A Good Excuse to Write About Great Beer…. USMNT vs. Belgium
Planting the Seed of Soccer Across America: Danny Beerseed
Graphic Credit: Untappd
By Joe Stange / Belgian Beer Expert
So, our Yanks host the Belgians tomorrow. It’s a friendly. It’s a Wednesday. These are three really superb reasons to drink.
International soccer friendlies are unique in the world of sport. No other game has anything like them. They are not glorified practices. They are not scrimmages. True, they count for much less than qualification or tournaments. And they give coaches a chance to test out lineups and tactics for more important games. But the whole point is that they get to do it—and we get to watch—in a real game environment. Or, real-ish. FIFA counts them toward its rankings, which are senseless, but that is not the same as meaningless.
(Belgium, by the way, is ranked 15th in the world these days. That surprises nobody more than it does the Belgians. That puts them over teams like Mexico, France, Brazil and, well, us. That might give them a reason to pop a Duvel with lunch, if they needed a reason. Fun fact: Belgians do not need a reason to pop a Duvel with lunch.)
Even so, it’s a friendly. A jovial word. It serves mutual interests of gearing up for more serious matches. But it sounds like a party. Hey fellas, mes amis/mijn vrienden, my folks are out of town, want to come over for a friendly?
If this were a World Cup match, counting for everything, I would say this: Drink American. Find the most distinctive, aromatic, citrus-hoppy session beer you can find and drink it all day, to fan the flames of mojo and karma, bowing in the direction of the Statue of Liberty.
But it’s not. It’s a friendly. It’s a collaborative thing. So don’t drink American. Drink Belgo-American.
Here is my lineup. I bring it strong. I ask only that Jürgen Klinsmann do the same, from now until October 15.
La Rulles Estivale. Gregory Verhelst of Brasserie La Rulles brews ales as Wallonian as they come, with one difference: He uses American hops. Why? Because he likes them best. The 75 cl bottles and panache say Belgium; the lemony-grapefruity flavor and aroma scream Pacific Northwest. Go for the Triple (8.4% abv) if you want something stronger, but my best advice is to buy two or more bottles of Estivale (5.2%). Share them with someone new to the game, or with nobody at all.
Senne Schieven IPA. The brewers at Brasserie de la Senne in Brussels are skilled masters in the use of hops, but typically they go for spicier, more subtle European varieties. With this beer they went West Coast, teaming up with Lost Abbey and Pizza Port in California for an American fruit-hop bomb done with Belgian class.
Market Garden Urban Garden Saison or Wahoo Wit. Hey, are you in Cleveland for the game? I’d like to think you are. If so, here is an option. I’ve never been but I hear really nice things about Market Garden. And there are a couple of Belgian-style beers on tap right this very minute.
Here I wanted to plug in something from Great Lakes, an undersung Cleveland craft brewery making quiet excellence since the Reagan years. It’s tough to find a more impressive pale ale than Burning River, for example, but who talks about it? Well, I would. Except that it would mess with this whole Belgo-American theme I have going here. Nothing Belgian-ish on tap there at the moment. I checked. Just for you. So, Market Garden it is. And there are mussels on the menu, Americanized with spicy sausage, cilantro and chili powder. Find them on the menu somewhere between the gravy-frites and beef-cheek sliders.
Those beers may not be easy to find, especially on short notice. Here are some others that might serve: Chouffe Houblon Dobbelen IPA Tripel. Duvel Tripel Hop. New Belgium Belgo IPA. Boulevard Tank 7. Come to think of it: In a pinch, take anything from New Belgium in Fort Collins or Boulevard in Kansas City, two American companies with Belgian-born brewers at the helm.
In fact there are sorts of ideas and inspirations flowing back and forth between the American and Belgian brewing worlds these days. Maybe we can learn something from each other on the field as well. Another reason to drink, for those who need such things.
Here is another: mayonnaise on fries. Also: Wednesday.
I hear there’s another friendly on Sunday. Against who? Anybody know if they like beer?
Joe Stange is a freelance journalist, frequent contributor to DRAFT Magazine, and co-author (with Tim Webb) of the upcoming Good Beer Guide Belgium, 7th edition. Follow him @Thirsty_Pilgrim if you’re, you know, into that sort of thing.
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