In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

Hello all and welcome to the third official post of People & Pints. I was incredibly lucky to have my lovely girlfriend Rosa come to Amsterdam earlier this week and spend a few days exploring the city. We had a busy few days: visiting museums, trying to find the best stroopwafel and apple pie in the city–all while dodging the rain. Rosa captured part of the weIMG_2891ek in her own blog and I would certainly suggest giving it a read. We had a great time and I was sad to see her leave.

However, the weather finally cleared up as Thursday and Friday were warm and sunny. I allowed myself to get a little lost while biking around the city, enjoying the wonderful temperature and the beautiful views of the canals. As the day passed into evening I tried to make plans for this post. I picked a bar that was only a short walk from my apartment and began to invite some friends. There was one person in particular, though, with whom I wanted to chat.

I asked Elise, who is another student from Boston College, to join me for the evening. I admitted the night might not be too glamorous and that, beyond trying this bar, I didn’t have any real plans. Elise sounded happy to join nonetheless and we were both excited to finally meet each other.

I had contacted Elise by way of a mutual friend, Maddie, but beyond the fact that we were both studying in Amsterdam I didn’t know much about her. Elise is an International Studies major and is studying in the Social Sciences while in Amsterdam. I shared that I am an English major but the revelation that I am also an Ancient Civilizations minor caught Elise’s attention. I was happy to hear Elise had studied Latin in high school and was excited to talk about the Classics. The similarities continued from here.

The bar I had picked was Delirium Cafe, which has over 700 bottles of beer and 20 on tap. The options were endless and it was hard to narrow down selections; to be honest it was a little overwhelming. However, what caught me was a comment Elise had made, “beer is beer.” I was taken aback; she had just challenged everything I stood for. Luckily, Elise understood my sarcasm, amid my gasps, and explained that, for her, beer was too similar to make significant distinctions. I said that beer, like anything, is an acquired taste and I’m sure it takes time to be able to tell the difference between great and mediocre beer. I had ordered an 1858 Saison from Brasserie Du Bocq, which was quite underwhelming. It was easily drinkable but lacked a definitive or unique taste. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation that was developing.

IMG_2926Elise and I began to reminisce about life at Boston College. We agreed that autumn in Boston was wonderful and it would be a shame to miss football season. Still, I was happy to hear that Elise was enjoying life in Amsterdam just as much as I was. She is from St. Paul, Minnesota so I’m sure she is well prepared for the cold and she shared that she really enjoyed the atmosphere of Amsterdam. We also talked about different classes back at BC and Elise recommended a professor for when I return.

We didn’t truly get to know each other until a little later. We began to discuss our preferences in film and comedy. I shared my love for shows like the Office, Parks and Recreation and Arrested Development. Elise also likes Amy Poehler and we started to talk about her brand of comedy. The conversation bounced around between Bill Murray, Quentin Tarantino, Steve Martin, Leonardo DiCaprio until we finally landed on the real connecting point. Elise admitted that her childhood was largely ruled by Star Wars and Winnie the Pooh–and I nearly jumped out of my chair. Those who know me well will understand that these two vastly different things were staples of my youth. Between my oversized plush Pooh Bear and my frequent lightsaber battles with siblings and friends, Elise had struck a deep nerve. I was thrilled to continue our evening talking about our silly, exciting childhoods.

MECWe took turns discussing the positives and *cough* negatives of the more recent Star Wars movies and hopes for the future of the franchise. As well as making one or two Mos Eisely Cantina references. I reassured Elise–who said she was quite nervous with the idea of new movies–that Star Wars seems well protected in the hands of J.J. Abrams. We continued for some time revealing our more nerdy stories related to the films. I had one more beer at this point: Dead Guy Ale from Rogue Ales which was infinitely better than my previous one. Rogue is an American brewery and I was surprised to see this beer made it to the Netherlands but I was happy to try it here. It was a complex Helles Bock with incredible flavor that lingered long after a sip. IMG_2931

As the night was drawing to a close Elise shared her love for the Harry Potter universe and I compared that to my soft spot for Tolkien and Lord of the Rings. There are plenty of differences between the two but we had fun comparing them. As we left and walked home Elise and I discussed relationships and of course continued to talk about Boston College. I suppose that no matter where in the world one goes, Boston College will always follow. As I said goodbye, I was happy that Elise and I had the chance to meet and even happier when Elise said she would want to talk more Star Wars or even watch the movies. Although Elise had said that “beer is just beer,” I hope she enjoyed the night that resulted.

Come back next week for another People & Pints post!

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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