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Through The Drinking Glass Archives

#ItAllStartsHere…. With A Beer

Editor's Note: I don't often post personal items on the Free Beer Movement site. The FBM, is, after all, a grassroots organization, so by definition is about the people and their actions that define us. That being said there are times I like to drop in to share a few things about myself, my ideas, and my hopes and dreams for soccer in America. 

Today is one of those days. Lucky you.

Major League Soccer is running a contest called #ItAllStartsHere where American fans share their stories of their soccer beginnings. I'm not interested in the prizes, but it certainly inspired me to think about where the Free Beer Movement all started. 

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By Dan Wiersema / Founder, Free Beer Movement

I wasn't born with a ball at my feet. I was awkwardly introduced to soccer during my middle school years after it became very obvious that there was no hope for me in pretty much every other sport. 

I was a serviceable defender, then a serviceable midfielder, then a serviceable forward. Then I wasn't. In high school the starting goalkeeper found himself on the receiving end of too many knocks and so, I, in a desperate attempt at getting some playing time clocked in between the pipes. I never returned to wearing the same shirt as my teammates again. 

But you didn't stop by to hear about my mediocre playing career.

You're here for the beer. 

When I travel to soccer games around the country a lot of people ask me, "Where did the Free Beer Movement start?" That question is usually before or after another common question, "Can I get you a beer?". They're both delightful questions because I love telling the FBM story and, well, I love beer. 

What up Naperville? Home of the Chicago Fire from 2002-03.

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I remember the first season of Major League Soccer back in 1996. I ended up with a full-page ad from USA Today with all these American and international stars on it, one per club, plastered across it. That "poster" hung on a closet door for years (I wish I still had it.. the flowing locks of Lalas and Valderrama... Wynalda, Harkes, the whole denim bridage from '94). But I was a terrible American soccer fan.

My parents bought my a USMNT replica t-shirt jersey (they had a knack for that... I also owned a Florida Marlins t-shirt jersey... cheapskates) that I wore with pride until, when watching the 1998 World Cup in a bar in Hungary (at 15... the beer flowed early), the Steve Sampson squad embarrassed themselves, and more importantly, me in front of all these Europeans.

The stage was set for me to go full-on EuroSnob. 

My first soccer jerseys were a 1998 Netherlands jersey (I'm Dutch by heritage), a Chelsea jersey, and a Michael Owen Liverpool shirt. I was lost. Clearly directionless when I came to my fandom... desperate to latch onto any shiny object of Euro-success that I caught wind of. 

Then the 1999 Women's World Cup happened. USA! USA! USA! My faith in American soccer restored. The women's national team saved my fledging American soccer fandom. I've documented my love of the USWNT before, but it doesn't do justice to the fact that if it weren't for Hamm, Akers, Foudy, Scurry, and Chastain... there would be no Free Beer Movement. 

So I was (kinda-sorta) an American soccer fan again. The Chicago Fire joined MLS. I attended a bunch of games. Born and raised in Wisconsin this was my closest club, but.... a Chicago team? This was a bridge too far. My MLS fandom waned.

Enter the 2002 World Cup. Early mornings! Take that Portugal! Take that Mexico! Germany.... screw you!

Dan... you still haven't mentioned beer yet. You're droning.

Yes. Yes. The beer.

MLS, the USMNT, and the USWNT all floated in and out of my soccer life. FIFA entered. College soccer... playing more than ever before; coaching soccer, too, but I still wasn't the greatest fan. I was also a crappy beer drinker. High Life's and slaying werewolves with the "Silver Bullet". Sigh...

Honduras, 2008. Early victims of the not-yet created FBM.

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Then I moved to Honduras in 2008. There's nothing like living in a futbol-mad country to reassess your personal fandom. Back then, before leaving the United States, I thought I was a pretty good fan, but clearly I was wrong. I followed the Honduran national team and the local Liga Hondureno with zest (as much as my poor Spanish would allow). Los Catrachos were on the cusp of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and when they did (Gracias, Jonathon Bornstein) the nation went bonkers. 

