Monday, July 30, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Lagunitas Brewing A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' American Pale Wheat Ale

Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale
Photo by emilydickinsonridesabmx on Flickr

Columnist James, distraught over the prospect of rooting for an AVB-led football team, decides to focus his energies instead on ABV....

Beer: A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' American Pale Wheat Ale

Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, California

ABV: 7.5%

Appearance:  Pours honey gold, looks almost like a macro lager, very light gold with voluminous and quickly dissipating head

Smell:  Honey and malt, balanced with light hops and touch of grapefruit

Taste:  Wow!  The smell lightly previews what can only be called a wheat beer IPA.  Pine, citrus and hops balanced by malts and honey - somehow strikes the perfect balance between the lightness  of a wheat with the substance of a serious pale ale.

Mouthfeel: The lightness and carbonation of a wheat with the substance of an ale.

Overall:  Superb!  A fantastic redefinition of a wheat beer striking a perfect balance of wheat crispness and hoppiness.  A-

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: 21st Amendment Brewery Spring Saison

(6.2% ABV)  I drank this beer at the Buford Taco Mac, in the northeast Atlanta suburbs. If you've never heard of Taco Mac, fear not; neither had I. But going there once has made me a ready convert. Contrary to its name, Taco Mac is not a Mexican restaurant.  Instead, its an Atlanta-based family restaurant chain that specializes in buffalo chicken wings, sports, and -- you guessed it -- craft beer.

The Buford Taco Mac had close to 100 beers on tap at the time of my visit, and another 200+ available by the bottle. If you've got some time to kill in the Atlanta area, you owe it to your beer-loving self to check this place out.

Spring Saison's color is a rich gold, with a bubbly white head that soon disappears.  The beer is clearly well carbonated.

The smell is all herbs, primarily fresh thyme, mint and rosemary. I LOVE the smell of this beer. It smells like spring, despite the oppressive 95 degree heat outdoors.

This beer is incredibly unique, with each taste reminding me of how unusual it is. It's got a fresh, thyme-dominated flavor -- it's of the same genre as the Sasion du BUFF's that I recently sampled, but I like this beer much better.  There's just a slight hint of anise, and an overall sense of floral notes to the flavor.  It reminds me of Spring.

The beer is very light bodied and drinks easily. I this were sold near me I would definitely be a regular drinker. A

Thursday, July 26, 2012

De-flowering: Manchester United 1 - Shanghai Shenhua 0

photo by dawnzy58via PhotoRee

Although the continent changed, the song remained the same from Manchester United with a lineup that included an overabundance of youngsters to face the mega-rich Shanghai Shehnua -- loosely translated as the Flower of Shanghai -- on China's east coast on Wednesday evening. Although the home side lacked the newly acquired Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka due to injury and rest, and fielded a largely second string side against their English visitors, excitement was still high among the many spectators watching the game at Shanghai Stadium. To the match report we go:

o Playing with a defensive set up that included five in the middle of the park, Shenhua frustrated United over the first half of action, and looked better than expected, at least to this particular non-expert in Chinese football.

o The scariest moment of the pre-season saw United's newest signing Nick Powell collide with one of several Wangs in the Shenhua midfield, remaining motionless while the crowd gasped. The concern was enough for Sir Alex to stretch his legs to obtain a  better view of the injured players, and it was with a great sense of relief that both men eventually hobbled to their feet as play resumed.

o A short while later it was Powell in the center of the action again, capping off a perfectly timed goal-bound run with a horrendously aimed shot that pulled just wide of the home team's net. Powell buried his head in the hands, knowing he had missed a gift-wrapped opportunity to end the relative goal drought experienced by the visitors since the pre-season kicked off.

o Although the home side never looked likely to score deploying only a solitary striker up top, neither did they look likely to concede, keeping their shape well and parking the bus in front of goal for large stretches of the contest.

o Anders Lindegaard had to come up big to deny Shenhua's Australian mid-fielder Joel Griffiths in the dying minutes of an otherwise uneventful first 45. Once again, it was with a faint sense of relief that the Reds trudged to the locker room locked in a less-than-thrilling nil-nil draw.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project Jack D'Or Saison

(6.50% ABV) Poured from a bottle into a modified pilsner glass. Jack D'Or poured a thick, lemony yellow, with a bright white fluffy head.

