Friday, June 24, 2011

The Drinkers Guide To The Women's World Cup (Part 1)

Expect big, pro-German crowds for this summer's Women's World Cup
By Jobst Elster / Senior Bier Correspondent

A two part series focused on football, beer and kick-ass German cities

Check out our sampler from yesterday, "Sudsy Facts About the Women's World Cup".

It’s been five years since German movie producer Soenke Wortmann released his ‘sports-umentary’ classic “Ein Sommermaerchen” (A Summer Fairytale) following the German Football team’s 3rd place finish at the 2006 FIFA Men’s World Cup. It was truly a fairytale summer … I somehow hit the lottery and scored tickets to see my beloved Germans play five times including their nail-biting penalty shootout victory over the Argentineans (thank god a 19-year old Messi was benched) at the Olympiastadion in Berlin; I spent five weeks at home visiting family, friends, and celebrating the revival of German football and witnessed my homeland’s successful and non-violent hosting of the world’s biggest sporting event.

To make that perfect footballing summer even more memorable, I made sure to pursue my other passion, beer drinking, to the fullest. Since I lost the urge to binge drink long ago and never got the point of a keg stand, I was unhampered to enjoy Deutsches Bier for beer’s sake and soak up the hometown flavor one stein at a time: Paulaner Helles, Augustiner Braeu and Prinzregent Luitpold Weissbier  in Munich;  Dortmunder Aktien Brau (DAB) in Dortmund; Berliner Pils and many lighter but flavorful lagers along my way.

Fast-forward to 2011, again it’s summer time, and again Germany is hosting a FIFA World Cup, this time the Sixth women’s edition (WWC) featuring the 16 best national teams in the world representing six continents. While neither plane nor match tickets have been secured this time around, I will do my best to help navigate the host cities and their brewed delights as well as offer up some nifty ‘Bier und Kick’ pairings a la FBM’s ‘Suds Up’ column.

Anheuser-Busch. NEIN! … If you are like most WWC visitors, you’d probably rather not pay big Euros for a Budweiser or Bud Light (still the official beer of the FIFA World Cup). While it is major blasphemy to have A-B sponsor the suds in Germany of all places, commerce and sponsor sell-outs are a fact of life and something we must all get over. At the time of this writing, we ‘re not certain whether A-B struck a deal with German brewer Bitburger, allowing fans to purchase small quantities of Bit, its flagship pilsner, at the world cup venues. This was the case in 2006, prompting us stubborn Germans to wait in ‘Bit lines’ for hours while the Budweiser taps remained untouched.

Our stops.
Wilkommen in Berlin 

Berlin is Germany’s old/new capital city and of the most diverse and colorful places you’ll ever visit. Football is one of many pastimes here and thanks to a strong 2nd league showing, Hertha Berlin, the big football club in town, is back in the 1. Bundesliga. While the ‘old lady’ does not kick-off its 2011/12 campaign until early August, Germany’s Women will host Canada at the historic Olympiastadion on Sunday, June 26th at 6pm German time.  The 73,680 capacity stadium will be sold out and in addition to hosting the first game, will include a short opening ceremony. Oddly enough, the opening match is the only one assigned to Berlin so don’t get too attached to venue or city. In terms of beer culture, Berlin is not on my top destination list, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good brews to be had. There is a smattering of decent Pilsners worth sampling with Berliner Kindl Jubilaeums Pilsner worth a go and definitely the smoother (and higher octane) representative of the BK lagers. Look for the ‘made in Berlin’ slogans and find Berliner Pilsner, the original East Germany beer first brewed in 1963 (a true baby in German beer circles), but since then modernized to reflect a global, future focused brand.  Find it throughout the city and go for ‘Fassbier’ (from the tap) for a refreshing fizzy drink. On the flipside, sometimes traditional and established doesn’t mean good. With that said, I suggest steering clear of the ‘tourist trap’ beer, the famous Berliner Weisse, a lower alcohol content, tart, wheat beer more often than not served with ‘Schuss’, a shot of red or green fruit syrup, designed to cover up the sourness.

