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.  

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Dreary Days with Bangin’ Friends

Hello all and welcome to another week of People & Pints! This weekend I was lucky enough to host my great friends Ambrey and Maddie in Amsterdam. I was disappointed that the weather was quite gloomy but my friends enjoyed the trip nonetheless. Ambrey and Maddie are also from Boston College–though they are studying in Paris and Heidelberg, respectively. In light of the tragedy in Paris this weekend, I was very happy Ambrey was here in Amsterdam and, though we were pretty shaken at first, we continued to enjoy the few days together; it did prove a strange endeavor to have a fun time while still thinking about the terrible event that had taken place. We decided to push on with our weekend and explore the city together, attempting to dodge the rain and shelter ourselves from the wind. And, of course, enjoy some beer.

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Candid Laughs

I became friends with Ambrey and Maddie through our time at The Gavel (Hence the pun in the title! Get it? Ok.) and we chatted quite a bit about writing and the upcoming elections for the position of Editor-in-Chief. Ambrey has also been working on a blog during her time abroad and we talked about some of our struggles. “A lot of times I push it off so the things I want to write about kind of pile up.” I agreed with her but Ambrey said she enjoyed that People & Pints has a “theme.” I admitted that it does help keep me on a weekly schedule. Maddie teased me about the blog, “are we going to be the people for People & Pints?!” “We’ll see,” I said, laughing. Maddie later revealed that she had read all of my posts, which was a sweet surprise. One effect of People & Pints, Maddie suggested, was just an overall increase in her interest of beer, which I realized was subconsciously part of my goal. “I do hope people find it more interesting, not just about drinking.” I offered Ambrey and Maddie some practical information about craft beer throughout the weekend but it was more fun to just enjoy the beer together and talk.

IMG_2940 (1)Now that I had the People for the blog, we had to find the Pints. I decided to take Ambrey and Maddie to Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Although I had been several times before, I thought that ‘t IJ would be a very clear representation of the craft beer experience in Amsterdam. The bar was packed but we managed to get our drinks and find space to chat. I ordered the IJwit, a delicious wheat beer.The commercial description from ‘t IJ labels it “a delicious thirst-quencher” and I agree it is incredibly refreshing. The IJwit was light in color but flavorful with notes of orange, lemon and coriander.

Our conversation became a bit sober, though, as we began to discuss the realities of the Paris attacks. When we first heard about the attacks we were preparing to go to a party for the night. We were getting ready when Ambrey very matter-of-factly stated, “There’s been a shooting in Paris.” I remember initially thinking it was probably a small scale shooting. But we quickly continued to receive information and each of us, with our eyes focused on our phones, reported whatever news we could. “It happened outside of the soccer stadium.” “There are hostages.” “They don’t know who is responsible.” Then we started asking the hard questions about our friends’ safety. “Is Tyler safe?” “Did you hear from Evan?” It took some time but eventually we found out everyone was ok. We had confirmed that friends and fellow students were safe but it was still strange to consider the proximity of the attack. We contemplated the response of France and whether or not Ambrey would have trouble returning to Paris. Paris was of course not the only city attacked; Beirut had also been targeted. But we were more struck by the immediacy of being within the continent. “We’re in Europe at a pretty crazy time,” I stated. Ambrey and Maddie agreed. Eventually we transitioned to more lighthearted topics like recapping our previous night at the club and our plans for dinner.

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poffertjes

One revelation for Ambrey and Maddie was the delicious food we enjoyed. We sampled some homemade stroopwafels and our friend Elise led us to some of her favorite poffertjes. Elise was hosting another friend from BC, Kara, and they joined in on most of the activities of the weekend. Our guests were ultimately very charmed by the great food available. However, much of what they saw of Amsterdam was not exactly a surprise. Ambrey and Maddie elaborated that they both were expecting the weather to be cold and that bikes would be very prevalent. Moreover, when we later took a tour of the Red Light District, though it was a unique experience, Maddie said that she was relatively aware that it would be “tame” and “not too crazy.” I was indeed glad that Ambrey and Maddie weren’t in shock or appalled of this reality of Amsterdam. More importantly, I was just happy that they were enjoying the city I have been calling home.

Throughout the weekend we chatted about returning to Boston and how we were missing aspects of being in the US. We each have been enjoying our abroad experiences but, as Ambrey aptly noted, “the United States just has more convenience.” Both Maddie and I agreed that certain things were much easier in the United States, like getting sick or talking with family and friends. We also expressed our anxiety about returning to “real life” at various points. Although we spent a good deal of time joking, eating and drinking beer, we did discuss serious things like classes, internships and relationships.