The beer's smell was all lemon and fresh yeast. It smelled spicy, before I even lifted the beer to my lips.

The tatse, though, was restrained -- very restrained -- with a peppery citrus at the beginning followed by yeasty bite.  The finish was intensely bitter sourness; the hops are definitely apparent on this one.

I've heard a lot about this brewery, but it feels as if they are trying to hard to impress here -- as if the beer is aspiring to be more than it is. I'll give it a B

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Saturday Snoozefest: Manchester United 1 - Ajax Cape Town FC 1

old hairdresser sleeping at work
Photo by on Flickr

To the very bottom of the country we head, as Manchester United travel from Durban down to Cape Town to face an unheralded and eponymous Ajax club on the second leg of the legendary club's pre-season tour. Once again the Gaffer opts for a mix of youthful enthusiasm and veteran leadership, with unfamiliar names such as Marnick Vermijl and Scott Wootton lining up alongside the familiar monikers of Paul Scholes, Antonio Valencia and Chicharito.

Sir Alex chooses today's game to give newboy Shinji Kagawa his first start for the team, a debut eagerly anticipated by the club's legions of fans. Although the names of Robin Van Persie and Lukas Moura continue to be whispered by both fans and press alike, Kagawa is here and now, and we'll look to see how the Japanese international does in his first curtain call. Without any further ado, to a wet but temporarily sunny Cape Town Stadium we go:

o The game began with a frantic pace, easy on the eye for both the fans and neutrals alike. Although the initial pace was fast and furious, the opportunities for goals were few and far between in the early going. United saw more of the ball but the home side performed well, too -- as may be expected of the winners of the domestic South African league.

o Tyler Blackett performed well, showcasing his willingness to get involved in nearly every United attack down the left hand side of the pitch. The teenager ran his legs off in support of his older teammates, displaying a promising mix of speed, athleticism and physical strength.

o It was great to have the MUFC broadcasters calling the game on Fox Soccer, as we don't get the opportunity to hear Stewart Gardner and the irrepressible Paddy Crerand all that often in the States.  One thing I've learned watching this tour is that Paddy is wrong more often than he's right about offside calls -- the club should buck up to get him and Stewart a better view of the action than they must have had.

o It took every bit of 35 minutes for the visitors to direct a ball on net, with Chicharito finally succeeding in testing the Ajax 'keeper with a bouncing header.  Although the watching pleasure had substantially deteiorated from the game's promising opening, the Ajax fans had to be relatively pleased at the deadlock.  The home side defended in numbers throughout the first half, keeping their shape and showing good discipline off the ball.

o My personal highlight of the first 45 minutes of "action": "So, we're in the final minutes of the first half."

o Kagawa displayed some shimmering skills, offering perfectly weighted passes to his teammates that should have led to scores on more than one occasion. Offering just a glimpse of his massive potential was more than enough to make this watcher a true believer -- this man could lead the Leagu in assists this year if he plays like he did on Saturday.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Lucky Bucket Brewing India Pale Ale

Located by a police dragnet after the home office put out an APB, Columnist Ed checks in with a beer review, of all things.  And from Nebraska, no less:

(6.3% ABV) Here I sit in Omaha, Nebraska -- home of the Oracle and a city with more hills than San Francisco.  It's nine hundred and seventy degrees of furnace outside but I'm in the cool AC sipping Nebraska's own Lucky Bucket IPA

It's punchy and hoppy with a mouthful of afters.  Not too light, not too dark, but a true middle of the fairway ale from the middle of the fairway that is the USA.  The labeling is retro and I also like the name. 