I returned to the U.S. a year later having irreversibly changed my perception as to what kind of soccer fan I thought I was. Because I wasn't one really. What had I really done to help turn the United States into a country like Honduras where the sport flowed in the streets and in the veins of nearly every person?

Nothing. There were builders of American soccer. Those who took up banners and flags when Major League Soccer started in 1996. I had a newspaper clipping on my door. Those who gravitated to the sport in the league's darker days around the turn of the millennium. I was nowhere to be found.

But now it was 2009 and up until that point I had done precious little for soccer in America. 

Dan! Beer!

Yes, the beer.

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Before I moved to Honduras I lived in Milwaukee, "the Good Land", where my craft beer education began. Living down the street from Lakefront Brewery changed my perception of what beer was and having moved to Honduras, a craft beer desert, during these formative years, put a damper on my growth. 

Having returned to the land of the free and the home of the brave and settling in Austin, Texas I had dual goals: be a better soccer fan and consume as many of the diverse options that the craft brewing world would possible allow me.

The Free Beer Movement was born. At first a personal journey of my own soccer and beer exploration. Then a resource for others who might also be following my same enlightened path.

Mrs. FBM's first USMNT match. January 2010. She got me into craft beer. I got her into soccer.

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Since the founding of the FBM I've attended dozens of matches from the NPSL to MLS to NWSL to USMNT/USWNT, I hold season tickets to my local Austin Aztex, and have probably tried countless thousands of unique beers from around the country and the world. 

More importantly, though, is that it wasn't just about me anymore either. It was the invitation extended to friends, family, or even a stranger in the barstool next door to have a free beer and join me on my soccer journey. I didn't just need to be a better soccer fan myself, but I needed to be a better ambassador for soccer as well. 

Most importantly, though, is the discovery of hundred if not thousands of like-minded fans who believe in the power of the pint to build American soccer. That something as simple as a free beer offer (and a bit of educator alongside it) can transform a sport. 

It's a Movement that has re-defined what it means to be more than a fan and to help "build American soccer one beer at a time". The success stories come in bunches to FBM HQ from East Coast to West Coast and what started as a silly idea now has a serious goal.

Now the Free Beer Movement isn't so much about me anymore. And that's a good thing. I mean, someone still has to bang at the keyboard, but it has taken on a life of its own with empowered American soccer evangelicals (polite and not too pushy I hope) taking charge of their own destiny, growing the game, and enjoying a few beers with a few new fans along the way.

That's the essence of the Free Beer Movement. One game. One newbie. One offer. A chance to build American soccer. #ItAllStartsHere.... with a beer. 

Tags: Beer, Through The Drinking Glass, USMNT, USWNT

VIDEO - Cascadia Supporters Group Beers Face Off

Emerald City Supporters members, Seattle Sounders player Roger Levesque, and Sounders announcer Ross Fletcher taste test Redhook Brewing Company's No Equal" Amber Lager (made for the Emerald City Supporters SG)) and Widmer Brother's Brewing Company's "Green & Gold" Kolsch (made for the Timbers Army SG).

Think they might have been a little biased?

Now we've tried both "No Equal" and "Green & Gold" and while the Sounders are having fun and games with propping up te ECS beer and burning of the TA beer they're both very well-crafted brews. 

Beer Advocate and Rate Beer both give solid ratings for ECS' amber while the TA kolsch doesn't have enough ratings to aggregate a score yet on either BA or RB they early reviews are just as positive as their Cascadia competitor.

We've always stressed at the Free Beer Movement that its completely fine to hate your opponent for those 90 minutes on the field just as long as you can share a brew before or after the match. 

