Supporters Week: How Dan Wiersema is helping grow North American soccer, one free beer at a time
Dan Wiersema founded the Free Beer Movement in 2009 to help grow soccer in the United States and Canada. It was a simple idea: Offer a free beer to someone for the opportunity to watch a soccer game with him or her.
MLSsoccer.com got in touch with him to learn a little more and get some recommendations on the best quaff for this week's MLS matches.
MLSsoccer.com: In 25 words or less, tell us what the Free Beer Movement is?
Wiersema: FBM is a grassroots organization "building American soccer one beer at a time." Soccer fans harness the power of the pint to educate newbies about the beautiful game.
MLSsoccer.com: Well, first of all, that's more than 25 words. Second, it sounds like a mission statement that should be engraved on a plaque or something.
Wiersema: Hmmm... I should get a plaque with that on it.
MLSsoccer.com: OK, back to reality. What does it mean in practice?
Wiersema: In practical terms, it exists to give soccer fans an opportunity, through the offer of a free beer, to grow the sport. It is really a fan empowerment and evangelical movement. To spread the word of soccer through suds. It means using beer to lure someone to the stadium, the bar, your living room. This creates an incentive for non-fans (or MLS newbies) and a window of opportunity to educate them about our domestic version of the world's game.
It's a silly idea with a serious goal. It comes down to economics. The more fans created, the more tickets, jerseys, scarves, etc., bought. And then a greater investment in the league. Teams can then re-invest their fans' money into academies, designated players, stadiums, coaching, and game-day experiences that will improve the quality and viability of MLS.
MLSsoccer.com: Sounds like a silly idea we can all rally around. How did this thing come about? I mean, are you a beer connoisseur?
Wiersema: I lived in Honduras and traveled in Central America for a while and witnessed what it means to be in countries that are "soccer mad." When I moved back to the United States I was no longer content with being "just a fan." I wanted to do something more. Returning from a region that had very limited beer options also launched me on a quest to try as many different craft beers as I possibly could across the United States (and the world).
I remembered, years earlier, a now-extinct soccer blog that had asked, in a bit of desperation, "What do we have to do to make soccer work in this country, give them all free beer?!?!" My commitment to being a more involved soccer fan and a more curious beer drinker led me to reexamine that idea and the intersection between the two. So in 2009, the Free Beer Movement was born. Or maybe re-born.
At first it was an avenue for examining my own beer and soccer fandom, but then the idea resonated with so many like-minded fans that the Free Beer Movement evolved into the advocacy and educational organization that it is today.
But just for the record, I am not a "beer snob." In both soccer and beer circles there's nothing worse that being labeled a "snob." For myself I'm always open to all types of beer and since the Free Beer Movement is all about luring new people to the sport, we can't judge others on their personal tastes. In the end, it's about educating on both fronts to make good soccer and beer choices.
MLSsoccer.com: Okay, so how about making some beer choices for the MLS matches taking place this week, and one for the USA-Guatemala match on Friday? Ready?
MLSsoccer.com: Toronto-Montreal (Wednesday, 7 pm ET)?
Wiersema: Unibroue's "La Fin du Monde" Belgian-Style Tripel. Despite Montreal's late loss to Colorado, it's not the end of the world. They still sit atop the Eastern Conference while Toronto sits in nearly the opposite position. Playoffs may be out of the picture for TFC, but they'll look at least slow down their Canadian counterparts.
MLSsoccer.com: Chicago-San Jose (Wednesday, 8:30 pm ET)?
Wiersema: Revolution Brewing Co. "Anti-Hero" IPA. Another late-game winner for San Jose doesn't paper over the fact that this squad is struggling even after jettisoning coach Frank Yallop. Meanwhile in Chicago the Fire are experiencing a mini-Revolution as the acquisition of Mike Magee and his seven goals in seven games has jump-started their offense. Magee's no hero he just goes about doing his job in a workman-like fashion and so far it's working for the Fire just as it did in LA.
MLSsoccer.com: Sporting KC-Vancouver (Wednesday, 9 pm ET)?
Wiersema: Boulevard Brewing Co. "80 Acre" Hoppy Wheat Ale. "Hometown Team, Hometown Beer" is the slogan of Kansas City's Boulevard and with support like that for Sporting how can we not pick one of their brews? Combining two popular styles, the hoppiness of an IPA and the summertime, light refreshment of a wheat beer KC will try and hop-start their season and follow last week's win with another against Vancouver.
MLSsoccer.com: Real Salt Lake-Philadelphia (Wednesday, 10 pm ET)?
Wiersema: Epic Brewing Co. "825" Stout. The defense of RSL was certainly "epically stout" last weekend against TFC, but without starting goalkeeper Nick Rimando (gone for Gold Cup duty) deputy Josh Saunders will need to be up to the task against a high-scoring Union squad that's scored nine in its last three matches (including U.S. Open Cup play).
MLSsoccer.com: Seattle-DC (Wednesday, 10 pm ET)?
Wiersema: Elysian Brewing Co. "Loser" Pale Ale. There can be only one loser! Unless of course these two teams draw. Seattle is coming of a bye week and DC a controversial loss to Vancouver. The Sounders have lurched back-and-forth all season, but making "losers" again out of United could be just what Sigi's side needs.
MLSsoccer.com: Dallas-Chivas (Thursday, 9 pm ET)?
Wiersema: Peticolas Brewing Co. "Velvet Hammer" Imperial Red Ale. The current Western Conference co-runners-up are showing a lot of fight to stay near the top with two comeback draws in their last two matches. They'll look to "drop the hammer" Chivas USA in front of their home crowd. Carlos Bocanegra will help? Right? Right?
MLSsoccer.com: Colorado-New York (Thursday, 9:30 pm ET)?
Wiersema: Wynkoop Brewing Co. "Rocky Mountain Oyster" Stout (sold in TWO PACKS!). How does this beer work for the Rapids? Well it takes some big ones to walk into someone else's stadium like the did last weekend against Montreal and steal three points and it will take some stones to face down Thierry Henry and the second place Red Bulls. Does Colorado have what it takes?
MLSsoccer.com: LA-Columbus (Thursday, 10:30 pm ET)?
Wiersema: Golden Road Brewing Co. Hefeweizen. Still stunned by that last-minute goal in San Jose? So are the Galaxy. Why not get back on the golden road of winning against equally stunned Columbus, who've dropped three of their last four including a late one at Sporting?
MLSsoccer.com: OK, last one. USA-Guatemala (Friday, 11 pm ET)
Wiersema: Last, but certainly not least. If you're in San Diego for this one, you're in an American brewing mecca. So many good SoCal breweries, but we're partial to Ballast Point Brewing Co. Two (yes, two!) highlights from them would be their "Scupin" Double IPA and "Victory at Sea" Imperial Porter the first of which is available in cans. Perfect for tailgating supporters!