Sunday, 8 June 2014

RIP Paul the Octopus. We’ll let IPAs predict the World Cup this time

It’s always tough predicting the outcome of the World Cup of soccer, only the biggest sporting tournament on the globe. But millions try anyway.

Investment banker Goldmans Sachs introduced a statistical model that uses regression analysis, follows a Poisson distribution and makes use of Elo rankings and dummy variables to arrive at a winner.

I have no idea what they’re talking about either, but the system seemed to favour Brazil winning every game in the preliminary round by three or more goals while everybody else tied 1-1. Goldman Sachs predicted the host nation to triumph in the final, 3-1 over Argentina.

EA Sports, meanwhile, is calling for Germany to become the first European nation to win the World Cup on non-European soil, calling for the Germans to beat Brazil 2-1 in the simulated final.

But no simulation or statistical model could hold a candle to the best prognosticator on the planet, the late Paul the Octopus (aka El Pulpo Paul), a former resident of a tank in Oberhausen, Germany. Paul correctly predicted the outcome of eight straight matches in the 2010 World Cup, right up to picking Spain to beat the Netherlands in the final.

Paul died shortly after the World Cup – something about octopi and short lifespans – and no animal or human has risen up to continue his legacy since.

That’s where I come in. Me and beer, that is. Using Rate Beer as my guide and utilizing my vast soccer analysis skills honed as sports editor of the Kenora Daily Miner and News (1983-85) and as a proud member of the Yellow Team (usually) at Wednesday night’s Over-45 league scrimmage night, I am ready to carry on Paul’s good works.

My statistical model puts heavy emphasis on a nation’s love of IPAs and I give some weight to the country’s soccer skills as well. Not too much, though. Let’s not go crazy here.

Let’s start with Group A, which contains the host nation, Brazil, as well as Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon. I didn’t think any of these countries were known to be big craft beer drinkers, but hello Brazil!

The favorite to win this thing by most, Brazil also produces some pretty tasty IPAs. There’s Stone Cacau, an IPA with cocoa that scores a 95 rating ((I’d try that all day) and another winner from the same brewery, Perigosa, an IIPA that scored a 94. There is also an IPA from Colorado Brewery with a 93 and two interesting brews from Invicta – one with 1,000 IBUs – at 89 and 87, respectively.

The other three nations? Not a decent IPA among them, but I have to pick a runner-up, so I choose Mexico, because us CONCACAF countries have to stick together.

Group B is a bit tougher to predict, mostly because it contains the finalists from the last World Cup – Spain and the Netherlands – as well as a dangerous Chilean team and an over-matched but plucky Australian side.
Also because three of the four crank out some fine IPAs. This is the real Group of Death in the tournament.

I didn’t know Spain was even an IPA nation, but they do produce some good ones. There’s Papaya Crash Edition IIPA (100 IBUs and a 98 rating) from Nomada Brewing; Undead IIPA from Kitsch Beer with a 96, two more IPAs at 95, another couple at 94 and an astonishing nine more with scores higher than 90. Who knew? I didn’t.

The Dutch, sandwiched as they are between two great beer nations – Belgium and Germany – have an impressive list of top notch IPAs on their resume, led by two Double IPAs from De Molen Brewing which scored 98s. There are eight others as well, ranging from 97 to 93, on Rate Beer’s Top 50 list. There might have been more, but there were too many Stouts on the list hogging all the glory. It seems the Dutch enjoy their IPAs, but their true passion can be found in the dark soul of the Imperial Stout.

There are many pundits who are picking Chile to play spoiler here, but as their wine-making prowess has not morphed into beer, I’m not.

Australia, meanwhile, makes loads of great IPAs, led by Feral Brewing’s Hop Hog IPA (98), Murray’s Icon 2IPA (98) and Mountain Goat Rare Breed (97). There are several outstanding Black IPAs and nearly a dozen more IPAs at 93 or better before the list ran out. Impressive, but they have no chance of playing beyond the first round.

I pick the Dutch to upset Spain but both teams advance.

In Group C, I pick Columbia to take top spot, despite their inability to produce one decent IPA. They do grow some pretty good weed and are exceptionally talented at drug-related crime but I think it’s time to branch out into beer. Jes saying.

