Respectful Insolence

One half of my heritage at its finest

About two weeks ago, I did a brief post about a Lithuanian guy whose blood alcohol level was beyond what would kill most mortal men but who was fully conscious and nominally able to drive. I facetiously referred to it as “one quarter of my heritage at its finest,” given that I’m one quarter Lithuanian. Well, I’m also one-half Polish on my father’s side, and a little more than a week ago, I came across this example of that part of my heritage at its finest Not surprisingly, this item involves drinking too. It also involves the World Cup, in this case, a semi-friendly rivalry between Polish and Ecuadoran soccer fans in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. One of my peeps named Gary Witkowski had one of the best quotes about beer I’ve ever heard. As the New York Times reported:

Mr. Witkowski keeps some potent Polish beer, Zywiec, in a small refrigerator for some of the Polish regulars who stop by the shop. He pulled one out to display its alcohol content.

“I once drank 44 Budweisers in one day, on a fishing trip, but nine of these and I’m on the floor,” said Mr. Witkowski, who weighs 310 and regularly wins a truck-tire tossing competition at the shop.

Whoa.

I’ve never tried Zywiec, but after reading that I may have to. It does remind me of the displeasure of the Czech football fans at the sponsorship of the World Cup by Budweiser and the reaction of a Czech when asked to taste American Budweiser:

“It’s cold,” Novak ventured, helpfully. “But it is missing, um. I don’t know how to say. It is missing … um, yes. I miss the, uh, typical taste of beer.

You know?”

He took another swallow. “Yes! Yes! I miss the typical taste of beer!”

But more interesting was the reaction of this Polish soccer fans two weeks ago, after Poland lost to Ecuador:

Inside the bar, Andrzej Jania, a construction foreman, stared at the TV.

“This is the worst moment in Poland’s history,” he said. “You want to see what it looks like to see a Polish soccer fan watch his team lose?” Then he began gulping down his beer.

Uh, does the date September 1, 1939 ring a bell? Wasn’t that just a wee bit worse than the Polish team losing a World Cup match?

Comments

  1. #1 Skeptico
    June 24, 2006

    Bill Shankley, who was at the time manager of Liverpool Football Club, was rumored to have said:

    “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, but I can assure you it is much more important than that.”

  2. #2 Jurjen
    June 24, 2006

    Zywiec sounds like Russian krepkoe pivo, “strong beer”; this is a bog-standard lager which has somehow achieved an alcohol content of 8% ABV. Perhaps the best known is Baltika no.9, but other brands exist. This stuff has one purpose: getting wasted.

  3. #3 Kristjan Wager
    June 24, 2006

    I can’t recall having tried any Polish beers, but I have tried a few Lithuanian beer. They are pretty strong, and quite good.

    American beer is less satisfying (here I am talking brand beer, rather than micro-breweries). Samuel Adams is decent, but still like Millers, Budweiser etc. is an affront to beerness.

  4. #4 Roman Werpachowski
    June 24, 2006

    Mr. Witkowski keeps some potent Polish beer, Zywiec, in a small refrigerator for some of the Polish regulars who stop by the shop. He pulled one out to display its alcohol content.

    Standard “Żywiec” is ca 5% alcohol – a normal quantity in Europe. Is it much by American standards? Witkowski may be referring to some less popular “Żywiec” brand, which could be stronger. The stronger beer I ever saw in Poland had 9% alcohol. Some people like the taste of such beers, I don’t.

    Lithuanian beers are good, I tried them having been in Vilnius a few years ago. I do not recommend Byelarussian beers, though. Their vodka is good (and fantastically cheap), but beer and Soviet-style dictatorship evidently don’t mix. Poland had lousy beers before 1989, too (so I was told).

    Uh, does the date September 1, 1939 ring a bell? Wasn’t that just a wee bit worse than the Polish team losing a World Cup match?

    Ah yes, but then we lost to the Germans and after a good fight (Wehrmacht took large losses in Poland). With Ecuador… it was pathetic, Polish players displayed lack of skill, lack of physical prowess and lack of motivation.

  5. #5 epador
    June 24, 2006

    Beer. Czech beer, Lithuanian beer (I preferred Jager/Bull in the discos there), and German beer with close seconds in the Belgian and Dutch versions. I haven’t been able to drink the stuff they call beer here since. Even most micro brews don’t meet the quality until they get to their ales.
    Say, have you seen the only park in the world with a bust of Frank Zappa? [in Vilnius, of course]

  6. #6 David Harmon
    June 24, 2006

    I’ve known home brewers who claimed they could consistently get 12-13% alcohol, even in beer, by brewing it with wine yeast (that is, a different strain of yeast with higher alcohol tolerance).

