Perhaps the late Frank Zappa best described the relationship between international football and beer: “You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.”
For the next month or so, 32 of the world’s best soccer nations will gather in Brazil for the 20th edition of the quadrennial World Cup. And reservoirs full of malted beverages will be served at bars, pubs, taverns and lounges around the globe as hundreds of millions of fans savor the ultimate showcase for the most popular sport on Earth.
Thanks to ESPN, most Americans won’t have to leave their own living rooms to view every match on the schedule, which starts on June 12 and concludes with the July 13 final. But that’s no fun when there’s beer to be had among friends, is it?
The good news for folks in the Greater Northeast is that you don’t have to trudge downtown (and back) to catch the action. There are plenty of local taprooms where the matches can be viewed while enjoying all that the culturally diverse Northeast has to offer.
So here are some of the most eclectic, soccer-friendly venues. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a great start. Matches kick off as early as noon and as late as 6 p.m. Eastern, and are scheduled every day through June 26. Most days will feature three or four games. Sixteen teams advance into the knockout stages starting June 28.
Grey Lodge Pub
• 6235 Frankford Ave., 215-856-3591, www.greylodge.com: The World Cup may be the ultimate international event, but fans interested in seeing it from a distinctly American — and particularly Philadelphian — perspective can’t go wrong at the Grey Lodge. This Mayfair destination has for years garnered national recognition for its vast array of craft beers, many of which are brewed locally.
The Lodge offers a dozen microbrews on draft and constantly rotates the taps. It also has 40 varieties in bottles and cans, including about 30 micros. The first-floor bar has four large flat screens, with two more in the upstairs bar. For snacks, the Lodge is also a cut above typical pub fare with a creative mix of apps prepared freshly on-site.
As a soccer bar, the Lodge has a built-in corps of fans who show up for afternoon European league games, as well as Philadelphia Union telecasts. In fact, the Lodge is an official Union Pub Partner.
Cannstatter Volksfest Verein
• 9130 Academy Road, 215-332-0121, www.cvvphilly.com: If Old World charm is what you’re after, look no further than Cannstatter’s, the venerable German-American social club and catering hall in the Far Northeast. Founded in 1873, the club is almost as old as England’s Football Association, predating the inaugural World Cup by six decades.
The public is invited to enjoy the World Cup matches at the CVV bar with its 12 beers on tap, including eight German and Belgian imports, as well as its two giant flat screens and four smaller sets. Germany and United States matches will be the biggest draw, with the squads scheduled to go head-to-head on June 26 at noon. The club plans to offer beer and food specials.
In addition to playing in the same group, Germany and the U.S. have other strong links. The U.S. head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, was a star striker for Germany in the 1980s and ’90s. Five players on the U.S. team grew up in Germany and are eligible for the U.S. team by having at least one American parent.
• 11901 Bustleton Ave., 215-698-2233, www.cafemichelangelo.com: In Italy, home of the Roman Catholic church, soccer is more than sport. By many accounts, it is also religion.
As travel author and TV host Rick Steves notes on his website, Italians play their football on Sunday, then talk about it from Monday to Saturday. The nation’s most popular paper is dedicated to the sport and published its best-selling edition in 1982 after the national team — known as the Azzuri — won the third of its four World Cup trophies. Only Brazil has more with five.
At Cafe Michelangelo, soccer is always a festive occasion. Jerseys hang from the rafters of the covered patio bar. For the World Cup, the venue will show the action on a projection screen and eight flat screens. Guests may alternately choose seating in the atrium.
There will be drink and food specials, along with drawings for World Cup memorabilia. And after the matches, weather permitting, patrons can choose sides for a bocce match on the Cafe’s own courts.
• 603 Summit Ave., Jenkintown, 215-758-2402, www.kingscornerpub.com: Much like Philly sports fans, English soccer fans have a bit of a checkered past. As a group, they are among the most devoted in the world. Yet, when the topic of hooliganism arises, it’s usually the English who come to mind.
