Thursday, March 17, 2011

2011 Major League Soccer Beer-View: Western Conference

This is the America we dream of.

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

The 16th season of Major League Soccer kicks off tonight and like a fine wine it has aged gracefully. Or, more similarly, like a teenager thrashing about, some times its a hit... other times... not so much.

Despite its adolescent acne, we love American soccer and MLS. It's ours no matter how many times it breaks curfew or runs the car into the back of the garage.

It's with all those fresh teenie booper images stuck in your head that we switch gears and talk about the upcoming season in beer. MLS might only be getting behind the wheel, but since we're trying to emulate the great leagues of Europe we're going to start drinking early, too!

Join us as we "beer-view" the 2011 Major League Soccer season. We've tried our best, through both conference previews, to find a beer that comes from the team's home town, with only a few exceptions.

Check out our "Eastern Conference" Beer-view as well!

Chivas USA
Last Season’s Record (W-L-D): 8-18-4 (Eighth Place, no playoffs)
Brewery: Corona
Beer: "Extra" Lager
Season Beer-view: C’mon, how can it be anything other than Chivas’ new sponsor, Corona? A staple on the beaches of Mexico as well as in parking lots on match day, it’s often little more than a thirst quencher – although this is needed in the heat of Los Angeles. Bubbly and weak, it’s absolutely necessary to shove the accompanying lime to the bottom of the bottle.

And just like a squirt of lime can help elevate Corona’s status, the strengthening of Chivas’ back line will give the Goats the opportunity to back up their bite.

Colorado Rapids
Last Season’s Record (W-L-D): 12-8-10 (Fifth Place, Major League Soccer Cup winners)
Brewery: Great Divide Brewing Co.
Beer: "16th Anniversary Wood Aged" Double IPA
Season Beer-view: Like a fine beer, the Rapids have done little in the offseason but age. Sure, they’ve picked up Sanna Nyassi and Tyrone Marshall in an attempt to become the “Sounders of the Rockies,” but overall their starting XI will remain much the same. This is a team that takes comfort in consistency, in their warm blankets, in the smell of woodsmoke at the campsite.

This wood-aged double IPA will evoke many of those same sentiments. Aromas of smoke bring memories of a campfire, the bourbon smell reminds you of Grandad. The taste barely varies from the smell, easing the transition from nose to mouth. Finally, at 10% ABV, subtle it’s not, and it’ll hit you like…well, like Coner Casey.

FC Dallas
Last Season’s Record (W-L-D): 12-4-14 (Third Place, MLS Cup runners-up)
Brewery: Saint Arnold Brewing Co.
Beer: Amber Ale

(Editor's Note: We know that Saint Arnold is Houston-based and that's probably a huge slap in the face to FCD fans. No offense. There's Rahr Brewing in Ft. Worth, of course, by our writer wasn't aware of them at the time of this article. FCD fans.... take that Houston stuff and drink it down and smash the bottle!)

Season Beer-view: I have to confess, I haven’t had a lot of beers from Dallas. But I have had a lovely care package from Houston, and that’s almost the same, right? Well, even if it’s not, at least Dallas can overshadow their Texas counterparts on the soccer field, which is certainly more important. This year’s Dallas team will have trophies in their eyes, determined to land the cup that everyone was certain would be theirs.

And in honor of the other one that got away, I present the amber ale, a lovely red-brown pour. Mostly a sweet, innocuous brew, it has a bit of a citrus bitterness that sneaks in when you’re least expecting it.

L.A. Galaxy
Last Season’s Record (W-L-D): 18-7-5 (First Place, Conference Semi-Finals)
Brewery: Eagle Rock Brewery
Beer: "Populist" IPA
Season Beer-view: Having not gone to Los Angeles since I’ve become a beer snob, I was tempted to use a San Diego brewery, or at least one from Orange County, to fulfill this requirement. Instead my friend Ryan was kind enough to give me a recommendation. When I asked “So this beer is…” he replied, “Delicious.” Realizing that might not be enough for beer-snobs-in-training, he let us know it’s, “A wee bit bitter, probably a bit of tangerine or something of that sort in it.”

When asked why this beer should represent L.A., Ryan responded with, “Because everyone loves them.” Tough to argue with such populist logic, really. It’s mostly true, and unlikely to change as long as Landon Donovan remains with the Galaxy.

