the sun it was nice and crisp but still quite chilly. I decided to take advantage of one of the nice days and bike around the city. There are four bars in Amsterdam owned by More Beer that are participating in a challenge where one has to buy a beer from each bar and he is rewarded a free t-shirt. I had been wanting to go on this adventure and assumed that the days would only get colder, so I might as well take advantage of this sunny weekend. So, having invited a few friends who were too busy, I set out on this beer-fueled bike ride on a sunny, fall Sunday afternoon.
The first bar was Proeflokaal Arendsnest. Arendsnest is a local, Dutch bar serving beer from around Holland. As soon as I stepped in I immediately recognized the local flavor. This gezellig spot was inviting: the walls adorned with old beer posters and maps of the Netherlands. There were copper pipes, antique chandeliers and plenty of locals enjoying their Sunday afternoon. There were a few other English speakers but almost everyone was speaking Dutch. The bar was packed but I found an open stool next to two Dutch men and ordered my drink. I opted for a Gaia from Oedipus Brewing, one of my favorite Amsterdam breweries. The Gaia was a hoppy IPA with a strong, bitter aroma and amber color. It tasted like it smelled–strong and hoppy–but with a nice finish. I made small talk with one of the men next to me, but he and his friend preferred to keep to themselves. I was a bit overwhelmed but enjoyed the old-school vibe of Arendsnest. After finishing my drink I loitered and chatted with the bartender before paying my bill and returning to the brisk fall day.
The next stop on my journey was BeerTemple, Amsterdam’s American craft beer bar. I had visited BeerTemple a few times before, once for an awesome beer tasting and tap takeover from Coronado Brewing. This time though the bar was nearly empty. I noticed that almost all of the beer on tap was from Pizza Port, a brewery with which I was unfamiliar, so I asked the bartender about it. He let me know that there had been a tap takeover from this San Diego Brewery the previous night. He hadn’t attended so he couldn’t shed any light on how the event went and when I asked for some suggestions on what to try he responded, “well I’ve only made it through about half of them so far. But we can try one together if you want?” So the bartender poured a small tasting for us both, we said “Proost!” and tried Pizza Port’s brown ale, Backside. A man who was siting next to me gave the thumbs up when he saw our choice. “We made the right call?” I asked with a laugh. He smiled and nodded as we sipped our drink. Backside had a dark color and strong aroma but was really smooth and flavorful. It was only 4.5% and we both agreed that it had a lot of flavor for a beer with low alcohol content. Another man who was standing near me at the bar noticed my Red Sox hat and asked if I were from Boston. “Well I go to school in Boston but I’m actually from Jersey,” I responded. He and his colleagues were on business from California and were enjoying their last day in Amsterdam. I explained that I am an English major and I am studying in Amsterdam for the semester. He rejoined his colleagues after a few minutes but as I was leaving made sure to say goodbye, “See ya, English major!” The man who had given me the thumbs up caught my eye as he was leaving and told me that his sister had gone to Boston College as well. We joked about how small of a world it is but he and his wife left quickly afterward. I continued to chat with the bartender until I finished my drink and told him I’d be sure to come again. I was happy he took the time to talk and share a drink with me, as we chatted about Americans in Amsterdam, the different beers they stock at BeerTemple and upcoming events in Amsterdam.
I took a brief stop back home to put on a thicker jacket as the sun began to set and then journeyed to the penultimate stop: Jopen Proeflokaal. This bar was also quite quiet but was very charming. They serve beer from Jopen Brewery, which is a Dutch brewery located in Haarlem. I had started to get a little hungry and Jopen has a nice menu with beer pairings. I opted for a standard burger and the TempelBier, which is an American style Pale Ale. I sipped on the APA before my burger was ready and noticed that there weren’t a lot of flavors. It was certainly a crisp drink but nothing special. But once I got my burger I realized that the flavors in the beef and the sauce balanced really well with the refreshing Pale Ale. I enjoyed my small meal, which included sweet potato chips, but was unable to really converse with anyone. There were only three other people in the bar at one point and I decided to simply head to the last bar and finish my day.
The last bar was Craft & Draft, which I had visited a few weeks ago. Craft & Draft was also a little empty but I plopped down on the bar and hoped I would be able to strike up a conversation. I decided to try the Hopblond from De Vriendschap, a Dutch brewery which I had sampled before. The Hopblond had a nice aroma with hops and some spices while the taste was very well balanced–none of the flavors overpowered the others. When the bartender asked if I liked the beer I told her that I did and that I enjoyed the other beers from the brewery. She explained that she also really liked De Vrienschap and that Craft & Draft usually had their beer on tap. After a few minutes I overheard a couple sitting a few stools away talk to the bartender in English. The woman explained that she likes craft cider so the bartender made a recommendation. Once the woman received her drink she turned down to me and asked where I am from, explaining that she also heard me speaking English. I revealed to the couple that I’m from New Jersey but I go to school in Boston. They kind of stared at me for a few seconds as if they expected me to add something, so I quickly said, “But I’m studying here for the semester.” They gave me a slight look of surprise and the woman, who told me her name is Veronica, said she didn’t think I was from the US. “You don’t really have an American accent. I thought you were Dutch!” I laughed and explained that though I had been here for two months I didn’t really think I had picked up any accents. “You probably will,” Veronica joked.
I introduced myself to this couple, Veronica and J.C., explaining what I’m studying and how I’ve enjoyed my time here. Veronica shared that she was originally from Antwerpen but has moved around a lot. JC grew up in LA but his family is from Mexico so he also has traveled around. They told me that they have lived in New York, Wisconsin, SoCal and recently they moved to Portland, Oregon. However, they decided to spend some time in Europe, traveling and working, so they shared that they had been back to Belgium and had just arrived in Amsterdam. I found their lifestyle and itch for traveling really interesting but they seemed more curious with my choice to study abroad. Veronica at one point said, “I’m really impressed you’d take the leap, take the risk to study in another country.” I thought that it was funny to call it a risk because I know plenty of other students abroad. However, we talked about how Americans often grow up sheltered, how some people never leave their hometown or their state. “Some people just never see the world,” J.C. said. I nodded understandingly and realized I was pretty lucky to be able to have this experience.
We chatted for quite a long time about life in America and my time in Amsterdam. I explained my Argentine heritage (“maybe that’s why I didn’t think you were American,” Veronica quipped) so we discussed how having parents from other countries helps instill a love for exploring. Veronica asked if I would consider living abroad and I revealed that it had crossed my mind, “I love life in Amsterdam so that’s probably part of the reason.” I also told them that Rosa, my girlfriend, is studying in Amman and has certainly helped spark some of the excitement for traveling. We chatted long into the night, much longer than I had intended, but I was thoroughly enjoying the conversation with my new friends. We finally said goodbye and I got the free t-shirt. I had originally set out to get this silly shirt and enjoy the sunny fall day but I ultimately loved meeting people along the way. And the beers, they were very good too. I was initially upset none of my friends could join me but I was happy to have made some new friends and have great conversations.