Thursday 6 June 2024

RETROWURST: World Cup Beer June 2006


A bit of a funny this time - a World Cup with a difference ...


Well, it is certainly a funny old tournament with a few surprises so far. Whoever would have thought that Argentina, Brazil, Italy and Spain would get knocked out in the first round? Or that the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Tunisia would make it to the quarter finals?

Some results have been a bit more expected, with Saudi Arabia, Angola, Iran and Trinidad & Tobago making a rapid exit with no points scored, or France sneaking though to the semi-final. Or what about the England: Germany clash in the first round of the knock-out stages? Expected, perhaps, but for England to get through against such an overdose of German pride and tradition on their home ground? Commendable, but then the tragedy of being beaten by an unexpectedly strong Sweden in the quarter final…


The stars of the tournament, as expected perhaps, are the Czech Republic but the dark horse has really been Serbia and Montenegro who have knocked out Holland, Portugal, the Ivory Coast and those pesky Swedes on the way to their place in the final.


Well, you’ve twigged, haven’t you? I’m not talking about that World Cup. But can you guess on what basis this “alternative World Cup” is? It’s not too difficult: Germans as we know pride themselves on their beer and someone at Stern magazine had the bright idea of testing the beers of the 32 World Cup football finalists.


Despite some difficulties in securing products- with tales of bottles exploding en route and non-alcoholic beers being held up at the border for alcohol tax, beers were obtained for all 32 participating nations, except Togo, where the beer from the Ivory Coast went to test twice, once masquerading in a Togo shirt! The beers were tested blind by four Sternjournalists plus one beer expert from Austria (who apparently did the tasting in full Austrian traditional costume).


The beers that made it through the first round were:

GROUP A: Germany (Beck’s), Poland (Masuren)

GROUP B: Sweden (Old Gold), England (Old Speckled Hen)

GROUP C: Serbia & Montenegro (Jelen Pivo), Ivory Coast (Flag)

GROUP D: Mexico (Corona Extra), Portugal (Sagres)

GROUP E: Ghana (Akosombo), Czech Republic (Budweiser)

GROUP F: Japan (Asahi), Croatia (Karlovacko)

GROUP G: France (Kronenbourg 1664), Togo (Flag)

GROUP H: Ukraine (Obolon), Tunisia (Celtia)


The quarter finals were between England and Sweden, Serbia/Montenegro and Ivory Coast, Ghana and Czech Republic and France and Tunisia.


England got kicked out at this point, with semi-finals between Sweden and Serbia/Montenegro and Czech Republic and France, leaving this as a very European contest at this stage.


The final featured two teams from the former Eastern Europe, Czech Republic and Serbia/Montenegro. It was a close-cut thing, but the favourites won in the end with four points to Serbia/Montenegro’s three.


The comments that the judges made about the beers are interesting. The Argentinean beer, “Quilmes” was described as “like water with beer flavour” while the Iran beer, “Golden Delster” was described as “alcohol-free with milk sugar – and it stinks of old hay.” The English beer, “Old Speckled Hen” was described as “amber coloured, lovely note of hops, light toasted aroma” and England fans will be pleased to hear that this beer kicked out Beck’s (the beer, not the footballer) 5:2 at the quarter final stage.


Note, of course, that it was the original Czech Budvar Budweiser that won and not the pale US imitation. The USA, by the way, was represented by “Miller Genuine Draft” and failed to progress beyond the group stage.


On another note, the Germans were the masters of anti-hype about their team here in the build-up. The team that has now gained that so-familiar horrible unstoppable momentum of efficiency that always ends in tears at penalty shoot-outs were all-but-written-off at the start of the tournament (“we’ll be really pleased to get through the first round”) and Stern even published a consoling article for fans should the team make an early exit: Things Germany is World Champion of. Some of these are predictable: in export, in number of tax laws, in submarine construction – but did you know that the Germans are also World Champions in running backwards, donating to charity, robot football (well, perhaps we knew that…), spitting cherry stones or the quaintly-named Arschbomben-Springen der Damen (“Ladies’ Cannonball/Divebomb)?


It’s enough to make you reach for a Jelen Pivo!


I do wonder if this influenced me 14 years later, in the midsts of Covid, to hold an alternative Eurovision - with wine. And if I remember rightly - difficult in the circumstances - Italy won that one!

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