A Last Hoorah!

Hello everyone and welcome to the FINAL post of People & Pints (at least while in Europe)! I’ve had a wonderful semester and have really enjoyed working on this blog project. I will have another post just on reflection but this post will be devoted to my final weekend in Amsterdam. On Friday I returned from my short trip to Italy with Rosa which ended up being a really nice break. I texted a friend back home mentioning how I was surprised to realize how nice it was to be in a family setting again. However, I returned to Amsterdam and decided to try to pack in some fun before I finally leave.

Saturday, Boxing Day, proved to be a little lonely as the weather was pretty chilly and many things were closed. I mostly accomplished some errands, biking around the city. At night, I decided to finally try Bar Brouw, a highly recommended bar and restaurant. Unfortunately, after making the twenty minute bike ride, I found the bar with all the lights out and a sign informing guests they would be closed on the 24th-26th for the holidays. So, disappointed, I made my way back home and just stayed in for the night. However, Sunday proved to be a bit more exciting and fun! I biked out to the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam’s modern art and design museum. Stedelijk had some fascinating, provocative and bizarre art and I was very happy I took the time to visit. On the way home I stopped for some poffertjes, Dutch mini pancakes. Eventually I made the trip again to Bar Brouw and enjoyed a really wonderful evening.

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Bar Brouw is a cozy, compact bar in the Oud-West of Amsterdam. I sat down at the bar and was greeted by a very friendly bartender. Although they had a wide selection of craft beer available, the options on tap were limited so I focused on some of the bottles. I noticed a few from Two Chefs Brewing, an Amsterdam brewery I enjoy, and asked about The Howling Wolf. “Oh it’s excellent,” he answered, “I know most people would say that but I highly recommend it.” I chuckled and noted that with their selection I didn’t expect there to be many bad choices. The Howling Wolf is an Imperial Porter, very dark in color and strong in taste but with a slight sweetness that made it a very delicious drink. I also ordered some food: a plate of pulled pork with a side of french fries and baked beans. It was incredible.

IMG_3841 (1)After a bit I decided to order a second beer and asked the bartender for his suggestion again. He began to list a few and stopped on a Honey Ale from Septem, a Greek brewery. I had become familiar with Septem on my trip to Athens and was intrigued by the beer so I decided to go for it. “There’s some sweetness in the Howling Wolf so I think that’s a good second choice,” the bartender remarked. It took me some time to make it through all of the food but eventually I made it, my belly quite full. As I paid my bill I chatted with the bartender about life in Amsterdam. I told him I am a student and have been spending my semester in Amsterdam at the UvA. He admitted that he is also taking classes in Amsterdam but in Psychology. I am an English major and he had taken humanities classes so we talked about the courses and the state of the various faculties (departments) of the university. As I put on my coat I asked if Bar Brouw had any coasters, “because I’ve been trying to collect coasters from all of the bars and breweries I go to.” He smiled and nodded, appreciative of my collection, but admitted that they didn’t have any Brouw coasters. “We have Two Chefs, though,” he said, “it’s fitting!” I accepted it happily and wished him a nice evening as I made the trek back to my apartment.

IMG_3843Today, Monday, I visited another museum I had previously missed, Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (“Our Lord in the Attic”). Our Lord in the Attic is a museum containing an intact, hidden Catholic church in a canal house, prevalent during the Protestant takeover of Amsterdam. It was very interesting to imagine how Catholics would congregate in this canal house for mass, permissible under the “out of sight, out of mind” policy of Amsterdam. The house was beautiful, with most of the original elements visible (in fact we had to wear slippers over our shoes so as not to damage the old floors), and the church was incredible. Afterwards I made it to Cut Throat, a combination barber shop, bar/restaurant and coffee IMG_3846 (1)house. I had heard great things about this spot and they were all accurate.
There was such a cool vibe inside; the barber stalls were separated from the rest of the restaurant and comfortable seating, old books and even a retro arcade game adorned the interior. I had been told the kitchen specialized in fatty, comfort food so after receiving a coffee I decided to also order mac and cheese and french fries–a strange (but delicious) combination, I know. I spent this time to just relax and read a little bit, soaking up the atmosphere and wishing I had found Cut Throat earlier in my stay.

