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Local Soccer, Local Beer - Drinking and Divisions in Bosnia

Asim Ferhatovic Hase Stadium. Want to order a beer here? We've got you covered.

By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer Correspondent

If you’re taking the trouble to make a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, chances are you’re not doing it to quench your thirst for delicious, unusual, artisan craft beer. Bosnia is many things –ridiculously beautiful, insanely complicated, mysteriously captivating – but it is not an untapped outpost for those seeking the next great thing in beer. If you’re drinking beer in Bosnia, you’re almost certainly going to be presented with a choice of lager or lager. At a few bars, you’ll find dark beer on offer, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s a porter or a stout. It’ll be more like a dark lager, but give it a try, as it’s usually better than the pale stuff.

If you’re in Sarajevo, the majority of beer you’ll find will be Sarajevsko, from the brewery on one of the hills just above the old town. This Pivara has been in existence since 1864 but, although you may find its dark beer in a few places around town, it’s most likely you’ll be drinking the lager. It’s actually not bad, especially considering the price – usually around $1.20.

But if you travel around the country and keep your eyes reasonably open, you’ll notice something interesting. Along the way, you’ll cross an invisible line, and the green Sarajevsko umbrellas will vanish. In their place will be the white and red of Karlovačko or the golden yellow of Lav. If it’s Karlovačko, you’re in one of the Croatian areas of Bosnia. But if the beer on offer is Lav, you’ve come into the Republika Srpska, where the majority of the Serbian population lives.

The beer umbrellas are the best indicators of the ethnic divides that still permeate Bosnia today, nearly twenty years after the end of the destructive wars of the 1990s. And while it may seem strange to talk about ethnicity and politics in a post devoted to beer and soccer, they all tie together. You see, if you leave behind the land of Sarajevsko, you’re unlikely to find anyone supporting the Bosnia National Team – they’ll all be sporting Croatia kits or cheering on Serbia as they lose horribly to Colombia. When you consider the purpose of this website, bringing people together through soccer and beer, it’s sobering to realize that in BiH, these are two of most visible indicators of social divisions.

In Sarajevo, though, the population is almost entirely Bosniak, meaning that the majority of its people will be supporting the national team when they face the USMNT on Wednesday. Anyone lucky enough to be in the city will have their fill of places to drink before, during, and after the match. When I was there for Bosnia’s last World Cup qualifying match, people wearing blue and yellow – often the flag itself—filled the streets of Sarajevo, and the match was shown in every café and pub. The Bosniaks are justifiably proud of their national team, which is on the verge of qualifying for its first-ever World Cup, and aren’t shy about showing it.

The city and country may not be known for its beer specifically, but its café culture is hard to beat. Throw in a match and it’s pretty much heaven.

In the summertime, almost everyone sits outside, shaded under the aforementioned giant umbrellas. The cafes run together, sometimes making it difficult to decipher which tables belong to which menu, but it matters little as most offer the same ambience and service. The crisp lagers are actually pretty perfect for a hot summer day, but at some point, you’re going to need a pick-me-up. And what Bosnia lacks in beer skills it more than makes up for in coffee skills. The coffee is strong and dark, often being served Turkish-style in a copper pot with a tiny cup to pour into. For an authentically Bosnian experience, sip slowly, making your tiny cup last an hour or so, and keep a cigarette in one hand as you’re doing so.

I’m not sure how many Americans made the trip to see the USMNT in Sarajevo. But whoever did made a fantastic decision. The beer is cheap, the football is great, and they’ll almost all make at least one lifelong friend. But a little tip for those actually in Bosnia: if you bypass the beer and try the rakija, sip it and go slowly. Don’t be overconfident! These people will beat you at drinking their liquor (I think it’s something in the Balkan blood). And if it’s homemade rakjia, take care that you don’t find yourself sleeping in the middle of a cobblestone street, missing a shoe and wrapped in a Bosnian flag. You’ve been warned.

Some handy Bosnian football watching phrases:

Hello/goodbye: Cao

Thank you: Hvala

Gdje je WC?: Where is the bathroom (pronounced vey-say, more or less)

Izvolite?: This is your cue to respond with your drink order…

Two beers, please: Dvije pive, molim Vas

One dark beer: Jedno tamno pivo

Go on!: Hajde!

Learn to shoot!: Nauči da šutiraš!

He was born offside: Rodjen je u ofsajdu

Look at that blind man!: Vidi ovog slijepca!

About Kirsten

I may be a law student at Lewis and Clark, but soccer is my true love, with beer coming in a distant second. That's not to say I don't love beer--I've tasted over a thousand different brews, am a bit obsessed with my "33 Beers" notebooks, and love my Untappd app. Living in Portland, Oregon, I attend quite a few festivals and tastings, and am able to argue passionately about the merits of Cascade hops vs. Chinook.

As for the soccer, I'm the cofounder of SB Nation's Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte, as well as the editor of SB Nation Italy. Want more? Follow me on Twitter!

Tags: Beer, Local Soccer Local Beer, USMNT

The Six-Pack: Timber’s Army Home Brew Contest Winner Abram Goldman-Armstrong

It's probably no surprise that many American soccer fans are not only lovers of beer, but lovers of homebrewed beer. It should also come as no surprise that many Major League Soccer supporters groups host their own home brew competitions each year. The one that the Portland Timber's supporters, the Timber's Army has put on, officially or unofficially, since 2009 in certainly one of the more high-profile ones. In years past local craft brewers have made small batches of each winner's beer in several categories.

Beginning last year the Timber's beer sponsor Widmer Brother's Brewing Company, stepped forward to help judge and then brew the winner of one of the categories. For any home brewer going from nano-batches to a major breweries industrial brewing system would be quite the experience.

Just last month Widmer Brother's released "Green & Gold" Kolsch the creation of Timber's Army long-time member Abram Goldman-Armstrong. We had a chance to speak with Abe by phone to ask him about his history with TA, Portland as a beer and soccer town, and, of course, his winning brew.

Goldman-Armstrong in front of his own visage. Photo Credit: OregonLive.com

Free Beer Movement: What’s your history with soccer in Portland and the Timbers Army?

