Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Great Advertisement: Week 9 in the BPL

photo by Kate Raynes-Goldievia PhotoRee

o We saw a great advertisement for the Championship this weekend. Unfortunately, it involved Aston Villa playing Norwich City in the Premier League.

o Can it be a coincidence that Mark Hughes' teams keep hitting the self destruct button with late game  red cards?  It's relatively easy to blame the ill-tempered players who commit the rash acts, but when it happens repeatedly it's a sign of poor discipline -- and that problem deserves to be laid squarely at the doorstep of the Manager.  Sorry, Sparky, but your time is up.

o Telling scene of the day: While Micah Richards was being attended to by a number of medical staff, given oxygen and being placed on a stretcher, teammates Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko felt the situation called for...a few quick jokes over on the sideline. Nice job, guys. I'm sure Micah your concern.

o Call him a diving cheat, and you'd be only half right. Luis Suarez' purposeful stamp on Sylvain Distin's Achilles heel shows exactly what type of player the Uruguayan is: a dirty, diving cheat.  Regardless, David Moyes is probably glad he's seen the last of the ugly Uruguayan for some time, and it's only reluctantly that we name Suarez our Player of the Week.

o What a wild ending for Fulham and Reading on Saturday; three goals in the final eight minutes will do that to you....  While he must have thought for certain that he scored a late winner, it was still great to see a smile back on Dimitar Berbatov's face as he handed his team the lead, an advantage they soon coughed back up. 

If Berba and Chicharito are smiling, it's a great week in English football.  This is a smiling farlieonfootie for October 31, wishing a Happy Halloween to all our friends.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Big Sky Brewing Moose Drool Brown Ale

(5.10% ABV) Moose Drool was served on draft in a pint glass in Las Vegas, Nevada. It poured a dark brown color with red highlights, and a very thin off-white head. There was some light lacing left behind as the head receded.

The beer was very mild smelling, with just a hint of chocolate and a slightly nutty overtone.

The nutty flavor followed upon tasting the beer, as well -- we got mellow peanuts and dark chocolate when we drank it. There was also some coffee and nut flavor on the finish. The beer had medium carbonation, and a medium mouthfeel. It's eminently drinkable: B+

Monday, October 29, 2012

Can You Hear the Drums, Fernando?: Manchester United 3 - Chelsea 2

IMG_6000 - Corps of Drums
Photo by tony.evans on Flickr

Q. So, Sir Alex employed a diamond formation to slow down the Chelsea midfield, correct?

A. A funny thing happened on the way to a diamond in the midfield, and it's name was Ashley Young. Unexpectedly in the starting lineup for the first time in ages, Young was part of a four man midfield that saw United playing their traditional 4-4-2 attack. Although anchored up top by Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, the starting XI saw Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia join Young in the middle of the park. As per usual these days, the defense consisted of Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra, with David De Gea in the net.

Q. So, Chelsea obviously took the lead.  How early did their first goal  come..?

A. In the fourth minute. Off the back of David Luiz. Into his own net, remarkably.  And just like that, instead of trailing, the Reds found themselves in an unfamiliar position this season, a goal to the good at the Bridge.

Q. The Chelsea response...?

A. They gave up another goal before the 12th minute had ticked by. Two attacks, 2-nil United, with Van Persie left all by his lonesome at the top of the box to finish off a sublime Valencia pull back.

Q. The strangest moment of the first half?

A. It had to be David De Gea's foot save of David Luiz's swerving free kick. Now THAT was different.

Q. Amazing....  How'd the two teams look?

A. Chelsea looked slightly rattled for the first half hour, while United looked smooth as silk. I can't remember another half of football this season in which United looked so dangerous on the ball. When the game hit 35 minutes, though, Chelsea began to find their footing in the match and put on a spell of sustained pressure.  They eventually set siege to the United goal.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: The Bruery Autumn Maple Ale

(10.00% ABV)  Poured on draft into a tulip glass at the Public House in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Autumn Maple Ale is dark brown with a thin mocha head that leaves behind lacing with some serious legs.

It smells a bit like a Belgian, with the sweet scent of candy syrup present. There's also some hop presence. I'm not getting much yam, to be truthful, but not sure I would recognize what a yam smells like.

Upon tasting, though, one word springs to mind: smooth. This beer is really smooth. The maple syrup is definitely present, but very mellow. The beer itself is relatively light bodied, but with a rich mouthfeel, if that makes sense.

The high ABV is relatively well hidden. A-

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Ale

(9.60% ABV) Poured on draft at the home office, Bigfoot Barleywine Ale was a perfect tawny brownish color, with red highlights where the glass was hit by the light. The beer had a huge mocha head, which left behind lacing as thick as shaving cream.

Sierra Nevada's trademark hops were clearly evident upon the first smell, along with a certain chocolate and cinnamon depth and complexity to the scent.

When tatsted, the beer displayed some mild citrus flavors with a strong malt backbone. The hops were also noticeable on the taste, which packed a huge bitter finish. The alcoholic esters were there to remind the drinker of the potent punch this beer packs.

It had a semi-oily, medium mouthfeel with a decent amount of carbonation.  Recommended for the Holidays and beyond: A

Friday, October 26, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Brouwerij Liefmans Cuvee Brut Kriek

Poured from the bottle at the home office.

