Friday, May 20, 2011

Going Suds Up: The Best Soccer, The Best Beer

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

It all comes down to this weekend: Survival Sunday in the Premier League. With the title already in Manchester United’s hands, there are only a few more questions to be answered:

Who Takes Third Place and the Automatic Champions League Qualification?

After Arsenal very nicely allowed Aston Villa a win (and safety—thanks, guys!) last Sunday, Manchester City then slipped into third place with their midweek win against Stoke City. Now the two teams are just a point apart.

Bolton v Manchester City

The Bolton of earlier in the season has more or less been replaced by a team that just can’t find a point - four straight losses sees them out of European contention. City, as everyone knows, just won their first trophy in something like six hundred years, and are desperate to secure that third place finish. Because, of course, they don’t have the squad depth to handle an extra round of Champions League play.

Fulham v Arsenal

Fulham are currently in eighth place, which would normally mean they’re competing with Everton for the last European position, but with this crazy season seeing Stoke and Birmingham Cities in the Europa League, there’s only a battle for fifth place. But who cares! Fulham are going into Europa based on the Fair Play Table, which has awarded an extra spot to England. Don’t even get me started on how ridiculous it is to give a spot to clubs simply because they “play nice.” Particularly a side with Steve Sidwell on the team.  Anyway, considering Arsenal’s tendency to get hurt if someone shouts boo, they really need automatic qualification, so perhaps they can finally find a win here.

Beer: Allagash Brewing Co. Tripel Reserve (Portland, Maine)

Tripel…third place…it fits, right? Tripels are strong ales with a dry finish, so apply that appropriately to the two teams vying for third place in the Premier League.  The Allagash Tripel pours golden with an off-white head and clings. The aromas are standard to Belgian beers: bubblegum, clove and yeast. This one tastes of candy sugar and dough with a mild pepperiness. At 9% alcohol, there’s no way to hide the burn at the end of every sip…

Who Takes The Europa League Spot?

As mentioned above, the winners of the Carling Cup and the runners up of the FA Cup finished so far down the table that only fifth place gets a Europa League spot this season. So who will it be - Liverpool or Tottenham?

Aston Villa v Liverpool

Yours truly will actually be at this match, and while I’m just relieved that Villa are safe so I won’t spend the entire match panicking, I’d really love my first game at Villa Park to involve at least a point. Surely that’s not too much to ask, Liverpool? Do you want Europa League play, really? Not like it did that much for you this season, what with all those boring draws.

Tottenham Hotspur v Birmingham City

Spurs owe me an enormous favor this season, after failing to step up each time I’ve needed them to. It’s your time, Tottenham. Beat Birmingham, take the Europa League spot, and send those Bluenoses to the Championship.

Bitters are often misnomered, at least for those used to drinking IPAs—there’s not much that’s actually bitter about them. But I figure both teams in this instance are going to be bitter: one about going to the Europa League, the other about not getting to go. So drink up! Twist of Fate pours a honey color with a small beige head. The aromas are of brown sugar, yeast, and spice. This one gets off to a sugary start before mellowing to a more grasslike flavor. In the end, though, it all leads to a bitter finish.

Who Will Play Championship Football Next Season?

And this is why they call it Survival Sunday, ladies and gentlemen. There are five -that’s right, five—clubs that could end up taking one of the remaining two spots in the relegation zone, after West Ham got sent down last Sunday. Blackburn and Wolves each have 40 points (so much for that magical number of safety) while Birmingham, Blackpool and Wigan all have 39. Tough year to be a team starting with a B or a W, I suppose.

Wolves v Blackburn

Talk about a relegation six-pointer, eh? Splitting the points won’t save them if every other team does the unthinkable and wins, so having to actually play for all three points could make this an interesting match.

Tottenham v Birmingham

See above. Come on you Spurs!

Manchester United v Blackpool

United already have a title, and a Champions League final to prepare for. Do they really need to beat poor Blackpool to prove themselves? I think if you took a poll of which of the relegation-threatened teams that most people want to see return to the league next season, the Seasiders would come out on top. Perhaps we should make relegation more like American Idol.

Stoke City v Wigan

Ok, so Stoke lost to Manchester City twice in four days. That doesn’t mean they should take out their frustrations on poor Wigan. Wigan are fun. They’re coached by Roberto Martinez. Give the loveable little Latics a chance, Stoke. You’re going to Europa, for goodness sake.

Beer: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery "Immort" Ale (Milton, Deleware)

Barley Wine: exactly what you need if your team is threatened with relegation. Dogfish Head loves making strong, unusual beers and their barley wine is no exception. The Immort pours a peachy amber with plenty of beige clings—make sure you serve it in a sniffer because 11% pints are a bit dangerous. This one smells of smoke, yeast, and evergreens. The taste is nutty, with lots of maple syrup and vanilla, and a lingering smoky finish.

All matches are on Sunday, May 22 at 10 AM CT

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 onRatebeer. 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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