Abe: I started out going to my first Timbers match in 1988 with my parents. It was a Timbers reunion match. When the Timber came back in 2001 I got season tickets in section 107 and, yeah, I’ve been a part of it ever since. I’ve been actively involved in the organization since.

With MLS moving in we kinda got a little more organized and put together the Independent Supporters Trust know as the 107st. I was on the interim board of that and then I was elected to the initial board and the re-elected to the most recent board.

Along with that I edit and publish “The Whipsaw”, the Timbers Army fan-zine, now in our fourth year of that.

I’m involved in all different aspects. It’s definitely a major focus in my life.

FBM: What does it mean to be to be a supporter of the Timbers and what does it means to support a local club? What is it like to have live, local soccer in Portland week-in-and-week-out?

Abe: It’s really fantastic. The atmosphere at a Timbers match can’t really be matched in North America. Having a local team is really key. Going to a pub watching World Cup is fantastic or even if you have a good crowd watching EPL or other foreign matches, but soccer support here in Cascadia has really brought it to the next level.

When you go to a match here in Cascadia, whether you’re in Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver you’re going to find it’s more that a spectator sport. You’re there, you’re participating. We’ve always tried really hard in the Timbers Army to be engaging and engage the team. We’re willing the team to win and that’s really a key part of a local team.

You can be passionate about soccer, but you miss out on that day-to-day, when you go to a match, that shared energy. You just have to lose yourself to the crowd. You’re all there and it’s really pretty amazing.

FBM: How long have you been home brewing? What is it about having local craft beer with your local team?

Abe: I’ve been home brewing since I was 17 years old so about 17 years in total now. It’s really a big part of my life. I also write about beer. I’m really engaged in the brewing community here.

Beer is really interwoven into the Timbers Army here. I probably say hi to fifteen different brewers at a Timbers game. We live and breathe beer here as much as we live and breathe soccer. We have more breweries than any other city in the world. It really is a part of our fabric in Oregon. I think that’s something that’s a natural fit. Beer and watching soccer go hand-in-hand.

The whole beer community is really passionate about Timbers. And the Timbers Army is passionate about beer. It works out pretty well.

On our bus trip to Seattle we had about 20 different breweries sponsoring each bus. So each bus has its own Oregon brewery on it. Small, independent, local breweries that are really passionate about the team and willing to donate kegs. It’s not just that we’ve got beer on the bus, but it’s “we got local beer on the bus and here’s the brewer sitting on the bus going to the game and yelling at the referee with us for the full ninety minutes”.

I think we’re really lucky here in Cascadia to have a really vibrant brewing culture. It makes it that much more of a community to have local craft beer. And we have local craft beer in the stadium, too. Something that’s really important to who we are and how we operate.

FBM:  Discuss the Timbers Army home brew contest and how long Widmer’s been a part of it.

Abe: 2013 will be our four year for the Timbers Army Home Brew Competition. It started as a fairly informal affair and actually home brewing competitions were outlawed for a year so because of some weird law. So in 2010 we didn’t have any judging and we said, “well we’re going to all show up and tailgate” and did that. We decided to just go ahead and that just had a people’s choice award.

In 2011 we had a more formal competition again. All the beers were judged blind by a range of judges, some of them nationally ranked. We partnered with a couple of local breweries that year. The Lompoc brewed the winner, and the runner-up was brewed by by McMenamins, and the third place winner was brewed by Hop Works. That year I placed third with a Northwest-style Red Ale.

Anyhow in 2012 we had the competition again at Lompoc and Widmer had approach us to brew the winner. We basically split the competition in half. There was the “Full 90” which Widmer was going to brew; something that you could drink for a full match, something that was under 6 percent alcohol and something that wasn’t going to blow your face off with hops. It was a good fit.

Lompac brewed the winner of the “Pride of Cascadia” category which included IPAs, Cascadian Dark Ales, Imperial IPAs, and Northwest Red Ales.

In the “Full 90” category there was some pretty stiff competition, but the judges (Widmer sent down four of their brewers to help out) settled on a kolsch that I had brewed. And that’s how that all came about here.

FBM: Why did you decide to go with a kolsch? Tell us a little about the ingredients you used. Describe the taste and the flavor and how it best represents your passion for the Timbers and your passion for craft beer.

Abe: Kolsch, as you probably know, is a style that originate in Cologne, Germany. It's a top fermented beer. It's an ale, but generally brewed with all pilsner malts. Very light. Very, very pale ale. So pale you wouldn't call it a pale. It's very golden-straw in color. It's basically like a lager except for the yeast strain that is used. It's a style that I really fell in love with when I went to Cologne during the 2006 World Cup. I went around to a few of the local brewpubs and it (the kolsch style) really made an impression on me. It's a style that I've been pretty much brewing every summer since then.

It's a style that is pretty different than the stuff I normally brew, but it's worked its way into my rotation of beers that I brew. In this case I used a different yeast strain that I have never used before, a "kolsch-two" from White Labs here in Mount Hood. I used an organic pilsner malt from British Columbia and I used Hallertaur hops that I grew in my own backyard.

It ended up being the palest and brightest beer I ever brewed. I was really happy with it.

I was really honored that it won.

FBM: Being at Widmer, was that kind of a Willy Wonka experience for you?

Abe: It was pretty interesting. I brew on a ten-gallon system at home and even Widmer's test batches were brewed using a ten barrel-system so 310 gallons, but they stepped it up to their 250-barrel brew house and that's 7,750 gallons for one batch.

It was pretty unreal. I've been brewing for seventeen years and that was brewing more beer in one batch that I had in my entire life.

It was a good experience. I think I learned a lot about the practicalities of brewing on that kind of system. You can't do exactly what you want when it comes to availability of ingredients.

When I had to scale up the batch to brew at Widmer we had to make a number of changes; we obviously couldn't use the hops I grew from home (they ended up using Alchemy, Mt. Hood, and Hallertaur hops), the yeast strain I used was only seasonally available, and we ended up using Widmer's base two-row malt. We brewed three test batches before the big batch at the brewery and none of those were quite right. It was great to see that when we brewed it on the big system is was much closer to the original beer that the previous attempts.

That was pretty exciting.

