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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.