Hot? Oh, it’s been hot. I had to open the window to let the breeze in. My students made pathetically feeble attempts to fan themselves with bare hands (although they wouldn’t have had to if they would a) buy a proper fan or b) not wear jackets on warm days). A man pulling weeds in his garden collapsed:

But most remarkable of all, The Japan Times managed to write a story about warm weather without using the word ‘swelter’. I hadn’t realised that was possible. It would certainly never happen at Perth’s finest Sunday newspaper, which has just given us a blow by blow report on Perth’s coldest weather in four years. Ah yes,who can forget the mini-Ice Age of 2006? I had to put a jacket on.

But life goes on and so does the soccer world cup, of which I have still cunningly managed to avoid watching any. World Cup Fever has reached fever pitch here in Japan with the Samurai Blues cutting a swathe through Denmark to qualify for the knock-out rounds and the celebrations continued into my morning classes, including the time-honoured traditional Japanese celebration of falling asleep at your desk. I should point out that the Japanese are masters of sleeping and if it were an Olympic sport, they would almost certainly win gold medals at least until the Chinese start selecting narcoleptic infants and training them up for the event.

Impressively, despite not sleeping at all the night before, most of the boys in my classes were just as unable to answer simple questions as they are when fully awake. Luckily, I have a new weapon in my arsenal to arouse them from their slumber in the form of a vuvuzela iphone app (lication) that I downloaded. When played in the ear of a sleeping student, it seems to do the trick quite nicely. And yes, whenever I hear someone say ‘app’, I feel a strong urge to complete the word for them, just as I have a hard time stopping myself hissing a ‘sssss’ whenever someone suggests doing the math.

For my part, I’m perfectly satisfied waking up in the morning and checking the scores from the previous night. This seems to be enough to maintain a soccer conversation with my colleagues and students without having to watch any of the games being played.

What is more, as it is clearly beer-drinking weather, I have ben putting my energy into a more noble venture: the world cup of beer. I am pitting beer against beer in a knock out competition to find the world cup winner of beers*. Of course, I can only make do with the beer I have available so although it is a world cup, pretty much all the beer from my end is going to be Japanese.

*I am sure my fellow pedants would agree that a world cup is not a world championship and therefore the winner is the world cup holder and not the world champion.

Match one pitted two of Japan’s beer giants against each other in Asahi Super Dry vs Yebisu Gold. Yebisu Gold was the easy winner and I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t go on to win the tournament. Next up was Kirin Ichibanshibori against the home team Sapporo Black Label:

I really thought Sapporo would win this one because I usually don’t like Kirin very much but in a surprise result, the Kirin was the better team on the night and progressed through to the next round. Sapporo need not despair, though because Sapporo Classic has yet to enter the tournament and I may have to rig that match by putting it up against Kirin’s seven per cent brew Super Seven. Whereas Kirin Ichibanshibori is “Brewed for Good Times”, I believe the Super Seven is “Brewed for When You’ve Hit Rock Bottom”.

On Saturday, Kaz and I went shopping at Sapporo Factory shopping centre, which is where the Sapporo brewery used to be and still has a small brewery there which makes batches of specialty beers. They have a little tasting centre where you can buy small glasses of their beer so I could hardly let the opportunity slip by without getting in another match for the world cup of beer. I started with something called Red Star:

And followed it up with Caramel Ale:

As you can see, Kazuko is mildly bemused by my world cup project. And the people behind her had a dog in a box and were discussing whether to give it water or not. In the end, they decided they had no saucer and it was all too hard so the dog would have to wait. Or fall unconscious with heatstroke, whichever comes first.

The Red Star was quite a nice beer but I’m fickle and the novelty of caramel flavouring in the Caramel Ale won me over. Another upset, but knock-out competitions are like that. I can’t see myself enjoying a second glass of it quite as much, though so I doubt it’ll progress through the quarter-finals.

The next match-up was another oddity. After leaving the Factory, Kazuko went to go to the swimming pool with her sister Masako’s family and I went home to watch rugby. I assumed Kaz would stay out for dinner, so I got myself a six-pack of Yebisu Silk (aka Yebisu White) and prepared to settle in to an evening of quality Bruce time but shortly after the All Blacks had beaten Wales, I got a phone call to join everyone for dinner at our favourite Jingisukan restaurant. I forgot to see what brand of beer they served, but it was on tap and here is me enjoying my beer with my little niece Sakurako:

It’s quite fashionable to wear plastic at restaurants these days. And now that I’ve looked at the photo, the beer is obviously Sapporo. That information will come in handy for the next round. Back home, I opened a can of Yebisu White and caught the last half hour or so of the Wallabies scraping home against Ireland:

This was the closest match-up yet, not least because of the complications involved in choosing a draught beer from a restaurant but in the end I had to give it to the beer from the jingisukan restaurant. As ever, beer tasting is contextual and the Yebisu White I had last night after a good ride on a warm day tasted fantastic. However, this was too late for it to qualify. And so, here are the standings to date:

Eight more beers and then we’re into the quarter-finals. Unless I decide to expand the competition. It may well never end. Feel free to hold your own world cup of beer match-ups, wherever you are, and send your results to me. I’m sure they can be fitted into the competition somehow.

13 Comment on “The world cup of beer

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