SCAC Odyssey 103 (Part 2: Utrecht to Bristol)

CLICK HERE FOR PART 1

... we're long on damnation and short on salvation ...

… we exited dB’s and headed to Zuilen station, which is only a couple of minutes from the venue. On returning from the Chinese we’d walked past the station and decided to see where its trains went: the last train to Amsterdam Centraal departed at 20 past midnight – nice one! no long walk or a taxi ride back into town required. As we’d had a few alcoholic beverages, we decided not to battle with the ticket machine. The journey went smoothly enough until about 15 minutes from Amsterdam when the ticket inspector appeared in our carriage. I’ve no idea what happens when you get found on a Dutch train without a ticket. Do you just pay the fare? Do you also get a whopping fine? We were about to find out… but some kindly soul decided he’d like to engage the inspector in a debate… a debate that lasted at least until we’d arrived in Amsterdam.

Back in Amsterdam we were torn between two venues for a late night beer: the Beer Temple or ‘t Arendsnest – we opted for the former. The Beer Temple is a great bar: bright and modern and spacious with friendly staff and punters and a beer list which is as good as any I’ve encountered in the UK – it specialises in American beer but has a comprehensive selection from non-US brewers such as BrewDog and Mikkeller. No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a few beers in the Beer Temple.

My opening salvo was an I Hardcore You (9.5%) – a delicious collaboration from BrewDog & Mikkeller that I’d only previously had from the bottle. Next up, I decided to stick with Mikkeller and go for their Green Gold (7%) – another taste packed success. My third choice was a Barley Wine from Southern Tier, Back Burner (9.6%) – I love a good Barley Wine and this was one of the finest I’ve had. Then my mate decided we needed to share a bottle of Avery Brown Dredge (7.5%) – a pilsner devised by beer writers Zak Avery, Pete Brown and Mark Dredge. I’m not really a fan of pilsners – for some reason I find them hard to swallow – so I’m not the best judge but my mate who is a bit of fan of the beer reckoned that the bottle we had was most definitely past its best… oh well nevermind. A few weeks before this trip I had been discussing (via Twitter) Milk Stouts with Sheriff Mitchell and that discussion fuelled my next choice: Milk Stout (6%) by Left Hand. It was certainly a good beer but I’m still not fully convinced by the style… more will be have to be sampled.  Time was being called so we only had enough time left to enjoy the Tokyo* that had been warming on the bar for 20 or so minutes. Then it was out into the mean streets… some chips with mayo and a wee slip on rain-soaked tram-tracks later and we were back at the hotel. It was 3.30am and I’d drunk 22 beers that day so felt I deserved some sleep… I’d sleep until 35 minutes after noon.

De Prael

Saturday’s itinerary was straightforward: (late) breakfast, shop at De Bierkoning and head to Lieden for the Auto Club… and maybe a beer or two. We started the day’s drinking in our hotel bar with a Willeke (7.5%) – a lovely vibrant citrus number that is brewed just round the corner from the International at De Prael. A swift stroll later and we were enjoying the Dutch take on the full English in a little cafe near In de Wildeman. As we were so close to that pub we decided it would be rude not to pop in for another Farmhouse IPA. Then it was time to do some bottle shopping… well, not for me as I’d only brought a small bag and any beer purchases would mean throwing away my clothes – tempting but I decided to resisit.

De Bierkoning is a joy of a store for beer lovers. The stock list is stunning and I’ve certainly never been in an off-licence that impressed me and overwhelmed me so much. All the words best breweries are represented and making any sort of choice must be near impossible unless you have a list of beers you’re looking for and decided to stick purely to that. If I lived local to the shop I’m sure that a huge chunk of my wages would vanish into its tills. My mate made his choices – mostly Dutch beer I think but there were possibly one or two Lambics in his basket. We got a bottle of Great Divide’s Fresh Hop (6.1%) and a couple of cans of Punk for the train journey then returned to the hotel to dump the beer.

Another train journey in the dark, another decision to sit upstairs on the off-chance that we might see some pretty lights. After we arrived in Leiden we decided a trial run to the venue was in order – I’d remembered to bring a map this time so getting there was a piece of piss and we contentedly returned to the centre. We’d heard that Lemmy’s Biercafe was the place to drink in Lieden so that’s where we went. The beer choice wasn’t on a par with the likes of the Beer Temple but it had a decent enough range. We opened with a Texels Winterbier (7.5%)  which was rather unpleasant – don’t think I’ve a winter beer that I’ve truly liked. I didn’t know any of the other beer on draught so decided to go for a known anfd trusted friend: Rochefort 10 ( 11.3%) – just a shame it was from the bottle as I would love to try it from the tap. When we saw the Auto Club in Haarlem last June we’d met a couple from Manchester (who now live in Switzerland) and we hooked up with them in Lemmy’s. The chat was freely flowing so beer drinking time was quickly slipping away, which meant we only had time for a swift beer before heading to the gig – better make it a good one then! St Bernardus Abt 12 (10.5%) was the chosen brew and it’s rich caramel malty goodness made it the perfect beer for the trek down to the venue.

