Beer and the World Cup: a winning match
Soccer and beer have enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial history. America’s cultural forebears, the British, are widely credited with developing pub culture, as well as inventing modern soccer (although globalization has not been kind to either of these national institutions in their native land).
Breweries were a driving force behind the organization of the first professional football leagues in England, and many clubs were initially formed and funded with money from breweries. Newcastle, for instance, is as well-known for its football team, Newcastle United -- a once-proud club now sadly fallen into disrepair -- as it is for its remarkable beer. In 2006, bottles of the brewery’s signature Newkie Brown celebrated Newcastle soccer great Alan Shearer. Many football clubs continue to advertise breweries on their shirts in England and elsewhere. Singha, for instance, plans to sponsor two English football clubs next year.
Despite the international flavor of the top teams (Arsenal, for example, often fields nary a Brit in its lineup), the English remain fascinated by the World Cup. According to a spokesman for the British Beer & Pub Association in the Sunday Times, “We estimate that on the days England play matches an extra ten million pints will be sold, with this number set to increase the further they progress in the competition.”
Other cultures have their own versions of pub culture, including this 2010 Cup finalists. Amsterdam alone has about 1,200 bars, which works out to around one for every 612 inhabitants. Spain, of course, is famous for its many tapas bars and other drinking establishments. They will all no doubt do a brisk business Sunday as the current version of the Clockwork Orange Dutch face off against La Furia Roja in South Africa.
We Americans have been mostly bystanders in the World Cup, but even though our national team hasn’t had the quality to reach the final, many of us—immigrants and natives alike--still love watching great soccer. And although it’s not the same as being in South Africa, Barcelona or Amsterdam, we can breathe in a little of the quadrennial madness in some Bay Area pubs. One World Cup destination is the Kezar Pub in San Francisco and another is Gourmet Haus Staudt in Redwood City.
During the World Cup, Kezar Pub tends to become a magnet for a variety of supporters, and as the Cup winds down to its finale, fans of the surviving sides take over the place. On Tuesday (July 8), as Uruguay lined up against The Netherlands, Kezar Pub was awash in orange: orange shirt clad supporters, orange balloons, orange bunting and an orange pickup parked outside. For Americans, it was an opportunity to brush up (literally) against the agony and anxiety of a halftime knotted at a goal apiece, followed by the joyous chorus of song (taunting chants and songs are a big part of soccer), which almost drowned out the drone of the vuvuzelas.
Kezar Pub is a good place to watch a soccer game, with plenty of big-screen TVs in the back dining area and bigger TVs in the more crowded bar area closer to the door. The beer selection is nothing to write to Amsterdam (or Munich) about, however, and consists primarily of macro lagers on tap, along with Anchor Steam and a few imports thrown in for variety’s sake. Incongruously, Kezar also has a tap dedicated to Moonlight Brewing’s delicious black lager, Death and Taxes, a beer well worth seeking out.
The menu is more or less from the fried and true pub grub handbook: burgers, nachos, buffalo wings, and for a little British flavor, bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. Luckily the game was on a Tuesday, which in the Haight means Rosamunde burger day. I resisted the temptation for grease and as the last agonizing seconds ticked off the clock, made my way to the lower Haight and had one of Rosamunde’s justifiably popular cheeseburgers washed down at the Toronado with Russian River’s Damnation Belgian-style ale. It was a wonderful way to wind down after the heart-stopping match.
The patrons are what gives Kezar Pub, basically a decent sports bar, its international flavor, and during the World Cup it's a reasonable facsimile of an Amsterdam tavern (minus the ambient aromas).
Gourmet Haus Staudt is in a different league from Kezar Pub when it comes to beer, but it isn’t a sports bar per se. Given its pedigree, however, Gourmet Haus showed all of Germany’s World Cup games as Germany sailed through qualifying, all the way up to the epic showdown with Spain. Instead of TVs everywhere like at Kezar Pub, Gourmet Haus had a large projection TV screen set up in the darkened dining area, which was ultimately packed mostly with white and black clad Germany supporters. The patrons tended to be a bit older than those at Kezar Pub, but no less passionate. As with Uruguay v Holland, tension was at a fever pitch after a nail-biting scoreless first half.
Gourmet Haus primarily features German lagers and wheat beers, along with a couple of guest taps, and they are all excellent. Food selection is limited to sausages with sauerkraut and big pretzels (plus specials like Jagerschnitzel on Saturdays), but they are very tasty and well matched with the beer.
For my pregame beer, I went with a refreshing yet dry Weltenburger Kloster Helles, followed by a complex Aventinus, before celebrating the Spanish victory (1-0) with an Allgauer Teutsch Pils in the sun-drenched patio, commiserating with disappointed Germans and Americans of German descent.
Both Kezar Pub and Gourmet Haus have fantastic football atmospheres, with avid supporters living and dying with every unpredictable swing of events. Deciding where to watch the final is as difficult as picking a winner between Holland and Spain.
Germany will play Uruguay in the consolation match on Saturday, and Gourmet Haus should be a good venue, especially with their lunch special. I’d also suggest watching the final in Redwood City, even though Germany won’t be playing on Sunday. But Kezar Pub will undoubtedly be rocking orange, maybe with some Spanish to spice it up. Either way, it’s the closest we Americans can get to feeling what it’s like to have a World Cup contender.
770 Stanyan St
(between Beulah St & Waller St)
San Francisco, CA 94117
Neighborhood: Cole Valley
Gourmet Haus Staudt Gifts & Café
2615 Broadway St
Redwood City, CA 94063