Friday, August 26
Friday morning, Tanguy picked Peter and I up at our apartment to take us to the train station. Five hours, and three trains later, we arrived in Amsterdam.
My first impression of Amsterdam: modern and English-speaking. Most of the time when you approach someone, they greet you in English, even though all locals speak Dutch. I guess I just scream tourist, which in this case, is fine with me. When talking with Florence about this observation, she informed us that almost everyone uses English to communicate because Amsterdam is such a tourist destination and because English is a language most tourists (even other Europeans) have in common. Makes sense.
I am really happy we decided to embark on this impromptu “beer tour” throughout Amsterdam because it gave Peter and I a route to explore the city. After Arendsnest, we walked up the Damrak towards central station. This is truly the heart of the city. While walking, we stopped in at the Amsterdam Sex Museum, and for 4 euros a person, we got a preview of what the Red Light District is like at night. Truthfully, it was quite a raunchy experience, and I don’t know if it was worth the money. (Then again, I don’t really know what I was expecting).
Luckily, our third stop was called “‘Cause Beer Loves Food,” a casual beer joint that serves an ever-changing food menu. Peter and I enjoyed our dinner of fish cakes and spareribs over a couple of good beers. One of my favorites of the day I enjoyed at this bar was an apricot tripel.
The last place, Craft & Draft, was a bit off of the main track, a couple of miles west of the Old Town, and a bit over a mile from ‘Cause Beer Loves Food. We chatted with the bartender as he poured a rauchbier, or a smoked German beer, and a saison (both from local breweries). The rauchbier was not my favorite, as I learned I do not prefer the taste of smoked beers. However, Peter enjoyed it, and I took custody of the saison. Upon finishing our last beer, we presented our receipts to the bartender, and he rewarded us for our accomplishment with our shirts.
We decided to take the Metro back into the city center, where we then walked around the Red Light District and the Dam Square. Not surprisingly, we found that there were more people out roaming these streets at midnight than at noon. I love how Amsterdam is a vibrant city at all hours of the day.
Saturday, August 27
After a good night’s sleep, we woke up and visited Heineken. Their tour, called the “Heineken Experience,” is truly an experience. The tour is self-guided, with checkpoints along the way where Heineken employees teach you how Heineken is made, guide you through a tasting, and give you a sample of wort. Probably the most memorable part of the tour was the 4-dimentional brewing experience where guests are “transformed” into beer. Here, we stood on platforms that jostled around during the whirlpool, had water splash on our faces during filtration, and were surrounded by bubbles during fermentation.
Near Heineken is the famous Albert Cuyp Market, the largest street market in Europe, boasting 260 stands. What better place to sample some authentic Netherlands delicacies such as herring and stroopwafels? The Dutch prepare herring by freezing, then lying the fish in salt for a couple of days. Traditionally, Dutch street stands serve herring with onions and pickles, but you can also order it with bread. I went traditional, ordering herring straight up, and Peter chose the bread. Personally, I love fish, and I found herring to be no exception (Peter, on the other hand, could barely choke down two bites).
To salvage the Dutch food experience for Peter, I stopped at a stroopwafels stand so I could order two warm, flat waffles with caramel oozing out the sides. There was a chocolate-dipped option, so I went for it. I only had a couple bites before Peter devoured his sugar-filled delight. (Stroopwafels are very good, but personally, I find Liege waffles much tastier).
Amsterdam also knows how to prepare a mean burger. After doing some research, I found that one of the best places to indulge in Amsterdam’s finest is at a burger joint called The Butcher, located on the same street as Albert Cuyp Market. You really can’t miss this place, as the entrance has a stuffed cow hanging in the window. Although we had been snacking all morning, we decided to split a burger and fries. And yes, it was a damn good burger.
Instead, Peter and I decided to visit De Hallen, a former train depot that is now the home to a cinema, indoor market, craft centers, a reading café, TV studios, and a food hall. De Hallen opened at 11am, and we got there about half past 11. We walked immediately to the FoodHallen (the food hall), anxious to see what culinary creations they had to offer, only to find that most vendors were still in the process of setting up.
We decided to wait around until more vendors opened up. Particularly, I wanted to visit De BallenBar and sample some bitterballen, a traditional Dutch food reminiscent of deep-fried gravy, usually served to accompany a beer. In the meantime, we ordered a couple of beers from the bar and discussed our impending foodie adventure.
To wash down our meat extravaganza, we decided to treat ourselves to De FoodHallen’s famous gin and tonics. I enjoyed a floral cocktail made with raspberries and blueberries; while peter savored an apple and mint concoction.
This was the only stop we had time for on Sunday, and I am quite all right with that, as we were so full and content, we did not eat the rest of the day.
Monday, August 29
On Mondays, we brew. I think for the first time nothing went wrong (at least for us). Nicolas had some issues while conducting the filtration, but nothing too dire. In fact, we finished our brew early. We also cleaned most of the floors in the brewery after brewing and only worked a 9-hour day. I felt pretty accomplished.
This issue delayed our progress about an hour. Various other issues arose in the afternoon, including more bursting bottles and displaced railings on the bottling line. Oh, Peter also dropped a crate on his foot that happened to land on the part of his boot that was not steel-toed. Also, I almost got my hand stuck in the filling machine (yes, you should never put your hand into moving machinery, I know). Luckily, the worst harm to us consists of a couple of bruises. Truly just par for the course for a day in the brewery; however, these incidents also serve as a reminder that you must use caution while working in a brewery, because serious incidents can, and do, occur. Despite our delays, we still managed to be back to our apartment by 5:30.
Tomorrow evening, after another day of bottling, Peter and I will be heading to Brussels in preparation for meeting my mom at the airport and guiding her back to Couthuin in a rental car. Despite my mother’s keen sense of direction (and ability to drive on little sleep) I thought it best to help her back to Couthuin. After all, how else are you supposed to follow directions on a map when half of the streets aren’t marked? Or when every intersection in Couthuin is an unmarked “yield”? I’m excited to have my mom join us on our Belgium experience. This weekend, we’re going on an extravagant brewery adventure on our way to Bruges. Some places we’ll be visiting include Duvel, Brasserie Dupont, Saint Bernardus, and Huyghe (the brewery that makes Delirium Tremens.) This weekend is Peter’s last here, so we’re going out with a bang. It’s going to be quite the weekend.