Cuvee Brut displayed no head at all upon pouring, although the cork came off the bottle with a well energized popping sound. The beer poured the color of port; a dark brown that was unable to be seen through.

This unique Belgian beer offered a strong whiff of cherries and sour funk; the scent of plums was also evident upon smelling it more closely.

The beer's taste is both sour and sweet at the same time; it reminded us a bit of a very complex Sweet-Tart, with the lingering flavor of mascerated cherries.

It's probably not for everyone, but we found it a fantastically complex beer to sip. A-

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The X Factor: Five Thoughts on Manchester City

photo by Sberla_via PhotoRee

A recently received postcard from Correspondent Ed:

I wanted to write about Spurs this week, but...that West Bromwich Albion versus Manchester City game was just too good to ignore, so here's five thoughts instead:

1. Ben Foster's reckless decision to come out and attack a Carlos Tevez free kick was so bad that it honestly made me wonder if he had money on City.  West Brom had an easy 3 points against a City side down to ten men after a first half red to Milner, when Foster just plain choked. Even his execution was terrible. Uggh.

2. Turning to James Milner, he was caught trying to recover from yet another poor play by Vincent Kompany, who's terrible season continues. That said, Milner's decision was not noble, but terrible, as well. You've got enough great players to recover from a goal - which was anything but certain, by the way - and leaving your team a man down just seems crazy even though it worked out.

3. How about Edin Dzeko? The guy puts two in the back of the net in about 15 minutes of play -- remind me, why isn't he starting? Not unlike their cross-town rivals United, City is stacked up top with Tevez, Kun Aguero, Dzeko and Mario alotelli.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Little Pea Comes Up Big: Manchester United 3 - FC Braga 2

photo by Muffetvia PhotoRee

Q. So, how did last night's starting lineup shape up?

A. There were a number of unsurprising changes, as the game against Chelsea this weekend figured prominently into Fergie's plans. Which meant a Champions League debut for Alexander Buttner, a recall for Darren Fletcher, Tom Cleverley and Shinji Kagawa, a return from exile for Chicharito, and a move to center back for -- wait for it, wait for it -- Michael Carrick.

Q. [Insert obligatory question about conceding an early goal]

A. Yes, it happened again, this time in the [fill in the blank] minute. It may be better at this point in the season if Sir Alex would just agree to spot the opposition a goal so there wouldn't be a surprise as to when the road team will take the lead at Old Trafford.

Q. Anything else catch your eye in the early going?

A. Yes, but rather it was what wasn't there than what was that was most noticeable. We felt a palpable lack of urgency from the home side, who appeared put upon that they were required to work on a Tuesday evening. Some may quibble and call it "patience," but that particular word implies a team waiting for the right opportunity to strike. If United were patient for the first 20 minutes of last night's action, it was only because there wasn't a single opportunity available, with the team making no concerted effort to create one. Malaise may be a more apt description of the Red's general first half mood.

Q. How'd that central partnership between Carrick and Evans work out?

A. Other than gift wrapping and handing over a second goal to Braga before the 20 minute mark, they were great. We think Sir Alex may be onto something big here.

Q. Well, don't leave me hanging here -- Did anyone ultimately step up for the home side?

A. Chicharito did, obviously while he wasn't fantasizing what it would be like to play regularly for Atletico Madrid. The speedy Mexican timed his run to perfection before nodding down Kagawa'a cross, shaking the home crowd out of its stupor and giving them something to cheer about. Chicha also benefitted from a well-judged decision by the Serbian referee, who allowed play to continue after a foul on RVP, but we'll circle back to that subject in a minute.

Q. Did things change in the second half?

A. Not immediately, although there were some signs that the game was going to spring to life: Nani replacing Kagawa, the defense pushing higher up the pitch, United closing down the opposition, etc. The sustained pressure finally resulted in a Jonny Evans equalizer, with the scorer more unexpected than the result.

Q. And then...?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Please Cancel the Fruit Basket: Week 8 in the BPL

photo by Earl-Wilkersonvia PhotoRee

o We have no idea what Andre Villas-Boas was furiously scribbling in his notebook on the sideline of spurs' 4-2 loss to Chelsea on Saturday, but we hope it had something to do with teaching his players how to hold onto a second half lead.

o farlieonfootie held an office competition this week, in which the loser was forced to watch all of Fulham hosting Aston Villa on Saturday at Craven Cottage. Needless to say, the boss lost -- twice. Although Fulham may have nipped the win in the dying moments, we were long asleep by that time despite the daytime kickoff.

o So if it's time for the Tyne-Wear derby it must be time for the referee to perform a pre-game check on the whereabouts of his red card. This time is was Cheick Tiote playing the part of the unwilling participant, a victim of his own aggressiveness and the natural order of things when these two rivals collide. Of course, it took about 45 minutes for Sunderland to figure out they were the team with the man advantage, but by the time they worked it out it was all they could do to manage a draw with an undermanned Toon side.

o We'll bet James Milner isn't planning to send any fruit baskets Vincent Kompany's way this week. After finally being handed a rare start in midfield for the Citizens, Milner may be forgiven for being slightly peeved at his Captain, who momentarily forgot his role as last line of defense while he was busy daydreaming what it must feel like to be Cristiano Ronaldo. Needlessly stripped of the ball while attempting to carry it across the midfield line, Kompany left Milner totally exposed.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Lagunitas Brewing Undercover Investigation Shut-down American Strong Ale

(9.75% ABV) Poured from the bottle at the home office. Undercover Investigation Shut-down Ale is a clear-as-a-bell, deep copper color with a thick head that sticks around for good long while.

