The bar itself was immediately impressive for the ridiculous number of beer bottle caps stuck onto the walls, along with coasters and beer ads.
Upon seating ourselves at a back table, we were approached by a balding man. He did not give us menus, but instead asked Fabienne what she liked in a beer. Not knowing quite what he was asking, she used the names of beers she favoured in an attempt to get across her preferences, but he stopped her quickly. He said he wanted to know the flavours she liked, such as sweet or bitter, light or heavy.
Once he took down some notes, he turned to Yannick. By now it was clear that it was beer or nothing, and nothing didn't seem like an option. (Yannick and I are decidedly not beer people.) To give himself more time, he said "ladies first", intending to pass the baton to me, but the man stated he doesn't choose order by gender or age, he only uses a clockwise pattern. Yannick asked for fruity, and was prompted whether he wanted a slight bitter aftertaste, to which he shruggingly agreed.
Last to order, I foolishly professed that I don't like beer. I asked for "very sweet", and he clarified that I did really want "very sweet". It was the closest thing I could think of to wine.
The evening took a strange turn when we were brought a basket of roasted peanuts and were told to drop the discarded shells onto the floor, and not back into the basket. I laughed, as I thought he was joking, and he said that if we were uncomfortable with that, then we could drop them into our pockets. The first peanut shell we had was dropped into my pocket - we were uncomfortable. However, when we saw other patrons throwing them on the floor, we haltingly followed suit. It felt so wrong. I felt giddy from the disregard of normal rules - throwing stuff on the ground is usually frowned upon, especially by wait staff.
A local introduced himself to us on his way to the toilets. Jack was even friendlier than the average Dutch person, and that really is saying something. Two of his cousins live in New Zealand, and he thought it wonderful that we were from a place so far away. He shook our hands, but when he went to shake Yannick's, the beer selected specially for him toppled over and went all over the floor and Fabienne's trousers. It's still uncertain whose fault it actually was, as both Jack and Yannick say that it was theirs. Jack insisted on buying a replacement, which seemed to appear in a matter of seconds, and we were warned off mopping up the floor with a teatowel by the barkeep (I think because it added to the gritty charm of the place which already had sticky floorboards).
The replaced Boelens beer in question was brought up to the bar when Jack invited us to sit with him. We enjoyed chatting and cracking open peanuts, and when we told Jack we were camping his eyes widened and he said that if we couldn't find anything we could stay with him. He shared the news that we were camping to the bartender, who gave us a look of shock and shook her head like we were going swimming in a frozen lake. Jack shared with us his disdain of camping, saying he tried it once in the south of France and "never again". Checking his weather app, he said that the weather was not good for outdoor activities, but when he tried to show us, the whole app mysteriously disappeared from his phone. He shook it and cursed smartphone technology.
A man dubbed 'Tommy Boy' came in. We were all introduced to the gentle bear, and after shaking my hand, Jack relayed that he said I have cute little hands. He could sense I was a little bashful, and told me not to be.
The evening was getting on, and we knew that we had to find a campsite soon or they might shut their gates. Jack reiterated that his home was open to us if we needed a place to say (still muttering "camping!") and that he hoped we had a "jolly good time".
It's definitely the most unusual bar experience I've had, but also the best. It was a wonderful introduction to Maastricht.