Both "No Equal" and "Green & Gold" should be brews that either a Sounders fan or Timbers fan can share, and appreciate, when their beer is in the others' glass

Tags: Beer, Major League Soccer, Through The Drinking Glass, Video

Through The Drinking Glass - Widmer Brother’s Brewing Co.‘s Timber’s Army “Green and Gold” Kolsch

We don't get to do this often enough, but when a soccer-specific beer lands at FBM HQ we can't help but bust out the ol' camera and snap a few pictures. A brewery that's interested in supporting local soccer deserves a photo essay to honor their commitment to the American game.

Widmer Brothers Brewing Company took the winner of the Timbers Army Home Brew Competition "Full 90" category and turned their brewery on to produce Abram Goldman-Armstrong's "Green and Gold" kolsch.

A few weeks ago we spoke with Abe as a a part of our "Six Pack Interview Series" and now we're featuring our very own snap shots of the brew that Widmer graciously sent us.

Every MLS team and/or supporters group needs their own beer.

Cheers!

* All photography featured on this page was taken by the Free Beer Movement and is property of the Free Beer Movement.

Tags: Beer, Soccer Marketing 101, Supporters Groups, The Best of Both Worlds, Through The Drinking Glass

The Six-Pack: Unsacred Brewing Co and Nick Rimando’s Wit

How do you know that craft beer and American soccer are kindred spirits? When breweries start naming them after players. Meet Unsacred Brewing, a new craft brewery in Salt Lake City, Utah. Just last month the opened their doors with a quartet of brews including a wit beer named after Real Salt Lake's goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

FBM spoke with David Cole one of Unsacred's co-owners about their new brewery's mission, their beers, and, of course, Rimando's Wit.

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FBM: Tell us about Unsacred Brewing. Where did the name come from? What's your experience in craft beer brewing? There definitely seems to be a "statement" being made about church and state and Utah beer laws, can you explain what you're trying to do? How does Unsacred fit into the Utah craft beer scene?

You bet it is a statement!  We are trying to be as offensive as possible, in a playful way, until Utah legalizes real, full strength beer on draft.  We hate that Utah law prevents the sale of beers true to style on draft just because they exceed 4.0% ABV.  We are lifetime full strength beer drinkers who “grew up” outside of the constraints of Utah’s laws, and as the owners and brewers of Unsacred we wish to remain somewhat anonymous considering what a shameful act we believe this to be.  However, we acknowledge that our foray into 3.2% beer goes against everything that we initially set out to accomplish in the brewing industry.  Utah regulations prevent the selling of full strength beers in grocery stores or on tap, and have forced us to set aside our principals and succumb to Utah’s antiquated laws as a necessary evil.  The day the law changes will be the day this Unsacred act stops. 

FBM: What beers and styles are you brewing? Tells us a little about each.

Priesthood Pale Ale is a traditional pale ale with a nice spicy hop profile.  The Vision Lager is a light, sessionable, American-style lager with a clean, crisp, pilsner malt finish, and Unfaithful IPA is a hoppy India pale ale. 

Unsacred Brewing's starting line up. From left to right: Vision Lager, Rimando's Wit, Priesthood Pale, and Unfaithful IPA

FBM: Why name a beer after Nick Rimando? Why the wit style? Are you worried that you didn't do the RSL keeper justice since the beer can only be 3.2% ABV?

We have always been fans of Nick Rimando and he is a fan of Wit-style brews, we know that because he loves a beer from Epic Brewing, their Exponential Wit Beer.  Most locations in Utah require 4.0%  ABV so we hope to have it in the stadium he plays in someday soon so all his fans can drink it and watch him making those saves. 

"You OK?"    "No... get me a Rimando's Wit."

FBM: You're obviously soccer fans by choosing to name a beer after Rimando. What is it about soccer and craft beer that makes them seem like such a good pairing?

Soccer fans are some of the most fanatic in the world, and the same could be said about craft beer fans as well!  Who wouldn’t love watching their favorite soccer team with a delicious craft brew in their hand?!

