What do you do when the fresh taste of impending spring is snatched away by sub-zero (C) temps and slushy, icy snow?
One thing you can do is get all gezellig. This is a Dutch term frequently described as untranslatable to English, with the closest approximation being cozy. (Google Translator translates it as nice, which is just another way Google Translator is letting me down these days.) It describes a certain positive atmosphere where everyone is close and friendly. Pubs are often gezellig.
Local pub ‘t Klooster has become a favorite of ours, and the atmosphere—unlike any American pub I was familiar with—indeed merits a unique vocabulary word. Plopped on a corner behind the New Church, it’s tiny (though there is a small linked restaurant next door), dark, and full of beer choices: 7 Trappist beers, 120 other beers, 6 on tap, 4 rotating. I am by no means a beer aficionado, so the multiple chalk-boards and four-page menu are a bit overwhelming.* But the bartender is always ready to make a recommendation, and the vibe of the place is, well, gezellig. You just want to stay.
When we visited one frigid evening this week, we arrived around 8. There was a group of guys at one table who left shortly thereafter, and briefly we were the only patrons in the bar. The bartender had a beer. To my request of something dark and heavier (Not all the ladies love the fruity beers, you know), he suggested a Pannepot. It was tasty. And definitely heavy… not a beer to drink all night long. Tim had a Leffe Vieille Cuvee, which was also dark but supposed to be sweeter. We both liked it, but didn’t love it, so after that we ordered a good old Leffe Blonde. I hadn’t realized it until I tasted it the other night, but the Leffe Blonde tastes to me like “moving to Holland.” We must have had it a couple times last summer, when we’d just arrived and everyone was sitting out late at the beer gardens. I got a strong dose of memory from that taste.
We enjoyed a fine evening of sitting and talking, and by the time we left the place was packed, a new bartender had come on duty, and there had been a spontaneous Crowded House sing-along. The bike ride home was cold, but the night was good.
* Are you a beer aficionado? I took digital photos of the menu pages with the suspicion that there might be an interested party or two.