Greece has a just a couple of IPAs scoring 89 or more, but they are the country’s top rated IPAs, so that’s something. Ivory Coast? Not a one.

Japan, meanwhile, has a thriving and growing craft beer industry. Tamamura-Houten House IPA and Baird’s Suruga IIPA are the best at 96 and there are another half-dozen or so scoring over 90, so I pick them to also advance.

Uruguay is the top seed in Group D, but they don’t make any IPAs so they’re toast. Same with Costa Rica, though there are signs of improvement on the IPA front there.

England and Italy are the front-runners here and with England’s great tradition in the production of ales, I have to go with my maternal heritage here. Besides, Merry England invented both the IPA AND soccer.

The Kernel IPA Double Citra (100) and Citra (99) top it off, but there are so many wonderful IPAs the Top 50 list stops at 99.

I didn’t expect Italy to be a great IPA nation but essere sorpeso! They are. There’s a ton of wine-based beers (naturally), but there are very good IPAs as well. Zona Cessarini, as well as an IIPA by Toccalmatto; Birra del Borgo Re Ale Extra; and Surfing Hop IIPA are rated at 98, and Brewfirst Spaceman chimes in at 97. There are a handful of other IPAs at 97 and 96 before the list ran out. Colour me impressed.

Besides, my pal Santo has been urging me for years to back the Azzurri, so there you go.

Group E hasn’t much to offer in the way of good IPAs, so I may have to actually choose on the basis of soccer talent here. Switzerland’s best is 89, Ecuador has none, though it looks like there may be some growth on the horizon, France has a couple over 90, and Honduras has nada. France and Honduras advance.

Argentina leads off Group F, and while there are no IPAs rated higher than 80-something, they are the class of the group and will advance with little trouble. Bosnia-Herzegovina has nothing, Iran has only low-alcohol beers (go figure) and Nigeria doesn’t care for IPAs either, but there is a Guinness Brewery down there, so there may be some love for Stouts.

Nigeria gets the second spot.

In Group G, we have the second Group of Death, both for soccer and for beer (especially for beer), with Germany and the United States going head to head.

Germany, one of the favourites in this tournament and a super power in beer consumption, has just two IPAs in the Top 50 list because of the incredible amount of different styles they offer to beer lovers. Interestingly (and prophetically), their top IPA is Gantaller Brau’s Green Gold IPA, also known as Germany meets USA, because of the use of hops from both nations.

Portugal is the second seed in this group, but because superstar Cristiano Ronaldo may not be 100 per cent (thanks to a curse put on him by a Ghanaian witch doctor) and because they do not produce any IPAs of note, they will not advance. Same with Ghana, which doesn’t deserve to go through anyway. Using witch doctors is dirty pool, I say.

The United States is another story. I don’t normally cheer for our arch-rivals, but star midfielder Michael Bradley plies his trade for TFC now and it is a nation of incredible depth when it comes to IPAs. Russian River’s Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder. Alchemist Heady Topper. Need I say more? Okay, I will. Dreadnought IIPA from Three Floyds; Bells Hopslam and no less than three IPAs from Vermont’s Hill Farmstead: Abner, Ephraim and Society & Solitude, all scored perfect 100s on Rate Beer.
In fact, all 50 of America’s best 50 beers scored 100. That is truly impressive.

Germany and U/S advance.

The final pool, Group H, contains one beer superpower, Belgium, along with three beer-drinking panty-waists, Algeria, Russia and South Korea.

So many beers in Belgium, so many styles, led by Quadrupels, Strong Ales and Lambics. So many, in fact, that there wasn’t room for a single IPA on the list. They are out there, however, with a Google search revealing such gems as Chouffe Houblon Dobbelen IPA Tripel, a mash-up of English and American IPA and classic Belgian Tripel, which scored a 99.

Nothing for Algeria or vodka-drinking Russia. South Korea’s top Rate Beer brew was an IPA, but the score was just 50. Ouch.

Belgium and Russia advance.

This blog has gone over 1,600 words already so tomorrow I take it all the way to the final. Me and IPAs, that is.


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