Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Beercraft newspaper column #16- Beers of the World Cup

Ole, Ole, Ole. Beers of the World Cup

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish

The World Cup is underway, and we are so into it. Watching from a pub, amid a crowd of Europeans, Argentinians, and fellow Yanks, you really get into the electrifying atmosphere of the tournament. Each goal is orgasmic. Every near miss is like passing a kidney stone. A loss is a catastrophe.

Obviously, this environment is perfect for drinking beer. And since this is a global tournament, it behooves the serious spectator to sample global beer. Let’s take a look at some of the offerings from World Cup countries, shall we?

Brazil is the favorite, and everybody loves them. The American commentators on ESPN2 can barely pause for breath betwixt bouts of smooching Brazilian butt. Admittedly, their team is fantastic; they run, show creativity, and make devastating plays.

We don’t know what the Brazilian players drink, but chances are it’s Xingu Black Beer. As the name would imply, it’s dark, brewed in the German Schwarzbier style. Xingu is brewed with roasted malt, so there’s a robust, toasty flavor with a lot of sweetness. Since the body is light, Xingu manages to refresh despite its sweet and strong flavor characteristics.

Poland hasn’t done so well in the Tournament, but they’re aces when it comes to dark, sweet Baltic porter. Zywiec (zee-vich) and Okocim are two locally available examples. Stronger than English and American porter, with a medium body and strong chocolate and coffee flavors, these porters hearken back to the days of the Imperial Russia, when English breweries would export to the imperial court of the Czar. The beer was made extra strong to preserve it during the lengthy journey.

The style was picked up in the English merchant ships’ ports of call all along the Baltic Sea, and today features some of the most complex and satisfying beers made in Europe today.

The Czech Republic’s soccer team completely outmatched the US team, and Czechvar Pils, from the town of Budweis, does the same to American Budweiser. A furious legal grudge match finally forced the Czech Budweiser to change its brand name to Czechvar in the USA at the behest of Anheuser-Busch. And that’s fair, since the Czechs have only owned the name since the 1300s.

Yeah, we’re bitter on this point, but fortunately so is Czechvar. Hop bitterness is a primary characteristic of the Pilsner style, as is a fresh, grassy flavor, pale golden color and foamy, lingering head. Czechvar is a most refreshing beer, wonderful on a hot summer day when you’re watching your team get destroyed by a squad from a small Central European Republic one-sixteenth the size of the USA.

And of course there’s the host country, Germany. And one of the most interesting beers available from Der Vaterland is Aecht Sclenkerla Rauchbier, from Bamberg. The dark and robust beer is made with smoked malt, giving it a strongly smoky flavor that absolutely dominates from start to finish.

Some people think it’s awesome, some think it tastes like sausage. Whether you love the Rauchbier, or hate it, you’ll have at least had the pleasure of drinking one of the most unique beers in the world.

We’ll certainly be trying more as the Tournament goes on (We’re rooting for the US and Germany, by the way). The thing runs for a month, so the last few days will be a bit of an alcoholic endurance test. Still, if anyone can manage it, it’s your favorite intrepid beer columnists. GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAL!

In other beers:
Swan Market will be putting one of our favorites, Warsteiner Dunkel, back on draft soon. There was a big push for Warsteiner in the area a couple of years ago, and the Dunkel is a superior dark beer. It hasn’t been available for a while, so this is a hell of a treat. Add the Swan atmosphere, and you have a half-day of work waiting to happen.

Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at http://beercraft.blogspot.com. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to beercraft@rochester.rr.com

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