The Best of Both Worlds – The Story Behind West End Brewing Co.‘s “Soccer Club”
Planting the Seed of Soccer Across America: Danny Beerseed
Editor's Note: When soccer and beer collide… that's the best of both worlds. This space reserved for any intersection of the suds and the sport whether business, beer and soccer events, or random humor.
The power of the Internet unleashed!
Just as people like to “Google” their names so does the Free Beer Movement. Every-once-in-a-while we trade the real bar for the search bar and see what's going on with FBM or “beer and soccer” on the web. A few days ago we went down the rabbit hole and discovered an old beer called “Soccer Club” on a website that allows you to purchase breweriana, or beer collectibles.
We shot (or purchased) first and decided to ask questions later.
“Soccer Club” was a pilsner brewed by West End Brewing Company from Utica, New York during the late 1970s. West End was founded in 1888. Legend has it that Utica Club was the first beer legally sold in the United States after the 21st Amendment was ratified in December 1933 (Source).
Today it is the third-oldest family-owned brewery in the United States behind Yuengling and August Schell Brewing Cos. The name “West End” may not ring a bell, but perhaps Matt Brewing Co. (the name is changed to in the 1980s) to reflect the breweries founder) does or their most popular “craft beer” line, Saranac. It is a well-know contract brewer as well producing Pete's Brewing Co., Brooklyn Brewery, and a line of Kirkland beers (for sale in Costco). It was the eight largest craft brewery by volume in the United States in 2012.
Despite the numerous cat videos and memes floating around the Internet these days information about this soccer-specific beer is scarce.
As far as we can tell “Soccer Club” was released in the 1970s before West End changed to Matt Brewing. Mostly likely it is just a re-packed version of it's popular “Utica Club” pilsner lager. We're going out on a limb here (but a sturdy one we think), but perhaps it was released to coincide with the popularity of the downstate New York Cosmos and their star-studded line up that included Brazilian Pelé, Italian Giorgio Chinaglia and the West German Franz Beckenbauer.
West End wasn't one to pass up on a gimmicky tie-in beer. In 1977 they were one of four contract brewers for “Billy Beer”, the short-lived brew by then-President Jimmy Carter's brother, Billy Carter.
While soccer and beer was thought to be a relatively new phenomena (at least when it comes to brewery partnerships) the evidence now proves otherwise. West End's “Soccer Club” was the fore bearer for today's “Green and Gold”, “No Equal”, “The Tradition” and many more soccer-specific beers.
The only question is when some brewery is going to make that Free Beer Movement brew we've been begging for!
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