Beer and Bravery

De Leckere Kat
For some people, alcohol takes away their inhibitions, not to mention their sense of self preservation. To look at some cats, you’d think they were raging alcoholics, doing whatever they want, when they want, and going wherever they want. I spotted this gorgeous Siamese cat enjoying the view from a sign for a local brewery — De Leckere — that hangs outside Pret à Porter, a restaurant on Domstraat. Seeing stuff like this makes you understand how the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” could come about. Or maybe I’m just jealous, because I don’t like heights. I also want to call this cat Claude, per the motto on the sign.

For another perspective, here’s a photo of the restaurant and the sign on which the cat was perched. (And FYI, there’s a beer brewer’s festival tomorrow at Molen de Ster and De Leckere will be there. Details in the Events Calendar.)
Pret a Porter

The “Baaaaa” Beer Festival

Bock Bier
Saturday afternoon, we headed down to the southern tip of the old city center to take part in the annual Bock Beer Festival. Held at Ledig Erf each year, the three-day festival is a great opportunity to try a variety of mostly local bock beers, the traditional autumn beers. In all, there were 22 beers from which to choose and each one was surprisingly different. All of the ones we tried were lekker!

Ledig Erf Bock Bier Festival

Last year we met up with Amy in NL and her husband, and this year our group expanded to also include A Georgia Peach Abroad. The more the merrier! Just as our group expanded this year, it seemed like everyone else’s group expanded, as well. Despite the overcast weather — although fortunately there was no rain — the crowd on Saturday afternoon was bigger than we remembered it being last year.

When you’ve got 22 beers to choose from, it can be difficult to decide on which ones to try, since we certainly weren’t going to be trying them all. Our initial plan for the day was to start with the ones with the oddest names. As a result, we tried the Lipreader (Butcher’s Tears), the Slobberbock, and considered the Maximus Bock, but got sidetracked instead by the Steenbrugge Abdijbok.

One thing I did remember from last year were the horned creatures wandering through the crowds. Last year, they were a bit more “woodsy“; this year they had a steampunk vibe. When I first spotted them this year, one was having a baaaaaaa-off with a young boy. However, when they spotted me and my camera, they seemed a bit startled. You know how woodland creatures can be skittish.

They Startle Easily

Still, after a few tentative sniffs, they soon realized I was friendly and then it was all smiles! I didn’t even have to lure them in with a tasty Slobberbock!

Friendly Creatures

Bock Beer Festival

Laughs on Ledig Erf
Saturday was a social, fun day for us. After attending the Occupy Utrecht protest, we later headed to Ledig Erf on the southern tip of the old city center, in order to attend the Bockbier festival, with numerous autumn bock beers on offer. Best of all, having mentioned the festival here a couple of days before, Amy from amyin.nl got in touch with me and suggested we all meet up.

Oudegracht

Amy and company had gotten there first and snagged a nice table on the bridge over the Oudegracht. We met up with them and then headed in to take advantage of all the great beers. The way it was set up, you paid €3 for your own glass (although if you returned the glass at the end of the day, you could get your €3 back). You also bought “munt”, plastic tokens that you used for the beers. The beers were also €3 each.

Bocks on Tap
(I happened to notice the man looking toward me in the photo after I’d taken the shot, and we exchanged smiles. Everyone was quite friendly.)

The beers were available on tap inside the main tent. There was a whole wall of beers to choose from, and you simply got in line in the area in front of the beer you wanted, based on the signs hanging above. Lines moved quickly, so it wasn’t much of a problem. We tried De Leckere’s Rode Toren, Utrechtse Bok, Eem Bok, La Chouffe, Steenbrugge, and maybe Jopen. They were all really nice, with definite differences.

One of the more unusual parts of the day came as we were walking along Twijnstraat heading for the festival itself. As we walked, we suddenly started seeing these strange horned creatures. It might not have been so unnerving if we hadn’t also seen a guy shortly before that who was definitely making me think the zombie invasion might actually be starting. When I started to pass the second horned creature, it began pawing the ground, while looking right at me!

Leaf Eater

We saw them again wandering around the festival itself, and this one — the one who was pawing the ground — does seem to prefer leaves to human flesh, I was relieved to see!

We really had a good time, enjoying excellent company, lots of laughs, and lots of great beer. It’s an annual event, so I definitely recommend checking it out next year if you like good autumnal bock beers.

Bokbier Festival Glasses

Beer and Protests

Ledig Erf
The forecast for Saturday is sunshine and decent temperatures, so I think we might head out to a couple of different things going on this weekend in town. It will be a bit of social consciousness and a bit of social libation.

First off, in support of Occupy Wall Street, there’s going to be an Occupy Utrecht event Saturday at the Domplein. With a general aim to global change, there will be speakers and open debate, beginning at noon. At 13:30, the event will move on to either Amsterdam or Den Haag. If you’re curious, there’s more info and other links at this site.