The beer smells of caramel and hops, with slight alcoholic esters also noticeable.

The sweet malt gives this beer a well-defined backbone, but it's not the only element you notice when you taste it; that's because the piny-tasting hops are also well apparent. The brewers at Lagunitas got the balance between these two elements just about pitch perfect.

The beer's got a lightish mouthfeel for such a high ABV quaff, and is moderately carbonated.  Recommended: A

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wayne's World: Manchester United 4 - Stoke City 2

Wayne's World (Art Dolls Premium)
Photo by MEDIODESCOCIDO on Flickr

Q. Was there anyone unexpected in the Manchester United starting lineup yesterday?

A. Why yes, of course, thanks for asking. Despite our undying love for him, we nevertheless found it somewhat surprising to see David De Gea in between the sticks for the home side, given the Spaniard's reputation for weakness in the air and the Potters' inclination to lob high balls into the box.

Q. How'd the game open?

A. In typical United style, as Wayne Rooney opened his scoring account for the season. Unfortunately for the Reds, it was an own goal that Wazza contributed to the cause as the visitors took an early lead. Again.

Q. So the defensive miscues were back?

A. Yes, in all their glory. United's back line somehow contrived to make John Walters and Peter Crouch look like Xavi and Lionel Messi. A very thick Xavi and extremely tall Lionel Messi, mind you, but you get the point.

Q. [Insert typical Van Persie goal/equalizer question, etc.]

A. Surprisingly, no. Once again it was Wayne Rooney to the fore, leveling the score line at one, and finally hitting the back of the net at the right end of the pitch.  It's worth noting that RVP's cross set up the goal, however: struck low and hard, the Flying Dutchman put the ball on a platter for his striker-cum-midfielder partner in crime.

Q. [Insert typical Van Persie goal/equalizer question, etc., again]

A. Yes, on the stroke of halftime, Robin was in the net, off a terrific Antonio Valencia cross, one which nutmegged the Stoke defender. Van Persie contorted his body just so to steer the ball into the side netting for his eighth United goal of the season, displaying his world class talent for all to see and allowing the rather placid Old Trafford crowd to show off a modicum of their enthusiasm.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

He Gets No Respect, I Tell Ya

USA - Honduras 6
Photo by NathanF on Flickr

Full Disclosure: Although Correspondent Scott wrote this piece, Correspondents Mark and Ed unwittingly contributed to it via drunken comments made while watching the USA-Guatemala game on 10/16/2012.

Clint Dempsey led the Premier League in scoring by a midfielder last year; was behind only Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Kun Aguero in scoring overall; and had previously not only played a pivotal role in saving his then-new team from relegation in 2007, but also went on to be a key to their run to the finals of the Europa League after that. He was rookie of the year in his domestic league before making the jump to the EPL and has become the backbone of his national team. With such a resume, one would think that Clint would be revered, respected and rewarded. Instead it seems he is only begrudgingly acknowledged by the British media and “worth” only a paltry £6 million in a transfer to Tottenham (Liverpool not wanting to pay a dollar more, to their detriment).

So, the question is “Why?”  A large sampling of three biased Americans agree that it’s because he is American. Give him a passport of any EU country or an Asian country and he would be heralded as the second coming, a la Shinji Kagawa. But, despite rivaling Chicharito’s jam-packed highlight reel of being in the right place at the right time for a sliding tap-in goal, his stars are overpowered by his stripes which merely serve to imprison him in a confounding and belittling cell of second-rank status. I tell ya’....

If respect were measured by the impact one has on a team, Clint would shine since his previous team has plummeted and his current team has soared. Or if it were measured by that other uncanningly reliable barometer of truth – gambling (or in this case, fantasy soccer) – he would similarly sparkle as everybody wanted the tattooed scoring machine last year. For crying out loud, he deserves at least a modicum of respect for joining the ranks of professional athletes whose insanely hot wives wouldn’t look at them twice were it not for their ability to earn obscene amounts of money making balls succumb to their will.

Yet, despite the attention, deservedly so, that Landon Donovan gets, it’s the tattooed, perpetually sweaty/angry Dempsey who now seems to singlehandedly lift team USA when it needs it most, whether it be via a brace against Guatemala or the three other goals he scored in the latest round of qualifying. He’s a talented warrior - when he steps on the pitch the other team is the enemy and he let’s them know it, from scowls and jawing to shoulder shrugs to the nearest official. Fortunately, he doesn’t go down as easily as he used to. Now he just seems genuinely to be offended that the opposing player would disrupt his genius with a pedestrian foul. As if he feels he has risen from the redneckness of Nacogdoches to the royalty of London, that the commoners who deign to compete with him should have the good manners not to touch him. Of course by royal fiat it is decreed that he can touch them as hard as he likes.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Kiuchi Brewery Hitachino Nest White Ale

Ode to Hitachino Nest Ale, in the form of a semi-authentic Japanese haiku:

Gold straw and bone white,

With ginger spice, orange and yeast.

