Saturday, February 26, 2011

Going Suds Up: The Best Beers, The Best Soccer

By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent

At this time last year, I was busy forking over about $300 for the pleasure of watching Aston Villa lose to Manchester United at Wembley in the Carling Cup final. This time around, Villa’s most loathsome, most despised, most detested rivals, Birmingham City, are the ones in London hoping to win some silverware - and Villans everywhere will likely be cheering Arsenal in a voice much louder than can typically be heard inside the Emirates for this year's edition of the Carling Cup Final.

Remember less than two weeks ago, when Barcelona played Arsenal in the first leg of their Champions League tie, and everyone was calling the match Arselona, not just for simplicity but because of the similarities between the two sides, with their flowing, attractive football? Yeah, this will be no Arseingham. Birmingham City are a rough, physical side, prone to lashing out and hacking down the opposition if they get nervous. Sometimes even before they get nervous, come to think of it.

Considering the Gunners are well known for winding up on stretchers if someone merely breathes in their direction, this match could see half of them on the sidelines before fifteen minutes have been played - horrible news for a club with four more games in less than two weeks. If there ever was a time for a beer classified as a “Strong Ale,” that time is most certainly Sunday, 10 AM CT (Fox Soccer Channel). I suggest that Arsenal attempt drinking these beers before the match, as perhaps they have some sort of magical properties to actually make them strong. And if not, they’ll be so relaxed that when the Blues slide into them with their signature dirty tackles, the Arsenal players will simply bend, fold, and stretch rather than break.

(Genius, and if it works, I expect to be fairly compensated for this plan).

As for everyone else, drinking 10% beers after the sun’s just barely risen may seem like the height of idiocy. But it’ll help you cope with the likes of Stephen Carr, David Murphy, and Lee Bowyer, I promise. You may think this is just the overheated ramblings of a Villa fan writing at 1AM, but just a few minutes of watching these thugs on the field will have you wanting something strong and tasty. And that’s where Fifty Fifty Brewing Co. "Concentrated Evil" Belgian Strong Ale (Truckee, CA) comes in. Actually, it’s probably highly unlikely you’ll actually find this beer, as it was a limited holiday run, but not only could I not resist the name, but this is one of the best Belgian Strong Ales I’ve ever tasted. Just like a typical Belgian, it has aromas of candy sugar and pepper, but this one also adds dark fruits to the smell. The taste is similar, with a pinch of bourbon thrown in for good measure, which also provides a lovely warming finish.

For a Belgian Strong that you’ll almost certainly find, try picking up Brasserie Caracole "Nostradamus" Strong Dark/Brown Ale (Belgium) . Caracole is my favorite brewery in Belgium, but alas they only distribute four beers outside the country, and Nostradamus is the best of those four. The smell is of tart apples and cherries, but it’s definitely not a sour. The taste is hard to pin down, complex and shifting. It does include a bit of a sour flavor, but also hints of green apple, raisons, and a bit of citrus bitterness to balance the caramel malts.

Alright, I’m off to research Arsenal chants and sayings before heading out to re-stock the beer fridge.

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, and listed many of them on Ratebeer. 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 Managing Editor of SB Nation's Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte, the Italy Editor for SB Nation Soccer, and cover the Seattle Sounders on SBN Seattle (don't judge--I'm from Seattle!) Finally, I write for Two Footed Tackle when I find words worthy enough for the site. Want more? Follow me on Twitter!

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