FBM: Any plans to name other, future beers after RSL players or coaches? Or any other soccer-themed beers? Maybe a Jason Kreis Kolsch?

If Jason is down for it we would do it.  We would need his permission, as we have with Nick, but wouldn’t that be cool?  Or how about Beckerman Bock?

FBM: Have you tried to make contact with RSL or Rimando at all? If so, what was their/his response? RSL's Twitter account expressed interest in getting Rimando's Wit on tap at Rio Tinto. Would that be in the works?

We contacted Nick Rimando prior to the naming of the brew and he was on board and excited about having the Wit named after him.  We are hoping to have the Wit on tap at Rio Tinto for the upcoming season!

Tags: Beer, brewery, Six-Pack Interview Series, The Best of Both Worlds, Through The Drinking Glass

Through The Drinking Glass - Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Photo Credit: BeerPulse.com

There are over 2,700 craft breweries and craft brew pubs in the United States according to the latest numbers from the Brewers Association. Each year that number grows by leaps and bounds as new brewers and breweries share their wealth of knowledge and delicious innovations with the public. We're starting this new series, "Through the Drinking Glass", to profile brewers and breweries across the country.

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Meet Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. of Chico, California. Although if you're into craft beer you've probably met them many times. SA is one of the oldest and most successful craft breweries in the United States. For 32 years they've been putting out great "gateway" beers that have probably brought millions into the craft beer fold.

Their flagship beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, is hoppy, but not so intense to turn off any potential newbies. SA has also been an industry leader in sustainable brewing.

Check out their story and as they put it... their "pioneering spirit", which we can attest to, is still alive and well.

 

Tags: Beer, Through The Drinking Glass, Video

Through The Drinking Glass - Founders Brewing Co.

Photo Credit: Founders Brewing Co. 

There are over 2,000 craft breweries and craft brew pubs in the United States according to the latest numbers from the Brewers Association. Each year that number grows by leaps and bounds as new brewers and breweries share their wealth of knowledge and delicious innovations with the public. We're starting this new series, "Through the Drinking Glass", to profile brewers and breweries across the country. 

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Meet Founders Brewing Company from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Makers of two of the highest rated beers in America (and plenty of other damn fine brews), Canadian Breakfast Stout and Kentucky Breakfast Stout
 
Two quotes that really stood out for us in this amazingly produced video about Founders' story. 
 
"The craft beer culture keeps on getting stronger and stronger. The best thing you can do for somebody is introduce them to craft beer. It will, literally, open up a whole new world."
 
Just substitute the word "soccer" for "craft beer" in the quote and you've got our core beliefs. That being said the parallels between craft beer and soccer continue astound us and that's why we've paired them together in the FBM.
 
And:
 
"Beer brings people together. "
 
Yup. So why not throw a soccer game on on the TV and do a little educating?

Tags: Beer, Through The Drinking Glass, Video

Through The Drinking Glass - One Barrel Brewing Company

1BBC "Storefront" (Photo Credit: FBM)

There are over 2,000 craft breweries and craft brew pubs in the United States according to the latest numbers from the Brewers Association. Each year that number grows by leaps and bounds as new brewers and breweries share their wealth of knowledge and delicious innovations with the public. We're starting this new series, "Through the Drinking Glass", to profile brewers and breweries across the country. On our many FBM road trips we're always hunting down new places to enjoy a great beer and, if they'll give us the time, talk up the owners and brew masters that are leading the craft beer revolution in America.

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One Barrel Brewing Company (Madison, Wisconsin)  opened in June of 2012. Owner and head brewer Peter Gentry was an awarding winning home brewer before he decided to open the area's first nano-brewery. Gentry is also  an avid fan of soccer... which is nice.

1BBC owner and brewmaster Peter Gentry (Photo Credit: CRAIG SCHREINER, Wisconsin State Journal)

Free Beer Movement: When did you get the itch to start brewing?