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I rounded out my day in the city perusing the shop of De Prael, a craft brewery in the Red Light District. After being offered by one of the employees, I sampled some of De Prael’s liquors. I have enjoyed the beer from De Prael but didn’t know they had experimented with other alcohol. I tasted a sweet liqueur, which was really nice, made with ingredients from trees around the city. I opted not to buy anything but enjoyed the brief little visit and finally returned to my apartment for the evening.

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View from Our Lord in the Attic

Although most of my friends have returned to the US or their respective homes, I really enjoyed these past couple days of soaking up the remainder of my Amsterdam life. I’ve had to start packing up a little and, although I’m trying to watch my wallet, I’m taking advantage of my last days in Amsterdam.

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Christmas Beers with New Friends

Hello all and welcome to this week’s People & Pints! I am currently writing this post from Italy as I am lucky enough to spend the Christmas holiday with my girlfriend Rosa and her family. Having finished all of my finals and essays I was able to relax these past few days and enjoy my time in Amsterdam. Saturday night I made my way to a brewery in the south  and then met with a friend for drinks and dinner. I really enjoyed my evening of beer and conversations and, despite being very tired, am happy to be writing what will be one of my final posts for People & Pints in Europe!

IMG_3825Amsterdam, as I’ve mentioned numerous times, is home to a host of craft breweries. One brewery that I hadn’t managed to visit was Butcher’s Tears, located in Amsterdam-Zuid (South). I’ve had their beer before but continued to put off actually visiting the taproom. The brewery is about 30 minutes by bike so on a cold night the trek can seem daunting; but I mustered up the willpower and made my way to a new brewery.

IMG_3821Butcher’s Tears is tucked away among some warehouses and had the DIY vibe akin to most craft breweries. I entered to find that the night was rather quiet with only a few other customers and some smooth jazz playing softly. I noticed that they had a record player and enjoyed watching the bartender hand select the records. The music was just one facet of the appeal of Butcher’s Tears. Windows let customers sneak a peek into the brewing process taking place on the other side of the wall; one of the brewers was busy that night as he frequently came back and forth between the taproom and the brewery. My first drink of the evening was Lipreader, their seasonal “Winter Warmer”. The beer was a nice drink for the chilly evening with notes of molasses and rich malty flavors to warm me up.

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After sitting and sipping for a little while some more people filed in and voices rose, granting the taproom the atmosphere I would expect on a Saturday night. I approached the bartender and asked a few questions about the brewery, explaining I have taken an interest in the Amsterdam craft beer scene and had enjoyed the few bottles of Butcher’s Tears I had had before. “We’ve only been open here for maybe half a year. Before that we were in Belgium,” the bartender explained. He was very proud of the independent nature of the brewery, “we do everything ourselves. The brewing, the bottling, the labeling, the drinking,” he chuckled. After chatting for a bit and paying for my drink I made my way back into the center of the city.

I had decided to meet with my friend Federica, whom I met in one of my courses, because it would be our last chance to see each other. Federica is from Bologna, Italy and I opted to take her to BeerTemple to give her a sample of American craft beer. I asked if she were a fan of craft and she said she didn’t necessarily have a preference, but was sure she would like it. I ordered Eastbound and Brown, a Brown Ale, from Palo Alto Brewing Co. It was a nice, smooth drink with some notes of coffee and chocolate. Federica asked for my suggestion and I pointed her toward Workers Comp, a Saison from Two Roads Brewing in Connecticut. She said she liked it and I was glad she enjoyed a product of New England.

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We spent the evening just chatting, running through plenty of topics like our career goals, experiences during the semester and relationships. Federica also hopes to work in journalism and wants to improve her english to widen her options. I expressed that I was certainly impressed with her English and especially that she tries to use complex words. I had to clarify that it seemed like she didn’t want to just use the simplest version of the word so she would choose more nuanced vocabulary. I explained that that was my trouble with learning other languages, “I always want to use a more complex word, but I won’t know how to say it.” We talked about Italy for awhile and she tried to help me with my Italian. Ultimately I talked at length about meeting Rosa and assured her they would have to meet. After finishing our drinks we decided to, finally, eat some dinner. We found a Mexican restaurant, a relatively novel thing for Federica being from Italy, and sat down for a very filling meal.