Worth a try, especially when it's too hot to do much else.  Lucky Bucket, the everyman's IPA.   Brewed in La Vista, Nebraska.  B

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Manchester United 1 - Amazulu FC 0: The Return of the Reds

photo by Marcus Vegasvia PhotoRee

What a relief. After a tortuous two months of non-Manchester United football, Wednesday finally saw the return of the mighty Reds to our viewing lives. Like water to a parched man, the sights seen on Wednesday will provide sustenance to the club's fanbase worldwide, and an adequate lead up to the beginning of the "real" season in just over a month's time. Viewed on the first leg of their three continent pre-season tour, United faced Amazulu FC in Durban, South Africa, a location known more for its beautiful beaches than the beautiful game. 

To Moses Mabhida Stadium we head, to check in on the United's early progress in what can only be described as an extremely important pre-season tour, given last season's paltry trophy return:

o As was expected, United started a mixed bag of a lineup, featuring veterans Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes among others, but also youngsters Scott Wooton, Robbie Brady, Jesse Lingard and Frederic Veseli. Of note, Dimitar Berbatov was given a rare start -- all the better to show off his wares to any and all interested parties.

o All of the United players looked a bit rusty in the game's opening minutes -- except Paul Scholes. The guy was on song right from the opening kick, and looked as if last season never ended.

o It took 20 minutes to find the net, and although Kiko Macheda got credit for the goal, the through ball from Berba was a piece of art and inch perfect for the setup. In truth, United could have scored multiple times in the minutes prior to the opener, as the disparity in talent was obvious from the opening whistle.

o The home side gained a bit of confidence as the first half wore on, even asking a question or two of United 'keeper Ander Lindegaard before the referee's whistle blew.

o The highlight of the first half came with five minutes to spare, however, as a Berbatov sidewinder volley was just parried over the bar by the Amazulu goalkeeper. The combination of technique and timing captured in one instant the things that are so special about the languid Bulgarian -- who drips talent from either boot every time he touches the ball.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Talkin' Transfers: World Football Roundup

photo by miss pupikvia PhotoRee

Thank God football returns today -- and not a moment too soon.  The last few weeks have felt like an eternity, a desert of boredom in the middle of the European Championship and the summer games.  Sure, it may only be "pre-season" football, but I'm not choosy -- I'll take what I can get.  

Meantime, some parting shots at the latest transfer stories in today's newspapers: 

o Clint Dempsey to Liverpool?  Please don't make me hate America's best footballer.  I could take a move to Arsenal -- I'd welcome it, in fact.  But Liverpool?  That's a whole 'nother kettle of fish....

o Ibra to PSG?  Probably a great signing by the Ligue 1 side.  The guy is a complete enigma, but he's also a proven title winner -- in the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.  The French title seems rather easily within reach with this latest move -- which must be true, as it's already reflected on his Wikipedia entry.  Combined with the signing of Thiago Silva and  coach Carlo Ancelotti, PSG could be a team to watch in next year's Champions League.

o Is the Manchester United transfer saga -- or lack of it -- the most boring football story of the summer?  I wish they'd just sign Baines now so we could get rid of all the other endless links -- along with the inevitable disappointment that will follow.  It's almost enough to make me long for the good old days, in which Wesley Sneijder was regularly spotted in Manchester by someone "in the know...".

o Luka Modric to Real?  The prospect of losing one man crush -- Dimitar Berbatov -- to West Ham is upsetting enough.  But losing Luka to another league altogether would truly be a double blow for this particular writer.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Liverpool Transfer Talk

Columnist Scott Prefers to Type his Blogs on a Typewriter That Dates Back to Liverpool's Last Championship
photo by Ben Sutherlandvia PhotoRee

Columnist Scott looks at Liverpool's off-season moves to date:

Brendan Rodgers was trying to be coy about whom he might sign this week or next, promising only that the Liverpool faithful will be “excited”.  As it turns out, it was Fabio Borini whom he fancied and finally signed.  Borini previously played under Rodgers at Chelsea and Swansea but spent last season scoring 10 goals in 26 appearances for Roma.  I honestly don’t know enough about Borini to form an opinion on the matter.  On the one hand, it is exciting to see new blood that is specifically chosen by the new manager.  On the other hand, Borini couldn’t even get on the field for his nation during Euro 2012.  But, he is only 21, his team is Italy and Cesc Fabregas had trouble getting on the field for his team, too.

