Friday, 13 June 2014

World Cup Beers - Group Stage

This will be a somewhat light-hearted look at the World Cup in terms of beer.  Let's hope the nation with the best beer comes out on top in the tournament too as we all know which country will win don't we?  Where appropriate I will make references to the World Atlas of Beer, a brilliant book for the beer lover written by Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont.  A great reference if you are looking to explore beers from all round the world.  The beers were sourced at Beer Hawk, Sainsburys and Beers of Europe.  If anybody can recommend a supplier for countries not yet sourced then please let me know.   

The second round of matches have come to a close and I already have my qualifiers for the knockout stages as far as the quality of beer is concerned so I will now be taking a break as I have a meet the brewer event this week and I also need a few days without alcohol.  I already have some interesting beers lined up for the knockout stages but I may need to try and source some more for the later stages.  Hopefully the best beer nations will progress at the expense of those countries that have not come up with anything so far.  What I want is for more days like yesterday which was the best beer day of the tournament so far.      

Sunday June 22nd USA v Portugal.

I think I have another Portuguese beer in case they qualify for the next stage but that is now looking unlikely.  They certainly could not compete with this fabulous IPA from the USA.  Flying Dog brewery from Maryland began life as a brewpub in Aspen, Colorado before relocating to Denver as a full-fledged brewery in 1994.  Their success has continued with the move to Maryland in 2008 and I am delighted to have discovered this brewery as part of the World Cup of  beers.  This 7.1% ABV American IPA is packed with hops (Warrior and Colombus) and has masses of tropical fruit notes along with grapefruit notes giving a lovely deep bitterness.  The finish is somewhat bittersweet although the bitterness wins out in the end.  I would not be unhappy if the USA go all the way in this tournament but I will be ordering more from Flying Dog whether they do or not.

Match score 2-2.  Beer score 9/10.         

Sunday June 22nd South Korea v Algeria

I confess to having cheated here.  I was really looking forward to the beers this evening and decided not to infect them with this one from South Korea so I opened this one last night along with two other lagers of dubious quality.  However, this one was by far the worst and I am sure they are missing an 'S' of the front of the name.  Supposedly styled upon American rice lagers so I guess they've achieved the same tasteless quality.  'Why would anyone bother importing this' asks the wife.  A good question indeed.  Having said that it is enough for South Korea to beat the beer-less Algeria.

Match score 2-4.  Beer score 2/10. 

Sunday June 22nd Belgium v Russia

Looks like we have a real match on our hands here.  My first ever Russian beer comes courtesy of Baltika which is actually part of the Carlsberg group.  This porter is superb.  It is sweet and  nutty with hints of raisin.  There is a subtle hint of roasted malts but the sweetness dominates into the finish giving notes of vanilla along with a pleasant creamy texture.  This beer will be a challenge even for Belgium.   

It's a good job Belgium have played another ace beer here.  Tripel Karmeliet (8.4% ABV) is a lovely light golden robust ale bursting with rich complexity in the great Belgian tradition.  It uses barley, wheat and oats along with Styrian Goldings hops.  These combine to give a biscuity, floral and slightly spicy notes along with banana and vanilla notes from the Belgian yeast.  In the finish there is a little sourness.  Overall it is a delightful Belgian tripel that needs to be enjoyed slowly.

Match score 1-0.  Beer scores 8/10 and 9/10.       

Saturday June 21st Nigeria v Bosnia-Herzegovina 

This is the first ever beer I have ever tried from Nigeria.  The only beer knowledge I have regarding this country is the fact that Guinness has a large brewery here which apparently makes better Guinness than the one brewed in England (not difficult).  By law Nigerian beers are made with a portion of sorghum (including the Guinness) and this beer certainly has a very distinctive taste to it.  It is darker in colour than your average lager and there are hints of banana and orange in the flavour.  My wife didn't like it at all but I thought it was better than many of the standard lagers we've been experiencing.  Nigerian Breweries are owned by Heineken and this beer is certainly better than that.

Match score 1-0.  Beer score 6/10.      

Saturday June 21st Germany v Ghana

Germany are pretty much through to the knockout stages so I saved my German beers for tougher battles ahead.  Ghana could not take advantage so it became a dry game.

Match score 2-2.  Beer score n/a.  

Saturday June 21st Argentina v Iran

Argentina are represented by 'Argentina's favourite beer'.  Sounds like just the sort of slogan you'd expect from a brewery part of the InBev conglomerate.  Actually though both me and my wife agreed that this was actually quite a smooth tasty lager and probably the best of the competition so far.  It is certainly enough to see them past Iran.

