Saturday, July 30, 2005

Attractive Women Not Required (For Now)

I worked in a brewery once. I’ve liked the smell of breweries ever since. Even though Rayments of Furneaux Pelham were on the verge of sacking me 24 hours before I (ahem) resigned.

It was not for the smell that we chose to tour the Heineken Brewery at Stadhouderskade in July 1974. Nor was it for this…

Vats Posted by Picasa

Or indeed for fascinating technology like this…

Taps Posted by Picasa

No. There was one reason and one reason only why we lined up outside the brewery at 9 am on our first morning in Amsterdam – and that was because they served you lots and lots of this…

A Glass of the Cool Heineken Posted by Picasa

Of course we had to do the tour first. No doubt we learnt a lot about hops, wort, and secret strains of yeast. Being well brought up English boys, we murmured in appreciation on being shown the special fermentation tanks where the sugar turns to alcohol and carbon dioxide. We chuckled every time the tour guide made a joke about ‘the parts other beers cannot reach’. And we resisted the urge to cackle in an impolite manner when he got to the part about bottom fermenting.

Little did they know it was all part of a cunning plan. We only went on the tour because we knew at the end we’d get our hands on the good stuff, fresh from the bottling plant and probably (excuse the competitive adverb, Mr Heineken) brewed only yesterday.

Oh boy, did we get our hands on it. As we came to the end of the tour they showed us into an enormous hall filled with tables and invited us to sit down and sample the most famous beer in the world. If we weren’t satisfied with the first sample, they brought us another. And another. And another and another and another and another.

On an empty stomach. At ten in the morning.

But that wasn’t all. In the centre of each table was a container filled with free cigarettes. As many Camels as a man could smoke.

We were really impressed by that. We filled our pockets with giveaway fags. There’s a TV ad that ran recently in which a young man goes into a bank and asks for a loan. Beautiful women attend his every need, the manager does some serious sucking up, and at the end our hero walks out with twice as much as he asked for and the understanding that he doesn’t need to pay it back until he feels like it.

It’s ‘probably’ the best bank in the world. There’s another one where the young man and his mates go on ‘probably’ the best holiday in the world. And another where they order takeaway from ‘probably’ the best Chinese in the world.

The ads are for Carlsberg. Which is odd, because back in 1974 the best (probably) brewery tour in the world was the one you got at Heineken in Amsterdam. The only reason they didn’t lay on attractive hostesses to suck up to us was that after about – oh – five minutes we were all too sozzled to care.

Then they tipped us back out on the street. Imagine, if you will, seven young men all weaving in different directions at once. Accompanied by an assortment of seedy-looking Dutchmen who had also just participated in the world’s best brewery tour.

We stood scratching our heads and looked in fourteen different directions at once and wondered what to do next.

The seedy Dutchmen turned right around and went back in for a second helping. Because Heineken, in their philanphropic wisdom, gave two tours every morning.

And every drunk in Amsterdam knew it.

I’ll be honest: the rest of the day is a little hazy…


Blogger Ms Mac said...

Hazy perhaps but you remember you enjoyed yourself and that's what counts!

7:36 pm  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

Enjoyed myself SO FAR. Remember it's only ten in the morning...

9:08 am  
Blogger Ms Mac said...

Ahhhhh yes! Hehe!

8:19 pm  
Anonymous CarolineM said...

So, like the Cadbury's tour for grown-ups?

I'm being polite saying grown-ups, I was going to use an expression ending in - heads.

1:26 am  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

I can think of several expressions ending in -heads. Did it begin with P, D, or F? Just trying to narrow things down a little, you understand...

8:31 am  
Anonymous CarolineM said...


10:56 pm  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

As in 'pissheads'. Which we momentarily were.

4:54 pm  
Blogger broomhilda said...

LMAO - Ahhhhh, what a breakfast.

6:23 pm  
Blogger Luke said...

A bit late with the comments, but only just found your blog.
I remember the brewery tour as well. I remember the beer of course - and the shout from the tour guide if one tried to trail ones fingers in the foam atop the open vats. The main reason we went there most mornings was for the lager AND bread that was served with it. Ideal breakfast for hungry/poor students on a similar trek around Europe/the World.

3:21 am  

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