Ever more interesting to me, especially in light of this acquisition, is all the talk regarding a possible loan move for Andy Carroll.  I have mixed emotions on the topic as he clearly did not live up to expectations during the season but then he (1) was injured at the beginning and (2) never seemed to get regular playing time to get back “in the groove”.  Plus, his performance at the Euros shows the big forward he can be.  Unfortunately for Carroll, it would seem, simply by inspecting history, that Rodgers’ gameplan does not require a big forward.

As much as I loved seeing Liverpool players in the England squad at the recent Euros, I have to admit I was scratching my head when I saw Jordan Henderson inserted against Italy.  Despite showing infrequent bursts of ability, Henderson, more than any other Dalglish signee (including Downing), failed to impress last year.  Quite frankly, if Rodgers is looking to put anyone out on loan, he should consider the English youngster who could really benefit from more time to develop.

Despite being on contract for a while longer, Rodgers has been eager to report that he is near to extending Luis Suarez’ contract.  Mixed emotions again invade my humble brainspace as I weigh the Uruguayan’s abilities against his antics.  Perhaps a season of head-down, mouth-shut playing will put the bad taste of last year’s Evra fiasco far enough in the rear-view mirror.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

One Mo', Possibly Two: The Next Manchester United Signing

Leighton Baines
Photo by Wonker on Flickr

Manchester United held a press conference on Thursday to introduce the club's two newest signings, midfielders Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell.  Kagawa joins United after having recently been crowned as the inaugural Bundesliga Player of the Year.  The Japanese international's arrival at Old Trafford has generated a fair bit of excitement among the United faithful, who hope Kagawa can repeat his exploits while deployed in a forward midfield position for the Reds.  The club's other signing, Powell, arrives with a bit less fanfare but lots of raised hopes, with the promising work for his hometown club, Crewe Alexandra, offering Sir Alex and his staff a glimpse of the 18 year old's prodigious talents.

After introducing both new players, Sir Alex fielded some additional questions from the press, which inevitably asked if this year's transfer work was over.  In his response, the Scotsman let it be known that there may be one or -- breathe easy, United fans -- two more names still to join prior to the closing of the transfer window.  Although he would have preferred to have his transfer business done and dusted by this point, due largely to the European Championship this summer United's dealings have been delayed.
"There will possibly be one more. We have always done well in terms of getting players in at the end of the season. That is the right time.
But always in a European Championship or World Cup year, there is a delay in the transfer industry. That is over now and we are still trying to get one more in."
-- Sir Alex Ferguson, July 12, 2012
Although rumors are swirling fast and furiously that the one additional signing may be Lucas Moura or Leighton Baines, the club has also been linked lately with everyone from Robin Van Persie to Luka Modric and several players in between.  So what do the staff at farlieonfootie think of the various prospects?  Worry no further, dear readers -- our thoughts are shown below:

Robin Van Persie: Not a prayer.  Robin will be wearing the butt-ugly kit of our cross-town rivals in about five weeks' time -- after dominating the back page of the British tabloids for the next month and a half. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Karl Strauss Brewing Windansea Wheat Hefeweizen

(5.90% ABV) This next beer was reviewed while sitting outdoors at the Alfresco Lounge at the Golden Vine Winery at Disney's California Adventure.  It was a bit difficult to discern the color, as Windansea was poured into a yellow plastic cup, so I'm not even going to guess.  I was able to tell that the beer had a big, fluffy white head of foam on top before I started drinking it.

The beer exuded a spicy, yeasty smell, and the aroma of wheat was readily noticeable, too. It also offered the rather strong smell of bananas, very typical for the style.