A bird's nest, to drink.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Further Thoughts from the Great American Beer Festival

Correspondent Ed likes to drink while barefoot
photo by Kingfoxvia PhotoRee

We've been inundated by our readers with requests for a list of the best beers we had the pleasure of drinking while out at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver last week, and we've decided to respond. Today's entry will offer you some brief thoughts on which beers struck a particular chord with our educated tasting panel.  Although the beers below may not appear on the list of Medal winners at the event, in our opinions they were the best of the small and somewhat random sample we tasted, and well worth seeking out:

Stone Brewing Suitable for Cave Aging American Porter: Another monster beer from one of the craft beer industry's biggest names. Brewed in memory of Danny Williams, and a beer of which Stone can be justifiably proud.

Great Northern Brewing Wild Huckleberry Wheat: Montana's best known craft brewery produces an extremely drinkable wheat ale flavored with native huckleberries. It's a unique spin on a lighter beer, and almost as cool as the retro Airstream camper the brewery brought along as a prop for photo opportunities.

Hoppin' Frog Brewery B.O.R.I.S the Crusher Oatmeal Imperial Stout. Big, boozy and chocolate. Boris lives up to its name.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven Tilburg's Dutch Brown Belgian Dark Ale

(5.00% ABV) Poured from the bottle, enjoyed while sitting outside and enjoying a perfectly sunny Denver afternoon.

Tilburg's Dutch Brown Ale was a thick, deep brown color, just about the same shade as prune juice. The beer had a thin, off-white head that left behind some minimal acing.

Tilburg's had a very sweet smell, almost too sweet for our liking. Malt and some unknown dark fruits were what first sprang to mind upon smelling it.

The taste was sweet, too, and dominated by malt, although there was also a certain Belgian funkiness apparent.  It has a nice crispness to it, and a medium mouthfeel.  It wasn't our favorite brown ale, but we'd certainly try it again: B-

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: New Belgium Lips of Faith -- Peach Porch Lounger Saison

(9.4% ABV)  Poured on draft into a pint glass in Denver, Colorado. A limited one-off release from Colorado's New Belgium Brewery, Peach Porch Lounger arrived a murky gold color with very little head visible.  

Peaches lead the smell, but the sour funk of brettanomyces is also immediately evident. 

Whoah!  This beer really comes to life upon tasting.  Peaches dominate the upfront, while there is more than a bit of brett on the back end.  The beer was medium in mouth feel, and we found it very nicely balanced, given the yin yang of its sweet and sour taste. A-

Monday, October 15, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest Marzen

(5.0% ABV) Poured on draft at Yardhouse in Denver, Colorado, while out in that fair city for the 2012 Great American Beer Festival.  Produced by one of California's hottest breweries, Oaktoberfest was a crystal clear copper color, and arrived well carbonated with a small white head.

The beer's smell was extremely mild, with malt the only scent that really stood out.

This beer had an easy drinking malty, biscuity flavor.  Typical of most marzens, it wasn't overly complex, but this effort was rather more straightforward than I expected out of this top-rated brewery.  There was the slightest note of oak on the finish.

Overall, we would say Oaktoberfest is a good, but not great beer.  If they're offering, we're drinking, but we're not going out of our way to track it down. B

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Our Thoughts on the 2012 Great American Beer Festival

photo by popculturegeek.comvia PhotoRee

It was when we saw two grown men dressed up as Super Mario and Luigi of Nintendo fame that it dawned on us that all beer festivals are somewhat alike in nature. Sure, the Great American Beer Festival held in Denver this weekend is larger than the rest -- it featured an astounding 650+ breweries and more than 2,000 beers -- but it still struck us as somewhat similar in nature to the other beers events we've attended over the past couple of years, gatherings in Columbia, South Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina and Jupiter, Florida: craft beer lovers in their element, having a good time while walking around and sampling the various offerings from some of the country's top brewers.

The attendees represented a broad swath of middle America. While many were Denver locals, there were also a huge number of visitors from out of town who journeyed to the festival. Some patrons were normal looking, others not so much. Some were of the beer geek variety ("What kind of barrels was this beer aged in?"), and others more firmly in the novice camp ("I'll try some of that yellow one, please."). But while there may have been profound differences amongst the gatherers in terms of knowledge and attire, there were also some baisc commonalities: a true love of good beer, and for most of the participants -- at least of the male variety, anyway -- a healthy amount of respect for facial hair and hats. And the weirder, the better, as far as that last point goes.

And so it was that we came to see men dressed as cowboys roaming the dusty plains (okay, actually the convention center floor) in search of their next watering hole, and women dressed as pirate wenches and German fräuleins standing in line for the buffet sponsored by the American Cheese Society. This disparate group -- men in Top Gun flight suits and Olympic track suits among them -- all descended on Denver this past week in search of good beer.  And that's exactly what they got.

As we noted yesterday, farlieonfootie dispatched a team of our top correspondents to the festival to give you their impressions: the sights, sounds and smells of Denver, if you will. But a funny thing happened on our way to that report: although we fully intended to cover the event from all angles, after one too many two ounce beer samples all hell broke loose and that plan went completely awry. By the break of dawn Saturday, after almost 48 hours in the arena, most of our team could hardly remember that they attended the festival, never mind recall what they actually did there.

