Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Not just Barclay Perkins

I'm an untidy git
We should get to know each other better. Here's where I work. The photo to the left shows my computer, piles of books and other accumulated junk that covers my desk.

Somewhere under that lot there's also a synthesiser. Don't ask me why I have a musical instrument amongst all my beer stuff. It's a long and not very interesting story. A bit like this blog, I suppose. Pointless, obscure and a little bit sad.

Of course, that isn't anything like my full book collection. It's just the ones I'm currently using.

No jokes today
I promised you bad jokes and numbers. Today it's going to be the latter.

I like to think that I know Amsterdam pretty well. As with much else, life often demonstrates just how misguided my self-belief is.

Last week whilst wandering the top end of the Oudezijd, I stumbled across an odd indoor book market of whose existence I had been blissfully ignorant. My attention was grabbed by a stall with a food and drink theme. You should be able to guess which section I headed for.

My collection of books on a beer theme grows ever larger. I have all the obvious ones and not-so-obvious ones, most of the really not obvious at all and some that are downright obscure. So I was delighted to find three books that I didn't already own. Very reasonably priced, too. I'm so used to internet shopping that I rarely enter bookshops, except to buy the Radio Times. I assume they won't have anything of interest (apart from when Dr Who will be on).

Hard leers is a great Dutch expression. There really isn't a precise English equivalent. A shame, because it describes me perfectly. I'll try to explain the meaning. If you're "hard leers", it implies not just that you're slow to learn, but actively resisit assimulating new information. I should have realised that the many second-hand bookshops of Amsterdam would have something for me.

"What were those books and where are the numbers you promised?" Don't worry. They'll be along soon. (If you're lucky, I may even throw in an unscheduled joke. I'm not promising anything, but I'm in a good mood today.) Academic books, whilst usually a bit short on humour, are often goldmines of facts. And figures. True to form, "Een Studie over de Biermarkt" ("A study of the Beer Market") by H. Hoelen isn't full of laughs. But it does have some interesting numbers.

This table won't have you rolling on the floor in uncontrolable fits of laughter. Or heartily guffawing. Let's be honest, no-one without access to nitrous oxide will crack a smile. It shows the decline in the number of Dutch breweries in the first half of the 20th century. Note the collapse around WW I, when Dutch beer production plummeted. Although not directly involved in the war, the disruption of international trade (sorry this next bit is going to be deadly serious so if you were expecting me to transform this dull sentence into a triumph of wit, you're going to be disappointed) it entailed had consequences for The Netherlands. Interruption of the supply of grain hit brewers hard.

No. breweries50344025721915614814013612512312011711498
Year 1939194019411942194319441945194619471948194919501951
No. breweries98989593928783797672706056

If that's whetted your appetite, you can find even more numbers relating to the Dutch brewing industry here.

Well that should have discouraged 99% of you from ever checking this blog again. It's not going to get much better. Tomorrow, I plan revealing some choice extracts from one of my all time favourite documents, Truman's "Gravity Book". I hope you don't have a sleepless night, restless with anticipation at the prospect of the revelation of a unified field theory. It isn't that sort of gravity the book discusses. But if you ever wondered how strong draught ordinary Bitter was in 1949 and how much it cost per pint, you're in for a treat.

In case you can't wait until tomorrow, here's a quick preview. Fascinating stuff, eh? I have about 50 pages photographed. Don't worry, I'm not going to pester you with the lot. There's one that isn't all that interesting. The other 49 will keep me in blog material for the next ... er, let's work that out . . . . 47 days . . . . where's my calculator? . . . . 50 days, that's it, for the next 50 days.

You could always just look at the rambling collection of numbers and old documents I call "Beer, Ale and Malt Liquor", a title almost as bad as this blog's. Never been my thing, titles. It took me 7 or 8 years to come up with "European Beer Guide". Dys-something I guess you would call it. Sorry, rambling again. There are summaries of the Gravity Book entries for Porter, Stout, Mild and Strong Ale. If you can find them. I used the adjective rambling, but incoherent might have been more appropriate. Links would help. So I might include them tomorrow. But feel free to search yourself.

Pub of the day

Not being able to keep up with a changing world is a sure sign of age. Just call me Mr. Wrinkly. New pubs are popping up so quickly in Amsterdam that even a dedicated pub-crawler like me struggles.

Here's one - Dwaze Zaken on Prins Hendrikkade - I came across recently. It's one of a growing number of Amsterdam pubs that falls somewhere between a proper specialist beer cafe and a bog-standard boozer.

  • "Am I getting old or is the city changing quicker than ever? (When I were a lad you could buy six pints of beer, a three course meal, take a taxi home and still have change from a guilder.) Dwaze Dagen - unusually, as most Zeedijk pubs are fiercely traditional - belongs to both groups one and two. Oh - I almost forgot a third group that seems to be growing in size exponentially: very expensive pubs." more
Expect more sightings of new places to drink in Amsterdam. I have a mission: to get 100 pubs in my Amsterdam guide. It's going well. Especially now that I've managed to get rid of my job. Loads more time to investigate. I may even have enough time to get to the Westelijke Eilanden.

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