Sunday, June 10, 2007

My Rugby Team Has A Drinking Problem

Rugby is an interesting game. Besides being the number two spectator sport in the world, in the USA, rugby is looked at the same way some would look at a traffic accident; with curiosity, awe and disgust. The curiosity is first. Curiosity will hit a person like a ton of bricks and make that person wonder, "What the heck is going on here?" The awe shortly follows as the wide open mouths, with expressions of amazement, take in the pure athleticism mixed with elegant, controlled violence. The disgust usually takes place after the match as the ruggers partake in traditional rituals such as drinking beer from a dirty rugby boot, or singing ribald songs whilst running naked through a pub.

While soccer is known as a gentleman's sport played by ruffians, rugby has the opposite reputation and is known as a ruffian's sport played by gentleman. In rugby, you will never see the fan riots and maulings that you do in soccer. Rugby is a sport ruled by social etiquette and protocol. Ruggers are a polite group of lads or even ladies as the case may be.

Once a grueling 80 minute rugby match has been played, tradition has it that the opposing teams will gather and share food and drink together. The third half as it is known. This social gathering allows the players to brag about their wounds and game time heroics over copious amounts of beer. As the beer flows like the Falls in Niagra and inebriation takes place, the ruggers sing songs, play drinking games and celebrate their victories with naked Zulu Warrior marches throughout the pub. Rugby can be quite fun.

But alas, my rugby team has a drinking problem. Not the drinking problem that can land you in A.A, but the kind that dictates their horrible taste in beer. The beers that are light in color and taste. The beers that need to be served ice cold, so that you cannot tell that the beer has no taste. That kind of drinking problem. But then again, I guess when you are drinking beer out of a dirty rugby shoe, the beer shouldn't be a ten dollar Belgium Ale. Or if someone is constantly dropping a golf ball in your beer cup and you have to guzzle what you have in the cup, a Russian Imperial Stout would be out of the question. And I suppose it would be a waste of money to fill a funnel up with cask conditioned ale for the short journey through the tube and into the stomach.

Maybe my rugby team doesn't have a drinking problem after all. As a matter of fact, maybe they are just wise beer consumers and I have an observational problem. On the other hand, our team bar, The Muskett Tavern, home of the Jersey Shore Sharks Rugby Club may have contributed to the problem by having a serving problem. With Bud Light being the only beer on tap, the Muskett is also known for its $2.50 bottles of Bud, Miller and Lite. The big attraction at the Musket is the always on special of $3.25 bottles of 22 oz Coors Light and thankfully the East Coast's own precious mass brewed gem, Yeungling Lager (A rose amongst the thorns of domestic swill). It's difficult to shame your rugby team when there are precious little choices.

So now, it seems, the rugby team does not have a drinking problem. It seems they are acting in their own best economic interest. Why waste good beer, when you can chug and spill all the swill available to you at little or no cost?

What of the tavern and their serving problem? A few of the older statesman rugby stalwarts (Think, Me!), formed a nice relationship with the bar manager. One night the manager says, "So, what kind of beer do you guys like to drink? I'll try and get it for you." So, in addition to large 220z bombers of domestic beer, we now have in the Muskett's fridge, bottles of Victory Hop Devil and Golden Monkey, Magic Hat Blind Faith and #9 and a few different Sam Adams selections as well as bottled Guinness.

Once again, it appears my rugby team may now have a drinking problem. But at least we will be going down in good taste!

The Beers:

Monkey Wrench Dark Ale
, cask conditioned winter dark ale from Daleside Brewery in England. This dark brown beer poured a thin head with a nice roasted malt aroma. Full bodied and well balanced at 5.3 %, this ale was extremely drinkable and the perfect session beer for watching an NFL game in the winter time.

Tripel Belgian Style Ale, from Southern Tier Brewing in Lakewood, NY, USA. This beer poured into a pint glass was light red with almost no head to speak of. The aroma was sweet and malty. This beer leaned towards the malt side with a good balance of cloves and spices to give it the Belgian seal of approval. This style of ale had a sweet and dry finish. You wouldn't know this was a New York brew.

Belhaven Wee Heavy, This Wee Heavy from the Belhaven Scottish Brewery was a terrific beer for a cold winter night. At 6.5% Wee Heavy had a crisp, dry, warming finish. Many tastes were found in this beer. Vanilla, smokey, roasted and malty to name a few. This was a very good beer.

Bluebird Bitter, This English Ale from Coniston Brewery was the ultimate session beer. You could drink this one all day and enjoy every sip. At 4.2%, this bitter had a very full taste with a complexity of many different hops apparent in every swallow. I classify this beer in the incredible category for its style.

Sunrise Weissbeer, an unfiltered wheat beer from Victory Brewing in Downingtown, PA, USA. A Cloudy, yellow beer with a very thick and frothy head. The beautiful smell of citrus and cloves immediately catches your attention. Light bodied and refreshing, this beer leans towards the sweeter side. A very dry finish with citrus overtones, Sunrise Weissbeer was tangy, refreshing treat. Perfect summer beer and a worthy effort once again by Victory Brewing.