Match score 1-0.  Beer score 5/10.        

Friday June 20th Honduras v Ecuador

No beer to worry about in this game but Ecuador won to give themselves a chance of progressing.  I really need to find some South American beers for the knockout stages at this rate.

Match score 1-2.  Beer score n/a. 

Friday June 20th Switzerland v France

The French have no competition here but they continue to surprise me with the depth and quality of their beers.  This 6.5% ABV blonde beer comes from the French craft brewer Brasserie des Sources (Brewery of the Springs).  This beer has won a few awards including 'Best Ale Over 5.0% in the UK' at the International Beer Challenge of London 2011.  The beer is hoppy and distinctive with floral and lemony notes to the fore making it refreshing to drink.  There is also an aromatic quality to it throughout.  An interesting beer.

Match score 2-5.  Beer score 7/10.      

Friday June 20th Italy v Costa Rica

This should have been a formality for Italy so Peroni (5.1% ABV) stepped forward for this one.  It is another standard Euro lager which I have trouble distinguishing between but this one is smoother and tastier than most of the ones I've suffered so far.  Italy messed up on the pitch so they have to get a result against Uruguay to progress and if they manage that they will probably have to come up with something better.

Match score 0-1.  Beer score 5/10.

Thursday June 19th Japan v Greece

My first Greek beer of the tournament is a 5.0% ABV standard Euro lager from the Olympic Brewery that is dull and uninspiring.  Everything I expected from it really and a good match for the football that has been produced from the Greeks too.  

My first Japanese beer was much more interesting.  This Belgian style white beer (5.5% ABV) from the Kiuchi Brewery had the expected flavours of coriander, nutmeg and orange peel.  However, it was also well hopped with plenty of floral notes giving it a refreshing and complex finish.  I have had better white beers but this is not too far off the mark though making it a comfortable victory for Japan.

Match score 0-0.  Beer scores 4/10 and 7/10. 

Thursday June 19th England v Uruguay

England are represented this time by this relatively new London micro.  London Fields began brewing in 2011 and this is my first taste of their beer.  Shoreditch Triangle IPA (6.0% ABV) is a classic American IPA brewed with barley, oat and wheat and three American hops (Colombus, Centennial and Chinook).  It has a lovely rich golden colour and the tropical fruit flavours flood the aroma and tastebuds.  There is also a nice earthy bitterness keeping the sweet fruit flavours in check.  It is a really lovely beer.  Oh how I wish we could play football like we brew beer.

Match score 1-2.  Beer score 9/10.         

Thursday June 19th Colombia v Ivory Coast

No beer for this game so a honourable draw but on the pitch Colombia triumph to progress to the knockout stages so I will have to work hard to find something to represent them.

Match score 2-1.  Beer scores n/a. 

Wednesday June 18th Croatia v Cameroon

This late match was distinctly lacking in beer so I was pleased to see Cameroon disappear from the tournament.  For Croatia I may have to search harder for the knockout stages if they manage to overcome Mexico in their next game.

Match score 4-0.  Beer scores n/a.  

Wednesday June 18th Spain v Chile

I won't miss having to drink any more Spanish beer although I have one more which may have been a bit more interesting than this one perhaps.  This 4.7% 'premium lager' is very generic and in the words of my wife 'completely tasteless'.  So there you go.  Anybody know where I can find any beer from Chile?  This team could go all the way.

Match score 0-2.  Beer score 3/10. 

Wednesday June 18th Australia v Holland

The first Australian beer of the tournament comes out and I screwed up here by not reading the label so I poured some sediment into the glass making it decidedly murky.  Aussies producing beer that requires careful pouring - whatever next?  This Coopers Original Pale Ale (4.5% ABV) would have had a pleasant light golden appearance if it was minus the fog I inflicted upon it.  The aroma was certainly pleasant.  Quite floral and fruity with hints of banana and spices.  The beer itself is surprisingly quite complex but not necessarily in a good way.  There is too much carbonation and it has low bitterness levels.  It reminds me of some Belgian beers but without the depth of flavour.  Not a bad effort but one that Holland should be able to beat.   

For Holland I am bringing out a pale ale too.  This Pale Ale Citra (4.8% ABV) from De Molen is my first from this highly acclaimed Dutch micro.  The beer has a beautiful rich golden colour and as soon as you  open the bottle you get a massive whiff of that adorable citra hoppiness.  The beer is very one-dimensional as it is citra all the way which is why I love it I guess.  Grapefruit, bitter lemon and grassy notes combine to create a superb refreshing ale.  I need to get more from this brewery I think for the latter stages.  