The banana notes continued to dominate the upfront taste, although other tropical fruits slipped their way into the palate, as well. It's a mellow, well balanced Hefeweizen.  I'd definitely have another as the parade floats slowly by.... B

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Brasserie de Tahiti Hinano American Adjunct Lager

(5.00% ABV)  Drunk in the pleasantly dim interior of Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar at DisneylandHinano pours a pale gold color, as clear as a bell, with a rather luscious white head of foam.

The smell is rather vague, but bready would be the way I would choose to best describe it if pushed. I'm also getting a whiff of corn.

The flavor is about average for a macro-style lager. I'm getting primarily corn flavor, with just a trailing hint of honey. It's got a decent mouthfeel, pleasantly tingly on the tongue, and goes down rather easily.

It's not a beer I would drink regularly, but given its rarity for this non west-coaster -- this is the first time I've seen Hinano since a trip to Tahiti a decade or so ago -- it's one I'd try again. B-

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Ninkasi Brewing Believer Double Red Ale

(6.90% ABV)  Poured in a Oregon hotel room into a cheap plastic cup, Believer is a much darker brown than expected, and appears thinnish, with virtually no head apparent.

The beer's smell is dominated by upfront malt, and a slight hint of sweet dark fruits.

It's the taste that really sets this beer apart.  The fruits, especially the cherries, make themselves readily apparent when tasting Believer. This is a very different beer from every other red ale I've ever had, and I'm pleasantly surprised. It's not usually my favorite style, but I have to give the boys from Eugene their props on this one: I really like it.  

The bittering hops become apparent only on the finish, as they balance out the upfront sweetness nicely. This beer has a medium mouthfeel and is pleasantly carbonated, making the tongue tingle when drinking.  Ninkasi's definitely made a Believer out of me: A-

Friday, July 6, 2012

Game Day beer Review: Alaskan Brewing Amber Altbier

(5.30% ABV)  I drank this beer at the Seascape restaurant in Trinidad, California, located on the Golden State's fabled Lost Coast, near the giant redwoods.  While the food and atmosphere at the restaurant were only so-so at best, I will say that the place had a decent selection of local and various other craft beers.

Alaskan Amber poured an ultra clear amber color, with almost no head.  The beer smelled primarily of sweet malts, with some light toffee notes also evident.

Amber was extremely fresh tasting, cool and clear, all malt, and relatively sweet.  It was well carbonated, and went down very easily. Although I'd definitely have another, I wouldn't travel all the way to Alaska to get it -- or even California for that matter. B

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Arrivederci, Paul Pogba

photo by Crystian Cruzvia PhotoRee

And good riddance.  As this space has consistently pointed out in the past (see Hargreaves, Owen) if you're not inclined to wear the shirt of Manchester United any longer, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

I don't profess to be an expert on the skills of the young French midfielder.  In fact, the only true opportunities I had to see him play came just this past season when he made a few cameos for the senior squad, after impressing at the reserve level.  Sure, I saw flashes of what made Warren Joyce and the reserve team afficianados whet their lips with anticipation, but I also saw a young player that still needed time and room to grow into his game.  In essence, I saw a product which showed great potential, but was far from finished goods.

But Pogba apparently disagreed, and rather than learn his trade at right hand of one of the proven masters of bringing young football players up through the ranks (see Ronaldo, Cristiano and Beckham, David), chose to cast his fate toward Turin.  While I wish the young Frenchman no harm, I find fault with the way that he chose to conduct himself throughout the last several months -- apparently signing a contract with Juve quite some time ago, yet refusing to acknowledge his plans to David Gill, Sir Alex and the rest of the United management team.
Pogba signed for Juventus a long time ago as far as we're aware.  Which is disappointing.

I don't think he showed us any respect at all, so -- to be honest -- I'm quite happy."
-- Sir Alex Ferguson
In essence, Pogba displayed an utter lack of respect in making his move to Juve -- playing United along while already having a deal in place with the Italians.  And make no mistake: respect is a big thing to Sir Alex. 