It was a relaxing and fun evening and I was thrilled to have been able to make such a good friend, having met Federica only a few weeks ago. We were able to get along very quickly and I look forward seeing her again in the future!

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Street Art and Stickers

Hello everyone and welcome to another week of People & Pints! This past week I had my final lecture in Amsterdam rounding out my academic experience abroad. During the weekend I spent most of my time preparing for an exam and papers so it wasn’t particularly eventful. However, I decided to take some study breaks Sunday evening and managed to have some fun! I visited an art market in the afternoon and traveled across the IJ for another trip to Oedipus Brewing’s taproom. I wasn’t expecting these little adventures to be very exciting but I was proved wrong and really enjoyed perusing some independent art and trying some delicious beer.

IMG_3813 (1)Awhile back I saw an event for an art market on Facebook, which looked interesting and, when it finally rolled around, I decided to give it a try. The market was hosted in part by Cruquiusglide, a large warehouse that hosts various art and entertainment events, and Amsterdam Urban Art Fair. The warehouse was tucked away in an industrial area near the water, which gave me pause, but when I walked up to the entrance and heard the funky music playing I knew I was in the right place. I didn’t stay for very long but spent some time zig-zagging through the folding tables full of unique art. There was a section for old records including some house, rock and funk music and several artists selling their creations. There were photographers, street artists, painters and screen print artists. I knew that I wanted to purchase something but couldn’t decide at first. Most of the art was very reasonablyIMG_3812 (1) priced and I ultimately settled on a beautiful photo from AmsterSam who specializes in reflection photos. I also purchased a unique piece of stencil art as a gift from Mouse & House, a collective of street artists
centered in Utrecht but who create art in Berlin, Madrid, Amsterdam and elsewhere. It was thrilling to see how excited and proud the artists were for selling their pieces. When someone looked over the paintings or prints the artists would flash a big smile and were clearly just happy to have people enjoy their pieces. The man from Mouse & House was very happy that I asked to purchase his art, grinning as he wrapped it up for me. I left soon after but was very happy to have made the trek out.

 

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IMG_3753After studying for a bit more, I decided to journey to Oedipus Taproom in the north of Amsterdam. I had gone a few weeks ago but decided to go once more. It was another night of the Red Light Radio music event as DJs played throughout the evening in the Oedipus Warehouse. The bartender happened to remember me, welcoming me back to the bar. I asked for a suggestion and she poured me a glass of a Flanders Red Ale from Oersop Brewing, another Dutch brewery. The beer, Wild at Heart, was very unique and the color and aroma betrayed the sour/sweet taste that came through. It was great and I was happy with the suggestion. As time passed I was considering leaving; there weren’t many other people here and the night was getting late. However, I noticed a few of the Oedipus team members, including some brewers and the founders, milling about. One of the brewers, Carl, decided to sneak behind the bar and act as bartender. He asked if I wanted another drink and decided I would have one final beer. I had been eyeing a stout dubbed Kinderyoga and when I asked about it he responded, “Well, to be honest, it’s my favorite!” “Oh,” I said, “I trust your judgment then!” Carl admitted that he considered it their best beer and I wasn’t going to disagree. It was smooth and strong with an incredible malt, chocolate and coffee flavor. I really enjoyed it and was quick to thank Carl for the suggestion. He asked if I had been to the taproom before, catching my American accent, and I explained that I had been a few times. I told him that I am studying abroad here in Amsterdam but that my semester was coming to an end. I explained how impressed I was with the craft beer in Amsterdam and that Oedipus was one of my favorite breweries. “Which beer is your favorite?” “I really like the Thai Thai,” I explained. The Thai Thai is a strong, spicy, flavorful Tripel. “Funny thing, we actually brewed that for a brewer’s girlfriend.” I chuckled, a bit embarrassed, but he quickly caught himself. “Oh, don’t worry, I love it too. I just mean we focused on the spices because she doesn’t really like IPAs.” I admitted that my girlfriend isn’t a huge fan of craft beer either. “I’m trying to find one for her.”

