At first glance through American eyes, rugby is unapologetically violent, packed with action and unnecessarily confusing. Well, at least that is what I initially thought. As I took a step away from traditional American sports, I discovered that rugby is a players sport. As a players’ sport, the players drive the culture of camaraderie versus an adversarial attitude toward their competitors.
Rugby is culturally overflowing with traditions and rituals. Beer plays a supporting role in many rugby activities from matches to socials. I have had the privilege to participate in these beer-infused pastimes for approximately two decades as a player and coach.
In short, beer is integrated into team sponsorships, slogans, tournaments, socials and songs. Typically, rugby teams drink beer brewed by their sponsors. Several teams have breweries as their team’s or tournament’s sponsor; Big Sky, Deschutes, Hop Valley, Mac & Jack’s, and Shocktop to name a few. Yet, the largest PNW rugby tournament, Maggotfest, has Budweiser & Big Sky Brewing sponsorship. With firsthand experience, a very light, mass-produced lager is necessary for a full weekend of rugby. Not to mention, the Saturday night Maggotfest party; its unheard of craziness. I, like many others, recommend cheap and cold brewskies to survive a weekend like Maggotfest. If its free, even better.
I was never pressured to drink beer while I played rugby, but I am thankful that I had the opportunity to develop a mature beer drinking palette from all the available craft beers. However, not all teams were sponsored by breweries. Some teams partnered with local bars to host their post-rugby match socials (aka drinkups); such as: Doc’s Pad, Elmer’s Pub, Paddy Coyne’s on the pier, Nyne.
The type of beers these ruggers drink varies; however, I can narrow it down to either IPAs & Ambers or the lighter lagers and ales. Beer palettes range as much as rugby physique; stout and heavy or light and quick. As for me, I will drink anything. The two things I won't do is drink the night before a match, and drink a stout on a hot day.
Rugby players (aka ruggers) are know to be polite and decent on the rugby pitch; at least towards the referee. Politeness and decency ends when ruggers begin to sing. The after game socials is when the rowdiness begins and the beer flows. Go to a rugby social after a match and learn a few rugby songs. If you have a modest sense of humor do not listen to these types of songs. But if you’re interested, here are rugby songs our PNW rugby teams are singing; Days of the Week, I Used to work in Chicago, If I were the Marrying Kind, Jesus Can't Play Rugby, Nancy Reagan, Wild West Show, and Yogi Bear.
Thank you to these rugby football clubs in the Pacific Northwest (and one East Coast team) for sharing how beer plays a supporting role within the culture of rugby; Battle Ground Bulls (WA), Bend (OR), Bragg (NC), Eugene Stags (OR), Missoula Maggots (MT), Spokane Phoenix (WA), and Valley Kangaroos (WA).