Match score 2-3.  Beer scores 6/10 and 9/10.

Tuesday June 17th Russia v South Korea

I was intending to catch the end of this match after coming in from the CAMRA social tonight and enjoy either my South Korean or Russian beer but I did not get in until 10 minutes left to play so they will have to wait until the next group games and this will be a honourable draw both on and off the pitch.

Match score 1-1.  Beer score n/a.

Tuesday June 17th Brazil v Mexico

Tonight I went out to the pub so I had to leave my Sol and Brahma for another time.  So disappointed!  

Match score 0-0.  Beer score pretty much the same really.

Tuesday June 17th Belgium v Algeria

Too early to crack open a Belgian beer especially as it is my turn to drive tonight for the local CAMRA social.  Belgium are potential winners of both the beer world cup and the actual world cup but they nearly slipped up on this one.

Match score 2-1.  Beer score n/a. 

Monday June 16th Ghana v USA

This was the late game and I was tucked up in bed for this one so what should have been a certain victory for the USA became a draw.  If beer was to decide the outcome of every match then the USA are potential winners of the tournament and I am confident they will do enough to go through to the knockout stages both on and off the pitch.  Ghana on the other hand have no chance.

Match score 1-2.  Beer score n/a.

Monday June 16th Nigeria v Iran

I do have some Nigerian beer but I spent this game catching up on the beers of Portugal and Germany who played earlier so the Nigerian beers will wait for their next game.  Their performance on the pitch was shocking though.

Match score 0-0.  Beer score n/a.

Monday June 16th Portugal v Germany

Portugal is not known for beer production and judging by their opening effort I can see why.  It is a 5.0% ABV standard Euro lager and it is actually quite harsh and acidic and not a patch on others of that ilk.  My wife wondered how I could drink it but I suffered in silence.  I can sense Portugal heading for a big defeat here as they were on the pitch.    

I have not had a great deal of German beer in my time and one or two have been awful but 'dunkels' I generally find agreeable.  Mittenwalder brewhouse is the highest in Bavaria and is over 200 years old and still in private hands which is always a good sign.  I kept this 5.2% ABV beer from room temperature rather than cooling it and the flavours were delightfully intense.  The aroma was rich and malty with impressions of malt loaf.  The deep copper colour looked beautifully appealing and the taste was malty with a subtle sweetness coming from hints of blackberry, caramel and raisin.  The finish was quite sweet too with just a very slight hint of sourness.  I loved this beer and it has given me a taste for more.

Match score 0-4.  Beer scores 3/10 and 9/10.

Sunday June 15th Argentina v Bosnia-Herzogovina

This match is another non event in beer terms although I do have an Argentinian effort for later in the tournament.  Bosnia-Herzegovina though gets zero mention in the World Atlas of Beer so an early exit is looking likely for them.

Match score 2-1.  Beer score n/a  

Sunday June 15th France v Honduras

Honduras is another beer desert so are unlikely to trouble the mighty France.  France is more recognised as a wine producer of course and I know very little about French beer but I should search out more because I have uncovered a gem with this one.  Brasserie Thiriez begin commercial beer production nearly twenty years ago in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region close to the border with Belgium.  La Blonde d'Esquelbecq was their first beer to be produced and it has an interesting musky, slightly smoky aroma with hints of butterscotch.  The taste is somewhat bittersweet with the bitterness growing into the finish with hints of orange and a somewhat spicy bite to it.  There are also hints of toffee in here too.  I hope France have not peaked too early in the tournament with this one.  It is beautiful.

Match score 3-0.  Beer score 9/10.           

Sunday June 15th Switzerland v Ecuador

Ecuador gets no mention at all in the World Atlas of Beer so they have no chance on the tournament.  I found some Hurlimann's for Switzerland but Beers of Europe were sadly out of stock.  Switzerland does actually have over a hundred active breweries though but as yet I have found none over here.  Following this victory for the Swiss I will have to keep looking for the knockout stages.       

Match score 2-1.  Beer score n/a.

Sunday June 15th Ivory Coast v Japan

This game was played in the early hours so my Japanese beers will be kept for the last two group matches so this was an opportunity missed for an easy win because the Ivory Coast is another beer desert. 

Match score 2-1.  Beer score n/a.

