Put these beers in your cup while you watch the World Cup
It’s World Cup season! The largest sporting event in the world is here and ready to take the planet’s imagination captive. And sadly, the United States will be watching from home, having failed to qualify for the tournament. Bummer.
But here’s some silver lining: watching the 32 teams in the World Cup leaves us plenty of time to drink and judge the beer made by the countries that did qualify this year. So for U.S. fans, Irish fans, Italian fans, Dutch fans and fans of any other team who didn’t secure a spot in the big ole’ footy tournament, buckle in: It’s about to get beery. We’ll be picking a beer to drink for each team you’re watching.
For those new to the World Cup, or who would like a brief primer, the 32 teams playing are divided into eight groups of four. Each team plays every other team in the group and the top two move onto the knockout stage. More knockout rounds are played until just one team remains.
Now it’s time to drink some beer!
Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay.
How fitting that the host team gets what is perhaps the easiest group. Russia is better known for its vodka, but has two styles (Russian Imperial Stout, Baltic Porter) which clearly draw deeply from Russian influence. The World Cup hosts easily win their group, putting forward a malty striker like the Baltika #6 Porter, a traditionally strong (7%) Baltic Porter with dark malts and roasty flavors. It’s one of Russia’s most well-known beers.
A tough one in an underpowered group, but Uruguay squeaks past Egypt for second. The two time World Cup champions currently field their best ever striker in Luis Suarez, and have started to embrace the craft beer scene as well. Birra Bizarra, based out of Montevideo, produces some American-style craft beers, each featuring a fictional circus performer, The brewery’s IPA, a two-time South America best-of winner, is a strong contender for the country.
Egypt may be a historical hotbed of brewing, but modern times haven’t kept the tradition alive. As a majority Muslim country, alcohol is haram (forbidden by Islamic law) for Muslims. Beer exists, and is technically legal, but use is frowned upon in comparison with European countries. Heineken has an affiliate here, Al Ahram Beverages, which produces by-far the country’s most popular beer - Stella (not Artois).
Alcohol is also strictly haram in Saudi Arabia, which makes picking a beer difficult. A few small brewers make no or low-alcohol beers, and a secretive home brewing culture exists, but perhaps you’d be better off drinking tea or coffee while cheering on the Kingdom.
Group B: Portugal, Iran, Morocco, Spain
Group B has some surprises, but Spain is the clear winner here, with a thriving beer culture in the major cities. Cheer on La Furia Roja with a beer from Barcelona IPA specialists Garage Beer Co., who have brewed Montessori NE IPA in collaboration with Girona based SOMA Beer. This hazy beer, dry-hopped with the experimental HBC 431 Hops comes in at 7% ABV, which might send you into a siesta before Spain is ready to call the World Cup quits.
While not quite the same level of beer culture as their Iberian neighbors, it’s likely Portugal, on the back of Cristiano Ronaldo, is one of the favorites to win the whole soccer tournament. But even brewery wise, the Portuguese come out swinging, bringing the Lupum Imperial Stout Cocoa & Coffee to bear. This 13% ABV beast comes from Avintes near Porto, and will be sure to set fans of the Navigators on the right course.
Morocco hopes to surprise this World Cup, but even more surprising is the Islamic nation’s brewing scene, which produces the Casablanca beer by Heineken-owned Société des Brasseries du Maroc. A typical Pale Lager, it’s quaffed enough in its titular city that it will make you say “pour it again, Sam.”
While since the 1979 revolution alcoholic beer remains explicitly illegal in Iran, a non-alcoholic beer scene has sprung up in the country. The ancient Persian empire drank beer for hundreds of years though, and the Islamic Republic’s most popular offering comes from Iran Behnoush Co. who brew Delster, a non-alcoholic beer that swapped recipes to remove booze after the fall of the Shah.
Group C: Peru, France, Denmark, Australia
Welcome to the Group of Death. All four countries here have established beer scenes, and many of them world class. I’m staking my reputation on Denmark here, propped up by one brewery (much like the Danish team is propped up by Christian Eriksen):the gypsy brewer Mikkeller. Yes, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø brews in multiple locations, but his brewery is based in Copenhagen. Grab any of the Beer Geek line if you can find one, and enjoy the Danish gold in dark, coffee notes and substantial variants from the barrel-aged versions.