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We chatted for awhile, talking about traveling, food and beer. “Where are you from in the US?” “New Jersey, but I go to school in Boston,” I revealed, “which has a great craft beer scene.” “Oh definitely!” Carl assured. “But New Jersey…” I braced myself because I recognized the look on his face. He explained that he had once flown into Newark on a journey to New York City and he had a pretty rough experience trying to get from Newark to Harlem. “It was just a mess, from the moment I got off the plane.” However, Carl has really enjoyed his other trips to the US like Portland, Seattle, LA and elsewhere. I asked what he thought about living in Amsterdam and he affirmed what I had been feeling: that it really is a great city. Carl is a Masters student himself so he divides his time between academics and other career goals but he really enjoys the beer and food scene. “This is all new though,” Carl said wistfully. “There wasn’t such good food for so cheap like 10 years ago. The beer scene has grown too. You’re here at a great time.” I nodded, smiling, and told him I had really enjoyed experiencing the city for the past few months. Carl had to help out the other Oedipus guys but it was great to have a fun chat with someone producing such delicious drinks. IMG_2862

As I prepared to pay, I asked the bartender if I could buy a sticker or two. “You can’t buy one, but I’d be happy to give you some!” She ran into their office and after a few minutes came back with about 50 or so stickers, thrusting them into my hands. “For free? This many?” I asked bewildered. “Sure,” she said laughing, “stickers are like the cheapest, easiest marketing. Just share them with some friends!” “Will do,” I assured. I’ve already put some on my laptop and water bottle and fully intend to continue distributing them. I hope this isn’t the last time, but the stickers are a sweet memory for this evening at Oedipus.

Birthdays, Barcelona and Berlin Beers

Hello all and welcome to this week’s edition People & Pints! I apologize for the annoying alliteration in the title but I think it is fitting considering I was lucky enough to celebrate my 21st birthday on Friday with my good friend, Austin, in Barcelona. Austin, who visited me earlier in the semester, has been studying in Barcelona and offered to host me for the weekend as we celebrated together. I met some of his friends and also managed to reconnect with some other students from Boston College in Barcelona. When I returned to Amsterdam on Monday, I was joined by my friend Eli as we attended the launch of Stone Brewing Co.’s batch of Berlin craft beer. Stone, a brewery from California, opened a new production facility in Berlin to facilitate easier shipping; instead of sending their beer from California, they can enter the European market directly from Berlin.

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My trip to Barcelona was exciting and incredible; it is truly a unique city. I was very surprised by what Austin had dubbed a very “diverse geography.” He wasn’t wrong. Barcelona is interestingly situated between the Mediterranean and an eye-catching mountain range. Moreover, the city had an interesting combination of some very wide streets of typical urban sprawls and some of the thin, easily walkable, winding streets that are often features of a romanticized European city or village. Whether it was the intricate, sublime architecture of Gaudi or the sounds and sights of street artists and performers, there was always something to marvel at.

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IMG_3796 (1)Although there were several similarities, there were many more differences between Barcelona and Sevilla, the only Spanish city I had previously visited.  One distinction was the availability of craft beer. Spain certainly isn’t renowned for its mastery of beer (that’s more often reserved for its wine and sangria). However, I was pleasantly surprised to find craft beer more easily accessible in Barcelona. Saturday evening Austin and I visited BlackLab Brewhouse, a small craft beer brewery and restaurant. We both ordered burgers and a beer each as we sat outside to enjoy the last light of the evening. I had chosen the 50/50, a “citrus” blond ale. It was a good choice for the warmer weather as it was golden in color and certainly had a nice citrus aroma. I thought the lemon taste was a little underplayed in the taste but it was still a nice, refreshing beer. It paired well with the delicious and filling burger.

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Austin and I also managed to stumble upon a BrewDog Bar in Barcelona. BrewDog is a brewery from Scotland so I was surprised to find their own bar in Spain but we stopped in for a drink. I decided to try the Jack Hammer, an intense and very solid IPA. I have had BrewDog’s very well known Punk IPA, which I also enjoy, so I decided to sample another option. Jack Hammer certainly didn’t disappoint. With an incredible amount of hops–“this beer has more bitterness than a human palate can detect,” according to BrewDog–and a nice balance of citrus and floral flavors in the taste and aroma, Jack Hammer was a great beer.