The Scotsman makes certain his charges are crystal clear that playing for United is a privilege and not a right.  To pull on the red and black kit is a badge of honor, and not a choice to be taken lightly.  We glean this little insight from a  prior epidode in which a certain English striker threatened to leave United -- and was told by Sir Alex that if that was indeed his choice, he should at least remember to "respect the club."  No player is bigger than the club, and certainly no player that disrespects the club is going to be missed by anyone associated with United -- least of all Sir Alex. 

Happy Fourth of July

photo by peasapvia PhotoRee

We're keeping an eye out for all the footie news so you don't have to, while also wishing our readers in the United States a very happy Fourth of July.  Enjoy the celebration....!

This is an independent farlieonfootie for July 4.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Reign in Spain: Spain 4 - Italy 0

photo by pasotraspasovia PhotoRee

Columnist Scott -- a veritable dynasty of the written word himself -- passes judgment on a Spain team that may go down as the world's best ever:

Vicente del Bosque has been alternately extolled and vilified by the media throughout the Euro  tournament which just concluded, but Spain's victory over Italy in the 2012 Final can't be interpreted as anything other than vindication for La Roja Furia's coach.  Attacking from the start despite that nontraditional formation that lacked a formal striker, the Spanish instantly placed the Azzuri on their heels and needed fewer than 15 minutes to go ahead.  Cesc Fabregas could have put it only one place for David Silva, which he skillfully did for the diminutive Manchester City playmaker to head home at full stride.

Silva's Manchester City teammate, Mario Balotelli, however, had his Super Mario cape confiscated in Kiev. A frustrating day for the mohawked phenom saw him limited mostly to pot shots from distance. Spain's back line, and Sergio Ramos in particular, deserve credit for personifying Mario's kryptonite as they consistently withstood and reciprocated the Italian's muscling style of play.

But the victory was not all Spain all the time. When Xavi put Jordi Alba thru to double the lead, Italy responded valiantly for 10 - 15 minutes as they sought to bring the game back into reach.   But then Spain re-asserted their dominance once more and mostly controlled from then on, showing frequent flairs of the type of football their critics had recently insisted they were lacking.

When Italy did threaten, Iker Casillas was more than up to the task, parrying away a couple hard shots and swatting away a pair of dangerous corners.


Coaching questions must be asked of Cesare Prandelli who inserted Giorgio Chiellini into the lineup despite the Juventus defender struggling with fitness and missing earlier games. While he may be the best Italy has, that is only true when he's 100 percent fit. Not surprisingly, Prandelli was made to pay when forced to substitute the fullback in the 21st minute as the injured hamstring tweaked again.

Tactics and coaching do matter. To wit, when Prandelli then subbed again in the 56th minute, it was his third and final instead of his second. That proved to be a fatal flaw when Thiago Motta went down to injury after only minutes on the pitch and the brave Azzuri were forced to play the balance of the game with only 10 men.

Pulling two goals back with 11 healthy players is a monstrous feat against the reigning world champions - it's impossible with only 10.  This axiom was proven when the stretched and tiring Italians conceded twice more in the final 10 minutes.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Almanac Brewing 2012 Winter Wit Belgian White Ale

(7.00% ABV) Bottle 5027 of a limited 2012 release, from a company that practices farm to bottle brewing.  My understanding is that this means the brewery purchases all of the ingredients for this beer from one family-owned farm in Northern California.

Winter Wit poured a cloudy orangish-yellow with a thick, fluffy white head. There was ample carbonation evident, even in the glass.

The dominant smell was of yeast, with a certain sourness also noticeable.  I also picked up some citrus notes, maybe lemon and possibly also ginger.

The beer had a mellow ginger taste, and the orange taste came through a little later, as well. It was a very nice balance achieved by the brewers between sweet and sour, a yin-yang kind of thing. Winter Wit was definitely more substantial than a breezy summer white, as if the brewers gave this one a very stiff backbone to stand up to those cooler Northern California nights. I like it: B+