Monday, August 27, 2012

Drie Ringen Stadsbrouweri in Amersfoort, The Netherlands

The second part of my time in Europe was in the Netherlands (and after my much needed nap), I woke up and Mike and I rode bikes to the grocery and liquor store. Again, I wasn’t really on top of things due to my jet lag, but I know that I bought some Dutch beers to bring back to his house (since I was able to hit an ATM machine, which was helpful). When we got back to the house, we waited for his wife, Willemijn, to get home so we can figure out what to do that night. I really had no plans for what to do in the Netherlands, which was fine with me. Never being in the Eastern Hemisphere, or the “Old World” as some of you like to refer to it, I was just happy to see whatever my hosts wanted to do. They suggested heading into Amersfoort, a nearby town, to get dinner and walk around.

Luckily when we were there, it was one of the few Thursday nights of the year where all of the stores and restaurants stay open late, so there was a really good crowd out. I didn’t know much about Amersfoort before getting there, and what I can tell you know is that it is 753 years old and really beautiful. They had a really big church there which is apparently where the central most point of the Netherlands is located. It was inside the church, so I couldn’t see the exact point, but the church was really impressive from the outside. The whole town was awesome, and really what I would have expected Europe to look like. I loved it.
Mike and Willemijn took me to over to the port, which is probably (and rightfully) the most famous part of the town, at least in terms of having pictures taken, and then we were going to head to a restaurant to have dinner. On the way, Mike told me that he wanted to show me where the local brewery, Drie Ringen Stadsbrouwerij (“Three Rings Brewery”), was in case I wanted to take a picture of it. According to their website, they weren’t open Thursday nights, but it would have been cool to see. As we walked up to it, we noticed that the door was open and there were people standing behind the bar. Willemijn and Mike looked at each other, and she went in and asked them (in Dutch) if it was possible for us to have a beer there. They had just given a private tour to a small group, and they were very friendly and said that it would not be a problem at all. So we each ordered a beer, and sat a table in the brewery. I believe that Willemijn ordered their Amersfoort Blond, Mike ordered their Dubbel, and I got the Tripel. We all really liked them, as they were brewed well for the style.

The inside of the brewpub wasn’t anything remarkable, but it was nonetheless pretty nice. They had the copper kettles right in the sitting area, and had an upstairs that I didn’t check out. Another thing I should  have done. They dining area was a comfortable place to hang out and have a beer, and I really loved the Tripel. I also wish I would have bought bottles of it to go, but since we still had to go to dinner and I had to go to India two days later, it was probably for the best that I didn’t. But I really want to go back there when I have more time, hang out for a while, and try more of their beers or get a tour. It was a pleasant surprise that they were open, and I liked the beers a lot. As we left, we asked what we owed and they seemed surprised. I paid what they said, and when we walked out Willemijn and Mike both said that they probably weren’t expecting us to pay for whatever reason, but I don’t mind paying. Especially when it was as good as it was.

After we left, we went and had dinner at an Argentine steakhouse, then went to a local pub for a beer. One thing that did surprise me was how young some of the people were at the bar, until Mike told me that the drinking age in the Netherlands is 16 years old (at least for beer). We had a few more Dutch beers before I wimped out and said that I need to sleep. I was really excited that we would be going to Amsterdam the next day, and wanted to be well-rested to enjoy it.



Friday, August 17, 2012

Dan at the Cantillon Brewery

Wow, I have done poor job blogging lately, although I really hadn’t been anywhere in a long time. I did take a trip to Belgium, the Netherlands, and India recently, so maybe I should blog about the places I went when I was there.

So for work I had to go to India, but when I planned it out, I was able to get a two-day layover in Brussels. Luckily for me, my friend Mike and his wife Willemijn live two hours from Brussels in the Netherlands, so they offered me a place to stay and rides for a couple of day, which was great. I hadn’t seen them in several years, but I consider Mike one of my better friends, so we pretty much picked up like we saw each other the week before. Anyway, I had left the day before, but I arrived in Brussels around 8 AM, which would be 1 AM Central Daylight Time. I sat on the plane next to a nine-month old, so I didn’t sleep much. Having two kids myself, it didn’t make me angry. It also didn’t make me rested when Mike met me at the airport. The plan was to leave the airport, head to Cantillon Brewery, which opened at 9 AM, and then see how we felt before deciding what to do next.

Cantillon was interesting. Mike had programmed the address in his TomTom, and because of all the construction in Brussels (they’re just like us!!!), we arrived there around 9:15 or so. From the outside, you’d never know that there was a world famous brewery inside of it. It took us a couple of minutes to find the door to enter, but eventually we did. We walked in, were immediately greeted by a lady who asked us if we wanted a tour. Of course we did, so I wanted to pay for the tours for both of us with my credit card. Well, apparently in parts of Europe, your credit card has a chip on it besides the strip on the back, and my American credit and debit cards did not. So none of my cards would work, so Mike had to pay. I felt like a dick, but Mike was fine with paying.

As for the tour, the lady spoke about how her family founded the brewery in 1900 and everything is basically the same since. She was really cool and proud of the place (as she should be), spoke for a few minutes, and told us to go ahead and tour the brewery. The tour was a self-guided tour with a pamphlet, but it was still pretty cool. They weren’t brewing that day, and we were basically the only ones there, which you’d expect on a Thursday morning, so we had our run of the place. The building was pretty old, and I don’t think it has been renovated in a long time. It was almost charming, in a way. Their barrel room was impressive for a brewery of its size, and the whole place was great.

At the end of the tour, we got to try their Gueuze first. Obviously it was really good. Afterwards, we got to pick one of their other beers, and I chose the Kriek which I loved. I really, really loved that beer. Mike got the Framboise which he really liked too. We hung out in their little tasting area and just shot the shit for a few minutes. It was a pretty nice to just do that for a bit. After that, I wanted to buy some beers. In retrospect, I wish I would have bought a shirt too. Oh well. So when I went back to the counter, they said that the problem before in purchasing the tour wasn’t my cards but that their phone line was out. So I bought a three-bottle gift set for Mike and for me, and we went on our way.

Unfortunately, Cantillon was my only Brussels experience. When we got back to the car, I was exhausted. From travel, from the time of day, from just being a pile of crap, whatever. I needed to sleep. So we left, Mike drove back to his home while I slept the whole way. Luckily, after that I recovered, and later that night was able to hit another brewery, although an unexpected one. 


P.S. Sorry, I am not good at taking pictures, so you get the one of me in the barrel room.