But as is typical of this blog, we have somehow managed to snatch a narrow victory from the gaping jaws of defeat, and piece together some of our staff's semi-intelligible notes and photo streams to make up the following report:

o Judging by line length, the hottest craft breweries in the country right now are as follows: Russian River (California), Dogfish Head (Delaware), Cigar City (Florida), Bear Republic (California) and Firestone Walker (California). While there may be bigger names out there (think Sierra Nevada and New Belgium) the buzz of the aforementioned breweries, combined with their relative scarcity in the Colorado market, meant long waits for the beers of those hot names.

o Sour beers are definitely in. Like Pavlov's bell, anything made with Brettanomyces is guaranteed to cause a beer geek's mouth to begin salivating.

o We were shocked at how many breweries there actually are in this country; it's not until they're lined up side-by-side that one can truly appreciate the sheer number of small market brewers whose businesses have come to life over the past several years. With roughly 25-30% of all breweries in the country attending GABF, it boggles even our beer-educated minds as to how many of them we'd never heard of. Which prompts the following existential question in our minds: If a brewery makes beer that no one has ever heard of, does it really exist...?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tally Ho!

photo by PhillipCvia PhotoRee

We don't know what they're teaching on the training grounds at Cobham, but it certainly appears that, in addition to any footballing lessons they may be learning, Chelsea players could use a crash course in Twitter etiquette. Although the Manchester United players who use Twitter may be in need of a spelling refresher, it's a good thing that swear words are so easy to spell -- first Ashley Cole and now Ryan Bertrand seem to have that part down cold.

o I read an interesting article in the New York Times this week about how certain British-isms are stealthily working their way into "American" English.  Words like "mate" for friend, "ring" for calling someone on a phone, and "flat" for apartment. Pretty soon we'll be talking about donning our kits and putting on our boots before running out onto the pitch. Oh, we're actually doing that already here on this website..... Just another example of how farlieonfootie has always been about setting trends rather than reacting to them....

Friday, October 12, 2012

Separated at Birth: Week 7 in the BPL

o The most memorable moment from City's 3-0 thumping of Sunderland at home on Saturday?: Super Mario's long, slow walk to the tunnel after being withdrawn for Sergio Aguero at the game's 55 minute mark. With everyone else on the team celebrating an easy home victory, you know the question that's got to be foremost on Balotelli's mind: Why always me...?

o Chelsea looked about as comfortable as you can possibly appear against a Premier League aide while playing a hapless Norwich City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

o Who needs Daniel Day-Lewis when you have Eden Hazard? It's been bothering us for a few weeks now, but we finally figured it out: slap a stovepipe hat and an old, musty dark suit on him, and Eden Hazard could easily pass for the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. 

Separated at Birth

o We meant to offer some pithy comments on Everton vs. Wigan, but we have to be honest with you: an Oktoberfest event came calling instead. You choose: Everyon against Wigan, or several big, cold daytime beers calling your name.... I thought so.

o Bogus Yellow Card of the week: Theo Walcott being cautioned for excessive celebration when he launched himself into the first row of the Arsenal supporters after putting the Gunners up 2-1 against West Ham. To which we say about the FA: You're a #BunchOfTwats.

o Three thoughts while watching Arsenal 3 - West Ham 1: 1) Andy Carroll looks rejuvenated -- Big Sam's system fits him to a T; 2) if Theo Walcott has emerged from his exile and can rediscover the rich vein of scoring form he hit last season, the sky is the limit as to just how good this Arsenal team can become -- they seemingly have a wealth of attacking options; and 3) once again, Santi Cazorla ran the show for the Gunners. Remember when David Villa was the hot Spanish import in the BPL? Yeah, well no longer.... Cazorla looked cutting and dangerous at all times on Saturday -- our only concern is that he also looks a bit like "that" type of player when playing teams that practice the traditional lumbering English style of football -- he may be able to cut apart the West Hams and Stokes of the world, but can he do it against one of the "big" teams...?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Happy Days: Tottenham Hotspur 2 - Aston Villa 0

photo by UggBoy♥UggGirl [ PHOTO // WORLD // TRAVEL ]via PhotoRee
He's baaaack. We're talking about Correspondent Ed, of course....:
I was all geared up for an article by Correspondent James after the Spurs beat poor United at Old Trafford for the first time since I was in college. I could taste the put downs of the boss-man. The zingers about RVP's petulance and Scholes' crazy big age. But unfortunately it didn't happen, and now the moment has passed. But Spurs followed up that victory with yet another win. So instead of lamenting the Spurs – comfort food to most Tottenham fans – let's give them some big love for a nice start to the campaign.

It all starts with the Manager, of course, and for now it's hard not to conclude that AVB seems to have found his home. Despite his somewhat bizarre handling of the Hugo Lloris / Brad Friedel mess, AVB has made the right calls of late. Part of that is due to Clint Dempsey, a player that's been an improvement over Gylfi Sigurdsson at the Number 10 position. Dempsey may be less of a pure distributor than Gylfi, but he's much better on the ball and more dangerous near the goal. He and Defoe have successfully opened up space for Bale and Lennon by virtue of their strong runs off the ball, something Gylfi is more reluctant to do as he seems more of a holder than a thrusting attacker.

