The World Cup of Beer

With the beautiful game’s ultimate celebration finally underway, possibly the most important question surrounding the World Cup (other than what to have on your braai during matches), is what beers would form the key contenders for a World Cup of Beer? It’s a hugely subjective debate, certainly, and one I’ve given up having with Jan Braai, whose matchday nourishment comes exclusively from a papsak; I turn, then, to my braaing brethren around the world for suggestions as to which beers stand out internationally. To get the conversation going, a few suggestions of my own…

Here’s an opening contender from Amsterdam (hence the traditional Dutch ostrich on the label), from a small organic brewery in the Netherlands. Visit Holland, and you’ll normally be swamped with Belgian beer, but this crisp lager, from a range that the microbrewery produces, makes for excellent drinking, and has more character than a lot of the more commercially recogniseable alternatives.

Also worth a bet at the World Cup of Beer: Quilmes, the definitive drink of beer-savvy Argentina. It’s another firm, crisp offering that has one distinct advantage: it’s available almost exclusively in quarts, which means far more lovely beer to drink. I may have had one or two of them in the picture to the left (a quirky little cafe in Buenos Aires that had a distinct air of Cape Town’s Observatory to it), and definitely had one or two more afterwards; malbec is the accepted partner to Argentina’s internationally-acclaimed steaks, but a quart of Quilmes is no bad alternative. And given the South American country’s football heritage, they need a beer that stands up to international scrutiny.

Sticking with World Cup nations, here’s what I think (the memory’s a little hazy here) is a Cristal from Chile, discovered at a small Patagonian restaurant in Santiago just down the road from my hotel in the nation’s captial, and drunk extensively thereafter, both at the extravagant local wedding I went to (home at 7:30 the next morning), and at several braais I had in the city during my stay. It’s another unassuming lager, paler than Argentina’s Quilmes, but equally refreshing; one of a limited number of local beers, though, the country more familiar with the production of red wine. The other brewery to catch the attention was Kuntsmann, a German-Chilean brewery that does a tidy range that includes a honey lager which I seem to recall was rather good. Beer in Chile has a tragic history, the 1960 Valdivia earthquake destroying the country’s largest brewery, but the beer industry has bounced back, and while Cristal won’t make the earth move for you, it is worth a try if you happen to head over the Andes and spend some time in Chile’s sprawling capital city.

This merely kickstarts a long list of international favourites: Mac’s Gold, the Kiwi brew that’s liquid alchemy, and possibly still my favourite beer on the planet. Tasman Ice, which I first encountered as an exchange student in Australia years ago, and still regard with romantic nostalgia. Any one of the dozens of microbreweries that appear in Britain’s pubs, with ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’ one I recall well, although possibly for reasons of nomenclature. And a large pint of Guinness, best drunk in Dublin, where it somehow tastes fuller, creamier and authentic than anywhere else on the planet. A solid selection, then, to which you’re invited to add supplementary contenders (and there are many); I’ll finish with South Africa’s traditional offering, and what has to be a heavy favourite for a World Cup of Beer on South African soil, particularly round a braai. I give you an eternal reminder of that greatest of men, Charles Glass…

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