Saturday June 14th England v Italy

Italy has quite a burgeoning craft beer movement now which is why it is sad to see Peroni and Moretti in abundance over here.  I have something better from Italy for later in the tournament but they play Moretti against England knowing the game is well and truly lost.  Owned by global Dutch giant Heineken the beer is a clean crisp lager that is unexciting and predictable.    

I thought I would be fair and let England be represented by a beer I have not tried before.  However, I have gone for experience.  Firebird Brewing is the new venture from Bill King, a veteran of the Sussex brewing scene.  He's having a lot of fun it seems by bringing out a quite variety of interesting beers and Pacific Gem is the name of the New Zealand hop that is the single variety in this lovely 4.2% ABV golden beer.  There are hints of rich fleshy fruits in the aroma and this carries through into the inital taste before you get a lovely spicy, oaky and earthy dry bitterness in the finish.  England have scored a clear winner with this one.  On the pitch England did show a little youthful exuberance but the Italians seemed to have things under control and did enough to triumph.  We cannot afford another slip.      

Match score 2-1.  Beer scores 5/10 and 8/10.

Saturday June 14th Uruguay v Costa Rica

Yet another beer stalemate due to unavailability.  In the case of Uruguay it gets no mention at all in the World Atlas of Beer but at least Costa Rica gets a mention with Costa Rica's Craft Brewing Company Segua Red Ale (5.0% ABV).  With more performances like the one tonight I will have to try really hard to source a bottle of this for the knockout stages.

Match score 1-3.  Beer score n/a.

Saturday June 14th Colombia v Greece

This game is another beer drought.  I have some Greek beer arriving on Monday for the final group matches but this game is a draw.  I could perhaps find a coffee porter to represent Colombia or a glass of Coke perhaps? 

Match score 3-0.  Beer scores n/a.

Friday June 13th Chile v Australia

This was one game I did not stay up for so the Australian beers are retained for the next group matches.  Even a Fosters would have been enough to win this one though as I could find nothing from Chile except for a glass or two of wine.  The Aussies therefore settle for a beer draw and need to bring out some good beers to compete in their next two games.

Match score 3-1.  Beer scores n/a.      

Friday June 13th Spain v Holland

On the pitch this could be one of the best games of the tournament.  In the world of beer though Spain could struggle.  Spain rely on this beer from Barcelona for this opening game.  The brewery was established in 1876 making it the oldest brand in Spain.  This 4.6% ABV beer is a bit of a standard European lager really though and not particularly exciting.  It is not as bad as I thought it would be but I think they will be hoping that Holland turn up with a Heineken so they can compete.   

It isn't to be.  Holland turn up with an absolute classic and the game turns into a rout.  Dutch beer does not get any better than this.  The Koningshoeven brewery is the only trappist brewery from outside the Belgian borders but they incurred the wrath of the Trappist brewers association in 1999 when the monks handed over control to the Bavaria group.  The dispute was settled and the beer is still brewed in the abbey and the monks have become involved once again.  This tripel beer (8.0% ABV) is superb.  There is a lovely intoxicating aroma.  The flavours are of orange and raisin with a subtle spiciness and there are sweet bubble gum notes that turn up in the aftertaste.  It is a classic tripel as good as anything from the Belgian trappists.  

Match score 1-5.  Beer scores.  Spain 5/10.  Holland 9/10.

Friday June 13th - Mexico v Cameroon

As with the Brazil game yesterday there is no competition here for Mexico so they can win this game with a beer that is not particularly good.  The coutry of Cameroon does not even get a mention in the World Atlas of Beer.  Sol is an improvement on the Brahma from last night as it does actually have some taste to it.  I have hopefully got something better from Mexico for later in the tournament though when it will be harder to win if they get further.  The game will be remembered for two more dreadful refereeing decisions but this time the result was unaffected.  

Match score 1-0.  Beer score 4/10.  

Thursday June 12th - Brazil v Croatia

OK I couldn't get any beer from Croatia so Brazil win this first game although surely any beer brewed in Croatia could not be worse than this effort from Brazil.  In fact the beer is probably on a par with the performance from the referee in this game.  Shocking!  Brahma is part of the Anheuser-Busch Inbev conglomerate so it tastes as good as you would expect it to.  Described as a 4.3% ABV 'premium' beer surely Brazil can come up with something better than this to fill those vast container ships that have to come such a long way.  A total waste of space.  

Match score 3-1.  Beer score 2/10 (just in case I come across something even worse).          

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