VIDEO - Abram talks about his winning beer:

Note: All other photos courtesy of Widmer Brother's Brewing press release.

Tags: Beer, FBM In Action, Local Soccer Local Beer, Major League Soccer, Six-Pack Interview Series

Local Beer Local Soccer: Middle of America – Red Stick Outlaws Take On Kansas City

By Blake Winchell

In full openness, I am not a local to Kansas City.  I live in Baton Rouge, LA.  However, Kansas City was the closest that the USMNT was playing to my hometown and so my father and I decided to take a trip to the Heartland.  When I travel I really try to not hit up Chili’s for food or drink Bud Light, so I think my trip will work for a "Local Beer Local Soccer" write up. 

We left Baton Rouge early on Tuesday morning arriving in Kansas City around 10:15 and got into our rental car.  For the one lunch we had in KC we were going to one place, Oklahoma Joe’s for BBQ.  Both of us opted for brisket sandwiches (the Z Man Sandwich) which lived up to the hype, but what was exciting for me is that in this gas station BBQ joint there was the first taste of local beer on tap: Boulevard Wheat.  While an amber or IPA may go better with BBQ, it was unusually warm in KC and still before noon so the unfiltered wheat beer was a nice start to our trip.  Boulevard boasts that their Wheat is the bestselling craft beer in the Midwest and it is not hard to taste why.  An easy drinking ale but still packs the flavor that will entice craft beer drinkers. 

From there we took a trip to Lukas Liquors so that I could make a beer haul so that we could bring some local beer back to Baton Rouge.  I picked up bombers from Doodle Brewing, Boulevard Brewing, and Weston Brewing (all Kansas City breweries) along with beers from other regional breweries that I cannot find in Louisiana. (Editor's Note: Also make sure to check out Tallgrass Brewing if you're in the KC-area)  If you live in Kansas City you probably have been to Lukas Liquors before, but if you are a traveler like me looking for a nice one stop shop for beer this is the place for you. 

"Soccer Pong."

Now it was time for soccer.  After checking in to our hotel which was a stone’s throw away from Livestrong Sporting Park, we took a short walk over to the American Outlaw’s tailgate.  Since we were travelers we did not bring an ice chest, so I was excited to see that there were kegs at the tailgate.  I was slightly less excited when I was told that it was 5 dollars all you can drink.  In my experience 5 dollars for all you can drink beer tends to be all you can drink terrible beer.  However, the Kansas City boys brought more Boulevard Brewing, which was great.  Four varieties of Boulevard were available which made tailgating so much better.  Drinking a Boulevard Oktoberfest (FBM's "Beer of the Game" recommendation over at Stars and Stripes FC) is always better than Natty Lite. 


Tailgating for any sport is relatively the same: drinking, cooking, music, etc. I had never tailgated for a soccer game like this before.  Soccer pong (that’s what I am calling it) was a new lawn game that we had to try.  Think beer pong with soccer balls and trash cans, looks easy but it is much more difficult than expected especially when you are taking full advantage of AYCD Boulevard.  There was also a dunk tank that revelers were shooting a soccer ball at; needless to say the pour guy in the dunk tank was not getting wet very often. 

We had tickets in the American Outlaw section, which was general admission, so we waited for the group to march to the stadium.  If you get to do this before a game, it is a great experience.  Marching a fourth of a mile or so chanting and singing was a nice warm up before getting into the stands.  Many of the Sporting KC supporters were in our section which was nice, because everyone was on the same page with the singing and chanting.  I have only been to one USMNT game before this one so I am a little green when it comes to many of the chants.  So I am unsure if the chants and songs the supporters were singing were US specific or Sporting KC specific but they all worked, especially cheering “You’re not going to Brazil” when Guatemala was warming up (and throughout most of the game).  I was too amped up during the game to leave the stands to purchase more beer, however my neighbor was polite enough to buy a beer for me. 

I don’t think he was entirely too pleased with the beer options, as it was a mass produced lite lager, but for me it was free.  Upon leaving the stadium after the win I saw the beer stand and there were no other options other than the typical BudMillerCoors options (Editor's Note: During Sporting KC matches the stadium features local craft beers Boulevard and Weston. We're not sure if these beers were available for this particular match since U.S. Soccer ran the show)  Now the rest of the stadium may have had other options for better beer but I didn’t make it to the rest of the stadium.  As an aside, speaking of the stadium: Livestrong Sporting Park is a fabulous place to experience a football match. 

The author on the right, with pops.

After the game we needed food and a cold one to end the evening.  Not really wanting to drive anywhere and since we were close to a huge shopping complex we had a few nice options.  While the Yard House was my first choice, Granite City Food and Brewing was considerably closer to the stadium and subsequently our hotel so we chose that option.  I was thinking that this was a local brewpub but was slightly disappointed to find out that it is more of a regional company rather than a local one.  However, that shouldn’t change the quality of the food and beer.  It is not the cheapest option but it is not terribly overpriced.  The beer is of a pretty impressive quality and the food was good so overall I wasn’t disappointed with our choice by proximity. 

With all the excitement that the day had given us we called it an earlier night than probably most of the American Outlaws in our section. The next day we left fairly early so after one of the biggest breakfasts that I have ever had we headed to the airport. Looking back the Kansas City supporters provided this KC transplant for the day an incredible experience that I will not soon forget.  I didn’t get to see as much of the city as I would have hoped but our visit was just for the soccer game and then subsequently a nice beer run.  I am hoping that KC is chosen as one of the Hex sites, since it was an easy trip for us and the local fans show up in full force.  From the restaurants to the tailgating, local beer was everywhere…except potentially the stadium.

About Blake

Blake Winchell is a Southern craft beer, homebrewing, and soccer fanatic.  He is a regional correspondent for AmericanCraftBeer.com and the President of Brasseurs a la Maison a Baton Rouge homebrew club. Since there is no soccer team in LA so he has to find a club across the country and pond to support so he arbitrarily picked Portland Timbers and Tottenham Hotspur.