With respect to Defoe, who would have thought that he would have more goals at this point in the season then Wayne Rooney ? Defoe has shown his critics yet again that he's a dangerous front man with a quick release. Will Defoe fade away once Emmanuel Adebayor returns from injury? Perhaps, but hopefully not.

Spurs defense has been notable as well. William Gallas, who Uncle Harry brought to Spurs for exactly zero pounds, has been tremendous at the back. I'm not sure what Arsenal saw as the problem with the defender other than his age. But age alone doesn't dictate ability, and clearly he's led the defense as well as most any center back in the EPL. Compare him to United's Rio Ferdinand, for example, and tell me who has had a better season.

Jan Vertonghen has also been very strong offensively as well as defensively. He's done a much better job than I thought he could at left back with BAE out of the lineup. He's marches forward still seem a bit awkward to me, but they're definitely effective.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Of Fouls and Flops: Liverpool 0 - Stoke City 0

photo by _redheatvia PhotoRee

Correspondent Scott calls it like he sees it:

A team of large, striped battering rams marched into Anfield on Sunday determined to bludgeon the Reds until more than just their uniforms matched their nickname.  Tony Pulis' Stoke City played hard, rough and dirty at times to bully Liverpool out of more points that the home side deserved.  The 2/3 possession and 3 times as many shots seem a familiar storyline this season, as is the disappointing result.  But what stood out about this clash was the brutal, by hook or crook style of play to which the visiting team resorted - even more than they usually do.

The six yellow cards shown to Stoke players could easily have been doubled.  Yes, I know there aren't twelve players but more than one deserved a second, and let's not forget the subs. The award for highest degree of thuggery clearly goes to Robert Huth who was bent on taking Luis Suarez out of the game one way or another.  His purposeful stamp on the Uruguayan, in only the third minute of the game, deserved a red card and set the tone for the afternoon.  That nothing at all was called was shameful and fueled Stoke's confidence that they could carry on with impunity.  When the referee finally began to dispense cards, it was really too late for anything other than a quasi rugby game.  Between severe, ball-not-there body checks, studs up tackles, blatant tripping with hands and more late challenges than could be counted, Stoke City unquestionably earned their hard-nose reputation and really one-upped themselves to just plain dirty.

Of course, every story has two sides and, while not of the same variety, Liverpool or, more correctly, Suarez, was guilty again of simulation - this time shamelessly flopping between two defenders.  Maybe a cleated foot to the chest will knock some sense into him and he'll realize that he is never going to get the close calls and will likely get fouled more without punishment until he begins to resist the urge to flop.  It's one thing not to get a penalty, it's another to lift your shirt and see red welts.  And for as much as I think Brendan Rodgers is doing right with this team, defending Suarez and claiming that he does not dive is a mistake.  If Suarez won't change his own behavior, then Rodgers should do it for him. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Late for the Party: Barcelona 2 - Real Madrid 2

photo by Kid's Birthday Partiesvia PhotoRee

Barcelona. Real Madrid. Camp Nou. Need we say more?

Of course we do.

Needing a victory, Real visited the hallowed Catalan grounds that have rarely brought them good tidings this past Sunday evening. Due to fitness issues affecting the home side, however -- lacking both starting center halves for this latest version of El Clasico -- Los Blancos must have entered Sunday's contest with significant hope for the first time in ages.

The game started out as if both teams were late to a party -- which in Spain would mean arriving quite tardily, indeed. Bodies rushed back and forth, up and down the pitch, as each team sought the early advantage, but neither side had a true shot on goal until the newly shorn Sergio Ramos missed an uncontested header from right in front of Victor Valdes' goal: the exact same spot typically so well protected by the aforementioned and absent Carles Puyol and Gerard Piqué.

Cristiano Ronaldo -- he of the sad affect of late -- made no such mistake near the 20 minute mark, though, burying his first shot on goal and beating Valdes on the near post for a deserved 1-nil lead for the men in white. Less than two minutes later the lead should have doubled, with the posts serving as the Catalans' most effective defender, denying a wide open Karim Benzema from point blank range.

Not to be left out, Lionel Messi soon pulled out his party invitation and drew his team level -- a rather surprise development, if any goal by the Argentine wunderkind can be described as such. In contrast to the typical artful Messi scoring play, this was more of a like Real Madrid "Tilt-ing" on the pinball that was bouncing around in the box, self destructing through unintentional rebounds and caught standing still at the one moment that truly mattered.

It wouldn't be a Clasico if the handbags hadn't come out, so it was no surprise when tempers flared just before the half as ticky-tacky fouls were greeted with moaning and writhing about on the pitch. But if the first half served up some wicked action, it was solely to prepare the fans for the second 45 minutes, which opened at one end with a disputed non-call on a penalty for Real Madrid and continued at the other with a disputed non-call on a penalty for Barcelona. The teams then traded free kicks from dangerous spots, although the home side's effort was considerably more celebrated.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Wingless: Manchester United 3 - Newcastle United 0

photo by scaredy_katvia PhotoRee

Manchester United traveled to the northeast of England in search of vengeance for the 3-nil hiding the visitors received the last time they played yesterday's opponent at the venerable St. James Park. Sir Alex sought to stir the pot by returning David De Gea to goal against Newcastle United, and playing an extremely attacking lineup in front of him, one that featured exactly zero natural wingers but did include Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa and Tom Cleverley. 