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My weekend with Austin centered around one sentiment: nostalgia. Although our conversations may have included plenty of quotes from The Office and Rick and Morty, there were some with a more serious tone. Austin and I reminisced about our previous years at Boston College as we were roommates last year. We talked about some of our adventures and memorable nights with our other two roommates Bill and Dylan and swapped stories of our respective times abroad. Austin, for better or worse, has less than a week left in Europe. Austin expressed a feeling of bittersweetness over having to leave, “I’m really excited to get back home but I’m definitely going to miss it here.” Though I still have some time left abroad, I could relate to Austin’s thoughts. We both agreed that the we have missed the convenience of living in the US but, for different reasons, we were sure we’d miss Europe. I teased Austin because he will certainly have a hard time adjusting from the warm weather of Barcelona to the bitter cold of Boston. Still, we talked about plans for the upcoming semester and admitted that we missed our friends back home. “Life is great here,” Austin said at one point, “but I think it’s simpler back home.” On a lot of levels I think he is right but we will certainly miss Europe, with all of its complexity.

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BeerTemple

I returned to Amsterdam exhausted and ready to rest but I still wanted to experience the launch of Stone Brewing Berlin. Eli, who lives very close to Stone’s California production, was curious to see if there would be any difference between the American and European beers. The event was taking place at a few bars in Amsterdam but we chose to visit BeerTemple because it is close to our apartment complex. “I’ve never seen it so packed,” Eli exclaimed as we pushed our way to the bar. BeerTemple was practically overflowing but somehow we managed to find seats at the bar and ordered our drinks. Eli stuck with the classic IPA, a Stone usual that he enjoys, and I tried the Arrogant Bastard ale, a Strong Ale, with a lot of flavor and a dark color. I definitely enjoyed the malty tastes and the bitterness wasn’t overpowering. Stone labels this beer “liquid Arrogance” and I wouldn’t dare disagree. Eli and I couldn’t necessarily taste any difference between the traditional beers and the new Berlin brews, but we agreed it is an interesting venture Stone has undertaken. As Eli and I enjoyed our beers, we too reminisced about our time abroad and we made some plans together before Eli leaves on the 18th. We also agreed to visit each other once back in the States (People & Pints takes California?). Although leaving Amsterdam might be a little bitter, looking to the future is pretty sweet.

 

A Busy Weekend with Family and Friends

Hello all and welcome to this week’s People & Pints! My week was actually quite busy as I had both my family and two friends visiting! It was also a big week in the craft beer world as Boston favorite Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project announced they would be ending their production. Pretty Things has been a staple in the New England craft beer scene and their announcement certainly sent ripples through the community that even reached Amsterdam. Nonetheless, I had a lovely week with my family and friends and even managed to catch up with a close friend here in Amsterdam over some delicious beer.

My family arrived early Wednesday and greeted a gloomy, but inviting, Amsterdam. They managed to see many of the wonderful sites the city has to offer and we enjoyed some delicious meals. This was my siblings’ first trip to Europe–let alone Amsterdam–and they definitely seemed to enjoy it. My brothers, Michael and James, enjoyed the artsy vibes and the plethora of coffee, respectively. My younger sister, though she really enjoyed the city, did jokingly complain about the “smell of marijuana.” I think the liberal nature of the city was quite striking but even the most unusual aspects were rather tame and avoidable. It was wonderful to see my family and I had definitely missed them.

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Lauren and I enjoying craft beer in Sevilla

I also had the pleasure of hosting my wonderful friend Jess and her friend Lauren, who is also quite lovely. I had spent time with them early in the semester when I visited Sevilla, so I was excited to show them Amsterdam. I was initially worried I wouldn’t be able to balance spending time with my friends and my family but it ended up working well! Although the rain and hail prevented us from experiencing Amsterdam’s exciting nightlife, we still managed to explore the city. Despite the poor weather my friends admitted that their trip to Amsterdam was perhaps their favorite in Europe. I certainly had a lot of fun and was happy to host them.