Tags: American Outlaws, Local Soccer Local Beer, USMNT

Local Beer, Local Soccer: Always Room For Improvement

 

By John Kleinchester / Harrison, New Jersey (Red Bulls Arena)

For all intents and purposes, I’m still a soccer noob. My story starts with rooming with a friend in 2005 who was a big Manchester United fan. Sometimes I’d be woken up from his screaming at the television early weekend mornings. At first I was annoyed, but I then became curious. Watching soccer at eight in the morning? And it’s exciting? It just didn’t make sense to me. Before long, I was waking up with him to watch the games and before I knew it I had a Scholes shirt. Soon we’d wake up even earlier on cold winter mornings to get to Nevada Smith’s in Manhattan before it got too packed to move. Something clicked. I was hooked.

Right around the same time, I started to discover the world of craft beer. After years of drinking mass-produced fizzy yellow suds, I was suddenly seeking out the most flavorful and unique beers I could get my hands on. At the time this was far from easy, as most places still only carried your typical Bud/Miller/Coors products. My passion for beer grew even further as I took up homebrewing, which quickly became an obsession of mine. I loved craft beer and I was a big fan of the EPL.

Fast forward to the 2010 World Cup. We all know what happened with the US Men’s National Team. What a run. I had always thought about making the short trip to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ to check out a game. But seeing just how close the US team got to the quarterfinals was what finally got me into the arena. Just a few days after the World Cup final, the Red Bulls announced the signing of star striker Thierry Henry. I got tickets to a mini-tournament featuring Sporting Lisbon, Manchester City, Tottenham and the Red Bulls. It was the perfect storm of soccer. The Red Bulls actually defeated Manchester City 2-1 to the elation of the crowd (granted, most of the top talent was in South Africa, but still a cool feat).

Ever since, I’ve watched every RBNY game and have become a staunch supporter. Although I’m not one of the Viking Army or the Empire Supporters Club, the groups the make up the loud and boisterous South Ward, I’m getting there. I’ve been back to Red Bull Arena quite a few times since my initial visit. Living in Jersey City, it’s only a 20-minute trip (or from Manhattan, a 35 minute trip via Path train from the World Trade Center). Of course, whenever I attend a live sporting event I like to seek out the stadium’s best craft beer options, provided there are any. Thankfully, craft beer does exist at Red Bull Arena:

Section 104: Yuengling Lager – medium $9, large $12
Section 114: Brooklyn Lager – 16oz. cans $9
Section 124: Bottles of Long Trail Belgian White, Pale Ale, Pollenator; Sam Adams Boston Lager, Brooklyn Lager 16oz. cans  - all $9
Section 102: Brooklyn Brewery branded stand – Brooklyn Lager & Guinness 16oz. cans - $9 (this stand is mobile so location may change)

This selection isn’t great, but it’s better than some of the other stadiums out there. At least they have the local option of Brooklyn Lager, but us Red Bulls fans want more. They may be the New York Red Bulls, but their home is in New Jersey. Give us Climax beers (10 miles away). Give us New Jersey Beer Co. (9 miles away). Or if you want to keep it NY, give us more options from Brooklyn Brewery. They can their Summer Ale and East India Pale Ale too. Or even better, give us Brooklyn Brewery on draught! We’ve also got Sixpoint and Kelso making fine beers in Brooklyn. Craft beer, much like the MLS, has an uphill battle ahead of it. For both it’s all about awareness, advocacy and appreciation. Again, the beer selection at Red Bull Arena isn’t great, but it is a start. There’s always room for improvement.

About John

John Kleinchester is a beer enthuisast and growing soccer fan. He writes for and takes beautiful pictures at his website, Beertography ("craft beer and homebrewing in photo form"). You can also follow him on Twitter.

Tags: Local Soccer Local Beer

Local Beer, Local Soccer - Futbol from the Land of Dragons and Mermaids: Poland

 

By Marek Kurylko

Don’t let the mystical title fool you, despite dragons and mermaids being symbols of the two cities we visited, a special kind of magic has been in full effect in Poland since June 8th when the European Championships kicked off in Warsaw. It was evident from that first match, when Poland drew 1-1 with Greece and 100,000+ people crammed into the Polish capital’s Fan Zone that the next 24 days were going to be special for both the country and its international visitors. Full disclosure – before going any further, I’ll tell you that I’m of 100% Polish descent (1st generation American) and that I spent a majority of my childhood summers visiting my family who reside there. If any of that results in a bias, I apologize. It should also be noted that, while I understand this Euro tournament is being co-hosted by Ukraine, my focus will be on the experiences that my girlfriend and I had while visiting Krakow and Warsaw in Poland.

This trip has been in the planning stages for me since 2007 when the UEFA Executive Committee named Poland and Ukraine as the third successful joint bid for the European Championship. For the five years leading up to the kick-off of the tournament, it’s been a roller coaster of positive and negative events; ranging from host city selection to criticism of sufficient infrastructure to the lottery process to obtain tickets for matches but the time had finally come, we were heading to Poland to see the best European teams battle it out on the pitch. In a perfect world, we would have stayed for an extended period of time but unfortunately work schedules limited our trip to eight days. Even so, we were firm determined on making the most of our adventure.

Flying out of Newark Liberty Airport on the evening of the 14th, we made our way to Warsaw (via Brussels) and had a fairly low-key day first day of enjoying the local fare, catching up with my family (with whom we were staying in Warsaw) and of course, watching the second matches of Group D on the television. With a good night's rest under our belts, the international appeal of "the beautiful game" became immediately visible on the morning of the 16th. Boarding our train from Warsaw to Krakow, we met a family of four in our train cabin who were noticeably tired. Sitting down next to a slightly older gentleman named Victor, he asked where we were from as he’d heard me speaking in both Polish and English. I explained that we were from the US, but that all of my family was from Poland at which time he let me know that the group was from Malta. For those of you not familiar with Malta (I’ll admit that I wasn’t an expert,) a quick snapshot of the country can be found here. As our three hour ride began, the train rolled off and the dialogue began. Topics ranged from the economy (shocker,) politics (another shocker,) education, New York City housing prices, Maltese history and a slew of others but the one which we discussed the most was the cultural environment of Poland and the country’s growth since the fall of communism. Victor and his family were very complimentary of Warsaw, its integration of history and modernism in addition to the country’s overall ability to feel so welcoming to so many guests. It should be noted that this was still the case even after Victor’s brother needed stitches since he was hit in the head with a glass by a disgruntled fan while rooting for the Spanish team at an Italian restaurant. Whether this was more reflective of the otherwise positive environment of Poland or the worldwide understanding of certain soccer fans being “over-passionate,” I’m not sure but it was comforting to know that this kind of behavior didn’t tarnish the overall brand of the country in the eyes of its Maltese guests.

