Thursday, September 29, 2011

Beer is like Rugby...???

OK, so have done 3 rounds of drinking during the Rugby World Cup, and after my last post, making tenuous links between the beer, the weather and the RWC game I was all engaging with at the time, I thought it a good idea this morning to try and piece together some other weird connections seeing I have a few hours before I am to start the days work at Mountain Goat.

So, it is not the first time I have tried to connect beer to other activities (eg, music), and guess it is easy choosing activities I like to drink beer while watching to then connect beer to in this's ok, I know how bad this makes me look and how badly I will do in the attempt...

I guess we can start with basics, ales and lagers, forwards and backs. If you like your fast paced drinking with crisp flavours, in terms of beer, this is probably lager-like. A fast, attacking backline needs quick, clean, crisp passing and kicking, and especially with a kicking game, you can get further down the field faster, and therefore drunk faster drinking that way. Lighter bodied individuals normally play in the backs, and lighter coloured beers generally tend to be of the lager variety. Personally, I like a good backline play to bring some fast moving excitement to a game of rugby, and sometimes I drink this way too while watching a game, but it is generally not how I like to appreciate a game or beer.
For me there is nothing like a good forward play with rolling scrum or maul, like a good ale rolls around on your tongue, smoothly and strongly edging its way downfield or over your palate ending with a most satisfying finish that tends to linger more on the mind and tongue. There is generally a bigger body (some may say 'stout') to ales and forwards. While I spent most of my own rugby playing days in the front row, I do have a soft spot for many Wallaby number 8's/locks (Willie O, Kefu, Palu and now a nicely aged Samo) - big, darkly coloured, softly spoken but making a big impact on the field, that relates a bit to my taste in beers - bold, craft brewed stouts.

Ok, looking now country to country, I could also find a few similarities between the national rugby team and national style of beer. Here is Australia, the general approach to rugby people appreciate is running rugby, and therefore suited (in my mind, as shown above) to lagers. Games dominated in the backline where a well timed pass or a very slight change in running line can get you a long way. It sort of makes me think a little like Thunder Road's Pale Lager, which while it's timing on the Aussie market could have been better (launching a lager in winter?), the different line it runs being a bit more of a dry pilsner (I reckon) means it can have a bit more of an impact and get this lager swilling nation onto craft beers. However, having this approach to rugby means we can lack a bit in body upfront, and can get easily dominated by more 'malt' driven UK beers/teams. For me an English Bitter/ESB describes the England team quite well. The forwards drive the ball over the midfield, and then a backs kicking game is used for position and points. For me an English Bitter has a big malty flavour up front, then a slight bittering hop kicks in from midpalate to 'clean' up. To be honest, generally it is not overly inspiring in rugby or beer, but it has tradition on their side, which England use very well behind the scenes in both aspects.
Turning to the USA, they are probably more matured in beer than rugby, but they do have a gold medal in Rugby at the 1920 and 1924 Olympics. I noticed in their game against the Wallabies a couple of weeks back our forwards dominated them quite easily at the set play, so the US seem to be less 'malt' based then us. Still, what they do have is enthusiasm, shown no more than in their 'Phil Smith' like captain Cleaver, who darts around the park like a mad man contesting over the ball at the breakdown. They may need a bit more structure and a bigger player base to make a more rounded team, but they are willing to go out there and be attacking with the ball. Therefore it is pretty easy to see them as an IPA/APA, big on attacking hops and alcohol to boot, they zing across your tongue but also linger in aftertaste to make them a beer and team to look out for and go back to when something new comes out of it.
So, to the Kiwis. One of the most dominating forces on the rugby field, and also increasingly in their craft beer. Very well balanced in both forwards and backs on the field, I would like to say the All Blacks are like a Black IPA or Double IPA. Big malt body to help carry the hops over the tongue but with enough clinicalness to make a clean, clear finish...well, unless the ABs choke and the fans are left with an overtly bitter aftertaste in their mouths.

I guess as a Wallabies supporter, while we could become like a Bock (strong lager) with a strong backline, I would like us to become like a Baltic Porter, still technically a lager but with a bit of malt body upfront. Maybe 2 Brothers Voodoo could be my beer mascot for the Wallabies? Still, if there was a beer nation I would like replicated in rugby, it would have to be Belgium. With a mix of big, bold, and traditional trappist/abbey ales, with fruity (maybe going a bit sour) lambics at the other end of the scale, it would make for an interesting rugby team. Bring on Belgium for Rugby World Cup 2015!!!!!

Well hope you had a bit of laugh like me during this, or worst case you think I have way over thought this...which I probably have.



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