Contrary to the wish of many, however, the Scot stuck with Patrice Evra at right back, complementing him in defense with Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Rafael.  Michael Carrick once again lined up deeply to begin the game, attempting to control the tempo of the game and keep the United back four from being overrun by a marauding Geordie lineup that included the red hot Demba Ba, the newly rejuvenated Papis Cisse, Hatem Ben Arfa, Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye, among others.

United began the game in penetrating form, but Danny Welbeck scuffed an early opportunity for the away side, while RVP's initial attempt was turned away by the Newcastle 'keeper Steve Harper.  Inside of eight minutes, though, Jonny Evans outleapt all other comers to turn a United corner kick into a deserved 1-nil lead.

Danny Welbeck generously contrived to miss a gift from Harper on a giveaway inside the box, the goal agape and RVP lurking dangerously alone in front of net, and the opportunity for a quick 2-nil lead went begging.  When Rooney was denied on a free kick, however, the disappointment was short-lived. Proving that he can score goals, as well, the beleaguered United Captain Patrice Evra doubled the visitors' lead on 15 minutes when he scored the afternoon's second goal by a defensive player.

Newcastle found their sea legs 20 minutes too late, urged on by the home crowd and turning the game into a contest at long last.  Challenges turned feisty as both teams got stuck in, the fouls and the play hot and heavy, and Referee Howard Webb was forced to go repeatedly to his pocket for a card matching the color of his bright yellow shirt.  By half time it was Newcastle giving as good as they were getting, and the Reds could hardly be comfortable despite the two goal advantage.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Bayou Teche La 31 Boucanèe Smoked Beer

(4.50% ABV) Poured on draft into a pint glass in Lafayette, Louisiana. La-31 Boucanèe, produced by Bayou Teche Brewery and named in part for the French-Canadian slang word for smoke, appeared a clear copper color with a slightly off white head that left behind a better-than-average amount of lacing as the beer was drained.

The primary smell of the beer was caramel. Upon closer inspection, though, there was also a slightly sweet smokiness noticeable underneath.

Boucanèe was smokier on tasting than I expected from the smell, and the smoke flavor lingered nicely. On the downside, there was a light vegetal funkiness to the beer which I didn't love. The beer had a fairly light-bodied mouthfeel, one that was accompanied by plenty of carbonation to liven up the palate.

Smoked beers are not among my favorite styles, but this one would go nicely with barbecue on a hot Louisiana afternoon. B

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Pennsylvania Brewing Summer Berry Weisse Beer

Although temps are just beginning to turn a bit cooler -- at least in some parts of the US -- summer is not officially over in our book until the last warm weather brew has been cleaned out of the refrigerator.  With that goal in mind, we did a little bit of Fall cleaning the other day and turned up this review:

(5.00% ABV) Penn Summer Berry Weisse was poured out of the bottle at home.  The beer was a dark orangish-gold color with an almost purple tinge to it. The thin white head associated with the pour quickly dissipated.

The beer's scent was p
erfumed berries. Tart and sweet is an adequate description.

The mouthfeel was thin and tingly, and there were some definite raspberries on the taste.  It's got a wheat body and a berry finish -- cool and refreshing. B

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hallelujah!: Liverpool 5 - Norwich City 2

Correspondent Scott seen here in his Youth Choir days
photo by Scott Ablemanvia PhotoRee

Liverpool's first win of the season -- in game six, mind you -- clearly has Correspondent Scott in a delirious frame of mind:

George Frideric Handel's perennial yuletide favorite seems to have been written especially for Liverpool's clash with Norwich City last Saturday at Carrow Road.  A powerful chorus of goals brought sweet music to Reds supporters' ears as the visitors broke their winning duck in spectacular fashion.  While Luis Suarez provided the melody throughout with a hat trick, Steven Gerrard and Nuri Sahin each harmonized by adding to the tally.  And, as the German composer's seminal work depicts the Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection of the Messiah, Kopites everywhere are praying that it will now hail the second coming of Liverpool's dominance in the English Premier League.

Incarnation seems manifest in the Liverpudlian side in the form of three teenagers being molded into first team players, namely Raheem Sterling (17yrs), Andre Wisdom (18yrs) and Suso (18yrs), whose first of many names, incidentally and coincidentally, is Jesus.  Sterling continues to impress, notching another assist on the day.  Meanwhile, Wisdom belied his age through a performance befitting his surname, stalwartly defending with good choices and skills.  But it was Suso with whom I was most impressed.  Calm on the ball, creating chances and holding up play with the ball when needed, the young Spaniard gave many reasons throughout the game why Read Madrid and Barcelona are still kicking themselves that they missed out on his talent.  Most encouraging of all, however, was how the midfielder seamlessly and cleverly linked up with Suarez throughout the day, much better than Jonjo Shelvey has been able to do lately.

