Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Belgian Beer Writer Talks About Belgian Beer For Today's... Er.... Um... Belgian Match

The is definitely the stadium the USMNT plays in today. Wikipedia told us.
This is a guest post by Joe Stange, former soccer blogger, former so-called serious journalist, who currently writes about beer. The FBM cannot be held responsible for any of this nonsense, except for the very questionable decision to allow this post to happen in the first place. Strange currently lives in Costa Rica where still still brilliantly writes about all things beer at "Thirsty Pilgrim".

Me. Me, me, me. That's what this post is really about. Oh, ostensibly it has something to do with today's friendly between the United States and Belgium. But even the existence of that game itself is a front, a facade, a farce no doubt concocted to give me the excuse to write about me.

But enough about me, for now. Let's talk about drinking. As in, where to drink in Brussels, if you were hypothetically attending this match. Which you are not, of course, but let's pretend.

Trust him. He's published.
The game is at Roi Baudouin Stadium, which is in a northern sector of the city strategically chosen, perhaps, to be far removed from any of the really decent places to drink beer. Oh, there are a few dive bars around. Brown cafés, they call them. You will find a Stella Artois. You might even find a Duvel. But here is what the Belgian beer marketing geniuses will never tell you: Stella Artois is the Coors of Belgium. Duvel is the Colt .45. You can do better.

I have a map of all the best places to drink beer of real character in Brussels. I have this map because I trudged all over town and wrote a guidebook on the subject. (Somebody had to do it.) The book is called Around Brussels in 80 Beers, and it's really good. I know it's really good, because my wife and my mom both told me so. I trust them. Anyways, I wrote the book with a local brewer and beer historian named Yvan de Baets. And he wrote the book with me. Me, me, me. You see?

So, if you were hypothetically attending this game, which you are not, you should first make time for a healthy session in the center of the city. Most of the interesting drinking holes are there. That's where you can find the Mort Subite, a.k.a. “sudden death,” which hasn't changed much since the turn of the century. No, not the turn ofthis century. I mean the one before. There you can have a Westmalle Dubbel on draft and some plattekeis, which is the classic breakfast of flat-capped Belgian geezers, who may or may not still speak the local dialect. It's a creamy cheese that you spread over a gigantic slice of bread, livened up with some scallions and shallots. Healthy, maybe.

Or, if you want to be like the more sophisticated young bruxellois, you can head to Moeder Lambic Fontainas, which is just a few blocks walk from the Mannekin Pis. (The Mannekin Pis, by the way, is Belgium's great zwanze, or joke, on the hordes of tourists who descend on Brussels every day. The clever thing to do is sit at the Poechenellekelder café, just across from the little peeing boy, and have a Zinnebir and a chuckle while the funny foreigners snap their photos.) At the Fontainas you'll find 40 taps or so of real biére artisanale, plus plenty more bottles and some serious cheeses and whatnot. Here you will want a glass of Cantillon lambic hand-pulled from the cask, a spontaneously fermented beer that is as entertaining and sour as our chances under this funny new German coach of ours.

Speaking of Cantillon: I used to see the father-and-son brewing duo, Jean-Pierre and Jean, at soccer games in my neighborhood. When I lived in Brussels I walked about 20 minutes to watch fourth division Union St-Gilloise. During my time there they managed to climb up into the third division – oh, dare we hope? – before tumbling spectacularly back down into the fourth. They had their moments, but I've seen American high school teams play better. All of that is beside the point. They were my local club, as far as that went, and beer was cheap: Maes pils for $2 a cup. And the St-Gilles branch of Moeder Lambic was on the way home -- twice the price for beers that were ten times as good.

I also watched the Belgian national team play a few times, but I have no insider information for you. They don't have a style you can nail down as easily as the Dutch or French. They're a mish-mash. What they do have, however, is lots of good beer. Lucky Belgians.

I mean, if you were going to participate in the Free Beer Movement, can you think of a better place than Brussels, and thus a better night than tonight?

Did Dan ever tell you who invented the Free Beer Movement? (Editor's Note: Yes. I might have mentioned it once.I invented it, and the movement was invented by me. Me, me, me. OK? At the time I was writing a blog called We Call It Soccer. Maybe you can find it in the Wayback Machine. It was kind of hot shit, back in the day when there weren't nearly as many soccer blogs. (At least me, my wife and my mom liked to think so.) At the time I was working toward a master's degree and studying propaganda. I learned that one of the most effective propaganda tricks is something called cognitive dissonance. Basically, people will do things that don't necessarily mesh with their previously held beliefs. After they do them, they will re-arrange their beliefs so that their actions make sense. The trick is getting them to take those actions.

Good beer for you and your friends.
I thought: Lots of people in this country don't believe in soccer. Seeing a game live might change their minds. What's the best incentive in the history of mankind, to get them to do something they don't believe in? FREE BEER! A simple and effective idea that someone else would have invented, had it not been me. Me, me, me.
Who knows? It might even have been Dan. Or Greg Lalas.

Anyway, let's drop the pretense of you being in Brussels tonight. Instead, head to your local specialist bottle shop and pick out something strong and gorgeous: a Rochefort 10, perhaps. Let it numb your senses for the likely loss to one of the more underachieving, nondescript teams in Europe. Remember to buy extra bottles for friends. Afterward, even if you haven't turned them on to the beautiful game, at least you've turned them on to a beautiful beer.

And then remember to give proper credit to me.

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  1. Love Rochefort 10! Excellent selection. Although perhaps not for a 2:30 p.m. game.

  2. Cheers, Dan!

    Anonymous: You make a good point. Maybe a Rochefort 6 then. Those DVRing the game to watch later tonight can still go with the 8 or 10.

  3. LOVE anything Cantillon! wish we could get it in Texas!

  4. Lushtastic... Shelton Brothers imports Cantillon and apparently deals with a distributor in Texas named Mexcor. Might be worth checking your local specialist bars and bottle shops to see if they can get it. It does appear that a bar in Fort Worth called The Usual has Cantillon (according to the Sheltons' website) so maybe it's possible where you live.


"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

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