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Jess and I in Sevilla

I was sad to have to say goodbye to both my friends and my family but I really enjoyed being able to show off Amsterdam. However, I quickly realized that I hadn’t had the chance to have any craft beer with them. I decided that this would be a good chance to catch up with my great friend Alyssa over a nice beer. Alyssa is also studying abroad in Amsterdam, but she goes to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. When my girlfriend Rosa, who goes to Georgetown, visited, she and Alyssa had plenty to talk about and Alyssa quickly became a very close friend here. She jokingly admitted early on that her one wish was to “make it onto People & Pints.” So last night, Monday, I decided to grant her wish.

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Brouwerij ‘t IJ

We met at Smokin’ Barrels, a small restaurant and bar located just east of my apartment. We both braved the wind and rain and made it to SB in one piece. Before ordering our drinks, Alyssa looked up from the menu and asked, “So how does this normally go? Do I have to order something special?” I laughed and told her she could get whatever she wants. I opted for a Struis from Brouwerij ‘t IJ while Alyssa ordered a saison from Oedipus Brewing. The Struis was a strong barleywine that was dark in color and rich in taste with some notes of caramel, chocolate and perhaps cherry. The sweet finish was nice and I really enjoyed the beer. Alyssa, who doesn’t mind trying craft beer, said she also enjoyed her saison and said it had an interesting taste.

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Sinterklaas

We talked about our latest adventures as I hosted my friends and family and Alyssa had recently visited Berlin and London. We then expressed how anxious we were to have to leave so soon. Alyssa leaves earlier than I do, around December 19th, but I also only have a month left in Amsterdam. I said that I was certainly going to miss Christmas time back in the United States and Alyssa revealed that she is lucky enough to celebrate both Dutch Christmas and American Christmas. Alyssa is staying with a Dutch family in a homestay so she revealed some of the traditions in which she is included. The family will exchange presents and she said they sing songs for Sinterklaas. We initially joked about the differences between the two types of Christmas but ultimately realized that the traditions, when explained to someone who doesn’t celebrate the same way, must seem just as bizarre. However, Alyssa and I agreed that it seemed awfully strange that Sinterklaas buys his gifts, instead of making them. “It’s insane,” Alyssa teased.

We talked at length about our mutual love of pumpkin pie and shared some great stories about cooking and baking. We also told some stories about our respective significant others and continued to make plans for double dates once we returned to the states. After awhile we said goodbye and returned home, closing out a successful edition of People & Pints.

I just briefly wanted to touch on the closing of Pretty Things, which I had mentioned earlier. Pretty Things is a tenant brewery, meaning that the husband and wife team of Dann and Martha (Holley)-Paquette do not own their brewing space, but only rent it for specific brewing days. Nonetheless, Pretty Things grew and became a huge hit both locally and nationally. I even managed to find their beer here in Amsterdam which was a wonderful surprise! Pretty Things is unique; aside from their status as a “tenant brewery,” they also draw their own labels and often create incredibly distinct beer.

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Baby Tree Quad

As far as I can tell they haven’t revealed any specifics as to why they have closed up shop but plenty have speculated. Hopefully, the Paquettes will move on to another challenge in the craft beer world; I have heard that they were lovely people and I wish I had been able to experience their presence in the Boston craft beer scene earlier. I decided to pick up a bottle of their Baby Tree Quadruple at Amsterdam’s De Bierkoning (‘The Beer King’). “Do you have any more beers from this brewery?” I asked. “Pretty Things? No I don’t think so,” the woman behind the counter responded. She asked a co-worker about Pretty Things and he looked up at me understandingly. “No,” he echoed, “unfortunately that’s all we have. They just closed,” he said this last part to his co-worker. It was very interesting how this fact was clearly sad for all three of us. “They were a good brewery,” the man stated, reading my mind. I agreed and said that I wanted to get a bottle because I was worried they might be gone by the time I return to the US. I paid and as I was walking out, the woman called out, “enjoy!” “I will,” I replied.

To read more about Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project closing click here and here.