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Sinterklaas

The weekend ended on a pretty interesting note, having begun on a shocking one. Maddie left early Sunday morning but Ambrey stayed until the evening. In the remaining time, Ambrey and I joined Elise and Kara to witness the arrival of Sinterklaas in Amsterdam. Young, blonde, excited Dutch children lined the canals as we watched boatloads of Zwarte Pieten and finally Sinterklaas himself. The Netherlands’ version of Saint Nick or Santa Claus has his own helpers: Black Peters. I was aware of the character thanks to The Office but it was very strange to see Dutch people dressed in black face welcoming Sinterklaas as children excitedly cheered and mimicked the mildly racist costume. I was told that the role of Zwarte Piet–a moorish slave boy–had persisted, despite some complaints of racism, with minor changes and a stance that sites tradition, not prejudice. Apparently the story had changed to claim that Zwarte Piet’s face was just covered in soot from the chimneys, which is a bit of a hard sell. It was certainly a unique experience, if not a bit uncomfortable.

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A Boatful of Zwarte Pieten

Eventually I had to say goodbye to Ambrey too–after some jokes about the Sinterklaas events. I reiterated that I was glad she had left Paris on this particular weekend and Ambrey agreed, departing into Centraal Station for her train back home. I walked to my apartment thinking about the strange dichotomy of having fun with the knowledge of a tragedy in the background. I had felt guilty at certain points throughout the weekend but I did enjoy spending time with Ambrey and Maddie. The events of the weekend were scary but it reminded me to still enjoy fun times with great friend; I was very aware of the immediacy of tragedy but also about being with great people: laughing, talking and drinking delicious beer.

Featured Image via Flickr

An Introduction to People & Pints

Hello everyone and welcome to People & Pints, my grand scheme for keeping everyone tapped* into my life abroad. I will be spending my fall semester studying at the University of Amsterdam and I wanted to capture my experience in a meaningful way. Blogging can be a great tool for traveling but I couldn’t find a singular, interesting topic. My thoughts strayed to beer reviews, something I believed would be a great exercise in writing, but I didn’t think a blog solely devoted to beer reviews in Amsterdam would truly encapsulate my semester abroad. As I talked with friends and family about my plans, a concrete thought–and consequently a new passion–developed; I wanted to write about the culture of beer in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam, and the Netherlands in general, has a rich past and flourishing present in beer production. One of the most widely distributed and well known beers in the world, Heineken, was founded in Amsterdam. The style of beer that originated from this area of Europe–top-fermenting beer–is enjoyed throughout the world; this includes Stouts, Witbiers (White Beers) and Oud Bruins (Old Browns). At one point in Amsterdam, beer essentially replaced water (though it was much less alcoholic). Currently, Amsterdam has several smaller craft breweries like Oedipus Brewing, Brouwerij ‘t IJTwo Chefs Brewing and Brouwerij de Pael. These facts alone, though, were not what led me to my blog.

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Brouwerij t’ IJ: equal parts windmill, brewery and bar

As interesting as beer and craft brewing might be for some, I’m under the impression more people would rather drink it than talk about it. My former editor at BostInno, Alex, concurred and helped me finally streamline my ideas. After discussing for a bit he advised me not to “nerd out about the beer,” but to focus on the people, the stories. Admittedly I rambled for some time trying to find the words to express what I really wanted to write about. What was it that would reflect my desire to learn about beer, life in Amsterdam and, in some respects, myself? Alex sifted through the jumble and repeated something I had said, ” ‘Forcing myself to be social. Through beer.’ That’s the blog.” Thus, People & Pints was born.

People & Pints will be my attempt to engage life abroad and share my experiences with any willing readers. Every week I will visit a new bar–or at least try a new beer–and attempt to talk with a stranger. I’m hoping to come away with some great stories and more importantly just connect, on a personal level, with the city I am calling home for a semester. I find that good beer is an excellent means to a social end and I think I can capture that in this blog. My friend Adriana told me that she thought P&P sounded a lot like “People of New York,” and I have to admit there are some similarities. But I am not just interviewing people of Amsterdam; it isn’t so one-sided. I think through my writing people can see the impact of a conversation on both parties.

I only intend to post once a week but if the blog is successful I may post more frequently. I plan to travel around Europe so although the location will change, the purpose remains. I leave for Amsterdam next Thursday and arrive Friday morning which means hopefully by Friday night I’ll have met my first Person and enjoyed my first Pint**.

This is my first time blogging; I have no editor, no deadlines but I am passionate about this project. I will be as candid and personal as I can be. This could ultimately fail. There’s all the chance in the world people won’t want to talk to an annoying American “blogger” and maybe the blog won’t be a huge hit. But I do hope that everyone who comes to the blog enjoys it. Please, please send any comments, criticisms or suggestions my way. These are my experiences and stories but I imagine they’ll mean something different for each reader and I am more than happy to change the model if it means P&P can be better. I hope this is a success, but, as I’ve told many of my friends, at worst I’ll have some good beer…and hopefully some great conversations.

*obligatory beer pun

**disclaimer: volume may not be exactly a pint

Image via Flickr