Peter Gentry: Maybe eight years ago I bought a home brew kit for Father's Day, something to do with my dad. We brewed there for a year doing abstract brew then when I went to all-grain I moved it to my house and have been brewing ever since. There have been years when I've brewed a hundred batches and there have been years that I've brewed ten batches. But I won a few awards along the way and I kind of felt like this (opening a brewery) was something I could do so I researched it a lot and decided that this was the niche I was going for; the nano-brewery idea. I think that it's up-and-coming and that's why I'm here now.

FBM: Where did the name of the brewery come from?

PG: It morphed. We were originally going to call it Monona Brewing Company, but people got confused because there's a city here (named after the lake that's near Madison) that's called Monona and we're, obviously, not located in that city. I got together with the brain trust and everyone agreed to change it. So the Monona Brewing logo is actually in the shape of the barrel you see now and it morphed because it fit and I was brewing one barrel at a time.

FBM: What's the philosophy and thinking behind brewing one barrel at a time?

PG: Money is the main thing. (laughs) First it was ten )barrels), then it was seven, then it was three. Then I decided this (one barrel) was the model I wanted to follow. Part of that is because I want to showcase how easy brewing can be; how small scale it can be.  That's why I have my brewery set up the way it is; so you can see. Any "Joe Shmoe" can come in and see it's just three big ass kettles. With trial and error you can figure it out. The idea is to make it (brewing) approachable. Small batches. Experimental batches. So people can come in and have varieties and see the simplicity in which that variety can be made.

FBM: What's the importance of making craft beer? And having people consume craft beer?

PG: They say that 'variety is the spice of life and people are finding that out more and more. Our society is tied down with the need to make more money and drive bigger cars. We're trying to push away from that. To have some variety, to have these experiential expenditures. People are willing to try different chocolates, different friends, different beers things like that. That's why I think this whole thing has boomed here.

We're trying to expose people to the simplicity of making and the simplicity of drinking it.

 Brew kettles for all the world to see. (Photo Credit: FBM)

FBM: What are the future plans for 1BBC?

PG: For styles of beer anything and everything. We're thinking about doing any number of things. People are throwing ideas at us. We're thinking about trying to do a gluten-free beer, stein beers where we throw hot rocks in there, chai tea beers. We've got a hibiscus beer on tap right now; we'd like to do something like that. 

In terms of future plans I always intended to open a second one of these depending how the model works out. It seems to be working pretty well. Taking my knowledge from opening this one and opening a west side one. 

FBM: Tell us your soccer story.

PG: I've played soccer since I was about five. I was pretty good in high school and invited to walk on at Wisconsin, but that cut me after a day so I wasn't that good apparently. I've been playing the men's league in town for years. I sorted retired and started this so I really haven't played in a year or so.

But we do want to kind of make this a soccer place. We watched the Euro Finals here before it was even open. All my friends play soccer. We've got a lot of 56ers players (the local NPSL team) that come in here. That's something we're really going to push.

I wasn't going to get a TV in here except for the (Green Bay) Packer and soccer games!

FBM: Soccer and beer. What is the magic of putting those two thing together?

PG: We'll you get a little bit drunker. (laughs). You're able to cheer a little bit louder. I've been to three World Cups now and it's just a part of it. You go to Berlin, Germany and order a beer and you get to experience their culture. I've had Estrella beer and that holds a special place in my heart because when we were in France for the World Cup we went down to Barcelona and drank many, many of those. 

It brings people together. It's a community. You bring a lot of people into one place for a shared goal.

It brings different cultures together. You don't even have to speak the same language if you get drunk enough. 

House brews from 1BBC. (Photo Credit: FBM)

Check out One Barrel Brewing Company in Madison, Wisconsin and tell 'em the Free Beer Movement sent ya.

Tags: Beer, brewery, Through The Drinking Glass

PHOTOS - Redhook Brewing Company’s “No Equal” Amber Lager

Tags: Beer, photography, Through The Drinking Glass