Passion has certainly been unleashed in Nuri Sahin as he exploded from the bottom of the Real Madrid depth chart onto the EPL scene with a goal and two assists against the Canaries.  Nor has Passion ever been a problem for Suarez, with two yellow cards for dissent so far in this young season.  Fifteen minutes into the game I was encouraged to see a few times when the Uruguayan could have gone down easily but instead stayed up or immediately popped back up.  Such encouragement was dashed twenty minutes later when he went down hard and fast after a tap and heavy breath from a defender.  So it was not at all surprising when, in the 23rd minute, Suarez was stung once again by his own reputation after receiving a hammer-blow in the form of Leon Barnett's elbow to his shoulder in the box.  Mike Jones waved off appeals for a penalty, just as others have done this season.  While I think it was a penalty that should have been given, until Suarez consistently abstains from tumbling unnecessarily, those appeals will continue to be ignored and I can't blame the referees who would rather miss a foul than call one that wasn't.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Abita Brewing Satsuma Harvest Wit

To Louisiana we head for this next review.  We like the Abita beers -- they're never overly complex, but they deliver a lot of satisfaction.  Plus, they remind us of the state in which they're brewed, which happens to be one of our favorites....

Satsuma Summer Harvest poured a cloudy orange color with a thick, pure white head that left behind minimal lacing.  

The beer was redolent of yeast and oranges.  Satsumas are native to the Bayou State, and closely related to tangerines and oranges.

The beer's taste followed the nose, although the citrus dominated the yeast this time around. It was tingly on the tongue, and relatively thin bodied.  Satsuma Summer Harvest was very refreshing, and a perfect way to beat the heat -- which we need to do just about year round in Florida.  B+

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Simmering: Manchester United 2 - FC Cluj 1

photo by hlkljgkvia PhotoRee

Q. Did Fergie change his lineup in reaction to the Spurs' debacle this past weekend?

A. Definitely.  He added Wazza to it, starting the striker alongside Robin Van Persie for the first time this season, and throwing Chicharito into the mix for good measure. The Gaffer also inserted Anderson, Fletcher and Cleverley in the middle of the park, replacing the ill Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick, and the resting Paul Scholes. And whether through rotation or not, David De Gea found himself back in the starting XI -- we'll have to wait and see if there are any implications to that decision.

Q. So did the Reds come out like a house afire...?

A. More like a house on a very slow simmer. United held the ball by and large, but that didn't appear overly difficult given the home side's willingness to sit back and play on the counter-attack. By the thirteenth minute, though, things were back to normal: United without a shot on goal and down 1-0, trailing for the sixth time in nine games this season.  Playing in Transylvania, it could be said that United appear to dread the lead the way a vampire dreads garlic.

Q. Did United equalize?

A. Have you been reading this blog the past several weeks?  Of course they did. Taking a page out of Chicharito's play book, Van Persie -- who else? -- drew the score line level near the game's half hour mark.

Q. Did the goal change anything?

A. It definitely boosted the visitors' confidence, as they slowly took a stranglehold on the proceedings.  Whereas Cluj had acres of space on the ball in their early counters, now the pitch was a bit less open. United appeared to work doubly hard to close the home side down and extinguish their offensive threats, particularly down the right hand side of the pitch.

Q. Was there more of the same in the second half?

A. Yup -- more of the same: Robin Van Persie. And Wazza. Or more specifically, Rooney with a searching pass, and Van Persie with an exquisite finish for a 2-1 lead.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Hop Ottin' American IPA

Poured from the bottle at home, Hop Ottin' was a deep reddish-gold color, almost purple in nature, with an absolutely massive off-white head. As the head receded, some decent bit of lacing was left behind.

The dominant smells of the beer were mild pine and citrus.

The malt was barely noticeable on tasting, as the hops dominated -- but in a very nice way. This particular beer is a bit sweeter than most IPAs, and doesn't have the ultra bitter finish that turns me off from a lot of its brethren. Hop Ottin' was nice and mellow, and exceptionally well balanced, with an oily mouthfeel testifying to the fact it's a true IPA.

Hop Ottin' -- from Anderson Valley Brewing in Northern California -- could well be my favorite IPA on the market. This is a "run out and get yourself some today" type of recommendation: A

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Observatory: Week 6 in the BPL

photo by tibchrisvia PhotoRee

o Chelsea 2 - Arsenal 1: Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger took a big risk by benching Per Mertesacker and starting Laurent Koscielny in central defense against Chelsea this past weekend, but was handsomely rewarded for his bold decision. Koscielny returned a goal and an assist during his terror-inducing minutes on the pitch. Now all Le Professor has to do is point out that it's the other net Koscielny should be aiming at....

o Manchester City 2- Fulham 1 : Has Vincent Kompany let success go to his (extra large) head? The Belgian looks a completely different player than last season -- and not for the better. Giving away cheap fouls and letting his temper get the best of him, Kompany also looks a step shy of the player who was the best defender in the English League last season and a major contributor to City's title run.

o Liverpool 5 - Norwich City 2: Congratulations to Chris Hughton for accomplishing something no other Manager has been able to this season: turning Luis Suarez into an accurate shooter and shaking Liverpool out of their torpid state. In a related development, don't be surprised when Hughton's Norwich City squad become the first team to be relegated this season.