Lieden’s Q-Bus is hidden down a sidestreet at the far end of the town centre – about a 30min walk from Centraal train station and 20 or so from Lemmy’s. The gig space was bigger than the night before so despite there probably being a few more people it was less crowded and more conducive to a bit of a freak-out. The best beer on offer appeared to De Konnink (5%) – my inner beer-snob had me thinking I wouldn’t like it but I actually found it to be very drinkable… so much so that I ended up having 6 of the buggers.

We all wanna be like Munly...

Needless to say, the gig was fanfuckingtastic. We danced, we sang, we drunk beer and got very very merry… a great time was had by all. The sound was much clearer than it had been at dB’s but seemed to be lacking in volume – afterwards Slim told us that the venue had a 100 decibels limit which was why the sound wasn’t the full-on Auto Club assault that we’re used to. We milled around for a bit, chatting to other fans and the band and then it was time to go. It was one of those happy-sad farewells as the next morning the Auto Club were flying back to the States… but never fear cos they will return to the continent of Europe in the late spring and early summer! We returned to Lemmy’s, which was now jam-packed, where we indulged in a Boont Amber Ale (5.1%) from Anderson Valley before jumping on the train back to Amsterdam.

Back in the capital we decided to forgo beer in favour of food. Not far from our hotel we came across a place called Wok to Walk. You choose the noodles you want, add some meat and/or veggies and round it off with a sauce – then the chefs chuck it all in the wok and cook right in front of you. It’s takeaway standard food but cooked to order and hot and pretty tasty. We got back to the hotel just as they were locking the door of the bar – no final beer before bed. I’d drunk less beers than Friday and I was in bed earlier… must be getting old.

Room with a View (the only photo I took in Amsterdam)

Check out was at the deeply evil time of 10.30. Thankfully I didn’t have a hangover and doubly thankfully the hotel were happy to store our bags free of charge. Our flights didn’t depart until 9.00pm so carrying them around all day would’ve been a bit of a nightmare. We headed out into the rain-soaked streets in search of breakfast. Within a few minutes we’d found a place serving ‘Mexican Breakfast’ – chorizo sausage, refried beans, eggs, tortilla, toast, etc… it was too intriuging an opportunity to pass by… and it was damn tasty and very competitively priced. Back on the streets way before any bars were open we decided to follow the tourist trail – we wandered up through Rembrandplatz and on to the Musuemplien before turning back… a fundamentally pointless walk but it passed the time and helped build-up a nice thirst. We arrived back in Dam Square and decided to head to In de Wildeman but on arrival we discovered that it doesn’t open on Sundays. So we headed to Cafe In ‘t Aepjen for a Grimbergen Dubbel (6.5%) and some ossenworst – an Amsterdam tradition in the making. Then we moved on to the De Prael brewery and bar. Unfortunately they don’t do tours on Sundays so we consoled ourselves with the breweries Barley Wine, Mary (9.6%) – it was a very good beer but I’m not sure that Belgian yeast lends itself very well to Barley Wine. The place was beginning to fill up with smiling old ladies and as it was fairly obvious that the musical act about to start wasn’t going to be to our tastes so we made the bold decision to head to the Beer Temple for a farewell beer or five.

Our second visit to the Beer Temple opened with a Cant Dog IPA from Marshal Wharf (10%) – a decent if slightly unremarkable IPA. Next, I decided to return to Mikkeller and opt for the sublime tasting Sorachi Ace IPA  (6.9%) – a delicious beer that has a definite coconut vibe and was probably my favourite beer of the trip. Kujo Stout (8.9%) from Flying Dog which is one of the most coffee packed stouts I’ve encountered – ‘so much for sleeping in the plane’. My mate then had a trawl of the fridge with the upshot being that we shared a bottle of Mikkeller’s Mielcke & Hurtigkarl (8.7%) – a zingy little number whose subtleties were perhaps slightly lost under the thick coffee fug of the Kujo. We needed one for the road so chose the house beer, Tempelbier (6%) – a decent and refreshing little number.

We collected our bags. Caught the train to Schiphol. Passed through security. Got another beer: a Dubbelbock by someone-or-other at something-ABV – it wasn’t worth bothering about but we were in the airport so didn’t expect much more. Our planes were due to depart in about an hour so we had just enough time for some noodles and a can of Asahi before went our seperate ways.

My plane left and landed on schedule but thanks to UK passport control being its usual slow self I got back in Bristol city centre too late to catch last orders at the Seven Stars. When I got to my hotel I knew I couldn’t go to bed without another beer so I mustered the best they had to offer from the bar: Leffe Blonde. In my room I opened the two bottles of Leffe and clambered into bed. After flicking through the channels for a while I settled on Alexander, which is possibly the most crap film I’ve seen… somehow it seemed like the perfect end to a most excellent weekend.

SCAC Odyssey 103 (Leiden Q-Bus - January 2012)

… all photography by landells except De Prael …

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~ by landells on February 3, 2012.

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