The 16th was a very important night for the Poles as they were in full control of their destiny. Win their match versus the Czech Republic and they were into the Quarterfinals, at least as the runner-up of Group A. Upon arriving in Krakow we unpacked, took care of some formalities and headed over to the Fan Zone, an open and slightly muddy grass field often used for larger masses, such as those held by Pope John Paul II.

The criticism that many had was true, the environment was very sponsor heavy but, at least in my opinion, that’s understandable as they were paying for the overhead associated with maintaining the area for almost a month’s time. In an effort to organize the crowds looking to purchase food and beverage in the zone, administrators instituted a ticket system for all purchases (besides souvenirs.) All food tickets were sold at 1 zloty (the local currency) per ticket and beer tickets, which could only be used to purchase Carlsberg beers, were sold at 7 zloty per ticket. As a point of reference, at the time of the trip the exchange rate was $1 for 3.30 zloty. With about two hours to go until match time, the Fan Zone’s population began to grow exponentially.

Drones of Polish fans were rapidly funneling into enclosed area and with about an a hour to go, when they started to get rowdy, we headed to the center of the Old Town, <Insert Photo 5> a hotbed of bars and restaurants where everyone was holed up, ready to watch the match. We ended up grabbing a table at a restaurant called Sioux where everyone had one thing on their mind: the match. In the states, most restaurants would be adamant about making the most of you sitting at a dinner table for two hours, maximizing the number of drinks, appetizers and entrees ordered or at least making you feel guilty until you ordered more. That was certainly not the case; the servers at the restaurant were the furthest from pushy. They realized that you were going to be there for the next two hours and made their priority to make sure your glasses and plates were full but at your pace. The third matches of the group stage were even more interesting than their two predecessors as both matches were being played simultaneously. At half-time of the Poland vs. Czech Republic match, you could hear people cheering as Greece had scored on Russia in the extra time of the first half. Immediately, everyone started talking about what it would mean if the score of that match held and Poland won their match. Not only would Poland make it out of the Group stage, they would actually win their Group. The first 71 minutes of the Poland vs. Czech match were laden with missed opportunities for both teams until, in the 72nd minute, the Czech Republic scored and temporarily broke every Polish fan’s heart. Despite a myriad of substitutions, Poland wasn’t able to come back in the match and as such Czech Republic won the Group and Greece moved on as the runner up.

As we left the restaurant and headed into the main square of the Old Town we entered a grocery store to buy some drinks to take back to the hotel room. While waiting in line at the store, fans lamented about wasted opportunities but it didn’t take long for someone to find a silver lining as one of the fans said, “Well at least the Russians didn’t make it either.” Old feelings die hard. As we left the store, more Poles had made their way to the streets, coming back from the Fan Zone and leaving the bars. Surprisingly, the cloud of disappointment that had hit in the 72nd minute of the match had already been lifted and the Polish fans began to sing and dance in the streets, holding their scarves high above their heads. They realized that even if their team was not going to advance, that Poland was finally getting recognized by the world with the positive attention it had long deserved.

We spent the next few days in Krakow, exploring its rich history by day and watching the remaining Group matches by night. With the Dutch and English teams residing in Krakow, it was a given that their fans would be supporting their teams all over town. Some fans set up shop in outdoor cafes, others took to exploring the town by tour cars while loudly humming the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”, but however they showed their support, they were always friendly and willing to take a photo with you.

 

With my girlfriend having spent time studying in Holland, she had a vested interest in the Netherlands team so we made a conscious effort to find a place with good energy and good beer to enjoy the match outside of the Fan Zone. Ironically enough, that place ended up being the English Football Club. Yes, you read that correctly. Two Americans, supporting Holland, in an English-supporter bar in Poland - I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to. Initially it didn’t sound like it would have been a good environment, but it ended up being great. We were able to watch the Netherlands versus. Portugal match on a huge screen and even make friends with locals (who were huge Chelsea fans and frequented this bar during the Premiere League season) and also a soccer fan from India who lives in Czech Republic but was visiting his Polish girlfriend. It's interactions like this that make me look forward to a time when the US will embrace soccer more than once every four years, and everyone can engage in this sort of uniting dialogue, anywhere and everywhere throughout the world.

After a few more days in Krakow we headed back to Warsaw, unfortunately this time without any Maltese with which to pass the time… or air conditioning; luckily there was beer to keep us cold. Our main event was upon us, with the Group stages over we knew who we’d be seeing at the Quarterfinals match in Warsaw, Portugal vs. Czech Republic.

As was seen during many matches, it seemed like rain was as necessary for a match as the pitch, players and ball. The night before the match there were very intense thunderstorms and the weather report for match day did not look much better. Luckily for the players and fans, the National Stadium in Warsaw was built with a retractable roof for just such occasions. As we moved closer to the stadium throughout match day, the weather got progressively better and the sun came out just as we arrived on the local tram.

Right away you could see that, even with Poland out of the tournament, its fans were still going to show their nationalism at the match. In the sea of red and white shirts and jackets, it was hard to distinguish between Polish fans and Czech fans. While there was a respectable number of Portuguese fans in attendance, Czech’s proximity to Poland certainly made it easier for fans to travel to the match and support their team. Moreso surprising was that a majority of the Polish fan base at the match was rooting for the very team which knocked them out of the tournament. Every few minutes after a round of Czeska chants, the Polska chant would break out and the stadium would erupt with the passion of the local fans.

