Going Suds Up – The Best Beers, The Best Soccer
Planting the Seed of Soccer Across America: Danny Beerseed
By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent
It’s not the Champions League final. It’s not even the most exciting match on tap this week. Yet the Europa League final means midweek soccer and the chance to drink beers in the afternoon, so there’s no reason to miss Wednesday’s game. Besides, there’s something strangely compelling about the match between Chelsea and Benfica.
First of all, it’s not every year that last season’s Champions League winners crash out of the group stages and wind up in the Europa League final. Most managers would’ve crawled into a corner to lick their injured pride, but Rafa Benitez outfitted Fernando Torres in a Zorro mask and went charging through Thursday nights. Something about his superhero costume perked Zorres right up, and the Blues cruised through courtesy of his goals – although, it must be said, Chelsea was quite generous about allowing their opponents back into every match.
Then there’s Benfica, who haven’t lifted a European trophy in 51 years. They last won the European Cup in 1962, with Bela Guttmann at the helm. But after beating Real Madrid, the Hungarian demanded a pay raise. When Benfica refused, Guttmann left, but not before cursing the club, claiming they’d never boast of European glory again. Interestingly enough, Benfica have made it to a European final six times since Guttmann’s pronouncement – will this seventh time finally see them break the curse?
Of course, we all know what’s most important about the Europa League final: the beer you choose to sip while watching. With the match taking place in Amsterdam, you might be tempted to grab a Heineken. Resist this urge. There’s really nothing that sets Heineken apart from Budweiser or Coors, except that it comes in a prettier bottle. You can do better.
For the best Dutch beer, you’ll need to find La Trappe, which has almost certainly been written about on this site before – but it’s pretty close to perfection, so I make no apologies. La Trappe used to be called Koningshoeven in the U.S., but the brewery realized absolutely no one outside of Holland could pronounce the beer, and made the smart decision to use La Trappe. Koningshoeven actually brews eight beers (try Isid’or if you get the chance) but usually the only one you can find in the States is the quadrupel.
Prior to sitting down to write this column, I had no idea that the “quad” style was modeled on the La Trappe Quad. It’s the prototype, and while other brewers can gussy theirs up with added fruits or oaked barrels, they’ve yet to make a simple quadrupel as flawless as this one. Be sure you pour it into your Trappist glass – come on, we’re all beer snobs here, and you know you’ve got one – and don’t be worried when there’s little or no head. Instead, take a big whiff. Mmmm…caramel apples. Sure, you can fancy up that description with “Belgian yeast” or “spiced dark fruits,” but really, it’s caramel apples.
Now, time to taste. Despite a 10% ABV, the alcohol in this quad isn’t at all overwhelming. The taste has some of that caramel you’ve been smelling, along with raisins and plums. It’s not too sweet though, ending on a slightly bitter note and leaving a bit of an alcohol burn behind.
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.
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