Conversely, King’s Corner is a laid-back pub with a Scottish theme where both the St. Andrew’s Cross and St. George’s Cross fly in harmony. Converted from a century-old house in quaint Jenkintown, the decor evokes an ancient castle with stone walls, iron chandeliers and tartan drapes, seemingly cut from the same fabric as the waitress’ skirts.
There are four flatscreens in the bar and three in the dining room. You’ll find 13 crafts and imports on tap, such as Belhaven Scottish Ale and Well’s Bombardier. More than 100 bottle varieties are in stock. Carlsbergs cost $4 for all World Cup games, while patrons can win Union tickets and jerseys during U.S. and England matches. Groups can contact bartender Tom in advance via email@example.com.
• 146 Bustleton Pike, Feasterville, 267-288-5040, www.minklounge.com: Just so you know, no furry animals were harmed in the making of this European upscale-style lounge. However, Mink qualifies as one of the newer and more-exotic venues on this list.
Founded four years ago by a couple of Ukrainian guys, Mink is usually airing a soccer match for its diverse clientele. The metro-Euro decor features lots of colorful back-lighting, multiple disco balls, shiny bead curtains and a dance floor with DJ booth.
The international theme continues with the beer selection. There are some 30 on tap, including German imports, Grolsch from Holland and the soccer staple, Carlsberg. Pints of Carlsberg will sell for $4 during matches. Russia games are expected to draw big crowds, as are Brazil, Spain, Holland, England, Italy and the U.S., to name a few.
• 6618 Castor Ave., 215-742-4775, www.facebook.com/TioPepeRestaurantBar: Eight years ago, the Northeast Times published a feature about the soccer fans of Portugal and Brazil who flocked to Tio Pepe to watch the 2006 World Cup, mostly because they shared not one, but two common languages — Portuguese and “futebol.”
This time around, Tio Pepe (which translates into the English “Uncle Joe”) is still the place to be for Portugal fans, although some of their counterparts may find newer Brazil-centric venues more to their liking. Nonetheless, Tio Pepe draws a large Spanish-speaking clientele as well, perhaps because of the popularity of Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays his club soccer for Real Madrid and is widely considered the best footballer in the world.
Soccer jerseys and scarves cover the walls, while authentic Portuguese beers, stews and sauces grace the menu. Matches will be shown on a projection screen and other sets throughout the bar.
The Piazza at Schmidt’s
• 1050 N. Hancock St., 877-320-7499, www.atthepiazza.com: Soccer isn’t a sport just to be watched within the dim confines of a musty taproom. It can be a street festival, too. The Piazza at Schmidt’s, with its open-air courtyard and massive wall-mounted video screen, will bring the multinational block party vibe to local World Cup viewing.
Hip Philly, the organization that coordinates Piazza events, is working with the adult amateur Casa Soccer League to present a family-oriented viewing festival on June 14 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Four matches, including England vs. Italy, will be played that day.
The courtyard has ample patio seating, as do several bars and restaurants that occupy the complex’s ground-floor commercial spaces. Games will be shown outdoors throughout the month long tournament.
• 7930 Bustleton Ave., 215-722-2216, www.facebook.com/FlamesHouse: It’s difficult to say exactly what will be happening at this Brazilian bar and restaurant, but isn’t that the beauty of “jogo bonito” (the beautiful game) anyway? It’s all about the unexpected.
When contacted by a Northeast Times reporter, the proprietor of this venue said that he didn’t understand English, only Portuguese and Spanish. The reporter gleaned that “la Copa del Mundo,” indeed, will be shown on “la televisión.” But that’s where communications broke down. Nonetheless, Flames reportedly has a strong following among the Northeast’s growing Brazilian community and drew a big crowd for the recent Champions League final between Real Madrid and Athlético Madrid, which featured Ronaldo and a score of Brazilian stars.
With five-time champion Brazil hosting the 2014 tournament, the Canarinho (Little Canary) has been installed as a 3-1 favorite to win the title again — a result that would surely delight many along this stretch of Bustleton Avenue. ••