Contrary to the positive energy coming from the Poles and Czechs, while everyone already speculated it throughout the tournament, almost everyone really does hate Ronaldo. While the fans did not chant Lionel Messi’s name at him like the Danes did during their match against Portugal, the Poles and Czechs made it a point to whistle every second which Ronaldo had possession of the ball. Even with that kind of disdain for Ronaldo, he made it a point to show the crowd that all of the venom in the world wasn’t going to stop him as he drove in the only goal of the match at the 79th minute. As the match wrapped up, it was hard not to appreciate the quality of play from both teams and particular strategies, even if many of them did not work as effectively as planned. The Portuguese cheered, the Czechs left disappointed and the Poles took to the streets with more scarves, flags and Polska chants. Walking from the stadium back to the center of town on that warm Warsaw night, everyone couldn’t help but remain excited as there were still six more matches until a champion was crowned and the spotlight, which had shined for 24 days onto Poland and Ukraine, was extinguished.

About Marek

Marek is a Regional Representative for www.newjerseycraftbeer.com, Cicerone.org Certified Beer Server, New York Red Bulls season ticket holder, fan of FC Barcelona and the US Men’s National Team. Follow him on Twitter

Tags: Beer, Local Soccer Local Beer

Local Beer, Local Soccer - Charlotte, North Carolina

Street Soccer USA/ Soccer 945 (Photo Credit: James Willamor)

By Jay Landskroener

Being in a major financial hub diverts a lot of the attention away from the other scenes around this wonderful city. Charlotte is the birthplace of the Homeless USA Cup (now called the Street Soccer USA Cup), home base for numerous Youth and Adult soccer leagues and academies, various colleges and universities, as well as a USL PRO team, the Charlotte Eagles. Since the mid 2000’s there have been a number of soccer specific bars opening in certain neighborhoods all around town.

Queen City Outlaws at Courtyard Hooligans

In 2009 Charlotte got what might be considered one of the best soccer bars east of the Mississippi, a pub that opened up specifically for the niche of soccer, aptly named “Courtyard Hooligans” located in Uptown Charlotte. During the ensuing World Cup, Hooligans was the place to be in summer 2010. Since then, every week soccer fans come out of the woodwork for Premier League, La Liga, Champions League, MLS, International matches and everything in between.  On top of soccer this pub has a great collection of local and regional beers, and it is within the top 30 of Guinness sales on the east coast.

The American Outlaws chapter in Charlotte, the Queen City Outlaws has been active in helping the community of soccer grow locally. Support of the United States Soccer team’s games throughout the city can be watched while fans sing songs and shout chants for their national teams. During the 2011 Gold Cup, though USA did not play in Charlotte, the group stage games that took place here were the third most attended group stage matches of the tournament.

On a different realm of the sport, Soccer 945 is the organization that helps homeless people in bad times to correct their lives through the world of soccer. The group has done work with other organizations to help the cause and continue the growth of sport in the city, such as having regional and national futsal tournaments with other cities homeless teams. The biggest thing that this organization has done was to form what is known as the Homeless USA Cup to help the homeless of all areas of the globe to better their lives through the world of soccer. A great cause through a great sport.

With the colleges and the universities here the local pickup games and adult leagues are forever growing. Most notably though, UNC-Charlotte made it to the finals of the 2011 NCAA College Cup and put on arguably one of the best finals in all of domestic soccer against a very good University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill team, losing 1-0.

Locally, the adult leagues keep thriving with open competitions year in, year out. One key talking point of adult soccer leagues here is an annual soccer tournament known as the Soccer World Cup, in which 20 national teams comprised of local players compete to be the champions. An amazing community event and great atmosphere to watch every summer also gives a warm sense of enlightenment knowing that this event helps the Charlotte World Soccer Foundation hand out a charity check to an organization helping children in need.

Not just playing or observing the sport, but a lot of the local fans here contribute to the consumption of great local brews. Companies such as Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, NoDa Brewing, Bird Song Brewing, Ass Clown, and Four Friends Brewery have all appeared in the last five years to compensate for the largest city in the state to compete with the other great brews in North Carolina. The Foothills and Blue Ridge areas have set the bar for breweries in North Carolina though with companies like Highland, Big Boss, Duck Rabbit, and Catawba Valley taking a stronghold on the regional beer scene. 

One of the best parts of the beer and soccer scene here is a sense of camaraderie with all fans throughout the town. Being a transient city, there are fans of all teams and all nationalities here that band together for the love of the game. And that’s how we live our soccer and beer drinking lives: for the love of the game.

About Jay

Jay Landskroener writes for Rattle the Frame as well as hosts the podcast on rattletheframe.com. Also a contributor for kyck.com pertaining to MLS. American Outlaws Chapter President of the Queen City Outlaws. You can follow Jay on Twitter.

Tags: Beer, Local Soccer Local Beer

Local Beer, Local Soccer - “Beer in the Land of the Bear: Beer and Soccer Culture in Alabama.”

Good People Brewing Co. showing their soccer love.

By David VanLandingham

Historic Legion Field is best known for its college football history. This stadium in Birmingham, Alabama used to be home to the Iron Bowl, an annual clash between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Tigers of Auburn University. This field saw Joe Namath run through the mud and Bo Jackson go over the top. Few know that the stadium attendance record was set for a futbol match and not a football game.

During the first round of the 1996 Summer Olympics soccer tournament, 83,810 fans entered Legion Field to see a group of scrappy yanks take on mighty Argentina. Fans were shocked to see Claudio Reyna give the Americans a lead in the first minute. The United States put up a valiant effort for ninety minutes. Unfortunately, the Argentines proved to be too strong and took the match by a final score of 3-1.

While Alabama might still love football over futbol, a legacy has been established in this state and the state of soccer is strong in Alabama. Birmingham continued to host both the US Men and Women’s national teams until 2003, when the city replaced Legion Field’s natural grass with artificial turf. Legion Field was effectively dropped as a potential venue for future games. While this didn’t help the sport, it definitely did not kill soccer in the state.

Alabama is the birthplace of both Cat Reddick, former national player for the US Women’s team, and Philadelphia Union forward Chandler Hoffman. Hoffman is the first Alabama native taken in the MLS Superdraft. He played college soccer at UCLA where he had an opportunity to come back to Alabama and play one game when Hoover, AL hosted the 2011 Men’s College Cup.

