Today I meant to bring you a new Amsterdam pub. A pub harvested on my second Rivierenbuurt expedition. Things didn't quite work out as expected.
For a start the weather was crap. I spent most of the afternoon dodging showers with almost as much skill and effort as I put into avoiding work. The lousy was why I arranged to meet Mike in Dopey's rather than on the street. As things turned out, I'm glad I did. But more of that later.
Using my trusty Amsterdamse Kroegen Encyclopodie as a source I had a map prepared (that's the sort of anal retentive jerk I am) marked with half a dozen propects. Enough for a hard afternoon's researching (or pub-crawling, as my wife calls it).
I've rather negelected Dopey's over the years. I hadn't been there for yonks when it was included in a post-beer-tasting pub crawl. (I've been hosting beer tastings for several years now. Though I'm lucky to average more than one a year. Something is going wrong. I blame the marketing department, run by one R. Pattinson. He never gets me any business, the useless git. I've had no complaints of the tastings I've done. I provide a full-colour booklet packed with the sort of neurotically detailed information users of my website will immediately recognise. Then there's my unscripted lecture. I never need a script. My conversation often resemebles a lecture as my friends, children and long-suffering wife will attest. I can drone away on any beer-realted topic for several hours. Like Hasek's political speeches, the only interruptions are those dictated by toilet requirements. My blog is the same. Only here I'm spared the glazed eyes of my loved ones. And the stares at the suspicious dark patches on my trousers. Where was I? Trying to drum up some bookings for my unforgettable beer tastings. I'm offering a special rate for readers of my blog. Just quote the discount code "frankenland-spending-money" when you book.)
I keep telling people I'm an old-fashioned bloke. I'm writing this the old-fashioned way - on paper - because I'm in a pub. Obviously, there will be a stage where I'm squinting at my scrawl and trying to transcribe it into electronic form, but currently I'm sat in Wildeman wondering. Wondering which Rauchbier to drink. What do you reckon - Hummel or Spezial?" Ah . . they still have Schlenkerla Ur-Bock. No contest.
Pub of the day. That was the subject, wasn't it? I can remember when most suburban Amsterdam pubs still had carpets on the tables and a choice of Pils, Pils or Pils. Those days are long gone in most of the city. But not quite everywhere. Can you guess which neighbourhood the beer fairy has passed by?
(To protect the innocent, I'll be naming no pub names here . . .)
The exterior of the first pub looked so good, Mike refused to enter. Despite the fact that it was raining. In the interests of fair play, I thought I should at least stick my head around the door. Much as it pains me to say this, Mike was right. It wasn't worth the effort. On my scale of 1 to 5 stars, it rated -1. And that's after marking it up one for having a decent jenever, Bols Korenwijn for just €2.40.
We were soon zigzagging between the raindrops again. I've been in lots of pubs. There are few surprises left in décor or design. Our next stop did, however, cause me to raise one eyebrow, Roger Moore-style, ever so slightly. The Amsterdamse Kroegen Encyclopodie warned that the owner runs two antique shops. Maybe they are filled with pub furniture, because the pub is full of antiques. Like an over-stuffed Victorian front room. At least that's what it looked like through the window, because it wasn't open. S we were there bang in the middle of its supposed opening times, I wonder if it still trades.
Maybe we would have better luck on Rijnstraat. Mike needed a strippenkaart. While he was busy with that, rather than stand outside in the rain, I tried another pub. Suddenly, -1 was looking like a good score. To give [name deleted] -4 would do a great disservice to every pub I've rated -3, especially as they tried to pass off Oud Jenever as Korenwijn. Truly dreadful, though the barmaid was friendly enough.
Not to worry. Still two more pubs in Rijnstraat to go. But . . . No. I couldn't do it. They looked so dismal from the outside, my legs refused to take me in.
Mike was ready to go home. I can't say that I blamed him. "There's a reasonable pub just down the road." I said encouragingly. That usually works. I meant it, really I did. I did have vague memories of an OK pub on van Wou Straat. Mike reluctantly tagged along. Great. I could demonstrate my unrivalled knowledge of Amsterdam pubby-things [note: insert real word here]. Rather further away than I recalled we found the "good pub". I did manage to drag Mike inside, even if he couldn't find anything better to drink than tea. I told the barman he was on medication. Finally somewhere with a drinakable beer - Westmalle Dubbel. The chance wasn't going to pass me by.
What a day. Five pubs (excluding Dopey's) ranging from crap to really, really, really crap, a soaking and a disgruntled Mike. A bit of exercise, that was the only positve. But the best was still to come.
Amsterdam is a dynamic, living city, continually sucking in (and sometimes spitting out again) new groups of incomers. Being a foreigner in a city of foreigners somehow makes you feel less of a foreigner. If you see what I mean. Now the antifascist protection barrier is gone, the normal progression of people from East to West has been resumed. That explains the Polish shop (van Wou Straat 182) I stunbled upon on the way to the tram stop from the last disappointing pub. They had beer and sausage, a combination that always gets my juices flowing. No Porter, but well some Kielbasa and other unpronouceables. Five new Polish beers and a bag of sausage for the kids. Not such a bad day after all.
No new pub, but instead an old pub for Pub of the Day. The reliable, negected, faithful Dopey's.
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