Sorry France, you may be the higher ranked team on the pitch, but Australia has you beat with beer. Baskerville is a suburb of Perth way over in Western Australia, and its Feral Brewing Company is ready to savage the taste buds. Tusk DIPA is one such beast, hoping to lead the Socceroos to victory over their competitors with its aggressive American hops and 10.8% ABV.
Ok France, you’re more known for your wine and spirits, but you’ll be damned if you’ll let perfidious Albion across La Manche outdo you when it comes to making fine beverages. The Piggy Brewing Company in Châtel-Saint-Germain in the Lorraine region derives much beer influence from their German neighbors as much as their countrymen. Root on Les Bleus with Piggy’s Monstruous Fat Pig Stout, a 12% ABV “U.S. inspired” Imperial Oatmeal Stout.
That leaves us with Peru, a team which could very well surprise the group and win it outright, but is the unfortunate fourth place team in the world of beer. The Shaman IPA from Sierra Andina is a bright, hoppy, American-style IPA brewed in the town of Huaraz, with the snow-capped peaks of the Andes visible from the brewery. Los Incas may not be the most storied team, either in soccer or brewing, but it is no slouch.
Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Nigeria, Croatia
From the Group of Death to group of meh. Underdog Croatia takes this one, largely on the basis of the high-scoring IPAs in the country. Much like team captain Luka Modric, the beers from Croatia are versatile. While watching the Croats play, enjoy the C4 IPA (with Cascade, Centennial, Citra and Chinook Hops) from Nova Runda Brewing.
Iceland, the darlings of this year’s World Cup, have actually taken out an ad campaign in the United States to convince us Americans to root for their viking-drenched team. If that weren’t good enough, the stouts and porters from Reykjavik’s Borg Brugghús are delicious, boozy, roasty goodness, particularly the Surtur Nr. 38, named after one of the giants meant to bring Ragnarok in Norse mythology. Will Iceland make legends this World Cup?
A close third is Nigeria, and you can cheer on the Super Eagles with a Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. The Nigerian version of the Irish black gold is made with Sorghum and Guinness flavor extract, which is added to Nigerian-brewed pale beer. It’s a unique version of the beloved Stout, and some swear by its fruitiness as better than the original.
You might be better off drinking the popular South American mate beverage while you watch Lionel Messi knock in goal after goal for the two-time champions Argentina. But if you don’t want as much caffeine, get a load of the Imperial Stout by Buenos Aires brewers Cervecería Antares - brewed extra dark, just for Catherine the Great... according to the brewery for some reason.
Group E: Brazil, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Serbia
Brazil is the odds-on favorite to win the soccer tournament. What’s more surprising is that they are the odds-on favorites here as well, even over two European contenders. The Overdrive NE IPA by Hocus Pocus Brewing has a stupid-high 4.44 rating on Untappd, offering smooth oatmeal creaminess and a bright peach nose. This Rio de Janeiro brewery is wowing Brazilians and ex-pats alike, much like the Seleção on the field.
The Swiss come next, like clockwork (haha, very clever) with a rich brewing tradition heading back centuries. Thus, Switzerland’s entry is one described as an “ancient” beer in the Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien. This 11% ABV sour ale is a world-class beaut from Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes, an oaky, winey ale sure to propel Swiss fans on to the knockout stage.
While rooting for Serbia, tip back the 02 Kolaboracija Caramel Stout, aged for six months in monastic brandy barrels.. Brewed by Serbia’s most lauded brewers, Kabinet Brewing, this beer is a 10% ABV bomb with the sweetness and booze you want from an Imperial Stout like this. I’m drooling already
Costa Rica might surprise us all this World Cup, but the beers are largely on the macro lager side. A notable exception is from Santa Rasta Brewing, which impresses with its Congo DIPA. Santa Rasta donates beer to the endangered animals of Costa Rica and uses local fruits from the jungle to brew their beer. If that’s not authentic Costa Rica, I don’t know what is.
Group F: Germany, South Korea, Mexico, Sweden
Oh boy, talk about another heavy hitting group. The number one team here should be fairly obvious, but the remaining three are neck and neck. Yes, Germany is my number one here, with such classics as the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbeer, one of the best Hefeweizens in the world. There are brews Germans have made for centuries which could fill this list, but this is a personal favorite of mine to watch Die Mannschaft.