Reddick and Hoffman grew up in a state with an international population thanks to automobile manufacturing, a port city, and a renowned medical school. These factors, among others, have made it a common occurrence to see pick up games where balls are at a person’s foot as opposed to tossed through the air. These pick up soccer games are almost always attended by footballers of multiple nationalities. In fact, it is a fairly rare occurrence to see a game attended by players from only one country.

Combine an international population with the growing popularity of youth soccer and it is apparent why the American Outlaws have begun to take hold of Alabama. Two chapters are currently forming in Birmingham and Mobile. As they garner members, the lone active in the state has welcomed members across the state with open arms. Huntsville is the only current chapter in Alabama and it has been holding strong since June of 2011.

Everyone knows proper American Outlaw chapters cannot exist without good beer. Alabama has that covered. With seven breweries in Alabama, the availability of a good craft brew is not hard to find.

Alabama is known for it’s backward beer laws. Until 2009, beer could not have more than a 6% alcohol volume and it was not until May 16, 2012 that beer could be purchased in containers bigger than 16 ounces. Home brewing is still technically illegal in the state and there are various restrictions on limiting the availability of Brew Pubs.

These laws have not stopped the concerned beer drinkers of Alabama from taking action. Free the Hops, a non-profit advocacy organization started in 20--, has the lead the charge of better beer coming to Alabamians. Their constant phone calls and non-stop advocacy have changed the beer scene in Alabama dramatically over the past few years. Through their tireless efforts, beer drinkers have a much better selection today than they did four years ago and Alabama now has gourmet beer festivals for brewers from all over the world to show off their beverages. As Jason Malone, co-owner and Brewer of Good People Brewing Company puts it, “Case studies should be written on the successful advocacy of Free the Hops.”

While Alabama might not be the bastion for soccer or beer, many of its citizens are looking to change that. Free the Hops and the local breweries are tirelessly fighting to get better beer in this state. The American Outlaws are spreading the “Unite and Strengthen” message every time someone, somewhere steps onto a pitch. There might be a long way to go before everyone enjoys futbol instead of football, but ya’ll are always welcome to come and visit. Until that day, this writer has a date with some Good People.

About David

David VanLandingham is based out of Birmingham, AL and works down the street from one of the Alabama breweries, the Avondale Brewing Company. He played soccer for years until he determined he was a better supporter than a midfielder. He can still be found in the occasional pick up game or adult league. For more information on Alabama breweries, Free the Hops, or the American Outlaws in Alabama please contact him at dwvanlan@gmail.com. He is currently helping to form the Birmingham American Outlaws chapter, but he happily will get you in touch with Mobile or Huntsville.

Tags: Beer, Local Soccer Local Beer

Local Beer, Local Soccer - Three Days in Montreal


 
By Ludovick Martin / Montreal
 
What would life be without passion? 
 
There are many things that I'm really passionate about, writing, playing Legos with my son, good beer, riding my bike for 100km on a sunny morning and watching my favorite soccer team, the Montreal Impact. I'm pretty sure that early morning beer drinking and cycling is a bad idea, and I'm not too keen on beer drinking and Legos, but writing? About beer? And soccer? That's probably the most stimulating thing I've had to do in a while. 
 
What I'm going to do is simple, I'll take you through three days in beautiful Montreal; from the moment you check into your hotel Friday afternoon to the moment you leave on Sunday.
 
Before we start, let me tell you something about beer and Montreal: the first thing that should come to your mind now is Molson. Let me say you're far from wrong. The Molson brewing company was founded here in 1781. That beer is still brewed here. The name Molson is visible at many points in this city. The local football team plays at Molson Stadium, the Montreal Canadiens hockey team is owned by the Molson family, there's rue (street) Molson and the John Molson school of business at Concordia University. All that is nice, but it's not a reason not to try to drink something else.
 
Friday 4pm: You just checked into your hotel, probably downtown or in the old port. The first thing to do is to get out of there and explore your surroundings a little, maybe you could find a place to buy a gift for your girlfriend who stayed at home, or maybe you could find a nice place to have the late breakfast you're probably going to need at some point.
 
Friday 5pm: It's now time to make yourself familiar with the Metro system. It's made up of four lines, identified by colors. For the little trip I'm planning you should ask for 6 tickets, it's cheaper to buy them that way and that should be enough. The only thing you have to remember is to validate your tickets when you enter the station, keep it with you for the duration of your ride. You should also be ready to walk a little, it's the best way to really discover the city, or any city for that matter.
 
Friday 6pm: Time to eat! You'll start your week end at one of the most classic place in Montreal, Schwartz. This old deli is a must for everyone who comes here and despite the fact that lots of tourist come to this place it still is a favorite of the locals. To get there take the Metro and stop at Sherbrooke station on the orange line. Get out on rue St-Denis, go through the park in front of you (Carré St-Louis) and find rue Prince Arthur on the other side of the park. Walk away from the park until you get to boulevard St-Laurent then turn right. After that keep walking until you get to number 3895. It's on the right side if you're facing north. If you weren't hungry at the beginning of your trek you should be now because it's a good 20 minutes walk you just did. Now that you're here just do like everyone does, order a smoked meat sandwich, "Bon appétit".
 
Friday 7pm: Hail a cab (or walk for 20 min) and go to Dieu du Ciel (29 rue Laurier Ouest). This place is definitely away from most tourist spot, but it's the best microbrewery in Montreal. The tricky thing now is to find yourself a place because this pub is small and extremely popular. If you're lucky enough to find a table hang on to it, it's worth it. Most of the beer is brewed here, but they also have another brewery north of Montreal. They always have close to 20 different beer on tap and they update their menu daily. Péché Mortel is my favorite. It's an imperial stout with a coffee taste and high alcohol percentage. Just be careful with it, as I like to say in French "ca fesse fort".
 
Friday 10pm: By now your alcohol level is probably a bit high, maybe you should go for a walk. Follow rue Laurier towards the east until you get to St-Laurent then head north until you get to Vices et Versa (6631 boulevard St-Laurent) it's a 2km trek (a little bit over a mile). This is the place to taste the best beers that are made in "la belle province". Many different microbreweries sell their product here and the menu changes regularly. Just ask the staff what they recommend. If you're hungry they also serve some snacks.
 