Portland Timbers
Last Season’s Record (W-L-D): N/A
Brewery: Cascade Brewing Co.
Beer: "Drie Zwarte Pieten" Sang Noir
Season Beer-view: You’d think a brewery naming their beer in such a manner has something to prove. In fact, Cascade is one of the top producers of wild ales in the United States, so naming their holiday beer after Black Pete, a character in Belgian folklore, actually makes perfect sense. In much the same manner, many are going to expect Portland have a point to prove this season, seeing as their Seattle rivals have already made quite an impression on MLS. In fact Portland has been quietly going about their business, setting up a solid team that should impress on its own merits, not as an afterthought to the Sounders.

Cascade’s Sang Noir also leaves an impression distinct from its Belgian cousins. This beer is almost like drinking hot spiced cider, tasting of sour cherries, whisky and cinnamon. Oh, and you’re probably not going to be able to find this one in stores, because what’s the point of liking something cool if you’re willing to share it with everyone?

Real Salt Lake
Last Season’s Record (W-L-D): 15-4-11 (Second Place, lost Conference Semi-Finals)
Brewery: Wasatch Pub and Brewery
Beer: "Polygamy" Porter
Season Beer-view: Salt Lake like to score. Scoring? Polygamy? Get it? Maybe we’re too subtle for you. Maybe it would help if I told you Jason Kreis looks like the type to have three wives and still looking for action on the side. It’s not legal, so he’s taking out his aggression with his team.

In much the same manner, the Polygamy Porter doesn’t encourage you to stop at just one. Its 4% ABV is low for its style, so make sure you have at least three. This porter’s rather dry, but pleasant enough, with chocolate and caramel tastes.

San Jose Earthquakes
Last Season’s Record (W-L-D): 13-10-7 (Sixth Place, Eastern Conference Finals)
Brewery: 21st Amendment Brewery
Beer: "Bitter American" Pale Ale
Season Beer-view: The San Jose Earthquakes are bitter. Since returning to the MLS, they've won nothing. They made it to the MLS Cup playoffs last year, but couldn't get past the first round. They look up north and see the San Francisco Giants winning World Series while denying the Oakland As, under the same ownership as the Quakes, a move to San Jose. They look south and see the Galaxy building a bigger trophy cabinet. In this scenario, they ignore Chivas, as do most people. This season is their time to overcome that bitterness and reclaim some silverware.

Bitter belongs in IPAs and Pale Ales, and this Pale is one of the best I've ever had. You'll smell it before you taste it, all sweet and flowery. But don't be fooled -- there's a definite bitter element here, with the taste combining both spicy and sweet. (Please note: this is in no way an analogy of the way that I believe SJ will play this season).

Seattle Sounders
Last Season’s Record (W-L-D): 14-10-6 (Third Place, lost Conference Semi-Finals)
Brewery: Epic Ales
Beer: "Otto-Optimizer"
Season Beer-view: Epic Ales is a fairly new brewery in Seattle that manages to be different and inventive, causing older, established breweries to be just a tad resentful of its success. The Otto-Optimizer is an example of a beer that inspires intense emotions, with most samplers either loving or hating it. Brewed with coffee and cardamom, both flavors are apparent in both the smell and the taste. The balance is just slightly off, however, with the cardamom lingering just a bit too long.

Not that the Seattle Sounders have any lessons to learn from a beer that attempts to be slightly too complex and finds itself in over its head.

Vancouver Whitecaps
Last Season’s Record (W-L-D): N/A
Brewery: Steamworks Brewing Co.
Beer: Espresso Stout
Season Beer-view: This is a beer that doesn’t put much stock in subtle nuances of flavor. Nope, this one grabs you over the head and throws coffee down your throat. Utterly delicious if you like coffee and chocolate, but after awhile one starts to crave something different. There’s only so long you can hold out without craving grapefruit peels and floral aromas.

Vancouver, too, are a bit of a one-trick pony, or at least they’ve been thus far in preseason. With goals proving difficult to find for the ‘Caps, they’re resorting to an over-physical style of play, intent on making their mark or at least leaving a bruise. The team has a few of the individual elements, but it may take a bit for them to figure out how to put them together.

Many thanks to @aaroncampeau, @ryanrosenblatt, @jeremiahoshan, @gingefc, and of course, @LesAnn87

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!

Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from


  1. You realize the Quakes did get out of the first round last year, right? It was one of the most exciting games of the season.

  2. Anon- just a mistake. Meant to type that for one if the other teams. Earthquakes themselves pointed it out on Twitter to us. Since corrected.

    Enjoy your beer!


"Anyone who tells me soccer is boring, I'm going to punch them in the face."
- Former Dallas Burn (aka FC Dallas) coach Dave Dir

Thanks for leaving a comment!