When the event moves on, I think we’ll move on to Ledig Erf to check out the annual Bockbier Festival. I think there will be around 65 bock beers available for tasting, including De Leckere’s Rode Toren. I’ve become quite the fan of De Leckere, the local Utrecht brewery with many beers named for historically important people and places here in Utrecht. The festival itself is free; the beers cost money, of course. It could be a fun way to spend some of the afternoon, especially since there will also be live music.

Yellow Buses and White Ladies

Unexpected
We’ve been having beautiful weather here the past few days, with temperatures getting up around 18C (around 68/70F) and lots of sunshine. Determined to make the most of it today, we headed out for a walk over to the Streekmarkt today, a monthly market featuring local, mostly bio, foods. It’s up toward the northern end of town, so it meant a pretty walk, as well. I’ll probably save some of those photos for another post or two.

Once we got to the market and did a tour of the offerings on hand, we decided to have a lunch of meat pies and beer. As we were waiting for the pies to be reheated, we did a bit of people watching and just took in the scenery. It was then that I realized that the big yellow bus in front of me was a bit more unusual than I was thinking. I’m so used to these buses, having ridden a few on occasion, that it took me a moment to realize that this is not a sight you see here in the Netherlands!
Grote Gele Bus

In this case, the bus was being used as a children’s book store; a cute idea! Children aren’t bussed to school here, though. They either ride their bike, are dropped off by their parents, or if they do take a bus, it’s a normal bus that everyone else takes. As a result, no school buses, and certainly not the big yellow buses I’m so familiar with from the U.S. Despite not having seen one in a few years now, it’s just such a normal sight to me that it honestly took me a moment to realize that it’s not a normal sight here. It reminds me of when I saw a (NYC) Metrocard lying discarded on the ground in the park near us. It was such a common sight for me once, that it took a moment to realize that while the sight might be normal, the location certainly wasn’t!

Soon our food arrived and we tucked in to our lamb and steak pies. We took turns passing them back and forth, enjoying each one. They were certainly enjoyable, but didn’t taste like the traditional English meat pies they were described as. Maybe it was just the absence of the HP sauce! They went well with the local beer we tried. We’d seen a poster for Witte Vrouwen beer yesterday in the grocery store and were curious, since we live near Wittevrouwenstraat. De Leckere is a local brewery and they have a variety of beers, some with Utrecht-related names, including a Willibrord amber beer I wouldn’t mind trying. Witte Vrouwen, not surprisingly, is a witbeir, and a very nice one, indeed! I see more of them in my future. De Leckere is the first 100% organic special brewery in the Netherlands, and if the Witte Vrouwen is anything to go by, they’re doing an excellent job!

Witte Vrouwen Bier

Bikes and Beer


I came across this six-pack bike holder today on Twitter. It’s an offering from Urban Outfitters and originally started life as something for Harcourt Bike Polo players. UO has decided to use it for biking with beer. The thing is, I can’t help but see that and think how puny and wussy it looks. You see, this is the kind of sight I see here in the Netherlands on a regular basis:

(Photo: Amstel Bier by Amsterdamize)
Those crates of beer (something like 24 bottles in a crate) are the more common way of selling beer in bulk here, rather than the little six-packs more common in the US. And unless they’ve got the crate on a front carrier on the bike, that’s exactly how they transport it. They ride along easily with one hand balancing the heavy crate on the back, and as you see, the girl even has another bag or two hanging off the handlebars. This is normal here. Impressive, isn’t it! So really, it’s hard to look at that little six-pack carrier and think much of it. It’s for amateurs.

For the record, this is just a small section of the beer aisle in one of the grocery stores I go to.
Bier

Foto Vrijdag 2.22

Café Olivier [Day 152/365]

A slightly different shot from my usual stuff — more people! I went to another TweetUp last night and we started the evening off at Café Olivier, a Belgian beer bar located over by the Hoog Catharijne. I’d seen the outside of the café before, and even taken a few photos, but I had never been inside and didn’t realize it was actually a converted church. It’s lovely inside, as you can see, and they have a massive selection of Belgian beers from which to choose. I really must go back again soon and maybe have a bit more time to focus properly on the large menu of beers.

As it is, I had a great time catching up with people I’ve met before, while finally meeting others. Everyone was lovely and as always, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and look forward to seeing them all again.

Culture Shock

I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!

I took this picture on Wednesday, which was Koninginnenacht (Queen’s Night), when the festivities begin. They were setting up the stages — and beer stands — in the Dom Plein, the area by the Dom tower and cathedral. In fact, that’s the cathedral in the background. In fact, those trucks are parked where the nave of the cathedral used to stand, before it was destroyed in a storm.

Perhaps it’s a result of growing up in the South — the infamous Bible Belt — but the juxtaposition of seeing beer trucks parked next to the cathedral just made me laugh and feel a bit like Dorothy. “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!”

This one should be filed under: Things You’d Never See in the U.S.

I love it here!