Saturday 1am: The metro is closed, take a cab back to your hotel and get some sleep.
 
Saturday 8am: Come on, it's time to wake up. I know it's early morning and you were out late last night, but it's soccer time. If you're here during the European season you need to find a place to watch the games. I suggest Burgundy Lion Pub (2496 Rue Notre-Dame, Métro Lionel Groulx green/orange line) close to canal Lachine. They open at 9am and show the premiership every week end. If you're here during the summer you might want to catch some of the action at the Euro. If Italy plays I suggest you go to one of the cafes in the little Italy. Just take the metro to De Castelnau station (blue line) and head south on St-Laurent. If you're lucky Italy will win and you'll see the celebration that usually takes place afterwards.
 
Saturday noon: You're probably tired a little bit now and hungry too. If you were in little Italy you should go to Jean Talon market and buy some snack for a picnic. Then, take the metro again and go to Mont-Royal station (orange line). Once outside take bus #11. It will take you to the top of the mountain where you can finally eat that snack and take a little nap in the grass (if you're here in March or April it would probably be a better idea to take that nap in your hotel room).
 
Saturday 3pm: You're now "frais comme une rose" so it's time to move on. The best way to really wake up is simply to walk down the mountain. Try to head south so you arrive close to downtown. If you haven't done it already it's probably time to buy that souvenir for your girlfriend. Rue Ste-Catherine is quite good for shopping.
 
Saturday 4:30pm: Still on Ste-Catherine? find a place called Les 3 Brasseurs. There is one close to rue Crescent (1356 Ste-Catherine Ouest) and another one close to rue Université (732 Ste-Catherine Ouest). This place is a restaurant chain from France and they make decent beer. To go with that they also make decent food. Perfect for a pre game snack.
 
Saturday 5:30pm: Finally, it's close to game time! Take the metro again and head for Pie IX station (green line). The first thing you have to figure out is where the game is played. If it's at Stade Olympique just follow the crowd in the tunnel that leads to the main entrance. If it's at Stade Saputo you will have to go outside and walk around the Big O. Stade Saputo is just at the top of the little hill close to the tower.
 
 
 
It's now time to talk about the Montreal Impact. Expansion team they might be, but just like the Seattle Sounders, the Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps, they are far from being new. They played their first game in 1993 in the APSL. The next year they won their first championship. They won championships in 2004 and 2009 too, but this time in the USL first division. The team was also able to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal. In February 2009 a crowd of over 55000 people packed the Big O to see the Impact win 2-0 against Mexican opponent Santos Laguna.
 
At the beginning the team was owned by the Saputo family, around 2000 it was sold, but the new owner went bankrupt and the team nearly folded. The Saputo decided to get involved again and the Impact became a non-profit organization with Joey Saputo as president. From that moment everything started to fall in place for Montreal, attendance went up and soon Centre Claude Robillard where the team was playing became too small. The family decided to build their own Stadium with a bid for MLS expansion in mind. Last year that dream finally came true and once the expansion of Saputo Stadium is done the Montreal Impact will be able to say "mission accomplie"
 
Throughout its history local players were always a big part of the identity of the team. Players like Mauro Biello (assistant coach in 2012), Nick DeSantis (technical director in 2012), Gabriel Gervais, Rudy Doliscat, Patrick Diotte and Nevio Pizzolitto were the backbone of the team. Many members of the Canadian National team also were a part of the Impact during their career, most notably Jason DeVos, Sandro Grande and Ali Gerba. Today it's up to Brossard native Patrice Bernier to carry the torch. He first played with the Impact in 2000 before moving to Europe where he played until last year.
 
Saturday 7:30pm: I'm really sorry for the crappy beer inside the stadium.
 
Saturday 9:30pm: Game over, sorry your team lost. You'll probably need to drown your sorrows in a good beer. Hop back on the metro and get out at Berry-UQAM station (green, orange and yellow line). Exit on rue St-Denis and walk north for 3 minutes. Stop at St-Bock (1749 rue St-Denis) where you will be able to eat some good pub fare while drinking one of their excellent beers. If you want they also serve some beers from other microbreweries and have a huge selection of imported bottles.
 
Saturday 11pm: Maybe a change of scenery would be good. Get out and walk one little minute north to l'Amère à Boire (2049 rue St-Denis). This is your chance to travel a little bit by tasting their brew inspired by Czech beer, the Cerna Hora. If that's not your style you can try l'Amère à Boire, it's a bitter that is usually served from a cask. Personally my favorite here is a German inspired beer, the Vollbier.
 
Sunday 1am: If you can still walk you still have the time to visit one last place tonight, go north on St-Denis and turn left on rue Sherbrooke, then walk for about 5 minutes and you will arrive at Benelux (245 rue Sherbrooke Ouest). I'd love to tell you this place has great beer, but I can't. What I remember from my last visit here is a little bit blurry, too much to drink. I guess it means it was good.
 
Sunday 3am: Last call was 10 minutes ago, time to go to sleep again.
 
Sunday 10am: Remember that advice about late breakfast I told you about? Now is the time to go there!
 
Sunday noon: Time to check out of your hotel room before going back home, but maybe you want to bring a souvenir for you too? May I suggest beer? If you want the best of what the Quebec microbreweries have to offer you have to go to Dépanneur Peluso (2500 Rue Rachel est, Métro Mont-Royal). They have a huge selection of bottles from all over the province. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
 
That's it for your soccer/beer oriented week end in beautiful Montreal. This city is definitely something special and it has a really good vibe. The people are great and there is lots of stuff to do apart from drinking great beer. You can see free shows outside pretty much every weekend in summertime and there's also a great fireworks festival, Fantasia film festival, Formula 1 and NASCAR races, World Tour cycling Grand Prix and many other interesting event. 
 
Don't be shy, come and visit us!
 
 
Picture by Amir Lowery, midfielder for the Carolina Railhawks
About Ludovick Martin
 
You can practice your French and keep up with the Impact on my blog (I sometimes write in English too) www.optimum-soccer.com
 
You can also follow me on Twitter @LeKurosawa
 

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Tags: Local Soccer Local Beer