  7. #7 Brent McKee
    June 24, 2006

    I’m honestly surprised that American Budweiser is the official beer of the World Cup. I believe they make beer in Germany that may be almost as good as what the Americans produce ;-) and I’m sure a company like Interbrew (which makes Beck’s, Stella Artois and Bass among others) would have been a better fit. And don’ even get me started on the way Budweiser defended their exclusivity. Suffice it to say on of the Netherland’s games was attended by men in their underwear because the orange pants they were wearing were banned from teh stadium for bearing the logo of a competing brewery (probably Heineken).

  8. #8 Left_Wing_Fox
    June 24, 2006

    Kristjan, I highly recommend the Sam Adams Seasonal Summer Ale on tap if you can find it.

    Bud simply dosen’t agree with me, it’s one of the few beers that give me a headache.

    Better call it a night. I plan to go floating downriver with an 8-pack of Alexander Keiths India Pale Ale tomorrow. :)

  9. #9 Roman Werpachowski
    June 25, 2006

    Say, have you seen the only park in the world with a bust of Frank Zappa? [in Vilnius, of course]

    Unfortunately, I didn’t. I took a more “traditional” way of sighseeing (churches, Castle Hill, Rossa cemetery – it’s a special place for ys Poles in Vilnius, since otherwise most traces of the Polish Vilnius are gone).

    BTW, I didn’t like the Czech beers which I tried (“Zlaty Bazant”).

  10. #10 Bob O'H
    June 25, 2006

    A few years ago Carlsberg celebrated its 150th aniversary. They did this by releasing a new beer every 2 months, and then having a vote at the end. On a Wednesday every other month, Danes would go to their local bar and wait for the new beer to be released at midnight. I’m guessing that they didn’t spend the intervening time playing with lego.

    Anyway, one of the beers went by the name of “Master Brew”, and was about 11.5%. Needless to say, productivity was down on that Thursday. At the end of the year, it came a narrow second in the vote to Carl’s Jul.

    I don’t know if they still make Master Brew: I know it was being sold just after this, and it doesn’t taste terribly good. Carl’s Jul is still available, and it worth a try whenever you’re in Kaastrup airport.

    Bob

  11. #11 Daniel Harper
    June 25, 2006

    According to Beeradvocate, there are two results for Zywiec, one a 5.7% Euro Pale Lager, the other a 9.5% porter. Since porters are dark and slightyly fruity, I’d guess that he’s not referring to the porter but to the lager.

    American lagers tend to be between five and six percent alcohol.

    In other words, there’s no appreciable alcohol difference between a Zywiec and a Budweiser. Taste difference, I couldn’t say, but the community over at BA gives it a “Not Recommended”. I’d say it’d taste very similar to Heineken or Grolsch.

  12. #12 Roman Werpachowski
    June 25, 2006

    n other words, there’s no appreciable alcohol difference between a Zywiec and a Budweiser. Taste difference, I couldn’t say, but the community over at BA gives it a “Not Recommended”. I’d say it’d taste very similar to Heineken or Grolsch.

    Not surprising, as it’s owned by Heineken. A more distinct Polish brand might be “Warka Strong”.

  13. #13 Kristjan Wager
    June 25, 2006

    Danish beer is in general boring, though not as boring as US massproduced beer. Master Brew is vile. Danish micro-brewery beer is, like micro-brewery beer everywhere, much more interesting.

    Carls Jul is a Christmas beer (lit: Carl’s Christmas), and only available around Christmas. There is a year-round beer called Carls, which is somewhat similar, though less strong.

  14. #14 Porlock Junior
    June 26, 2006

    The combination of Poland’s loss to Ecuador with the Budweiser monopoly puts the World Cup in the same class as Prohibition, in archy’s bon mot:

    Prohibition makes you want to cry into your beer and denies you the beer to cry into.

  15. #15 Abel Pharmboy
    June 26, 2006

    Similar to what Mr Werpechowski notes, Zywiec is listed at 5.7% alcohol by volume. I recall having it in my Polish-American hometown at the repast following my grandmother’s funeral three summers ago. Nothing stronger than an average American beer but reasonable complexity for a lager – I do recall that it went splendidly with homemade kielbasa and pierogies.

  16. #16 Roman Werpachowski
    June 26, 2006

    Any pisser will go splendidly with homemade kielbasa and pierogis. They are so splendid in themselves ;-)

  17. #17 Xerxes1729
    June 26, 2006

    I have fond memories of Hungarian beers. Dreher Bak – 1L bottles, about $0.75, 7% alcohol, and damn tasty.

  18. #18 Opiwan
    June 28, 2006

    Just the thought of homemade pierogies is making my stomach rumble…

    *drool*

  19. #19 bjk
    December 27, 2007

    I’ve known home brewers who claimed they could consistently get 12-13% alcohol, even in beer, by brewing it with wine yeast (that is, a different strain of yeast with higher alcohol tolerance).