I always go to the Bokbier Festival. Unless I'm out of town, which has happened a few times. Though not with Mike, my usual festival companion. He's away in New York. Not that he would have gone, anyway. He can't stand the festival.
I'd arranged to meet Mikey there at 15:00. I wanted to check out the bookstall and try to taste a couple of beers properly, so I turned up earlier, 14:15.
The bookstall, which you'll find at most Dutch festivals is pretty good. It has obscure second-hand stuff, as well as the more common modern books. Most of it's in Dutch, but there are some in English and German. My problem wasn't so much finding things I wanted as staying within budget. I'd taken out extra cash, but still needed to be careful. That ruled out the technical book, published in the 1920's. Eighty euros was just too rich for me. I limited myself to just five. A history of Westvleteren, one about breweries in Delft, brewery histories of Grolsch and Dommelsch and a book about breweries in Dutch Limburg. Only 70 euros or so for the lot.
Just as I finished paying, I noticed Stephen Beaumont was standing next to me. That's weird. Exactly the same thing happened at the Copenhagen festival "We must stop meeting like this." Is what I should have said. In reality, I came up with the less than imaginative "Hello, Stephen."
I wasn't surprised to see him. He'd told me he'd be in town for the festival. We were soon talking of cocktails, Canadian licensing laws and the humans that threaten the universe. I won't go any further here into exactly those humans are. I'm sworn to secrecy. (If anyone knows where the phrase "the humans who threaten the universe" comes from I'll be most impressed. Especially if they don't resort to Google.)
While we were chatting the bloke who sits behind me at work walked past. He's a PINT member. I've never worked with another beer enthusiast before. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to attract his attention. And dashing away in the middle of a conversation would have been impolite.
At 15:30 there was still no sign of Mikey. Then my mobile phone made a funny noise. Wasn't that an incoming text message alert? I don't use my phone often. I normally don't take it out with me. Only when I'm meeting Mikey. At his insistance. There was a huge queue to get in, the message said. He was in a pub around the corner.
I'd unwisely begun my chat with Stephen before getting a beer. I'd been in the festival getting on for half an hour before having my glass filled with De Lekkere Roden Toren. There was no great deliberation leading to my choice. It was just the nearest stand without a queue. I'm like that. I'd rather have any beer now than wait three minutes for one I really want.
Roden Toren wasn't at all bad. A bit sweet, with caramel, burnt and liquorice flavours. Pretty much the classic Dutch Bok profile.
Don't expect much in the way of tasting notes in this report. Juggling my camera, a bag of books and glass didn't leave many hands for writing notes. And the fact that there were only three seats and two tables. I exaggerate slightly about the lack of seating. But only slightly.
Next I bumped into John Clarke. He was there with a bunch of Stockport CAMRA people. They come to all the Amsterdam festivals. Both the Amsterdam festivals, I should say. The Bokbier and Meibok. They had seats. Squeezing up, they managed to fit me in, too.
In the remote possibility that you might be interested, here are my pathetic tasting notes:
Phoenix Bok: sweetish with some liquorice. OK if not overly exciting.
Drie Horne Horne's Bok: smells a bit like solvent. Strange.
Bokkendonk: like pear drops, but pleasantly fruity.
Zwarte Schaap: smells like carrots.
John mentioned a pub that had supposedly recently vamped up its beer selection: Batavia on Prins Hendrikkade. "I know that pub. It's a nice Art Deco job. Nect to the catholic church. Never been in it, though." We decide to give it a try when all our tokens were done. We'd all started with 11 tokens. But they'd got in earlier than me. They had one. I still had four.
I like a challenge. Especially when involves drinking beer. I had little doubt that they wouldn't finish before me. Four glasses of 20 cl isn't that much. Not much more than a pint and a half. It wasn't the volume that was a problem. It was the serving temperature. After knocking back three in a few minutes my mouth was painfully frozen. Why oh why do they serve beer so cold? You can drink much quicker when it's warmer.
I had to pass on my usual festival finale, SNAB Ijsbok. There was a queue almost to the middle of the hall.
Batavia isn't far from the Beurs where the festival is held. The inside is almost as pretty as the exterior. In Batavia, I mean. The interior of Beurs is nicer than the restrained exterior. Batavia looks quite modern inside, but the panelling and light fittings are surely original. All in all, rather atractive. Add to that 8 draught beers and a couple of interesting bottled ones and you've got a definite new entry for my Amsterdam Pub Guide. Mike will be pleased.
We finished in Wijnand Fockinck. At least I finished there. The others still had a way to go. I had a rather nice Zuidam 5 year old. The landlady in Olofspoort has got me on Zuidam. Very pleasant, soft jenevers they make. I wonder if they have a tasting room at the distillery?
I was back home by 19:30. "Dad, you're not drunk!" Don't sound so surprised, Andrew.
A Look Back: Visiting Achouffe in 2002 - The following column was written in November of 2002 for the Celebrator, following a visit to the Brasserie d’Achouffe in the Ardennes region of Belgium. ...
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