A couple of weeks into the 2014 World Cup and the first games in the Round of 16 are shaping up. There will be some exciting match-ups this weekend, and while I’m no expert on the beautiful game, I know my way around a beer list. Here are my predictions for the four games this weekend based solely on which country has the better beer (and bonus pairing suggestions for each match).
Brazil vs. Chile - Saturday, June 28, at 9 a.m.
Futbol juggernaut Brazil is not only known as one of the best in the sport, but the host nation is one of the fastest growing beer markets in the world. There’s a strong craft beer scene developing in the Amazon nation, and the country even had to pass a special law to allow beer to be sold in stadiums during the World Cup. Chile may have it’s own fledgling craft beer scene, and a history of brewing an ancient form of beer made from corn, called chicha, but their plucky and aggressive national team has little chance against the Brazilians.
Pairing for the match: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale -- If you’re going to watch one of the best teams in the world, you might as well be drinking one of the best beers in the world. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a classic, and it’s even in a green can -- a perfect match for Brazil’s kit.
Colombia vs. Uruguay - Saturday, June 28, at 1 p.m.
Neither South American country is particularly noted on the international stage for their brewing cultures, though Colombia does drink plenty of beer -- enough to support more than a dozen major national brands. Uruguay’s team is infamous for their dirty play on the pitch (even before the chomp-chomp action from Tuesday’s match versus Italy), and Uruguay’s beer market is controlled by an organization often accused of underhanded business practices themselves. Over 90% of the beer market is controlled by Fabricas Nacionales De Cerveza, which is owned by AB-Inbev.
Pairing for the match: Forgive me, but I’ve got to suggest a beer with a little bite for this match: Victory’s Prima Pils. The German-style pils is hopped up like an IPA but still refreshing and won’t wear out your palate.
The Netherlands vs. Mexico - Sunday, June 29, at 9 a.m.
The underachieving Netherlands is the first team not from the Americas to play a game in this Round of 16, and even though Mexico has a reputation as a beer-loving country with a surging craft beer movement, the Dutch make some of the finest beer in Europe (and I don’t mean Heineken). Two of the lauded Trappist Breweries are in the Netherlands, and De Koningshoeven Brewery has been making beer since 1884. In a battle of macro-brews, Mexico might have the upper hand with the perennially underrated Bohemia Pilsner, but taken as a whole, beer culture in the Netherlands is tough to beat.
Pairing for the match: The early game on Sunday calls for brunch, and La Trappe Dubbel is a great for brunch fare. Any of Mexico’s light lagers served as a michelada are another great option for the early game -- they’re like a fizzy Bloody Mary!
Costa Rica vs. Greece - Sunday, June 29, at 1 p.m.
When I consulted my soccer-expert friend while researching this post, the only point he could muster about Greece was that they’re a defensive team that plays dull ball. Thankfully, the tiny Mediterranean country has a more exciting beer scene (and exports at least their iconic Mythos brand to U.S. shores). Ironically, it’s relatively easy to find beer brewed by Costa Rican companies in the U.S. -- North American Breweries Holdings (an umbrella company that controls U.S. “crafty” brands like Pyramid and Magic Hat) has been owned by the Costa Rican Florida Ice & Farm Co. since 2012.
Pairing for the match: Greece plays “boring defense” and Costa Rica plays attacking futbol, so it should be a balanced match-up. I’d recommend a similarly balanced brew that will remain drinkable for all 90 minutes. Track down some of the new bottles of Smog City’s Coffee Porter -- at least you’ll stay awake if the match isn’t a thriller.