Onward to Dresden

Rudolf Harbig Stadion, named after the Dresden-native track and field star of the 1930’s, is the home of 2nd division club Dynamo Dresden and host to four WWC matches including the US team’s first group C game vs. North Korea on June 28th. While the US will hopefully easily handle Kim Jong-il’s North Korean’s, the July 5th matchup between Canada and Nigeria could prove to be an epic battle for who joins host Germany in the elimination rounds. The Dresden-area boasts several delicious lagers including local Watzke Pils and the more famous Radeberger Pils and is enticingly close to the Czech border and the beer meccas of Pilzen and Budweis (the original ‘king of beers’).  If you are ready to ditch the Pilsners and try something sweeter, don’t leave without having had a famous Schwarzbier (black lager). Koestritzer is a regional fave, one of the oldest and most popular black lagers in Germany, and brewed about 60 miles southwest of Dresden in Bad Koestritz, a stone’s throw from Gera.

Welcome to the good ole South

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier
Augsburg is one of the host cities with a football-only stadium built in 2009. The WWC venue is the home of FC Augsburg, a freshly promoted 1. Bundesliga team, playing in Bavaria’s 3rd largest city. The 24,000+ capacity arena will have 4 games including Sweden and England. There’s no doubt that these games will sell out, if for no other reason than to make a day trip to big brother city Munich, located about 40 miles SE of town.

While I am honestly not familiar with any Augsburger beer gems, I do have to share one of my favorite beer finds, located in Bamberg, roughly 2 hours north. Here you will find the famous brewery tavern Schlenkerla and its signature Rauchbier (smoke beer). Ask any first time sipper and this smoky beauty will jolt your taste buds and have you believing you just drank a generous helping of smoked ham. Feeling really tough? Couple the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier with a Laphroaig Islay single malt scotch whisky and satisfy even the most ferocious craving for smoked meat … hairy chest guaranteed!

Speaking of that day trip to Munich … Go to the Hofbraeuhaus for a Stein or two of HB Original, some Bavarian home cooking and more than your share of ‘chicken dance’ music. Of course it’s kitschy but it will put you in a good mood especially if your national team just lost its world cup match.

Motoring to the auto and high tech hotspot

Next destination, Sinsheim; a somewhat sleepy town in southwest Germany, historically known for its impressive Auto & Technik Museum featuring 1000s of classic cars, airplanes, and even a Russian space shuttle. These days, the bigger attraction is the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, a 30,000+ capacity stadium, built for 1899 Hoffenheim, the local Bundesliga club, and funded in large part by local hero and SAP Software boss Dietmar Hopp. Seeing Sinsheim as an increasing player in the German football scene and now even hosting WWC matches, is very impressive, especially since four years ago Hoffenheim was struggling in the 3rd German league. The arena will host four WWC games including the USA vs. Columbia Group C match on July 2nd and the 3rd place match on July   16th.

In terms of local beer recommendations, I am somewhat biased since I grew up around Speyer, a small city close by, situated along the picturesque Rhine River (and home to the Kaiserdom, the famous Imperial Cathedral of Speyer).  While some of the country’s finest Riesling wines come from this region, Speyer is a must stop-over when it comes to ‘slap your momma’ delicious home brew. The Domhof is the local micro brewery and serves up four distinct beers including Helles (light), Dunkles (dark), Hefeweizen and Bock.

Believe me, I have tried them all, over and over again, yet still make it my 2nd stop (after saying hi to mom and dad) once on German soil. Beyond the beer, the food is fantastic as well, and a recently renovated Hotel Domhof is the perfect place to pass out after a long night of sampling. If you can’t make the Speyer detour, I recommend you grab an Eichbaum Ureich Pils, an herby lager brewed close by in Mannheim. While it’s not fancy or near as tasty as northern-style Pilsners like Jever, the ‘Friedhofwasser’ (cemetery water) as it’s affectionately called due to its proximity to the local graveyard, is worth a few Euros.

This concludes part 1 of our 2 part FIFA Women’s World Cup drinker’s guide. While you spend the next week or so sampling some of these tasty recommendations and I sober up from all of the grueling ‘research’, we’ll continue our whirlwind tour with beer and WWC coverage and hit Frankfurt, the venue for the WWC final on July 17th as well as several hardcore football towns in the heart of the German Ruhrpott. Our visit concludes in Wolfsburg, a city best known for Fahrvergnuegen and the ‘people’s car’ and less for top notch German football (well at least until recently). 

About Jobst

I can be reached at or on Twitter @TheRealFutboler. We’re just getting started with, so feel free to stop by and let us know what you think. All feedback is much appreciated. 

Auf Wiedersehen.

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1 comment:

  1. When you visit Munich don't bother visting the Hofbräuhaus, there are MUCH better beers in Munich than HB. My favorite Bavarian beer is Augustiner (Helles or Edelstoff).


"Anyone who tells me soccer is boring, I'm going to punch them in the face."
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