The Swedes might make a splash in Russia this year, but Sweden’s brewing scene is quickly becoming world class. See what I mean by trying anything from Omnipollo or Dugges… and I hope you like dark beers. Enjoy the Lorelei to see what Sweden is capable of. A 10.5% ABV Imperial Porter brewed as a collab with Siren Craft Brew, this brew brings the deep, dark roastiness to warm on Scandinavian nights.
Viva la Mexico! What better way to celebrate El Tri taking goals in Russia then by sipping on a Russian Imperial Stout? The Señor Matanza, brewed in tiny batches by Cerveza Fauna on the U.S. border in Mexicali. It pours as black as Chicharito’s soul, and scores like him too, with waves of chocolatey booze and a smooth finish. No, it’s not as easy to find as many of Mexico’s other craft cervezas, but maybe a hidden gem is exactly what the boys in green need to make the quarterfinals.
With no disrespect to South Korea, because they are making some delectable brews, the Taeguk Warriors fall last here in Group F. Wipe away those tears, Son Heung-Min wouldn’t want you to be sad (can you tell I’m a Tottenham fan yet?). Pick up a dank, hoppy IPA like the Magpie IPA from Seoul’s Magpie Brewing. It’s piney, resinous and as bitter as you might be after watching some World Cup officiating.
Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
Just like Germany took the last group in a walk, so will Belgium here. It’s hard to even pick one beer to represent the country which beer geeks pretty routinely choose as the most storied, most beloved and ...well… the best beer country in the world. So I won’t. Pick up just about anything from Cantillon, 3 Fonteinen or any of the trappist beers (Westy 12 being an extremely hard to find favorite of mine). Just leave the Jupiler at home when watching The Red Devils kick about.
I feel bad knocking England to second in this group, as I’ve called the country home for a few months before. But the Three Lions are bringing the Cup home, so don’t feel slighted. Instead, get in lads (and ladies) to something tasty like those beers out of Buxton, most notably the political Yellow Belly. This peanut butter stout’s bottle is decorated like a… well let’s just say it’s not a ghost. But it’s deep, rich and delicious.
Three cheers for Panama, who has a terrifying Double IPA from Casa Bruja (Witch House) Brewing. The pineappley, marmaladey Tulivieja is named after a Panamanian ghost sure to scare up a few goals for the Los Canaleros. It’s deep, piney and a smack of West Coast hoppiness from the
And that leaves us with Tunisia. You might be better off with some coffee here as Société Frigorifique et Brasserie de Tunis held a monopoly on brewing beer in the North Africa country until 2007. But still, the Celtia Pale Lager from that SFBT company is better than nothing. Produced since 1951 in Tunisia, the Celtia is a spicy, crisp Lager, perfect for watching The Eagles of Carthage.
Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
Group H’s sole European team is the winner here, as Poland has definitely embraced beer. A rich, roasty Baltic Porter from the Poles would be appropriate here. Black Boss from Browar Witnica is a rich, chocolatey brew available all over North America. This one is big at 8.5% and a good entry point for the world of Baltic Porters.
The Japanese national team is perhaps better known for performing in the Women’s World Cup, but the Samurai Blue are hoping to surprise this summer. The beer culture in Japan is rich and fun, so A.J.I. Beer Co.’s Minoh W-IPA will be a nice boozy way to enjoy Japan play in an izakaya near you.
Whether you’re reading the works of Gabriel Garcia Márquez or watching The Tricolors strike on the pitch, Colombia has some hoppy surprises in store. Septimazo Tipo IPA, from Bogotá Beer Company packs in some fresh hops and a mild bitterness with a 6% ABV. Tip one or two back as James Rodriguez knocks in a few goals.
There isn’t quite the craft brewing culture in West Africa as in some of the other countries on this list, so that drops Senegal to last in Group H. That said, the national beer of Senegal, Bière La Gazelle from S.O.B.O.A., is a crisp, dry lager with just enough lemon flavor to refresh on hot days while watching the Lions of Teranga.
There you have it, 32 teams, 32 beers brewed in those countries. While the World Cup rages for another month, many of these teams will soon be joining the United States on the couch to watch “The Beautiful Game.” Think I gave your team short-shrift? Let us know in the comments how this article can improve in four years.